Some of the most successful products and services are built to solve very specific personal problems–James Dyson started his product design business when he discovered a number of problems with a wheelbarrow he was using while renovating his property. He found that the wheel punctured, wobbled and was generally difficult to manoeuvre and the steel body got covered in cement. These problems got Dyson thinking about improvements, and by 1974 Dyson had a fibreglass prototype of a barrow with a ball instead of a wheel - the starting point for his new business.
Like James Dyson, one of our developers Eric (@errkk) discovered we had a problem when the sun rather unexpectedly came out over London a couple of weeks ago and we went to our local pub for a couple of post-work drinks. Having bought our pints, we stepped outside to bask in the fleeting, life-affirming glory of the London sun. Only to find, as is often the case in London, that we were in the shadow of an adjacent building. A problem, but not without exception. Certain sweet-spots exist amongst the shady city where the sun still reaches, even in the evening. The existence of these sun-traps, it seems, could be predicted by knowing a few things about the local area.
For example, in the evening, pubs with no nearby buildings to the west are the ones to look for!
This is why we built Pints in the Sun.
A secondary motive for this project was to get to know a few tools a little better that we've been hankering to play with for a while. So the app uses HTML5 geolocation and the FourSquare API to locate a suitable list of pubs before loading building outline data from Open Streetmap and rendering it in 3D using three.js (map projection conversion courtesy of the D3 library). Onto this 3D rendering a directional light is projected from the part of the sky where the sun would be at certain times of year/day. This projection is realised using a Solar Almanac Calculation, helpfully implemented in JS by SunCalc.
The Rationale - A Minimal Viable Side Project
O.K., so Pints in the Sun, like James Dyson's ball wheel barrow, might not exactly have an enormously wide application, but the ball wheel barrow is what led to the Dyson cleaners and the fans and all the other high profile successes. To quote Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup: "Building the right product requires systematically and relentlessly testing that vision to discover which elements of it are brilliant, and which are crazy." Which is why we thought we'd hand it over to you, to see what else we might do with a digital pub-based application.
If you're curious and fancy a tinker, it's on Github. Or for the less technically minded – let us know what you think; perhaps there are more data sources that could help us make that important decision of where to go for a beer.