#iRail meeting with #NMBS

Dear list,

Before we start, this is just a quick summary of what happened today.
This is not an official press release nor a statement, but it's a short
summary made in the evening for the few who are dying to know more:

After listening to Michaël Vanloubbeeck on their Internet strategy, he
asked us straight away what we thought about their mobile web
application. There are three points we thought worth mentioning:

1. The number of clicks before you can see the right data is about 4
times too much. I only want to click once.

2. There is no autocompletion on the station names.

3. There is no button to switch destination and departure station

On top of that we noted that for big phones like most android,
maemo/meego, bada and iphone phones, the site was too small. It was a
great mobile website optimized for small screens and fast connections.
We concluded that they, in comparison to iRail, have a totally different
focus. Both approaches are needed however and we need to cooperate on
this. The NMBS however responded that their mobile website is aimed to
target all phones and anyone, which we can't agree on. Discussion still

The second discussion is one that we started. We are still having
difficulties with Stibbe. Stibbe is a respected law firm in Belgium who
apparently has been hired by the NMBS to try to close us down. They're
quite aggressive in their approach by sending scary letters that our
lawyer (if you read this, thanks for your free support, we appreciate it
a lot!) seems to handle a lot better than we do. They didn't have a clue
about that however. They ensured us however that they will *try* to stop
these actions and let us work as we were doing. So the logical question
for us is: "Can we hereby officially use your data?"; Yet this seemed to
be more complicated as we thought. The real discussion had been started.

The first problem was that for the legal aspect of this we were talking
to the wrong people. Personally we still think we are not doing anything
illegal and not one of their arguments makes that statement fall. As
they are going to stop their lawyers however, we're going to assume that
there is no-one left to sue us and this has encouraged us to crank up
our developing speed. The bad part about this legal story is that they
didn't guarantee us anything and we might get a reply about that matter
in quite some time.

Their second problem was that the Internet and mobile devices are
changing all the time. And there are so many mobile devices they don't
know where to start developing. I didn't really get why they use this
against open data, but I guess it might be that they thought open is
just a fad like myspace which will disappear eventually. So this is
where I protested heavily and said open data would be a very good thing
to do: they would provide a standard API for the data and provide a
standard format. Everyone will be able to make their app for their phone
and their system. For free! Isn't that something you should be happy
with? No they said. They wanted to be able to delete all the
applications that didn't fit their standard. So I started talking about
free market where people who use a bad app will eventually use another
app. Discussion still open.

Some other interesting points:

 * They recognized that they were wrong by using lawyers in the first
place without mailing us. They could have filed a bug-report if
something did not meet their standards (which was a lot back then, we

 * They were already planning to provide their own API at *some point in
the future* with a little data in it, to be used under certain

 * They are not (yet) convinced open data is the future. "It's not
because we're a public company that our data should be public."

 * Complaints about iRail that reach the nmbs will be, as good as
possible, forwarded to our mailinglist.

 * They think iRail as external API provider is not an option. However,
they did not explicitly ask us to stop (nor did they recommend us to
continue). They'll "quality check" iRail and provide us with feedback
(probably just the mobile site, not our API) 

 * We asked if Nokia could sponsor iRail without being sued by NMBS.
That's a question we expect an answer on in October. They didn't
understand however why Nokia wouldn't come to NMBS for that instead.

 * They have partners with whom they share data. Partners include MIVB,
De Lijn, Google, ...

 * They *promised* they won't block our IP's (that's not something we
should be thankful for in fact. In our opinion it would be illegal for
them to do so) 

I would like to thank the NMBS for inviting us and I hope this will be
one of many meetings. We sure did have a lot of arguments but I think
that's a positive thing. We are not satisfied with the outcome of this
first meeting, but rumour has it that Rome wasn't built in a day as

Afterwards Yeri and I had a very good and inspiring chat. Keep informed
because very soon we will cover you with awesomeness! (we're serious
about this)


Pieter and Yeri

Posted on the mailing list; Wed Sep 29 01:50:46 CEST 2010.

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5 responses to “#iRail meeting with #NMBS”

  1. Tuinslak avatar

    [ Blog ] #iRail meeting with #NMBS – http://blog.yeri.be/2010/09/irail-m

    1. junkiesxl avatar

      @Tuinslak ‘They’ll “quality check” iRail’ Made me lol. I wonder they’ve quality checked their own system (supplied by Hacon)

  2. pietercolpaert (Pieter Colpaert) avatar

    Twitter Comment

    RT @mathiasbaert: That does look like a good first meeting to me: RT @Tuinslak: [ Blog ] #iRail meeting with #NMBS – [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  3. mathiasbaert (Mathias Baert) avatar

    Twitter Comment

    That does look like a good first meeting to me: RT @Tuinslak: [ Blog ] #iRail meeting with #NMBS – [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  4. Tuinslak (Yeri Tiete) avatar

    Twitter Comment

    [ Blog ] #iRail meeting with #NMBS – [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

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