For far too long we have had to simply wonder am I in Boston, with no definitive answer. But, those dark days are long behind us friends as I’m proud to announce the universe-wide launch of Is It Boston?
The site does one thing and one thing only, tells you if a zip code is in Boston, Massachusetts.
Is It Boston????
ISB is a fun little side project after reading a few comments from Boston’s Aquapacolypse where people wondered and debated whether places like Brighton, Charlestown, and Cambridge are in Boston [hint, two of them are]. It’s also a solution to a long standing gripe amongst all Bostonians, people saying they live in or are from Boston when they are not.
Personally, after spending a few years in California and North Carolina, I understand why someone from Newton says he’s from Boston and I’ve grown OK with it. But what does bother me is when people tell me, a Boston resident of 23 years, that my home neighborhood Dorchester is not part of Boston. Even showing a letter addressed to Boston, MA that arrived in my Dorchester home wasn’t enough so Is It Boston strives to be the definite source on whether a place is or isn’t in Boston!
Getting the data
Getting the data turned out to be a bit of a fuzzy matter. Thanks to Matt Cutts’ post Fun with zip codes, I got pointed over to the U.S. Census Bureau and their beautifully formatted list of U.S. zip codes.
Alas, their data, while pristinely formatted, wasn’t completely up to date. I then set out to compile my own list and double-check all the zip codes manually against the U.S. Postal Service’s data. If you live in Boston and would like to help the cause, check that list and let me know if your zip code should be there and what neighborhood it’s a part of.
Making the site
Once the lists were in place, making the site became a pretty easy venture. We basically take a zip code, check it against the lists and report back the results. If there’s interest, I can put together a tutorial on how I went about it. I’m also considering releasing the source code and cleaned up data so others can make their own Is It Insert_Location_Name_Here.
My proudest bit about the site is it’s size and load time. The home page only has two requests [not counting Analytics scripts] and weighs in at a minuscule 3.7 kb. Load time off The 42nd Estate’s servers averages between 3/10 to 4/10 of a second. I love minimalistic sites and you can’t get much more minimal than that!
Photo credit: Craig Stevens
2 responses to “Is It Boston?”
I was thinking about this in the context of the last mayoral election. On the one hand, the mayor of Boston should represent Boston (and therefore be voted on only by actual Boston proper residents)… but on the other hand, a lot of what the mayor and city council do affects my regular use of the city, and I have no representation with them.
It makes me think that for large urban areas there needs to be some kind of “supermayor” or “supercouncil” that has some kind of metro-area jurisdiction dealing with things like transit, public parks, libraries, etc., maybe a council of mayors or something. In non-urban areas this could be handled at the county level, but even in a relatively small regional city center like Boston that would be too large of a county (by both area and population).
Overall though, the resolution of identifying one’s hometown depends on the audience – saying “Boston” to someone not from Boston (proper or otherwise) is usually just shorthand for “Greater Boston”. I say I grew up in Minneapolis even though we never lived in Minneapolis proper; if someone else is from the area, then I might specify one of the suburbs we lived in.
Some metro/macro level leadership would be useful. You got me thinking about how a supermayor would greatly benefit something like transit. Right now all our roads are a crazy mix of randomness, instead of a unified system that makes sense to everyone and everywhere. Things like bike paths getting cut off when entering/exiting the next city could be much easier fixed.
Micro mayors might be a good idea too. For places like Boston and New York, having mayors of each of the neighborhoods would lead to the Mayor getting better communication and being able to focus on the city as a whole without each area being neglected