Welcome to a new Londonist column: Hacking London.
As you may have guessed by now, the idea behind Hacking London is to take a look at the more geeky, techy and gadgety aspects of life in the Capital. So to that end we'll be looking at some of useful websites and technologies which will hopefully make your life that bit easier (unless the batteries run out).
We'll also be presenting a regular rundown of any geek-orientated events coming up over the next fortnight.
So to kick things off, let's take a look at Nestoria.
Nestoria is a property-finding tool which couples a nice simplistic search engine for your desired postcode plus a little Google Mappery for instant visualisation (so you can see if that overpriced studio flat is really within five minutes walk of the nearest tube).
To get a bit more of an insight into what Nestoria can do, and what it might be able to do in the future we interviewed Ahmed Badr, one of the team behind the project:
How would you sum up Nestoria in a nutshell?
Nestoria is a property search engine that aims to redefine the way that people search for property. Gone are the cluttered, time-consuming pages of portal and estate agent searches - Nestoria delivers the properties from many estate agents in an easy-to-use, clear interface with plenty of relevant local information. And we're always improving.
Who's behind Nestoria?
The company behind Nestoria, Lokku, is made up a of a small group of individuals - mostly from heavy internet/technology backgrounds. At the head of the team are Ed Freyfogle and Javier Etxebeste, who spent several years working together on search at Yahoo! Europe.
The team has minimal experience in UK property. We want to build a great property search engine, not become estate agents or a property portal.
On our site we try to be very explicit about the things we do and don't want to be.
Where did the idea come from?
The two founders - Ed Freyfogle and Javier Etxebeste had been watching the search engine space closely for years, especially the rise of vertical search engines. The amazing pace of innovation in online mapping over the last 18 months has also been a key driving factor. We believe that the time is ripe to try some new ideas in property search.
Why should Londoners use the site?
All the team at Nestoria live and work in London - I'm no exception. I've been through the usual process of trawling through estate agent and portal sites, having to deal with clumsy interfaces, not getting the results I'd like.
Nestoria aims to change that - we provide you with great results for your search, all on a map so there's no confusion about where the property you're looking at is located. The site is fast, there are no confusing banner ads or text ads and we have some pretty neat features:
We show you schools in your search area - great for families looking to move, and for when the kids get too much, we also show the best pubs.
There are also a couple of special features for London:
Tube map overlay - you can see just where the tube runs in relation to the property you're looking at, making it easy to see which lines you're near. You can even drag the map to trace your route to work or your favourite restaurant.
Congestion charge zone markers - if the property you're looking at is in the congestion charging zone, we let you know. We even show you if the property is in the new western extension zone!
Even if you're not in the market for property at the moment, the site is fun to play with - so have a go :) and the give us some feedback... please!
What's been the response so far?
The response so far has been very encouraging - in terms of end users and companies we may look to co-operate with in future.
We're always looking to improve the service we provide so that means we take all forms of feedback very seriously.
What are the plans for the future?
Two things: learning from the users to provide the best possible experience, and expanding our coverage to all of the UK.
Finally, do you hate estate agents too?
It would be nice to see more transparency, choice and information in the market in general - I hope that Nestoria goes some way to providing that.
We've had a play around with Nestoria and we have to say we're impressed with the way they've managed to cram in a load of data (transport, schools, doctors, even pubs) but keep the overall look and feel of the site nice and simple. The fact that we can subscribe to an RSS feed for a certain location, sorted by a certain specification (price, number of bedrooms etc) means we'll definitely be bookmarking this when the time comes to pack up and find a new, swanky Londonist headquarters.
And so on to the geek events coming up in London over the next fornight:
The Flag and Bell is billed as a 'tech pub crawl' and free, networking event for "anyone interested in search engines, web technology and the Internet". It's held on the first Tuesday of each month, which makes the next one on August 1.
Turns out that geeks like to eat as well as drink: the Web 2.0 London Geek BBQ is taking place on the afternoon of Saturday 5 August, and will include a 'cook off'. It'll all end in tears, we're telling you now.
Finally - a couple of Ruby-related events:
The next meeting of the London Ruby users group is on 8 August at Skills Matter. Talks include Powertools: Script and Shortcuts for automating your development environment and Ruby on Rails and the other side of the coin.
And Carson Workshops' Core Ruby on Rails two day workshop commences on Augst 10 (although it's £895 to register, they do have a very good reputation).
That's it - see you in two weeks (in the meantime if you know of any London-related technology news, sites, uber-geeks or anything else we should know about then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.).