The last app I used was a bit problematic. The Disney World Wait Times app (Free) [iTunes Link
] was reported by Steve Sande in November to often be "grossly inaccurate". That wouldn't be surprising since the review came out only days after it appeared in the app store and is based on lots of people using it and reporting times. Currently around fifty thousand copies have been downloaded which should be a fairly large user base even knowing that only a fraction of users will be in one of the parks at any given time. The idea, of course, is to get a handle on just how long the wait is for attractions so you can plan your day accordingly. Although the great majority of app store reviewers loved it, I found major discrepancies in reported wait time and actual waits. The way it works is dependent upon users submitting wait times within the app which adds to an algorithm taking into account park capacity, time of day and recently reported wait times, so the more people that report times, the more accurate it will be ... theoretically. It took me a while to find a button on the time submission screen marked Recent Times
. Tapping on that brings up a list of all the reported times and when they were sent. If people submitted times within the last hour, I found that to be amazingly accurate, far more so than the calculated time shown on the main screen. Of course if no one submitted anything on an attraction for a few hours, it was of no use at all. The app requires OS 3.0 or better.
I was confused about the disparity between all the good reviews and my experience so I called up Robert Airhart the developer of the app at VersaEdge and learned a great deal about what's going on behind the curtain. One really neat thing is that steps were taken to not let users fake out the app. Without you knowing it, users are GPS tracked, or their position triangulated using cell towers if the device doesn't have a GPS. If your position is not in the park and you submit a time, it will be ignored. Similarly, if you are in the park and put down something impossible, like a seventy minute wait at It's a Small World
in the Magic Kingdom, where there is seldom any wait, again it will be ignored.
So what's the problem? According to Robert, the disparities I saw weren't due to the Artificial Intelligence algorithm entirely, which I thought didn't put enough weight into recently reported times, but that and clumping might be the problem. Here's how he explained it:
Clumping is when you might get a lot of submissions at one time. We use a weighted average of all recent times where more recent times are weighted more heavily. The problem is if a lot of users submitted around 1 hour ago and the actual ride time changed significantly since then but we only have 1 very recent time. In that case, the clump of older times collectively overpowers the 1 recent time in the weighted average. We've also modified the system today so more recent times are worth even more than they were before relative to older submitted times to try to mitigate this effect.
We believe both of these changes will significantly help with the potential problems you saw. However, it does mean we trust a single individual submission much more than we used to. If a user intentionally submits a bad time, it will have a greater negative influence. We will run with these new adjustments a while and see how it goes.
So the app is in the process of being tweaked for more accuracy and a revision should be submitted to Apple by the end of the week. Robert Airhart is even more of a Disney fanatic than myself and goes to the parks at least half a dozen times a year. I absolutely believe that he is taking the right steps to make the app really accurate, and when it is, it will be the most valuable of all the WDW apps. Planning ones day is the biggest challenge anyone runs into in the parks. A few missteps can waste valuable hours.
Take a look at some screen shots of Disney World Wait Times: