Monday, September 29, 2008

Make maps not war

A few choice shots from the GeoCommunity 80s party

A lot of bags and even more leaflets! Arriving

A lot of hair                                                   Is that rod Stewart?

The Error Factory -  Simon Doyle, Chris Holcroft and Keith the drummer who flew in from San Francisco for this momentous gig. Thanks guys - a good bash. See you next year

Friday, September 26, 2008

The GeoCommunity fanclub

It seemed that a lot of the early comment on the GeoCommunity conference focussed on the delegates choice to vote Mark Bishop's slightly toungue in cheek presentation "The hype of Web 2.0" as their favourite. Some commentators lamented the lack of awareness amongst the delegates, I think they just enjoyed the presentation and probably appreciated getting an overview of the evolution of Web 2.0 after all not every delegate is ultra cool and up to date.

It's a shame that James Brayshaw's paper on the Atlantis Initiative, which was voted the best paper by the conference team, got less attention. I thought it was an excellent paper on an important topic given the extent of the flooods that we experienced last year and the scary prognosis that we received from Charlie Pattinson of the Environment Agency in his keynote on the second morning. If you missed it you can come along to the AGI Awards Dinnner in November and hear it before the bar opens.

Here are some other views on the conference:

Geoff Zeiss of Autodesk
....made this conference one of the most interesting I have been to in the last year..

My overall thought was that the AGI got it right with this event. I went into it with some reservations, partly because I was talking about open source at a conference full of software vendors, and partly  because I am pretty new to the AGI and didn’t know what to expect.

From talking to people throughout the event, as well as the entertainment that they put on, I really did feel that they were trying to get a sense of community, breaking down barriers between vendors and users.

Every time I fly into the UK I come with a outsider view, neutral to the events happening within the country. And what I saw and heard this year, as compared to last year, is that the audience has shifted. It is attempting to merge the ‘neogeography’ folks with traditional GI folks. It is striving to understand how new approaches and old approaches can possibly work together. It is wanting to move beyond ‘neo’ and ‘Web 2.0′ and is struggling to understand how to integrate highly complex geo-technologies with crowd sourcing, mass market contributor’s and how to interact with the rest of the geo-world.

It was interesting to hear comments about the need to inform people and help them to understand data - and is a responsibility of everyone in the GI community. It was interesting to hear people indicate that ‘professionalism matters’  and it was interesting to hear how people are combining user generated and traditionally generated geoinformation together.

And that was the point. I think the geocommunity reached the point this year where it realises that reference to the paleo or the neogeography community is passe, that it hinders the forward momentuum that seeks to integrate the traditional GI with what previously called neogeography and move the whole issue forward one more step.

I think AGI made a big leap. A leap that others in the world have yet to discuss and think on - as much. Not perfect, nor finished. But a real good start.

Now that I think was the point of the event. 

Thanks for coming along, participating and spreading the word

GeoCommunity 08 - the Chairman's Cut

Well AGI GeoCommunity is over for another year leaving me both relieved and disappointed. A lot of people work and worry very hard to get the conference together and to make things run smoothly throughout the event (e.g. the moment when one of our hotels phones up on Monday to say they had double booked a number of rooms!) So when it is over there is an almighty phewwwww but also a sense of realisation that it was great fun and it is a long wait for the next one.

I was going to write about the content and the keynotes but that has been done very eloquently by the professionals at APB and Vector1 and here so I am going to focus on my personal overview of the event and why I think it was a success. But before I do I want to recognise that not all of the comments that people have blogged since the conference closed are overwhelmingly positive, here is a list of the links that I know of, no doubt other will add more links via comments:!7D3454CCB58F20E3!129.entry

My view

The GI industry in the UK is a mature community that is adapting (like many others) to some massive change brought about by technology and societal change. They are not as Ed Parsons has suggested "Paleotards" or the "Association of Empire Telegraph Operators" instead they are people who work with geo-information and systems on a daily basis supporting important and sometimes vital services such as urban planning and management, emergency services, flood defence and risk reduction, crime analysis, emargency planning and disaster response and (whether we like them being there or not) our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan - not quite as exciting as a buddy finder or personal tracking application on an iPhone I guess. The community is taking on board the immense opportunities that Google and others have opened up and are seriously debating how they can become part of their mainstream activities. Those who are surfing the wave of cutting edge may bemoan the fact that some of us are only just coming to grips with the basics of geotagging but I would suggest that the achievement of the conference and of our Geocommunity is that we are getting to grips with this stuff and not fighting it or ignoring it. 

Enough of the debate between the traditional and new communities. Let me summarise some of the conclusions that I drew from the conference. 

  • Not withstanding a bit of sniping from a few neo geo-luminaries there was a real sense that a community is developing that wants to learn from each other, engage in discussion and debate and reach out to the wider world.
  • INSPIRE implementation is gathering pace. It represents a challenge for many public sector organisations but the initial resistance in some quarters seems to have been overcome and there was massive interest in this stream with the room overflowing. This is very paleo I know but it happens to be important.
  • There was a strong attendance at all of the sessions that had a neo theme. The fact that the GeoCommunity may be a bit behind the early adopters does not diminish their interest or enthusiasm to embrace cloud and crowd. I would hazard a guess that it won't be long before we start to see crowd sourcing being used by government as a means of building new data sets and encouraging participation in policy forming discussion.
  • The term "place" is starting to evolve. I think we are going to need some form of fuzzy geography to allow a more individual definition of place and locality. I was impressed by the CLG presentaion on their Places Database there is a long way to go but this site provides a framework for drawing together information from across government that relates to place without neccessarily having a geotag.
  • Most of the presentations were about what people are or could  be doing with GI, the Geoweb or whatever you wish to call it rather that how they are doing it (the technology track of former years has gone). That for me is enormously exciting.
  • As a number of speakers pointed out Google et al have made 100s of millions of people map savvy. Devices are increasingly becoming GPS enabled or location aware. The opportunities are unlimited, we just have to use our imagination and go for it. Exciting times and the UK GeoCommunity can be at the heart of it.
600 people attended this year's conference an increase of 20% which is impressive when you consider the current economic climate and tight budgets in public and private sector. I haven't had a chance to analyse the delegate list yet but based on the many conversations that I had I would guess that the majority of the new delegates came from the traditional community rather than the neo. Could be that the content just doesn't appeal to the neo community or it could be that there just aren't that many of them in the real world. That said there were quite a few more than last year so we must be getting something right, I wonder what the trend will be next year.

Mark Bishop's (I was his manager before I left MapInfo) presentation "The hype of Web 2.0" was voted the Best Paper by the delegates. Despite the title this was not an anti neo-geo or Web 2.0 paper, it did show less "at the edge" delegates how the web was changing and how a traditional comapny serving a very traditional market (Local Government) was adopting these new concepts. And why did the delegates choose it above the other presentations? Because Mark is a bloody good presenter and the presentation was lively and entertaining - not because they are luddites.

My favourite quotes

People can think we know more than we do because of the elegance of the visualisation.

Charlie Pattinson, Environment Agency CIO on 3D visuallisations

We are the last generation who will ever know it means to be lost

Sean Phelan, Multimap Founder

Best case - things are going to get worse. Worst case - things are going to get a lot worse.

Charlie Pattinson, Environment Agency CIO on areas predicted to be at risk of flood in 2080

Monday, September 22, 2008

AGI GeoCommunity starts tomorrow - GI goes retro

Opening speech written, biographies of keynote speakers in hand, packing my bags and off in an hour along with my feeble attempt at an 80's outfit. Of course the prize for the best outfit will probably go to the Cadcorp team who seem to have made this part of the conference their speciality. It would be worth coming along to the event just to laugh at the fancy dress on Wednesday evening.

Martin Daly of Cadcorp has kindly predicted the conclusion of several of the presentations and the debate. Fortunately there are another 50 or 60 sessions at the event so he hasn't spoilt it for you.

Mullet anyone?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Korem joins Google Enterprise Partner Program

Korem a MapInfo and Oracle partner announced their membership of the Google Enterprise Program in a press release today.

Korem have been MapInfo's partner of the year, have developed numerous applications on the MapInfo technology stack and are a active in the Location Intelligence fusion with BI. They are smart guys - is this the beginning of a big shift?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

AGI GeoCommunity bookings close Friday

We are nearly 15% up on last years delegate numbers. 

Amazingly some people still have not registered. Online registration closes at 5pm on Friday so there is still a little time left.

Will anyone be able to sell Geodata?

James fee comments on the deal between Google and GeoEye 
The only thing this confirms to me is that you can’t make money from selling sattelite imagery on an open market, you need a sugar daddy to pay the bills.  I guess that is what is the most telling thing out of this announcement, GeoEye’s and Digital Globe’s business models are broken.

What future is there for the sale (let alone resale) of street level data to the traditional GI market? Are TeleAtlas and Navteq's business models also broken? I guess they have both found their sugar daddies, watch out as satnav fades off the list of most desirable tech toys.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Election Fatigue

Are you getting bored with the stream of media content on the US elections?

Here is a light diversion that may prompt a smile.

Don't think that our own processes are much better, we just have lower budgets.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

2 weeks to go

Just 2 weeks to go to the AGI GeoCommunity08 Conference. 

All of the 2 and 3 day packages are sold out, there are still day tickets available for both days and the Stratford on Avon tourist people can help you to find overnight accomodation within a short walk of the venue. 

If you were thinking of booking and thought you would just wait till .... book now or you will miss out completely.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The wrong Birmingham

Yahoo's Geo Technologies Blog comments on this amusing article from the BBC about Birmingham City Council printing 720,000 pamphlets with a skyline photo of Birmingham Alabama. WOOPS

What caught my interest was the extent to which the technologies of my old employer are now embedded into the Yahoo geo stack. So much so that it is now named GeoPlanet and the key identifiers of unique places are called WOEID's. I still think WOEKeys (a la Star Wars) was a better name but it never caught on.

Quote this

Writing on Chrome and Microsoft Tim O'Reilly says
The future is not like the past, and any strategy that is designed to protect the past will eventually fail
The whole article is well worth a read too.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Crime mapping is expensive

Dave Hill wites in Comment is Free that the new Met Police Crime Mapping Site cost £210,000!!

Over £200k for a pretty basic google Mashup - surely not? The range of data and the level of functionality available is minimal to say the least. Particularly when compared with sites developed by West Midlands and Greater Manchester on similar or smaller budgets.

Could it be because they had to rush to satisfy their new political master? Nice work for someone.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

InstaMapper - tracking just got simple

I just installed InstaMapper on my phone. It uses the GPS to send my location to their server and then displays the track on Google. Not sure why anyone would want to know where I have been but it is a fun application. Would be absolutely brilliant if my kids had GPS enabled network connected phones (which of course they would love).

Have put my track at the bottom of the blog, will leave it thwere for a while


Google launched Chrome, their new browser, yesterday. 

It is a 0.2 beta and very impressive. Ultra clean and simple interface and stunning speeds compared to Firefox (which in turn always seems faster than IE). Currently there are no 3rd party plugins which is a shame as I have grown to love all those little tweaks in Firefox. Try running Google's apps in chrome and you will notice the improvments to the javascript

Loads of neat and intuitive features like a single search/entry frame, undockable tabs and multithreading so a dodgy site does not crash your whole browser.

Worth a try.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Photosynth moves out of the labs - crowd sourcing street views?

Microsoft have now opened up Photosynth so that you can upload your photos and get them rendered as 360 walkthroughs. the photomatching and stitching is completely invisible and from the early demos when it was still in the labs the application can also derive a wireframe from the overlapping images.

Try it (you will need to download a plugin which is meant to work in Firefox but I could only get to work in IE). The 360 of the boxer on the front page is brilliant and I managed to upload some pictures of a great sunrise from my holidays in just a few minutes. When you upload you are offered a somewhat baffling array of Creative Commons license options for your photos. you can also geotag the synth with Virtual Earth but I haven't worked out how to bring it up in a search.

If you are using Firefox or IE and have downloaded the plugin you can also play with the synth here:

If the crowd can get over any latent Microsoftphobia this has enormous potential for street view type applications. A few people's business models could be going south.