No expense spared on graphic design at these unconferences
An eventful week with both W3G “the unconference” and Everything Happens Somewhere (the National Land and Property Gazetteer Awards).
W3G at the newish Google Campus near Silicon Roundabout, was loosely themed around the question “Is Open the New Black” and a lot of the talks (including mine) were about open data. The presentation of the day for me was Lawrence Penney (@lorp) talking about 1 dimensional maps (or strip maps) with an enormous, amazing collection of ancient and modern map images to illustrate his point that these simple representations (sometimes without any map graphics) were a highly effective way of communicating. With something like 280 slides in his deck, he had to break for lunch and then resume in an unscheduled after lunch session (the flexibility of an unconference). The attendees were a cross section of the geocommunity, a while ago they might have been described as paleo and neo, but now I think we would just call them geogeeks.
At the end of the afternoon there was a panel discussion or as Gary calls them a fireside geochat. The topic that most interested me was around the long term sustainability of crowd sourced data particularly OSM. Several panellists suggested that even if there was a decline in the level of activity of individual contributors that passive crowdsourcing (contributions when you use services that sit on top of OSM such as navigation applications or checkins would continue to add to the map). I’m not sure, I wonder if it will take a more managed approach to process this kind of ambient information into useful map data or to target mappers to respond to change intelligence from passive sources. There is a discussion just starting to evolve within the OSM community (well at least the Foundation) about the role of companies within OSM, should they be members, can they have influence etc? I think that businesses who have a commercial interest in the ongoing success of OSM need to play a more active role in contributing to the infrastructure and also have a way of expressing their needs in terms of the scope and spec of the data. The OSM-GB project that we started at Nottingham University was prompted by some similar thoughts.This is a topic that you will hear a lot more about in the next year if you follow OSM developments.
If you haven’t been to one of these free AGI events before then you have missed out on some stimulating talks, some first sight of some new tech like the fabulous Recce app from eeGeo which renders detailed 3D mapping in a compelling games style environment and some crazy moments when Mark Iliffe talking about his Taarifa mapping project launches a helicopter aerial photography drone and flies it around the room. Big thanks to Gary Gale, Rollo Home, Ed Parsons and Ed Freyfogle for putting the event together.
Next day another event but very very different. Everything Happens Somewhere is GeoPlace’s annual gathering of local authority gazetteer managers at the Quaker Friends Meeting House in Euston (a weird venue for a conference). Pretty dry stuff you might think and there were a lot more ties in evidence than at W3G and the slides had more bullet points but gazetteers can engender quite a lot of passion amongst people whose job is to maintain them to exceptional degrees of accuracy and currency. There were a good number of common faces from the previous day’s unconference now getting down and dirty in the detail of addressing. When the open discussion kicked off, the hot topic was Royal Mail’s proposed PinPoint product, it seems that GeoPlace management and local government reps were as perplexed as I am at this needless competition in the addressing space.
I hadn’t thought that I was attending a crowdsourcing event until I listened to a session where the local government reps were calling out the quality achievements region by region. There are over 300 local authorities compiling a national gazetteer using a single data model, common data entry conventions and signing up to some highly challenging data quality standards for accuracy, completeness and currency. The national data set is being used by a lot of central government departments including DWP, Tell us Once, DEC, DfE, Electoral Registration etc. I know the circumstances are different and this is centrally managed by GeoPlace but I would have to describe this as Professional Crowdsourcing and very successful too. Of course there are issues regarding the openness of the data and relations with Royal Mail but I am sure they will eventually be resolved anyway those are for another day/post.
At W3G I may have coined a couple of new labels
So I work in the “hippy geo world” not the “straight geo world” according to @stevenfeldman – who knew? #w3g
Maybe the OSM discussions in the “hippy geo world” could learn something from the LPG Custodians in the “straight geo world” and long may the two continue to interact, I’m happy to have a foot in both camps.
I was looking forward to hearing Uri Levene, the CEO of Waze, talking about Redefining Social Networks and Crowd Sourcing at the Innovate Israel event this morning.
Waze provides real time traffic information from user/contributors who have also helped them to build a road network by contributing their GPS traces from their phones as they drive. He showed some very itoWorld like animations of contributions flashing up on the map and suggested that they had good coverage in 60% of the world (which looks a bit overstated based on their wiki) and I was wondering why they had not worked out a way to use OpenStreetMap to get better coverage. Then he made the bold, if not astonishing, statement that 4 companies dominate global mapping – Google, Nokia, TomTom and Waze, somehow he missed out OpenStreetMap which has recently been adopted (at least partially) by Apple, AOL, Bing and Foursquare. Of course to be fair OpenStreetMap is not a company.
There doesn’t seem to be any route to download contributions from Waze, so I guess they see the collection of crowd sourced data as a one way street. Waze reminds me that all that is crowd sourced may not necessarily be open.
Open or Closed or a bit of both? Thanks to wiccked http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiccked/
Open Source Geo and Open Geospatial Consortium Standards have been active for over a decade, OpenStreetMap since 2004 and OpenData is the new kid on the block. But something seems to have shifted, it seems that you can barely go for a day in the UK geoworld without stumbling on an event, an article, a vendor or consultant talking about Open something. Why has Open become the badge that everyone wants to flaunt?
Not everyone who claims to be Open actually is but with loads of different connotations to the Open badge there is plenty of room for interpretation and argument.
I am going to be exploring whether Open Source, Standards, Data and StreetMap achieved critical mass and their interdependence. at the AGI’s Northern Geoconference on the 3rd of May at the Manchester Museum which sounds like a fun venue.
Hopefully I will stir up some debate about being Open, if you have any thoughts before the 3rd share them with me here and in the spirit of openness I will give you a shout out at the event.
“We are also introducing transaction limits on the number of maps that may be generated per day by commercial Maps API web sites or applications. These limits are documented in the Maps API FAQ and will take effect on October 1st 2011. Commercial sites that exceed these limits may be required to purchase additional transactions or a Maps API Premier license…
…Not for profit applications and applications deemed in the public interest (as determined by Google at its discretion) are not subject to these limits.” (My italics)
Nestoria have been a long term supporter of OSM and as Ed says the introduction of the new charging regime was the trigger to move away from Google:
“Having always envisioned that we would someday move to OSM, this was the nudge that pushed us over the cliff.”
The new limit is 25,000 map sessions per day averaged over a quarter, which equates to 9m sessions per year. Google expect 0.35% of the sites using the free Maps API to be impacted which I reckon is between 1200 and 1400 sites. Big respect to the Nestoria guys for growing their business to this level but perhaps a note of concern for the many passionate advocates of geo (myself included) on the economics of incorporating map services in applications where revenue per page is on the low end of the spectrum.
I don’t know why Google chose to introduce these limits, it could be about the costs of delivering the service (hardware, bandwidth/power or data licenses where Google is using 3rd parties) or it could be a drive by the commercial team to increase sales of Enterprise licenses. Probably a bit of both. It sounds like the commercial approach may have been a bit less than optimal but no doubt Google will adjust their approach (and possibly their pricing) if they want to retain some of these large usage sites or we may see the more aggressive introduction of context sensitive advertising directly into the map although we have heard little more about the trials of map ads in Australia.
OSM advocates have been understandably chuffed that Nestoria considered OpenStreetMap to be as good or better than that offered by Google and it’s data providers, no doubt OSM has come of age as a viable royalty free source of geodata. In my opinion the focus on open vs traditional geodata ignores the broader scope of Google’s Map API which offers quite a bit more than just a map tile service – geocoding, directions, Streetview, local search and perhaps most important colossal scalability. What interests me about Nestoria’s decision is the choice of MapQuest rather than going with a self hosted tile service based on OSM which they explained:
“When we realized it was time for us to make the move we faced one big decision – should we use someone else’s OSM tiles or should we render and serve our own? We called in an expert to advise us. OSM expert, and former Nestoria blog interviewee, Andy Allan … Rendering has the advantage that you can make the map look exactly the way you want. When done well this can produce phenomenal results … but unfortunately it’s no small technical undertaking, especially when we’ve also got a property search engine to run.
We concluded the only viable path was for us to leave the rendering and serving to experts and use someone else’s OSM tileset… Luckily however several companies have stepped in to fill this gap -CloudMade has for several years offered an OSM tile layer for all to use. In 2010 MapQuest released a similar service. While we are longtime fans of CloudMade (we use their tiles on our Where Can I Live? service), for their global infrastrucutre and speed we decided we’d prefer to use MapQuest’s OSM tiles.
What’s in this for MapQuest? I imagine that the publicity and goodwill are worth quite a lot to them (but that was what many people thought was the motivation behind Google’s free API for the last 6 years). Presumably the cost and complexity that Nestoria identified are shared across a large user base for the tile service but as uptake grows the costs of servers and bandwidth must become a factor in the economics of their free tile service. I wonder how long it will be before the bosses at AOL (ultimately the very commercially astute Arrianna Huffington) start looking to monetise the usage of their infrastructure? Will it be “in map advertising”, alongside the map advertising or is their some other model? At least if you have architected your service in the way that Nestoria have, you can quite easily switch from the MapQuest service to someone else’s if the terms change in the future.
I can imagine a scenario where a number of the 1200 odd commercial sites switch to MapQuest or Cloudmade only to find that these guys with much shallower pockets than Google will struggle to support their levels of usage and functional needs (routing requires a quite a lot of processing for example) on a free model. Of course they can then start to roll their own map services with something like MapBox or building their own tile service and hosting it in the cloud but then they will start to incur the direct costs plus the overheads of supporting their service. The guys from MapBox promoted their service as an alternative on twitter:
“With our new add-on packages, you can easily bump up your storage + bandwidth ds.io/A12Drf And it’s 12x cheaper than Google Maps”
When I queried this they quoted their cost per thousand extra map views at $0.32 compared to Google’s $4.00 but I think that ignores the Google’s free service offering 2.25 maps per quarter before you hit the charge or the need to have quite a lot of technical skill and understanding to set up a tile service. That said MapBox is an interesting open source based service that woud appear to offer a low cost solution to serving tiles with the benefit that you can style those tiles to your own designs. I’d be interested to understand the economics of this kind of business model, presumably over time it will get driven down to pretty low prices but will never be free. Look at web hosting, prices for a small site ca be as low as £2/month and you can get quite a powerful server from Amazon for about £35/month but as far as I know no one is offering large chunks of infrastructure and bandwidth for nothing.
So is this the beginning of the end of Free? Not quite yet, but maybe it’s time to recognise that a free ride may not last for ever and perhaps we need to think a bit about what price we are willing to pay for a map service. This comment on the Nestoria blog from another business affected by the change in Google’s usage terms summed it up for me:
“In our case, that meant paying $200,000-$400,000 a year for maps…
Google got their pricing off by at least an order of magnitude. I don’t know many companies making more than a couple of dollars per thousand views. Had they charged us $0.20 per 1,000, we would have gladly paid.
In the end pricing is a trade off between the value to the purchaser and the costs of production/delivery, even competitive pressures cannot reduce long term costs to zero unless the providers find a different revenue model, which could bring us back to “in map adverts” and I doubt many large commercial users of maps would want to be potentially hosting adverts for their competitors in return for free or very low cost maps.
I wonder whether within a couple of years a modest fee say $250-500 per million maps will become the going rate for a high availability map service with some additional costs for directions and other features. Time will tell.
Another day of geo starts in Nottingham. Thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/
The second day of a conference always faces the challenge of the morning after syndrome, even more so after a monster bash of geonerds trying to relive their student drinking days and drain the bar dry. In my opinion it was a good thing that we were thrown out of the bar at 1.00 am, I shudder to think what mayhem might have ensued if we had been allowed to carry on! One of the great memories of this year’s conference will be Conor Smyth, Head of Geo Services at EDINA and Cameron Easton, Head of Spatial Information at the Scottish Executive holding each other up as they weaved their way back to their rooms. Enough, lest you think the whole of GeoCommunity is dedicated to having fun!
Surprisingly after a good dose of coffee most of the delegates seemed ready for the morning’s activities, still as I tweeted “Geohangovers are for geowimps”. Even so it was going to take something a bit special to kickstart the morning and we got it. I wish Danny Dorling had been teaching geography when I was at school. Danny is my kind of geographer, with an interest in applying geography in ways that matter and might make a difference and a rare talent for illuminating a jumble of data with his weird and wonderful Twisted Maps (aka cartograms).
Danny gave us a whistle stop tour of how different projections and cartographic techniques can provide insight and highlight trends in ways that shaded polygons just can’t. I think a challenge for most of us in understanding these twisted maps (Danny’s description not mine) is the extent to which geographic outlines have become iconic and are almost hard wired into the spatial part of our brains, changing our internal projection systems is not easy. If you are not sure, go have a look at OSM-GB, at the moment the very rough map is just up there as a place holder until the project starts munging and hopefully improving OSM data, you know this is GB but it just doesn’t look quite right (WGS84). Now look at this map by Ben Hennig, one of Danny’s PhD students, at Views of the World
You get the high level picture pretty quickly don’t you? It will take me a while to adapt and drill down into the detail in this view though as all of my geomemory is baffled by these unfamiliar outlines. I think it is a tribute to the GeoCommunity in this country that we have a Social and Spatial Inequalities Group at one of our universities – maybe that says more about me than anything else.
Vanessa Lawrence was the next speaker (Ordnance Survey were a Platinum Sponsor of the event, thanks guys). I don’t always agree with Vanessa and I I may have been mildly critical of OS on the odd occasion but Vanessa’s irrepressible enthusiasm and belief in the contribution that geography can make to Britain and the world, combined with her pride in the OS have to be admired. This was a very wide ranging talk that started with world wide developments in mapping (China is investing $1.5bn to turbocharge their GI industry) through to the way Ordnance Survey is adapting to an era of Open Data. Lots of good material and very upbeat. A little moment of personal pride came up when in the course of her presentation Vanessa referred to the combination of industry and practitioners across the private and public sectors as the GeoCommunity, 5 years after we launched this event and created the brand it has become common parlance as high up as the DG of OS – nice.
5 years ago Jo Cook was almost a lone voice championing Open Source GIS, I remember her approaching me at the first GeoCommunity trying to persuade me that the AGI should be supporting Open Source (not Open Sores as John pepper described it in his Soapbox). I think I waffled about broad churches, even handed and stuff like that, shame on me. In 2011 there was an “Open” river (as opposed to a stream) running through the conference and the unconference, Open Source Geo is definitely established as part of the landscape and Mike Saunt’s debunking of the 3 myths of Open Source was a great response to those still trying to spread FUD. Jo Cook is the chair/lead/coordinator of the UK chapter of OSGeo, inadvertently she tweeted out that the chapter were bidding to bring the annual FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geo) conference to Britain in 2013, a new hashtag was born and then renamed. Just imagine how much fun it could be to back to back GeoCommunity and FOSS4G in 2013, a solid week of mapmadness and geolove in GB! The best place (at the moment) to find out more as it happens or to offer help would be to sign up here.
Part of the fun of GeoCommunity is the chance conversations that you stumble into. Over lunch with Mark Iliffe, Jo Cook, Conor Smyth we got into a conversation about enterprise in the third world, Mark had been working in Africa recently (see yesterday’s post for details of his talk) and Conor had worked in Latin America when he was younger. Conor told us about a project in the slums of the Philippines to make solar powered lights from 2 litre plastic drinks bottles, cool stuff, not very geo but just why you want to be at GeoCommunity.
A robust discussion about Open Data. Thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/punchup/
Then we were back in the main auditorium for the annual debate “Open Data – what could possibly go wrong?” (title suggested by yours truly). Some of the AGI debates in the past have fallen a bit flat, some have been gentle conversations and rarely has there been a strong contrast of positions. The panel consisted of people who are all old friends, Gesche Schmidt (LGG), Bill Oates (WAG), Trevor Adams (Met police), Bob Barr and me. I though that this was a rather tired old topic and when in preparation several of the panel planned to speak in favour, I offered to take the debating position of opposing Open Data (even though I don’t really) on the basis of economics, innovation and who might be the ones holding government to account. Just for the sake of argument of course. Well that didn’t last very long, when Gesche and Bill went off on one about personal data I went mildly ballistic, when Bob started waffling on about the benefits of OpenStreetMap (which I fully agree with) trying to identify the economic benefits of releasing Open Data I lost it completely, Bob was so far off track that I almost stood up to physically drag him back “on topic”. Interestingly, what the panel illustrated was the deeply ingrained tendency for people working in the public sector to focus on the difficulties in opening up data and the reasons to say no. I say “Just say Yes” and “JFDI”
At last we got to the final plenaries. Kimberley Kowal is the Curator of Digital Mapping at the British Library, if there is a cooler job than this then please tell me about it (if KK could be persuaded to go for it I could volunteer to be her standin at the British Library until they appoint a replacement). There was a wondrous look on the faces of the assembled map geeks as images of fascinating, exquisite maps from the BL collection flashed up on the screen. My favourite was the 18th C strip map of directions from London to Paris with textual directions, small drawings of points of interest and compasses, pretty much like Google route directions today without the map. I wish I had some images from the presentation to share, maybe later but in the mean time you will have to live with a couple of the comments from the tweetstream “I’m in mapheaven” and in the vernacular of the backchannel “#mapporn“.
Gary Gale is an entertaining presenter who produces work of art zen slide decks full of humour, weaving his way through some deceptive paths to deliver you to his final message. His closing plenary was a cracker about place, context and a next generation of smarter location based capabilities (note that I am not saying apps). I am not sure whether the multiple references to “checking in” were included just to wind me up or whether Gary is still hooked on becoming a Mayor, that aside this was a funny and thoughtful presentation and a perfect counterpoint to Kimberley.
OK, it’s time for a rant! Why oh why do people skip out of an event before the final plenaries? Those of you who did missed 2 of the best speakers of the conference to get home an hour earlier. IMHO dumb.
So that’s it from me and GeoCommunity for another year. I was able to enjoy the event as a delegate rather than an organiser this year and for me it was probably the best yet although I might try not to commit to two presentations, 2 panels and 2 soapboxes next year. We launched OSM-GB and will be back next year to talk about our successes and lessons learnt. I made new friends, drank too much for a man of my age, probably inadvertently offended someone via the twitter stream, had a lot of fun and most of all realised how lucky I was to be a part of the GeoCommunity.
A big thank you to Jeremy Morley and his conference team and the remarkable, unflappable AGI core staff who achieve so much with such a small team.
Thanks to Gary, the tweet stream is here so those of you who were not there can get an irreverent flavour of the conversation around the event. These wordles from Chris over at Web-GIS are also worth a look.
So another GeoCommunity has been and gone, the format has evolved, the new venue at Nottingham is a big improvement and I have to admit to a slight sense of paternal pride that successive conference teams bring fresh energy and ideas. This was my second year as a plain participant, well a presenter participant rather than an organiser or conference chair – no responsibilities, no worries, just the opportunity to sit back and enjoy which I certainly did.
Thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelingman/
Despite the cuts in the public sector and the pressures on the commercial participants, attendance held up very well and the mood of the delegates seemed to be pretty positive. About 450 delegates were here to talk geo, meet old friends and make new ones (hiya @markiliffe) learn stuff and enjoy parties, soapboxes, quizzes and of course the twitter backchannel.
Day one opened with a changed pair of plenary speakers as both of the advertised candidates had to drop out at short notice and what a great pair of standins we got, no second besters here! Cheryl Miller (on behalf of Sir Ian Magee, Chair of the GI Group) gave a confident and spirited presentation on the role of the GI panel in representing government as the customer of the PSMA in its relationship with Ordnance Survey. There was an almost audible gasp when the phrase “hold Ordnance Survey to account” appeared on a slide and the backchannel went into feverish overload with mental images of two geodames slugging it out.
Next up was Jamie Justham of Dotted Eyes who was talking about the creation of the new parliamentary constituency by the Boundary Commission. I was surprised that the team had chosen this for a plenary, I thought it was going to be a dry and rather geeky topic. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Jamie Justham’s almost schoolboy like enthusiasm for his subject combined with his almost encyclopaedic knowledge made this presentation absolutely rivetting. If Jamie ever gives up geo he could replace Peter Snow and the Swingometer. Dotted Eyes have released a dataset of the proposed boundaries as OpenData for anyone who wants to investigate and contribute to the consultation, well done guys.
The final keynote from Amanda Turner of ESRI UK (one of the Platinum Sponsors) was an interesting review of the challenges facing our community from a newcomer’s perspective. When she questioned the complex and varied language that we use to describe what we do (GIS, Geography, Location, Spatial, GI) I think many agreed with her.
A quick mention of the food at the East Midlands Conference Centre which was exceptionally good and a massive improvement on the old venue. Culinary delights at a geoconference – unheard of.
Collect all 6 stickers and win a prize
For a day and a half I had been stickering everything that moved in a guerilla marketing campaign for the launch of the OSM-GB project that I have been working on with CGS at Nottingham and 1Spatial. This was to ensure that I had a full room for my session on “How authoritative can the crowd be?” which mused on what constitutes authority in geodata and what might be done to increase trust and confidence in OSM to encourage public sector to use OSM, become contributors helping to increase coverage and attribution and identify use cases for an alternative (not a replacement) to other base maps. You can read my paper on the OSM-GB blog and the slide deck is here.
The response was very encouraging and you will be hearing more from me about this as we get our researcher in place and start.
I also did a soapbox that gave a quick preview of the project, slides are here if you want them. Day one finished with a superb presentation by Mark Iliffe, a PhD student at UoN who looks to have a great future. Mark talked about mapping in the slums of Africa, it was a massive reality check for many of the audience, he was immensely quotable and my favourite was describing toilet trenches as “Open Defecation Areas with tag=’land use’ value=’shit’”. Not surprisingly he got one of the biggest rounds of applause at the end of it and subsequently won the delegates vote and award for the best paper at the conference.
The Soapbox has become an established feature at the end of day 1 of GeoCommunity. It is a combination of georant and geostandup comedy in 5 minute blurts to an autotimed slide deck. Not easy at the best of times but when the beer is flowing (courtesy of Star Apic) and the audience are barracking and throwing virtual rotten tomatoes via twitter this is a tough place to be. Not satisfied with standing up for OSM-GB I managed to be persuaded by Ken Field (who is now based at ESRI in California) to do a second transatlantic soapbox where he prepared the soapbox and I did the chat bit (unseen!). Stupid? Yes, but persuading Gary Gale to join me in a chaotic double act was the only smart thing I can claim about this fiasco. You can judge for yourself with a warning about the occasional profanity for those of a sensitive disposition.
Thanks to Ken for the slide deck and a great idea and a big thanks to Gary for standing up with me on this. The undoubted champion of this year’s soapbox following in the footsteps of previous winners Ian Painter and Thierry Gregorius was Mike Saunt of Astun Technology debunking some of the myths of Open Source Geo with a great surprise about 90 seconds into the video.
I particularly like the concept of the “software tax” I bet that Ian painter and others will be back soon to respond to Mike’s thoughts. I think he is spot on.
The least said about the evening’s festivities is probably the better, more food, a free bar, scalextric, a surfboard thing to fall off, loads of new people to meet and quite a bit of whisky.
24 hours later I am starting to feel the strain, so this will be Part 1 and some thoughts on the second day’s speakers and the overall event will follow in a couple of days (some proper work to be done tomorrow)
A couple of weeks back I was invited to talk to the graduate class at the Arup University. Arup offer a great study program for their staff that leads to an MSc in GIS, this was the final part of the program when the students come from around the world for a final week of workshops and talks. I thought I would be talking to about 10-15 students, in the event Ewan had publicised the talk within Arup and there were about 70 people in the room plus 4 offices videoconferenced in from around the world. These were GI techy folk, in the language that we are not using any more this was deep paleo territory, it was good that I had prepared a bullet free slide deck with some video to snazz it up.
3 years ago I was on their side of the fence and rewatching this presentation made me think about how different life would have been if I had not had the resources and opportunity to leave MapInfo when I did. Most of the stuff I talked about will be well known by many readers but 3 years ago it either didn’t exist or was barely heard of, certainly the majority of people working in a mainstream GI company were not thinking about this stuff and did not see it as impinging on their business or careers – I bet they do now.
The guys at Arup had really ace AV for my talk, so if you are interested, sit back and enjoy the show (the Q&A at the end wasn’t miked up very well but you can work out the questions from my answers). There are bigups in here for OpenStreetMap, itoWorld, Ushahidi, the Copenhagen Bicycle, Waze, Google (of course) and a littleup for geo.me
Yup it is the time of year for some reflection and some goodwill unto all men, particularly those in California, Southampton, Denver, Westminster, Haiti, Seattle to hint at just a few.
Thanks to Imelda http://www.flickr.com/photos/imelda/
Several people have or will shortly pronounce on what they consider to be the geo-events of the year, their favourite maps, the top tips for success in 2011 and a load of other stuff in that vein including OS and Google Maps Mania. So here in reverse order are my top 5 of the year just about to pass.
5. A GeoVation loser turns out to be a winner
Geo.me were one of the GeoVation finalists who although they caught my eye did not get the judges vote. I liked them enough to make an investment and join their board. Things have moved on pretty well since then and I have high hopes for the coming year as we move into new offices in January and start to ratchet things up. It is great to be back in the geogame.
4. Loads of mappy TV and Radio
There was a flurry of TV and radio programmes about maps including Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art on TV and at the British Library (I went 3 times or was it 4?)
3. Open Source – a tipping point in the UK?
The announcement that the UK INSPIRE solution would be developed using Open Source components will perhaps be seen as the tipping point for Open Source Geo in the UK. I summed up my views on why this was important and possibly a game changer in this post, Ian Painter doesn’t agree with me on all of this and makes some good points in the comments.
2. Microsoft and MapQuest embrace OpenStreetMap
If I wasn’t so parochial I would have put this as number 1.
I wrote about the announcements from Bing and MapQuest at State of the Map 2010 and the tension I sensed amongst some of the core volunteers. I suggested that the participation of such big players would inevitably change the the game for OSM. Since that post Cloudmade announced that it had raised $12.3m in a funding round and soon after one of its founders, Steve Coast who also started OSM, jumped ship and shortly after resurfaced to join Microsoft.
If you look at the way MapQuest have integrated editing tools into their site using standard OSM tools you can get a feel for how these two giants could really drive uptake and coverage for OSM.
I expect there will be several more big announcements in 2011, maybe even a mid-sized one from not too far away.
1. OS OpenData (C)
Still think the copyright symbol is a bit ridiculous linked to OpenData, is it the lack of a space that qualifies it for the (c)?
This had to be the number 1 event of the year. After several years of Free Our Data campaigning a brief conversation between Gordon Brown and Sir Tim Berners-Lee unlocked this core data for the Open Data movement, I posted loads of assessment here so I am not going to recap. Suffice it to say that this has helped to unlock the derived data nightmare (still not completely resolved, need to post some thoughts on that soon) helped to get several new initiatives, apps underway and has provided some useful background to OSM which can aid filling in some of the missing GB bits.
I doubt that it will generate the tax revenue for the treasury that some FOD visionaries foresaw but we have a recession to help muddle that issue up so let’s enjoy the data and leave the cost to the treasury (who may cast an eagle eye over the costs of maintaining OS OpenData in the future)
I have hinted at some of my views for 2011 above but let me draw out a couple more themes/predictions:
Nearly half of UK GI spend is in the public sector, that market is going to be somewhere between not good and downright awful. It just has to be as the impact of massive cuts washes through to new GI investments and even continuing support and services contracts. On the positive side a squeeze of this scale opens up opportunities for businesses that offer radically different business models and big cost savings. Think shared services, cloud, open source and open data to name just a few.
One of the big GI players will either “consolidate” into a specialist niche or be sold to an even bigger player, the field is getting too crowded with new entrants and they aren’t innovating sufficiently fast to buck market trends
We will start to see less maps in mobile apps and more “ubiquitous” location that just works.
Someone is going to mess up big time with location and privacy
One of the big checkin players will check out
Several hostages to fortune there, no doubt some humble pie to be eaten this time next year. If you don’t blog, feel free to add your faves of 2010 and thoughts for 2011 in the comments.
I sometimes wonder whether I write this stuff for myself or for whoever reads it (a bit of both I guess). To all of you who have been kind enough to comment either on this blog or face to face, thanks for following me.
I hope you have a geotastic 2011 or as someone said “make maps not war”
I have been at the 1Spatial user conference at Homerton College in Cambridge today. Several people commented on the difficulty that they had in finding the conference centre on Google Maps which matched my own experience. Search on Google for Homerton College and you will get directed to the centre of the Addenbrookes Hospital complex famous for heart transplants but not to my knowledge a conference venue.
Google Maps search for Homerton College
The “A” marker is what the search returns while the green arrow is the location returned by Google for a search on the postcode CB2 8PH which is what the conference web site quotes and which turns out to be correct. But that is a bit confusing as there is no Homerton College at the location of the green arrow (if you look very carefully you might see a slight shading that could represent a building but definitely no attribution and certainly not the detail of Addenbrooke’s. Part of the problem is that somehow Google have the wrong postcode recorded for the college. No wonder people searching on Google were a bit confused, at least one was last heard of still driving around the hospital.
I am not in any way criticising Google, the fault, if any, is with their data supplier Tele Atlas.Homerton is not exactly a new build, it has been on the current site since 1894 so one would have thought that the same vehicles that drove round the Addenbrooke’s site could have nipped a few hundred yards up the road and recorded Homerton or at least put some carto text on the map if they were unable to capture all of the detail.
You can guess where this goes next. I looked up Homerton College on OpenStreetMap and wonder of wonders
Beautiful isn’t it? I thought so and when I showed it to one of the people complaining about Google/TA they were impressed but asked “why would anyone do that for nothing?” Well that’s another story but thanks to ito World you can see who mapped Homerton College and when here.
Now Homerton College Cambridge is not the whole of the UK let alone the world. Perhaps the demographics of a university town mean that it will have a strong team of active mappers. But it does prompt some questions about completeness, detail etc.
I am preparing a talk on “Open Source and Open Data in a time of Austerity” for next week (oh yes I know how late I have left this).
My premise is that the twin pressures of Cost and Transparency/Openness will come together to stimulate a flurry of creativity, innovation & new business opportunities. Now I could do with some stunning examples of innovation and creativity that utilise Open Source GI and Open Data – a mixture of societal and commercial apps would be ideal. I know there have been some great developments using Open Data from www.data.gov.uk and or OpenStreetMap but which 2 or 3 would you choose if you were giving a short talk on the subject?
So help me out if you can and point me at your favourite examples via the comments on this post. Save me from having to work all through the weekend and I will thank you with a geobeer or two when we next meet up (at GeoCommunity would be fun)