Geobabble, football, blinded by the light

Who says you cannot mix football and geo? Certainly not Alun Jones and the team at GeoInformation Group. Today the guys behind the UKMap hosted a day of geostuff at the Emirates, yes that right geobabble at the home of my beloved Arsenal. How good is that? I will tell you – it was exceedingly good Mr Kipling.

It was very strange to come out of the Arsenal tube station (others please note we are the only football club to have a station named after them, there is something about “place” in that but not for today) at 8.30 in the morning and walk up to the ground with no one else around. Usually there are at least 50,000 others there.

There were nearly 200 people in attendance for a day of presentations from the varied sponsors (look at the GI website for more details). Big respect to GI Group for putting these events on all round the country for free and also to the sponsors/presenters for not going down the yawny sales push route. OK polite stuff over ……… now the georant!

This was a conference of largely public sector (aka Local Govt) users listening and long term industry people presenting. Just about every presenter had to get in several references to Google, at least one mention of Bing, a slide with the OpenStreetMap logo and a map screenshot, a picture of an iPhone, a mention of the power of the crowd or was it the cloud, a bit of StreetView and liberal use of the words open and free. I am sure you get my drift. Now you might think that is a good thing, and so would I, but I got the sense that most presenters were in the “oh shit, look what’s coming!” mode rather than having any ideas about how they were going to embrace these changes and create new value for their clients (or are they soon to be ex-clients?). Without being perjorative, oh heck why not stir it up a bit – you don’t become cool just by quoting the names of the companies that could be eating your lunch in the next few years. Hence my reference to blinded by the light (startled rabbits and headlights in case you are still not with me).

(c) Michael J Hunter

Now you might think that was an uncharacteristically acid rant from me. Truth is I was pissed off. There I was to do my AGI Foresight summary – GI in 2015. I had savagely edited a 40 minute talk down to 20 minutes and long before my slot came up, just before the end, every point that I had wanted to make and all of the opens, frees, GYM’s etc had been flogged to death and no chance to reshape the deck.

On the positive side my message that there is a perfect storm blowing through geo brought about by the conjunction of social, economic and technological change and  that geobusinesses and geoprofessionals need to adapt or die had been well and truly hammered home.

So my summary of the challenges facing UK Geo was:

“So what are the key challenges for the UK GeoCommunity? The foresight report offers quite a long list, these are my personal choices:

  • Discarding the location-specific baggage and enter the mainstream
  • Building a skill set that enables us to provide context and understanding as geo goes more and more mainstream, we will need people who can answer the questions “so what does that mean then?” or “where in my business process can I improve outcomes through the application of location and how?”
  • Finding ways of ensuring consumers can manage and understand the issues surrounding location privacy
  • Finding business models that respond to the challenge of free
  • New entrants will seize the opportunity to fuse the geoweb and social media – established incumbents will need to react or die;
  • Developing the role of location information in socially significant applications, such as participatory democracy, mega city planning as well as consumer applications;
  • And last but not least finding ways to communicate with the 50% of end users who don’t understand map”

And you can read through the whole slide deck and notes here

A great event GeoInformation, thanks very much for inviting me to speak. Got to catch up with a load of old friends and managed to show to quite a few people with very encouraging responses. Feels as if may be a right time and right place adventure, but more of that later.

The back channel was fairly quiet at this event, not a lot of geotwitterati in attendance but there are a few particularly good ones from Martin Daly which you can scan through here

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