Vermeer 3 – iPhone 3

Yes it was a draw at AGI Northern’s Where2.0Now event in Harrogate on Tuesday! In a great day of geoweb presentations and conversation the audience were treated to 3 pictures of Vermeer’s “The Geographer” as a token paleo and surprisingly only 3 pictures of an iPhone breaking the apparent trend that every presentation has to have a picture of an iPhone and a reference to OSM.

The attendees seemed to enjoy the event although there were some baffled faces when John McKerrell was showing how he tracked his location history on and linked it to his Weasley Clock. Surprisingly the academic contingent of the audience were most sceptical about the value of tracking personal location history which seems strange to me considering some of the topics that academics chose to research.

The presentation of the day (IMHO) was Tim Waters on a community powered project to take the New York Public Library’s collection of scanned historic maps and rectify and warp them over OpenStreetMap and then to digitise features from the maps. Defying the demo gods Tim did a great demo of the tools that are used and finished with a spectacular display of ancirent maps draped over a Google Earth globe. You can play with the warping application and view the maps, or even participate, here. What use? Well Landmark have built a very substantial business deriving previous land use data and inferring potential environmental contamination from historic maps for a start.

John Fagan of Microsoft talked about the dangers of taking a too simplistic approach to thematic mapping in web applications and came up with one of the quotes of the day “Do we really want web developers carrying out spatial analysis? It could all go wrong!” as he illustrated how John Snow could have got his famous identification of the contaminated water pump wrong if he had use the wrong boundaries. It got a bit technical for me but the academics seemed to be nodding with approval when he mentioned MAUP, the slides are here.

Ed Parsons closed the event with a presentation entitled “Lessons from a Blind MapMaker” not sure that I understood the title but the presentation was good particularly Ed reassuring us that there was no Google plan for world domination!

Rollo Home and his helpers are to be congratulated on putting together this event. Joking aside, the Geoplan offices and the towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough made a wonderful setting for the event.

Oh and attending a GeoCommunity offshoot event without having to speak, organise or promote was a new and very enjoyable experience. It gave me plenty of time to tweet and even if you are not a twitterer you can follow the back channel of conversation in this tweetdoc.