The extent to which Washington, DC has become a hub for emerging location aware technologies was underscored last weekend (10 – 11 June) with the occurrence of WhereCampDC. The two-day event kicked off on Friday night with a series of lightning talks (20 slides in 5 minutes) that served to highlight both applications of geospatial technologies and techniques for manipulating location data. Highlights included:
Two presentations stood out as crowd favorites. First, Sophia Parafina challenged the crowd by asserting that WMS is dead, arguing that newer, web-friendly methods have rendered WMS obsolete. (Hopefully the video will be posted soon, because the slides aren’t the half of Sophia’s very lively presentation.) Sophia’s essential point is that while WMS has up-to-now been very successful, it has become comparatively difficult for configuration management.
Second, Javier de la Torres provided an example of a very successful citizen science application in Old Weather. As Javier explained, the purpose of the project is to document climate observations from a century ago by digitizing the weather observations from old British navy ship logs. Javier talked about providing incentives, measuring errors and accuracy, as well as an overview of the input process. The really cool part was the visualization created from digitizing the locations of voyages from 100 years ago. Most of the presentations have been posted to the WhereCampDC website and all are very informative.
Saturday was the “unconference” portion of WhereCampDC. An unconference differs from a regular conference in that there is no set agenda. Rather the agenda is determined by the participants at the start of the conference. Ideas are solicited, time slots are assigned, and people roll in and out so that the day resembles a series of continuous birds-of-a-feather sessions.
The advantage of the unconference format is the eclectic and serendipitous subject material. And without a pre-set agenda, people get right into the nuts-and-bolts conversations without any preconceived ideas of how the discussion should go. For example, I participated in a session on crowd-sourcing data transcription from historical sources and another on collecting field data using mobile devices in 3rd world countries. Other sessions touched on topics ranging from environment, humanitarian assistance, and spatial databases. For my part, I instigated a session on addresses and addressing schemes in OpenStreetMap. A small, but focused group including Katie Filbert , Thea Clay, Travis Pinney, and Brian DeRocher contributed to the discussion, which pointed to some tangible next steps for improving the quality of OSM addresses in the US, such as address relations, an address type tag, the need for the US chapter to sponsor an Address working group, and methods for implementing dynamic segmentation in OpenStreetMap.
WhereCampDC easily equaled my best professional conference experiences. The quality of each and every Ignite talk was very high and each of the presenters did a marvelous job of making their subject material fascinating. Also, the participants, many of them local to the Washington, DC area, represented a broad cross-section of innovators in the field, which makes the unconference a great forum for idea exchange. And as a measure of the level of local interest in continuing this idea exchange, the conference has spawned GeoNerds DC meetups to act as an ongoing forum for the community. The conference organizers and sponsors deserve immense credit for not only organizing this event but for bringing the DC-area geospatial community into sharper focus.
Tags:geospatial·location·location aware·open data·open source·sensor·Washington·WhereCampDC
Four short links for your Earth Day ruminations…
A first look at Ubuntu 11.04, code named “Natty Narwhal” from PCWorld.
IBM’s social computing guidelines. Some well-thought out guidelines for how to engage with social media. And if you’re looking for comprehensive guidance for your organization’s policy, you can do much worse than starting here.
Spatial Humanities is a project of the Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship directed by Bethany Noviskie. It’s a gold mine of resources that explores the geographic ties to philosophy, theology, art, language, architecture and more. Make sure you read the Spatial Turn to get a sense of how new geospatial technologies are being used to ask old questions related to geography.
Lastly, in honor of Earth Day, the Yale Environmental Performance Index tracks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators to illustrate environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. And by the way, if you want to create your own mashup, the EPI data are available for download here.
Remember say, 1996? When brave and crafty individuals cobbled (clobbered?) together pages with lots of blinky clip art?
And, remember 2004 when blogs were sprouting like mushrooms after a rainstorm? That was back before Twitter and Facebook took the wind out of blogging by making it easy to blurt whatever comes to mind.
Last week, I blogged about Open Street Map over on my company’s blog, The Viewshed about Open Street Map and touched briefly on the subject of data quality. I cited the study by Muki Haklay that compares (favorably) the quality of data found in OSM with Ordnance Survey data. More on the subject of OSM data quality is found here on Stefan Knecht’s blog, United Maps. Not a formal study, but a another perspective on OSM, both its successes and it’s current limitations. I find the comparison with Wikipedia to be most illuminating because it shows where the similarities end and where OSM differs from Wikipedia.
Tags:data quality·geospatial·mapping·open source·open street map·OSM·Wikipedia
Recently released by members of the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA comes this code that uses Geographic Style Sheets (GSS) to drive the map rendering process for web maps in native HTML 5. What this means, according to the developers, is that individuals can style their own maps enabling them to create and communicate their own narratives. Also, users can access and style data streams to view edits in real-time to provide a very rich and dynamic cartographic display. An example from Open Street Map is provided on the Cartagen web site. And, oh by the way, Cartagen is an open source project with resources for developers on the project wiki.
I still have to experiment more to fully understand the potential of this project. I tried Cartagen briefly using in Firefox 3.5, I was immediately asked if I wished to allow Cartagen to use my location. After I granted the permission, I typed ”Washington, DC” into the text box labeled ‘Go Somewhere’. It quickly brought my browser to its knees and sent my processors into overdrive. Need to work with this a little more…
Tags:cartography·geographic style sheets·GSS·HTML5·mapping·open source
Just released by the City of Alexandria (VA) Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities’ Horticulture and Natural Resources Section is this survey (.pdf) of the native plants of Alexandria. The survey was conducted from 2002 to 2007 and yielded a total of 810 native species (including infra-specific taxa and hybrids) representing 374 genera and 128 families. Accompanying the study is a presentation loaded with photographs new and old documenting the natural history of Alexandria and environs, as well as a geological map of the surficial geology annotated with place names, old and new.
This is a tremendous resource for those trying to restore habitat or simply replicate the native vegetation in suburban landscapes in and around Washington, DC. I applaud regional field ecologist Rod Simmons, the primary author of the report for his devotion to place, to science, and his contribution to the understanding and preservation of the natural habitat of the Washington area.
1. Ostensibly devoted to Flash Flex and other Rich Internet Applications (RIA) is the Flexmappers blog.
2. The Transport Politic focused on rail transport and other alternatives to automotive transport.
3. Related to Transport Politic is Streetsblog.net which aggregates some of the nation’s best bloggers on sustainable transport to carry out a discussion place and learning center.
4. How might the open source revolution affect higher education? That question is explored in depth in the publication, The Tower and the Cloud available for download (.pdf) in whole or by the chapter.
Not too long ago, Upton Tea was having trouble sourcing Yunnan Gold tea because most of the production had shifted to Pu Erh teas. Well, now the bubble has burst and the effect on the composition of Yunnan’s tea production is anybody’s guess. In my experience, there is some basis for the health claims made for Pu Erh teas, but I think most of it is psychological. Not that I care. I’m as succeptible to the placebo effect as anyone. But there is nothing like Pu Erh when you have a hangover or a particularly stressful day. The market for Pu Erh will recover, or at least return to something more rational, eventually. I simply hope that the farmers can hang on without having to forgo much of their newfound prosperity.
A County in China Sees Its Fortunes in Tea Leaves Until a Bubble Bursts – NYTimes.com
This is a good thing for both the standards setting community and the open source community:
OGC and OSGeo Sign Memorandum of Understanding | OGC®
With respect to goals and objectives, both communities have an obvious natural affinity. I’m encouraged to see this finally happened.
From Boston.com, an interesting piece of journalism about the growing ubiquity of maps. The article cites several examples of the effect of this ubiquity, which can be applied for good (monitoring global climate change) or bad (Mumbai siege).
Incidentally, I posted a while back about the cartograms from Mark Newman. Newman quite accurately sums up the explanatory power of the cartogram:
Mark Newman, the University of Michigan physicist who created the algorithm responsible for the best-known election cartograms, coauthored a book this year that uses cartograms to illustrate hundreds of global trends, from immigration flows to carbon dioxide emissions to Internet use. Surprises abound. Spain leaves a large footprint in book publishing, but dwindles to insignificance when it comes to library use. A map of the world’s rabies deaths is little more than a giant, bloated nation of India – which also dominates the world in movie viewing.
The value of the cartogram, Newman argues, is its simplicity. Even a color-coded map, after all, requires a legend. But cartograms embed information in the contours of the map itself, using our assumptions about maps, and our familiarity with the actual shape of the world, to drive home the point.
“You don’t have to learn how to read these maps,” Newman says, summing up, in a sense, the whole enterprise of mapping. “You look at it and it makes sense.”
A cartography boom offers new ways to see the world – The Boston Globe