Posts Tagged ‘conference’

How A Map Can Go Viral (In 8 Simple Steps)

Back in February of this year, at the height of the madness that was the Vaguely Rude Places Map, Ed Freyfogle from London’s #geomob meetup got in touch and asked me to come and tell the story behind the map. This is that story.

And so last night, in the Chadwick Lecture Theatre in the basement of London’s UCL, after listening to some amazing presentations on building a map of mobile cell tower coverage, of building a seismically powered alternative to GPS and a whole host of other great talks, I took my place on the podium and started where any good story needs to start … at the beginning.


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The Ubiquitous Digital Map (Abridged)

A lot of great conferences in the UK happen in London. But not all great conferences. For some, you have to travel a little further afield. Maybe to East Anglia. Or more specifically to Norwich, the county town of Norfolk. If you were in Norwich last week, you might have noticed that SyncConf was taking place and I’d been asked by ex-MultiMapper and co-founder of SyncConf, John Fagan to do a talk on something related to maps. How could I refuse?


SyncConf isn’t a maps conference or a geo conference; it’s a tech conference for the city’s tech and startup community. So it seemed to make sense not to go full-on maps nerd for the conference audience but instead look at how we got to the current state of play where the digital map has become ubiquitous. It also allowed me to the opportunity to put a little bit of map porn into a slide deck.

This is how it turned out .. my slide deck and notes follow after the break.

Image Credits: Denise Bradley, Eastern Daily Press.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

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Of W3G, AGI And Other Geographical Acronyms

In November 2008 I was still working for Yahoo and a fledgling meetup event for people interested in maps, location, geo and mobile started up in London. It was, and still is, called GeoMob. I was at GeoMob’s very first event, talking about Yahoo’s Fire Eagle location brokering platform. Four years later and it was great to go back, see GeoMob still flourishing despite a brief hiatus in 2010, and meet up with a lot of old friends as well as meet some new ones.

And what an evening it was. Truly a veritable feast of maps. David Overton spoke about SplashMaps, his Kickstarter funded project to produce lightweight printable fabric maps for outdoors.

I didn’t think it was possible to map happiness but apparently it is and George MacKerron showed how with the aptly entitled Mappiness project.

Staying with tangible maps, Anna Butler from Wellingtons Travel wowed the audience with her lovingly hand drawn map of the centre of London, styled after the glorious illustrated maps of yesteryear. Almost all the audience immediately added a copy of her map to their Christmas lists en masse.

Awesome hand-drawn map of London is awesome #geomob

And then there was James Cheshire who, along with Ollie O’Brien, runs Spatial Analysis and they’d produced Lives On The Line, a map of the life expectancy of Londoners along the path of the London Underground lines. Not only maps, but Tube maps. What more can you want?

Finally, standing between the audience and a thirst quenching GeoBeer or two, it was my turn. This wasn’t my usual talk. No mapporn. Not even that many pithy or wryly amusing images. Just some raising of awareness for the W3G conference and the AGI. As usual, the slide deck is below and the notes follow after the break.

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Revisiting SoLoMo in Istanbul

If any industry sector is uniquely poised to benefit from the triumvirate of social, local and mobile, it’s the classified listings industry. The last time I spoke about whether do embrace SoLoMo or just embrace social, local and mobile I cautioned against the tick in the box approach and against adopting new technologies just because you’re exhorted to.

But at first glance, a business running classified listings does seem to put all the right ticks in all the right boxes.

Firstly local. Classifieds are inherently local, offering a way for local businesses and individuals to offer … stuff … to other local people. Implementing a local strategy needs your mainstay offering to have a strong geolocation quotient and what could be more local or more geolocation than addresses and postal codes?

Then there’s mobile. Most classifieds businesses have either fully or partially transitioned from print to online and if you already have an online presence, you’re more than half way to having a mobile online presence.

Finally there’s social. Again, there’s a strong affinity with classifieds. Nothing spreads faster than word of mouth reputation and harnessing the power of social media to allow people to say “hey, I just found this really cool stuff” is a compelling case for social.

So when the International Classified Media Association, the ICMA, asked me to talk about SoLoMo at their Social, Local, Mobile: Classified Media Strategies conference in Instanbul last week it was an ideal opportunity to see whether my preconceptions to be skeptical about SoLoMo were borne out in practise or whether I’d just overdone the cynicism a bit too much.

As it turns out, I think it was round about a 50/50 ratio. Most of the classifieds people in Instanbul fundamentally got the basic precepts around each of SoLoMo’s constituent elements.

But there were two major flies in their respective ointments.

Firstly, as with most industry sectors, the classifieds businesses are experts in … classified. They’re not experts in social, local or mobile. They’re far too busy running their business to become experts in anything other than their business. Which means metaphorical toes are dipped in equally metaphorical waters without maybe understanding or appreciating what is meant to be achieved.

Secondly and closely linked with my first point, even if a social, local, mobile or SoLoMo strategy is put in place, it’s still not clear what’s going to be achieved or how to measure success or failure. Many of the classifieds players I spoke to openly acknowledged that whilst they have social media dashboard and metrics in place, it’s a major challenge to interpret a sea of figures and work out what this means in the context of their business area.

I’m still strongly of the belief that if applied sanely and in a way that makes sense for a business, there’s a lot to be gained from social, from mobile and from local.

I’m still equally strongly of the belief that SoLoMo, even if it does have a manifesto, is too vague and wooly to be understood by people trying hard to make their business succeed and needs the basic tenets broken out and explained in language the people SoLoMo is trying to help can understand.

As usual, the slides from my talk, which will be just a tad familiar to anyone who read my last SoLoMo post, are below and my deck notes follow after the break.

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Of Digital “Stuff” And Making Your Personal Interweb History

Back in July, I wrote about Big (Location) Data vs. My (Location) Data, which was the theme for a talk I gave at the AGI Northern Conference. The TL;DR premise behind the talk was that the location trail we generate on today’s interweb is part of our own digital history and that there’s a very one sided relationship between the people who generate this digital stuff and the organisations that aim to make money out of our digital stuff.

Once I’d given that talk, done the usual blog write up and posted it, I considered the topic done and dusted and I moved onto the next theme. But as it turns out, the topic was neither done, nor dusted.

Firstly Eric van Rees from Geoinformatics magazine mailed me to say he’d liked the write up and would I consider crunching down 60 odd slides and 3000 odd words into a 750 word maximum column for the next issue of the magazine.

And then a conversation on Twitter ensued where some people immediately saw the inherent value in their personal location history whilst some people … didn’t.

That conversation was enough to make me go back and revisit the theme and the talk morphed and expanded considerably. Fast forward to this week and I’ve given the talk in its’ new form twice, once at Nottingham University’s GeoSpatial faculty and once at the Edinburgh Earth Observatory EOO-AGI(S) seminar series at Edinburgh University.

Maybe now this topic and this talk is finished and it’s time to move on. But somehow, I think this will be a recurring theme in talks to come over the next few years.

The slides from the talk are below and the notes accompanying those slides are after the break.

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Maps, Maps And MOAR Maps At The Society Of Cartographers And Expedia

Updated September 13th. 2012 with embedded YouTube video.

Wednesday September 5th. 2012 was a day of maps. To be precise, it was a day of maps, maps and MOAR maps. Two events, two talks, back to back. Packed choc-a-bloc full of maps. I also cheated slightly.

Firstly there was the International Cartographical Association’s first session of the newly formed Commission on Neocartography. Cartography, neocartography, maps; what is there not to like? I’d previously spoken at the UK’s Society of Cartographer’s annual conference so it was great to be asked by Steve Chilton, SoC and Neocartography chair, to speak at the Neocartography Commission.

For a change, the talk title and abstract I gave Steve didn’t vary during the usual researching and writing of the talk.

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Mime-Version: 1.0 (Apple Message framework v1278)
Subject: Re: Neocartography workshop
X-Universally-Unique-Identifier: d1c70302-eaba-4132-80fb-f74eb1de2347
From: Gary Gale
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2012 14:13:39 +0100
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
To: Steve Chilton

Actually, I'm going to change the title ... what I'd really like to see up on the web site is this ...

Title: History Repeats Itself And So Does The Map
Abstract: Steve Chilton says this just MIGHT be interesting; you'll have to take his word for this

... but that might not work. So try this for size instead

Title: History Repeats Itself And So Does The Map
Abstract: History has a habit of repeating itself and so does the map. From primitive scratchings, through ever more sumptuous pieces of art, through to authoritative geographical representations, the map changes throughout history. Maps speak of the hopes, dreams and prejudices of their creators and audience alike, and with the advent of neogeography and neocartography, maps are again as much art as they are geographical information.

... will that do?


But then, no sooner had I got one event for that Wednesday when fellow Yahoo! alumni and now Expedia developer and chief evangelist Steve Marshall asked me to team up with ex-Doppleran and ex-Nokian Matt Biddulph at Expedia’s EAN World of Data event which was cunningly masquerading as a BBQ that very Wednesday evening. So I cheated. One day. Loads of maps. Two events. But one talk. Only time will tell whether I got away with it or not.

Rob de Feo: Natural Language Processing & Gary Gale: Maps @ EAN Developer Network

My talk at the Neocartography workshop was filmed and you can watch it below, if you like that sort of thing. Personally I hate seeing myself on video, it’s even more excrutiating than hearing myself on audio.

As usual, the slide deck, plus notes are embedded below, also if you like that sort of thing.

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Big (Location) Data vs. My (Location) Data

For a pleasant change, the guts of this talk didn’t metamorphose oddly during the writing. Instead, it geolocated. This was originally planned to be my keynote talk at Social-Loco in San Francisco last month. But I wasn’t able to make it to the Bay Area as planned for reasons too complex to go into here. Suffice to say, the slide deck languished unloved on my laptops hard drive, taking up 30 odd MB of storage and not really going anywhere.

Then I got an email from Stuart Mitchell at Geodigital asking me if I’d like to talk at the AGI’s Northern Conference and thus, after a brief bit of editing to remove the conspicuous Silicon Valley references, this talk relocated from San Francisco to Manchester. As per usual, the slide deck plus notes are below.

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SoLoMo, Or Just Social, Local And Mobile?

One of the many things I like about writing talks for a conference is that the talk often morphs during the writing process as I research the theme and try to make the narrative at least vaguely coherent. Of course, it also helps that when you’re asked to be a speaker at a conference, the organisers often want the title and abstract up to 3 months ahead of proceedings. 3 months is a long time in the tech industry and a lot can change.

Which brings me to the talk I gave a month ago at the Location Business Summit in Amsterdam and again today at the Click 6.0 Digital Marketing conference in Dubai.

I’d originally wanted to talk about the importance of digital maps in SoLoMo, the much touted convergence of social, local and mobile. The more I researched this, the more a feeling of déjà vu crept into my thinking. I was sure I’d seen a much talked about and much feted tech phenomenon turn out to be more hype than substance. Much as hyperlocal, which I approached from the point of view of a hopeful sceptic, turned out to be more hype than local, SoLoMo gave me the same feeling of unease.

For those of you who like this sort of thing (and I really need to check my web analytics sometime to see if anyone actually does like this sort of thing or whether I’m merely deluded; either one of these options is entirely plausible), the slide deck, with titles helpfully annotated into Arabic by one of my colleagues in Nokia’s Berlin office, plus notes are below.

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Gary’s Law Of Conference Failure

I wasn’t at WhereCamp EU in Amsterdam recently. At least, I wasn’t there in person, but according to Mark Iliffe and Giuseppe Sollazzo I was certainly there in spirit. You see, at WhereCamp EU in Berlin last year I was doing what I usually do at conferences; watching a talk, laptop on lap, live Tweeting furiously. This particular talk contained a live demo and a backing track of Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, a live demo can go wrong and did go wrong, which prompted me to say

Never work with children, animals, sweet soul music or live code demos. You have been warned

Although I’m sure someone might have said something similar before. That was last year’s WhereCamp EU. This year’s WhereCamp EU, thanks to Messrs Iliffe and Sollazzo, seemed to have elevated that random Tweet to a law. A law which happened again at WhereCamp EU in Berlin. More than once. And then again at Mark’s PhD presentation.

So it’s official. Gary’s law of conference failures is now codified as never work with children, animals, sweet soul music or live demos. And before you ask, I’ve learnt the hard way, never, ever, to do a live demo, because what can go wrong, will go wrong.

Photo Credits: Uncle Zirky on FailBlog.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

From Where 2.0 To Just Where; With Meh 2.0 Somewhere In The Middle

And so, as Where 2012 draws to a close and the lobby of the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco fills with a slew of geo’d-out delegates waiting to check out, it’s time for the traditional post conference retrospective writeup. If you were at Where this year or in previous years you’ll probably want to skip ahead to the next paragraph, right now. Where, previously called Where 2.0, is one of the annual maps, geo, location conferences. Though it’s very Californian and eye wateringly expensive, it’s still the place to go to talk, listen and announce anything related to the nebulous industry we call Geo.

After skipping Where 2.0 last year, this year I returned as part of the Nokia contingent and found out that some things had changed.

Firstly, Where 2.0 was no more. O’Reilly have rebranded the conference as simply Where, with the strapline of the business of location. The conference had also moved from its traditional San Jose venue, via the soul desert that is the Santa Clara Convention centre last year, to a new home at the Marriott Marquis slap bang in the middle of downtown San Francisco.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, whilst Where was as slick and well put together as it’s always been, something was missing. It’s not easy to put my finger on what precisely was lacking. There seemed to be a lack of … buzz, for want of a better word. It felt … muted. Numbers were certainly down from previous years but that alone can’t account for the feeling, or lack of it, this year. Granted, the venue was excellent, the food was as well too. The coffee was … Starbucks. We can’t have it all. The wifi almost held up. I met up with a lot of old friends and colleagues, including some from Yahoo! and the after show parties were edgy and the bar was open, free and copiously stocked.

But it did feel more Meh 2.0 (to be said out loud with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders) rather than Where 2.0, and from speaking to other people, I’m not alone in thinking this.

So enough introspection, to the point of this post, which is retrospection. Let’s start with the high points.

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