Posts Tagged ‘nottingham’

I Was A Map Nerd As A Child

In October of 2012, whilst sorting through my father’s personal effects, I was proud to find that I wasn’t the first map nerd in the family and that maps seemed to mean as much to my Dad as they do to me.

Lumped in with my father’s posessions were also some things from my childhood which my parents had kept, either for sentimental reasons or in the hope that one day, I might have children who might want some of my toys, books and games.

At the weekend, I had another clear out and came across some jigsaws I had when I was around 8 or so years old.

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Maps jigsaws from the early 1970’s of Australia, the US, India and the UK; maybe I was a map nerd even as a child and just didn’t know it then.

Written and posted from the Geo-spatial Building, Nottingham University (52.95183, -1.18435)

W3G 2011; Musings On A Geo Unconference

On September 20th, with a new venue and a new tag line, the second W3G (un)conference kicked off the annual three day UK geo-fest that is formed of one day’s worth of W3G followed in quick succession by two day’s worth of AGI GeoCommunity.

After last year’s inaugural geo-festivities in Stratford-upon-Avon, this year W3G grabbed firmly onto the shirt-tails of its big brother, in the shape of GeoCommunity, and relocated to the East Midlands Conference Centre on the grounds of Nottingham University, which is aptly located in, err, Nottingham.

W3G Tee-Shirt

Benefitting from a purpose built conference centre with great in-house catering, great sized conference rooms with massive projection screens, industrial sized quantities of coffee and working wifi, W3G 2011 was a very different beast from 2010’s. Except for the bit about the working wifi as half of the time it didn’t. Work, that is.

Some things remained the same. A couple of invited guest speakers to kick the morning and afternoon sessions off. The unconference wall, which fellow organiser Rollo Home and myself fretted over filling with sessions but which miraculously was filled with offers of talks before the morning coffee break was over. The inevitable geobeers and geocurry to wrap the day’s proceedings up. The aforementioned conference wifi dropping out on a regular basis. The irreverent session titles, which always turned out to be fascinating when you listened to them;  “Dinosaurs, Concorde & the Wedge of Geo” anyone?

The Wedge Of Geo?

But some things were different. Firstly the venue. Despite the inevitable wifi issues W3G was for the first time in a purpose built conference venue rather than in a hotel than happened to host conferences and events and the EMCC was a big hit with everyone. Also the ties with the AGI were made much clearer this year with W3G featuring on the reverse of the GeoCommunity swag bag and also meriting a double page spread on the printed GeoCommunity proceedings. It also didn’t go unnoticed that a far greater proportion of the W3G audience were spotted at GeoCommunity the following two days. This is no bad thing and merely reaffirms the desire of the W3G organisers to use W3G as a channel into the wider scope of GeoCommunity and to increase awareness of the existence of and relevance that the AGI has to offer.

The second difference was, to put it bluntly, the number of attendees. I’m lucky enough to attend a lot of conferences and across the board numbers are down and sponsors are harder to attract. This year’s W3G was no exception to the general trend but despite this there was an upside; the level of interaction, engagement and closeness between speakers, both invited and unconference and audience were simply unprecedented in my somewhat chequered conference experience. But this didn’t only happen in the sessions themselves, this spilled over into between-session coffee breaks, across lunch and into the obligatory geobeers and geocurry.

W3G 2011

The third difference was the strap line for the event. Last year we used the 3 W’s of Geo as a theme and, for a first conference, it worked well. This year we used Because There’s More To Geo Than Just Maps And Checkins as a theme and it worked, but only halfway. Checkins were pretty much nowhere to be seen other than the inevitable fight over the Mayorship of the conference and the venue on Foursquare. Maps on the other hand were pretty much everywhere, from Steven Feldman’s abridged History of Web Mapping talk (run, don’t walk over to SlideShare to see the whole slide deck) through to all of the other unconference sessions. Despite the much predicted death of the map, the map, it would seem, is very much alive, well and positively thriving.

So will W3G be back next year? All the signs are that it will be. Will it be bigger and better than W3G 2011? Only time and the economy will tell if it will be bigger but after this year’s event I think it’s safe to say it will be better, thanks to the time, effort and overall geo enthusiasm that everyone put into the event.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Geo on the Horizon at Horizon Geo

Last Friday I ventured north to Nottingham, along with Ed Parsons, Steven Feldman and Muki Haklay to attend the one day Supporting the Contextual Footprint event run by the Horizon Digital Economy Research institute at the University of Nottingham. Along the way I discovered a manner of tracking my journey that I’d hadn’t previously considered, but that’s covered in a previous blog post.

The focus of the Horizon event was to discuss the infrastructure needed to support location in its role as a key context and to identify any research theme that came out of the discussions; a classic case of the ill defined and fuzzy interface between the commercial world and that of academia.

The day was split into three thematic tracks:

  • The Location Challenge
    • What are the challenges specific to the capture and management of location data?
    • What is the state-of-the-art in the technologies available to store, query and present location data?
    • How do we understand location in context, especially in real-time, on the move?
  • Whose Data Is It Anyway?
    • What data should be considered “personal”?
    • Should I “own” data about me, such as where I am, my home electricity usage, my bank transactions?
    • How can users be enabled and encouraged to manage this data?
    • What technologies are available to do this?
    • How, when and by whom should “personal” data be exploited?
    • What checks and balances should be in place to protect all stakeholders, including both citizens and service innovators?
  • Can Crowds Be Authoritative?
    • Crowd sourcing is a powerful technique for data collection enabled by modern handheld devices, but how far can user-contributed data be trusted?
    • What are the processes required in order to meld crowd-sourced data with existing, authoritative, datasets?
    • What are the legal implications of generating, combining and using such user-generated datasets?
    • For example, what environmental details could citizen sensors collect?
    • How might this change our understanding of the live state of the world?

Take A Little Time With Me

Read On…

Deliberately (and Unexpectedly) Tracking My Journey

I’ve been tracking my journey and in doing so inadvertently uncovered a sea change in the way in which we view the whole thorny issue of location tracking.

Yesterday, Ed Parsons and I drove from London to Nottingham and back to attend the one day Supporting the Contextual Footprint event run by the Horizon Digital Economy Research institute at the University of Nottingham and I had Google Latitude running on my BlackBerry, with location history enabled, as I usually do.

Unofficial Google Latitude T-Shirt

Using the pre smartphone, pre GPS, pre Latitude method of writing it down, the journey went something like this:

  • On Thursday afternoon, leave the Yahoo! office in London.
  • Walk to Piccadilly Circus Tube station and catch the westbound Piccadilly Line.
  • Alight at Heathrow Terminals 1,2, 3 station.
  • Pick up a rental car at Avis.
  • Go home and sleep.
  • On Friday morning, wake up, and leave London.
  • Drive to Nottingham, stopping at Warwick Services on the M40 for coffee.
  • Attend the event in Nottingham.
  • Drive back to London, stopping at Warwick Services on the M40 for more coffee.
  • Drop rental car off at Heathrow.
  • Take car home and sleep.

Nothing too controversial there. Using the smartphone, with GPS and with Latitude method of using my BlackBerry, the journey becomes much more detailed and visual but also shows curious blips where I appear to dance around a location. All the more mysterious as they seem to happen when I know I’m in one place and not moving, until I realise they’re probably AGPS locks from wifi or cell tower triangulation, kicking in for when my GPS can’t get a satellite lock. Playing back the journey on the Google Latitude site looks like this:

Despite the fact that I i) explicitly installed Google Mobile Maps on my BlackBerry, ii) explicitly enabled Latitude in Google Mobile Maps and iii) explicitly enabled location history in my Google Latitude account, a little over 12 months ago, this would have been controversial enough to whip the tabloid media into a privacy infringing frenzy. Looking back to February 2009 in my Delicious bookmarks shows headlines such as Fears that new Google software will spy on workers and Google lets you stalk your friends (which are just plain factually wrong), together with the pointed MPs claim Google Latitude is a threat to privacy: Irony-meter explodes from cnet.

As I went about the events of the day, I checked into my accounts on both Foursquare and on Gowalla. Just take a look at where I checked in and the sequence of check ins.

Tracking my journey; Gowalla

To start with I check in at the Yahoo! UK office, followed by

  • Piccadilly Circus Tube Station
  • Terminal 1 (Heathrow)
  • Avis (Heathrow)
  • Warwick Services (M40)
  • Park Inn (Nottingham)

… which is pretty much a simplified version of the above two journeys. I’m tracking my journey here too but where location based social networks are concerned, the media is far more accommodating and enthusiastic; 12 months after Foursquare’s launch, 500,000 users, 1.4M venues and 15.5 checkins (with Gowalla either neck and neck, out in front or lagging behind according to differing sources) the most shrill piece of negative publicity that Foursquare was able to garner was a mashup which looked for people publicising check ins on Twitter and inferred that this was an open invitation to the criminal element.

The value proposition of Google Latitude has always been in getting the consumer comfortable with sharing their location with a third party and with your social graph, which isn’t good enough for most people to grasp. The value proposition of checking in, keeping tabs on your friends and seeing what they’re doing is far more palatable and easier for the consumer to grasp with media coverage pretty much limited to ohh, look at the funny people obsessively checking in sort of article.

As an aside, if I was at Foursquare or Gowalla I’d be looking to mine the rich vein of stealth data that their users are generating at each check in, as it’s producing a geotagged and categorised set of local business listings and points of interest. For now though, there’s no public sign that either company are doing this, choosing instead to continue to grow their user base and to roll out into new cities and countries.

In the space of a year and with a different face, location tracking has gone from being Big Brother to being one of the hottest pieces of social networking with people at the recent SXSW in Austin TX actively complaining about check-in fatigue because there’s so many of these services (FoursquareGowallaLooptWhrrlBrightkiteBurbn,MyTownCauseWorldHot PotatoPlancast) to choose from and trying to check into them all can take anything up to 10 minutes.

If all of this talk on location tracking sounds interesting and you’re in San Jose CA the week after next at O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 locationfest can I strongly recommend that you check out the founder of mapme.at, fellow Brit John McKerrell‘s session on Why I Track My Location and You Should Too. As long as it doesn’t clash with my Where 2.0 session of course!

Photo Credit: moleitau on Flickr.
Written at the Park Inn, Nottingham (52.970538, -1.153335) and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)