Posts Tagged ‘sanfrancisco’

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.

Read On…

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.

Read On…

Hacking WP Biographia’s Appearance With CSS

The contents of the Biography Box that the WP Biographia WordPress plugin produces are easily customisable through the plugin’s settings and options. The upcoming new version of the plugin will add to this, allowing almost limitless options for adding to the Biography Box though cunning use of the WordPress filter mechanism. But what if you’re happy with the content of the Biography Box, but want to change the way in which the Biography Box looks? This is easily achievable with a little bit of CSS know-how.

The layout of the Biography Box that WP Biographia produces looks something like this …

<div class="wp-biographia-container-xxx" style="background-color:#FFFFFF;">
<div class="wp-biographia-pic" style="height:100px; width:100px;">
<img ... />
</div> <!-- end image div -->
<div class="wp-biographia-text">
<h3>Biography heading</h3>
<p>Biography text</p>
<div class="wp-biographia-links">
<small><ul class="wp-biographia-list wp-biographia-list-xxx">
</div> <!-- end links div -->
</div> <!-- end biography text div -->
</div> <!-- end biography container div -->

The main container is styled by wp-biographia-container-xxx, where xxx is one of top, around or none depending on your chosen Biography Box border option.

The author’s photo, if present, is styled by wp-biographia-pic; note that the photo size is not CSS style-able as it’s specified by the plugin’s settings and the plugin emits the style="height:size-px; width:size-pix;" for you based on that setting.

The biography text and social media/contact links are styled by wp-biographia-text, the biography text by wp-biographia-text p and the links by wp-biographia-list and wp-biographia-list-xxx, where xxx is one of text or icon dependent on whether you’ve selected the links to be text or icons (oddly enough).

The links are also styled by ul.wp-biographia-list-xxx li (again xxx is one of text or icon) and if you’re using icons there’s also .wp-biographia-list-icon a:link and .wp-biographia-list-icon a:visited. Finally, the icon size is styled by .wp-biographia-item-icon.

All of this is in the plugin’s CSS file which is usually located at /wp-content/plugins/wp-biographia/css/wp-biographia.css.

Hopefully all of this will give you enough information to go on to add/tweak the CSS to your liking, but …

Where does the CSS you’ve tweaked go? There are several schools of thought on this.

Firstly, you can just hack the plugin’s CSS directly. It’s quick. It’s easy. But it’s also fraught with risk. Not only are you messing with the plugin, which may have strange and unforeseen side effects, but your changes will be over-written when you update the plugin to a new version.

Secondly, you can just hack your theme’s CSS directly. But as with the plugin’s CSS, this will get overwritten with an updated version when you upgrade the theme.

The third way, is to add the CSS to a new file and to use the theme’s functions.php file to load the CSS into your pages and posts. Now granted, the theme’s functions.php file may still be overwritten during an upgrade but themes tend to be updated less than plugins and you are still able to isolate the CSS in a file which isn’t part of the WordPress core, the plugin or the theme.

So here’s how you do this. Put the CSS you want in a file, let’s call it custom.css, and place this into the same directory as the root of your theme. If you’re using the TwentyTen theme for example, the path would look something like …


Now you need to get your theme to load the custom CSS. To do this you need to add a function to load the CSS to the wp_enqueue_scripts hook and then within that function, make the CSS get loaded in addition to the other CSS your theme uses. This code goes into your theme’s functions.php and looks something like this …

add_action ('wp_enqueue_scripts', 'add_custom_css');
function add_custom_css () {
	$uri = get_stylesheet_directory_uri ();
	wp_enqueue_style ('custom-css', $uri . '/custom.css');

Written and posted from the Marriott Marquis, San Francisco (37.7581, -122.4056)

Through The (Where) Window

After a year’s break, I’m back at O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference, now rebranded as simply the Where Conference. This year, the conference has slipped north from its Valley roots and taken up residence in the Marriott Marquis hotel in the heart of downtown San Francisco. The view from the window of my room on the hotel’s 25th. floor is simply …

… geographically stunning.

More on Where, plus a write up of my session’s talk in a later post.

Written and posted from the Marriott Marquis, San Francisco (37.7581, -122.4056)


It’s Friday, December 9th 2011 and I’m in the TSA security line at San Francisco International Airport. Shoes off. Belt off. Watch off. Laptop, iPad and Kindle out of my bag and into the trays.

TSA guard: “New rules. You don’t need to take your Kindle out anymore. It’s small enough for us to see it on the X-Ray machine in your bag

Me: “That’s good; one less thing to have to take out of my bag

It’s Thursday, March 1st 2012 and I’m in the same TSA security line at SFO. Shoes off. Belt off. Watch off. Laptop and iPad out of my bag and into the trays. Kindle in my bag. My bag goes through the X-Ray machine and I manage to avoid getting the full body scanner treatment.

TSA guard: “Is there something electronic in your bag?

Me: “Yes, my Kindle

TSA guard (forcefully): “You know the rules. All electronic equipment needs to be out of your bag and in a tray

Me: “I was told that there was the new rule that Kindle’s didn’t have to be in a tray

TSA guard: “Who told you that

Me: “You did, in December

TSA guard: “I would never have told you that


Photo Credits: Niels Heidenreich on Flickr.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Geo-Loco; Where The Geo-Wonks Meet The Geo-Clueless And All Points Inbetween

Last week I was in San Francisco, ostensibly to meet with fellow Nokians in Mountain View and Palo Alto, the homes of Google and Stanford University respectively. But I was also there to take part in a panel on the topic of “is geo loco a business or a feature?” at the Geo-Loco conference, chaired by geo-eminence grise Marc Prioleau.

With the explosion of interest in all things geo recently (and for once I think the hyperbole is justified) and thus a large amount of new conferences on the topic, I was somewhat skeptical of how Geo-Loco would pan out. But the presence of Marc Prioleau and other geo-rati such as LikeList’s Tyler Bell, Urban Mapping’s Ian White, Tom Coates, the man behind Yahoo’s Fire Eagle and Waze’s Di-Ann Eisnor, to name but a few, swayed me to participate.

I was interested to hear how Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures would keynote but was sadly disappointed; it was a rambling and somewhat disjointed affair with little structure or insight; the sole exception of which was an interesting technique to quickly mashup your Foursquare check-ins on Google Maps. Thankfully Fred fared much better when interviewed one-on-one later in the day by John Batelle of Federated Media, which produced an engaging discussion on the state of the geo market; some of which I even agreed with.

Geo-Loco Conference 2010

Proof that Geo-Loco was a fully fledged geoconference was evident in the Twitter back channel which was, by turns, witty, informed, damning, sarcastic, enlightening and downright funny. I may have contributed to this part of the proceedings. A bit. Here’s a brief sampler of some of the comments the speakers and panels contributed to, albeit inadvertently.

One of the braver panels was chaired by Phil Hendrix of IMMR who asked the audience and a panel consisting of the Institute for the Future’s Michael Liebhold, GigaOm’s Liz Gannes, the aforementioned Di-Ann Eisnor, Rackspace’s Robert Scoble and Google’s Lior Ron (who I’m not sure uttered a single word during the entire panel) to pontificate on the futures of location based services.

Now, making predictions of any sort is a risky business at best, even more so when those predictions are on an industry moving as rapidly as geo, a fact I noted last month in an article for Coordinates Magazine

Attempts to predict the growth, success and uptake of technology are rife. Accurate predictions, less so. “There’s no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home“, said Ken Olsen, then founder and CEO of DEC in 1977. “I think there is a world market for maybe 5 computers” is apocryphally attributed to Thomas Watson of IBM in 1943.

… but the panel gamely attempted to agree, disagree or abstain on 5 statements.

Geo-data will be free, with OpenStreetMap and other crowd-driven open-source data eclipsing commercial vendors.

Oh dear. Not this one again. Quite correctly the panel were split on this. Whilst I’m a big fan and supported of OpenStreetMap, this will not sweep all pretenders to the throne to one side and reign supreme. There is no one sole authoritative source of geographical data in the world for very good reasons; differences in use, in scope, in language support, in coverage, in acquisition methods; the list goes on and on. Even with the success of OSM, I’d still feel safer if the emergency services route their vehicles to where they’re needed by using official national geo data. It’s also worth noting that whilst people don’t seem to want to pay for geographic data any more, both Navteq and Teleatlas were acquired by Nokia and TomTom respectively precisely because of the value inherent in their authoritative views of the world, albeit one tempered by the Personal Navigation Device view of the world.

Location-awareness will be integral to any mobile app.

There was pretty much widespread agreement from the panel on this one. My take, whilst in general agreement, is tempered with the fact that we don’t all live in the Silicon Valley bubble, where there’s 3G coverage everywhere and everyone has a smartphone capable of location awareness. Will location be integral to smartphone apps? Undoubtedly. Will location be integral to all forms of app running on any nomadic device, be it tablet, laptop, phone or otherwise? Only if there’s an infrastructure to support it already in place, which gives the developing nations a disadvantage.

More than half of all mobile advertising in 2014 will be location based.

Not much agreement on this point from the panel and I’m in accord with them; advertising is notoriously difficult to predict at the best of times and to put a 50% figure on all mobile ads being location based in 4 years time should be viewed with extreme cynicism.

Virtually all user-generated content will be geo-tagged.

The panel were enthusiastically with this point and I’m also with them. But again, not everywhere in the world has the networking infrastructure to support geo-tagging so this statement needed to be viewed with cautious agreement. We’re also long overdue a highly publicised event which brings the topic of location privacy to the general public’s attention; the result of which may cause a significant turn off of location services. When, and not if, that happens, the prediction for location based advertising looks on even shakier ground than it is right now.

Proximity will become a critical filter for content.

Well yes, duuh, but isn’t this already happening? Either through our own efforts to obtain relevancy, through constraining search queries to locations or through localised services. The question should really be “automatic, meaningful, proximity will become a key context for content” as there’s no relevancy obtained by automatically constraining results to a local area when what you’re really looking for is information on your next vacation destination.

Photo Credits: Ken Yeung on Flickr.
Written at the London Heathrow BA Lounge (51.47286, -0.48726) and posted from the Radisson Blu hotel, Berlin (52.519648, 13.40258)

Mental Note to Self

I’d been told that the lesser spotted flight upgrade does happen. But despite travelling the Heathrow to San Francisco route on British Airways roughly once every three months for the best part of four years, despite knowing at least three members of the BA cabin crew who put me down on the upgrade list (but no promises, it’s at the discretion of the Captain you know) and despite frequently travelling with a colleague whose best friend is not only a pilot but a BA pilot, the elusive upgrade had never happened. Until today.

The BA Club World Experience

So what have I learnt from the experience? Firstly that Club World on BA is very, very, nice. Now nice is a much abused and cliched word but Club World is the sort of nice that makes me ponder what the rarified heights of First Class are like; nice staff, nice food, nice wine (Cline Cellars “Ancient Vines” 2007 Zinfandel plus three other red choices and four white choices if you’re interested), just … nice. Secondly that the seats (which put themselves into all sorts of configurations, from bolt upright to totally flat on your back and all points in between, at the touch of a button) are a world apart from the BA World Traveller Plus seats (AKA premium economy) that I’m used to.

On Board Power

But first and foremost, the lesson I’ve learnt is that Club World seats have power sockets. Proper power sockets. Power sockets that actually charge a laptop. Not an airline seat power outlet that needs a special adaptor, but a proper, plug it in, power socket. Which for some reason takes US power adaptors not UK. This could have meant disaster; good as the battery life is on my MacBook Pro it’s not up to some 9 and a half hours of usage including PowerPoint deck wrangling and watching a movie or two. But luckily the day was saved by a nice lady in a BA uniform who rummaged in her personal luggage (which isn’t a euphemism by the way) and loaned me her own UK/US adaptor for the duration of the flight. Now that’s service in my book.

But mental note to self … upgrades do happen so sticking a US power adaptor in your hand baggage next time is probably a good idea.

Written on BA 285, somewhere between LHR (51.47245, -0.45293) and SFO (37.61476, -122.39178) and posted from Chateau Bell, Campbell CA (37.2655445, -121.963743).