Posts Tagged ‘stratford’

W3G – A Chair’s Eye View

Last year GeoCommunity, the annual conference of Britain’s Association for Geographic Information, took the brave (and in my view totally necessary) step of branching out from their traditional GIS heartland audience (sometimes referred to somewhat disparagingly as paleotards) to take on board the views of the neo-geographers, Web 2.0 and LBMS community (sometimes equally disparagingly called neotards). Mud-slinging labels aside, both geographic communities benefitted from the Geo-Web Track as it was called. I was lucky enough to be asked to participate and the Geo-Web Track was a resounding success, for both the paleo-geography and neo-geography camps.

This year, attempting to build on the success of the Geo-Web Track, I was asked by the AGI to chair a one day conference to run on the day before GeoCommunity 2009. Originally pitched as a true unconference I went for an (un)conference, half way between the joyous informality of an unconference and the formality of an invited speaker conference. So we had both, unconference sessions (all of which were filled with ease) and a set of invited guest speakers and keynotes. Trying to think of a name, I came up with W3G … the 3 W’s of Geo, which had cropped up in a blog post in April of this year. Any resemblance in name between W3G and the W3C is, of course, purely intentional.

W3G Closing Panel

Attending any sort of conference is a tiring affair; chairing and organising one is truly exhausting. While most of the thanks on the day and afterwards were directed at me, the real thanks needs to go to my fellow organiser, Rollo Home, with the support of Chris Holcroft and Claire Huppertz, all of whom had their hands more than full with GeoCommunity starting the very next day after W3G.

As chair, I gave the opening introduction, to set the theme and tone of the day and to introduce the unconference element to those unfamiliar with the concept.

So should W3G have existed at all? The GeoWeb Track at GeoCommunity 2009 certainly showed that there was an appetite for the neo-geographic side of the Location Industry, so why not integrate W3G or the GeoWeb Track into the main GeoCommunity again? That’s a difficult decision to come to … whilst there was probably around 30% of the audience of W3G attending GeoCommunity, that still leaves 70% of the audience who were totally new to the AGI. Would they have paid the asking price of a GeoCommunity ticket? Probably not. The neo-geography side of things does tend to thrive on free or low cost events (with the notable exception of O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 in Silicon Valley, which is both excellent and eye-wateringly expensive). So for this year at least, W3G served a valuable dual purpose, bringing the AGI to the attention of a community which probably didn’t know it even existed and allowing a whole load of latent geographers to meet, talk, learn and network … as well as consuming vast amounts of coffee, beer and curry. In that order.

We’re already talking about repeating the success of W3G next year in some shape or form; something I definitely want to be involved in. But I would like to see the gap between the GIS heartland and the neo-geographers, which still seem to be a long way apart at times, narrowed or even closed. The AGI is eminently poised to help bring these two parts of the community together and GeoCommunity 2011 would be the ideal event to do this, making it a Geo Community in the truest sense of the word. In 2009 I questioned whether GeoCommunity would unite the two polarised worlds of geo … the answer in 2010 is that we’ve take a few steps in the right direction, but we’re still not there yet.

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

Plenaries, Privacy and Place

Day one of this year’s AGI GeoCommunity conference saw the geoweb track draw a sizeable, if varying, share of the delegate audience; some sessions were crammed tight and reduced to standing room only whilst others had a slightly less cozy but still enthusiastic crowd.

Showing that Steven Feldman, the conference chair, started as he meant to continue, both the introductory plenaries were from people well known in the neogeography end of the geographic spectrum; Peter Batty and Andrew Turner.

Peter started talking about the Geospatial Revolution and about how geo is now mainstream after starting off life as a disruptive technology. He touched on crowdsourcing, neogeography and how geospatial data is really just another data type.

Due to Steven Feldman’s over running welcome plenary, Andrew gave us a view on How Neogeography Killed GIS in record time; talking to an appreciative crowd on place, data, and how neogeographers see GIS professionals (answer: they don’t).

The geoweb track kicked off with Tim Warr, down on the programme as working for Microsoft, announcing “I’m not working for Microsoft as of yesterday” and then promptly launched into a talk on Cloud Computing and GIS; All Hype or Something Useful? and covered the good cloud (accessibility, cost and speed), the bad cloud (security, control and continuity) and the realistic cloud where you don’t put all your clouds in one basket.

I was particularly pleased to see that WOEIDs made their debut at GeoCommunity thanks to Terry Jones and Tom Taylor.

Terry spoke about Using FluidDB for Storage and Location Aware Software Apps. If you haven’t come across FluidDB before, think about it as a wiki database for the web, or as Terry says “Why don’t our architectures let us work with information more flexibly?“; I strongly advise you look into this further and see what potential this platform has. WOEIDs were mentioned to a somewhat bemused audience but with a nice mention of my talk on this topic later today.

Tom took this one step further and gave a well received and insightful talk on the way Flickr are creating crowd sourced neighbourhood definitions from geotagged photos, all tagged with WOEIDs naturally. Tom’s Boundaries microsite shows just how powerful this can be, visualising and displaying neighbourhoods where no official definition exists, such as in London. Tom is a natural evangelist for this sort of data discovery process and caused some wry smiles when he added “I’m not an employee of Flickr or Yahoo! They haven’t paid me to say this“.

I took part in the Privacy: Where Do We Care? panel on location and the implications for privacy which I’ve blogged about earlier.

The day rounded off with a series of soapbox style georants; 15 slides, 20 seconds per slide and with the presenters having no control over the timing. Lots of themes were covered, some serious like Chris Osborne’s ITO World product pitch, some … interesting … like the Pitney Bowes boy’s geojokes, some semi disrespectful like my “Neo this and Paleo that … it’s all just Geo” (which will end up on my SlideShare account as soon as I find a net connection with some bandwidth) and some just rip roaringly hilarious like Ian Painter‘s paeon to palegeography which featured Martin DalyEd Parsons, Darth Vader and Isaac Newton. All of which were received by an increasingly well lubricated crowd from the soapbox arena, also know as the bar.

Photo credit: myself and Jeremy Morley.

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

The Geo Ice Has Broken

Last night was the icebreaker for the AGI GeoCommunity conference in Stratford-upon-Avon (but not Stratford-upon-Avon, oh no, that’s the district not the town you know) and the run up to the conference has started extremely well, with the added bonus for me that John McKerrell of mapme.at used a quote from one of my decks as the #geocom landing page.

Twitter is abuzz with commentary on what’s happening and who’s going to be doing what, all accompanied by the eponymous #geocom hashtag and everyone’s hoping that the conference lives up to their expectations. As Thierry Gregorious aptly put it on Twitter “#geocom If this feed is producing messages at current rate, will people be glued to their mobiles instead of the presentations?” … we shall see.

The ice breaker dinner well and truly broke ice and I landed up on a table full of geostrangers and Andrew Turner; as table 24 we put in a rather respectable joint second place in the 100 question quiz, but then crashed and burned to 3rd place after not being nearly accurate enough in the tie-breaker question on when precisely did the Berlin Wall come down.

After a surprisingly good dinner, with surprisingly good wine we sat through a surprising, and intriguing, comedienne who appeared to be the result of a union between Jasper Carrot and Victoria Wood. It was certainly an experience.

Finally everyone headed to the bar where some overworked and entirely good natured bar staff served us geolibations, geolagulavins and geo-gin-and-tonics until the early hours.

And the conference hasn’t even begun yet …

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

Is AGI Short for “Ahh, Got (Any) Inspiration”?

So next week is GeoCommunity ’09, the annual conference for the Association of Geographic Information and everyone’s getting thoroughly excited at the prospect of putting the word “geo” in front of everything, including georant, geobeer (although only in half measures for some reason), geochat and conference chair Steven Feldman’s personal favourite, geolagavulin.

This probably won’t be news to a lot of people as I’ve written about it on my personal blog as well as the Yahoo! Geo Technologies one and I’ll be there as well. I may have overstretched myself a little bit though as I’m now just about drained of inspiration.
On the Wednesday, I’m on the “Privacy; where do we care?” panel from 4.00 PM onwards taking a pro location sharing, pro opting in and pro privacy controls position and then I’ll be loitering around Speaker’s Corner, or the bar as it’s more commonly known, for the Soapbox sessions where I’ll be georanting about “Neo this and paleo that … it’s all just Geo” before beating a hasty retreat back to the bar to seek solace in a geobeer.
Then on the Thursday, I’ll be on the Geoweb track and giving a talk to accompany my “Know Your Place; Adding Geographic Intelligence to your Content” paper. Snappy title that, but nowhere near as snappy as Martin Daly’s talk on “Human Sacrifice, Dogs and Cats Living Together and Mass Hysteria“, which deserves an award for title alone.
I’ll be blogging about all of this geomadness here, be updating and throwing quotes around on Twitter via the usual @vicchi account with the official #geocom hashtag and lurking in the back of the conference rooms looking for power to replenish my laptop which will have been justifiably drained with all this geosocial networking activity.

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous