Posts Tagged ‘w3g’

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.

Read On…

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)

To Geo Lecture Or To Geo Debate?

Although it’s a sweeping generalisation, conferences tend to polarise to one of two extremes. On the one extreme, there’s the lecture approach, where the audience sits in quiet appreciation whilst they listen to people on stage talk at them. But there’s another sort of conference. Where the emphasis is very much more on debate, on discussion both before, during and after the event, and where views are aired both verbally and online.

lecture (lec-cher), noun, an instructive speech

I’ve participated in conferences which exemplify both ends of the spectrum and pretty much all points in-between as well and the events I get the most out of most definitely fall into the debate category rather than the lecture category.

debate (dih-beyt), noun, a discussion involving opposing viewpoints

This was very much the case earlier this year with WhereCamp EU in Berlin and it will be very much the case, and hopefully even more so, at W3G in Nottingham in just under a month’s time.

After last year’s first tentative steps, W3G is back, a little bit older, a little bit wiser and a whole lot more provocative under the banner of “Because There’s More to Geo than Just Maps and Check-Ins

We all know that there is more to geospatial information than just ‘check-ins’. We all know that the free Web 2.0 map services offered are generally little more than ‘push-pin’ maps.

Yet the potential for the technology being developed within this environment offers so much more….and we aim to expose some of those applications. We also want to provoke and provide a way to discuss and debate some of the barriers to those applications being taken forward.

Be it open data, open APIs, or, as the recent Apple and Android “tracking-gate” showed, too open location technologies, we hope to see all this and more discussed, debated, critiqued and pored over.

But to avoid being merely a lecture, a debate has to be a two way thing and to blur the boundary between audience and between speaker.

And, as it’s an unconference, W3G needs you.

So head over to the official W3G web site and start the debate and the dialog. Suggest session topics or even start the unconference wall with a pledge to do a talk, moderate a discussion, or put together some slides.

If you’ve even been to an unconference, even one without a Geo flavour, then I hope you’ll agree that to Geo debate is far far more fun than to merely Geo lecture.

Written and posted from Villa Stone, Javéa, Spain (38.7836, 0.1285)

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)

W3G – From Blog Post To Tee-Shirt

It’s been a long, exhausting, amazing, geo filled day but the first W3G conference is finally over. I’ll write a more detailed post on the day later but for now, it suffices to say that it’s not every day that you get to see a phrase you coined in a blog post immortalised on the back of a conference tee-shirt

W3G Tee-Shirt

All in all, it’s been a geotastic day.

Photo credit: Paul Clarke on Flickr
Written and posted from the Holiday Inn, Stratford-upon-Avon (52.192663, -1.700799)