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2009 In Review Part 2: Organisations

In an earlier post, I wrote about the gadgets that made 2009; now it's time to look at the organisations and by strange coincidence, as there were 3 gadgets, so there are 3 organisations.

First up is OpenStreetMap. One of the things I write about a lot is geographic data, how everyone wants free, open, high quality data but how no-one really wants to pay for it. While attempts to monetise the data corpus of OpenStreetMap haven't entirely succeeded, yet, there's no denying that all the contributors to one of the biggest crowdsourced data projects on the Internet ... believe, and they've created something incredible.

The second organisation is the Ordnance Survey, or to be more specific, the staff of the Ordnance Survey. Much maligned and the object of much derision within the geo community, the majority of the staff as the OS have been working towards opening up the vast reams of excellent high quality geo data and it finally looks as if their hard work and belief is paying off.

And thirdly is the folks behind the GeoVation Challenge Award.

2009 In Review Part 1: Gadgets

As the end of 2009 and of the decade of the noughties approaches rapidly, I thought it worthwhile to look back over the previous 12 months and give credit where credit is due or overdue. So let's start with gadgets.Not one but three. 

Firstly there's Posterous. Can a web service be a gadget? I think so. According to Wikipedia, gadgets "are invariably considered to be more unusually or cleverly designed than normal technological objects at the time of their invention".So, Posterous. Yes it's a blog creation tool but it's a simple, fiendishly simple blog creation tool. Nothing more than an email to post@posterous.com and you're done. It's how I wrote and posted this post. You focus more on the act of what you're writing, or the photo you've just taken, than on the mechanism where the post is formatted and uploaded. My posterous blog is https://vicchi.posterous.com/ and this auto feeds into my main WordPress driven blog at /.

The Conference Curve of Despair or the Unconference Line of Elation?

It's probably best to start by saying that I'm wholeheartedly not the demographic for this blog post. I'm one of the lucky ones. I get to travel to a lot of conferences and speak at them. These can be close to home, further afield in Europe or across the other side of the Atlantic in America. This is most definitely not the usual state of affairs for most people, they tend to experience what I call the conference curve of despair. It goes something like this.

Geographic and Transport Data; a Tale of Capricousness, Whimsy and Downright Insanity

The industry I work in thrives on data; we consume loads of the stuff and in turn we generate petabytes of it. I'm talking about data in general, not the geographic, mapping or place data that I usually write about.But the longer I work in the Internet industry the more convinced I become that, as an industry, we need to get our act together. How else to explain the bizarre, rapidly changing and capricious nature of how we gain access to, use, pay, don't pay and disseminate data?We're socially conditioned to assume that free does not equate to good, hence the adage "there's no such thing as a free lunch". So stuff that costs is good and stuff that's free isn't. But normal rules don't apply here.

Sometimes the Message gets lost in the Medium

In the mid 1960's Marshall McLuhan coined the famous phrase that the medium is the message. Due to the minor detail of the Internet not actually being properly invented in the mid 1960's, he didn't take into account instant messenger tools such as Yahoo! Messenger which can sometimes lead to baffling conversations such as the one I've reproduced below.

The name, company and country have been anonymised to protect the innocent but otherwise, this is a faithful reproduction, spelling and grammar included, of a Messenger conversation I had on my BlackBerry last night.

Anonymous: hi gary this is (anonymous) from (hidden) in (somewhere) - im trying to set up a meetign with you on friday but yor calendar is all blocked out - can you unblock it so i can set up the meeting please?

Gary: Hi (anonymous), the reason Friday is blocked out is because I'm out of the office all day at a conference.

Anonymous: i didnt know that - can you update yor schedule to show that yor not around?

Gary: Err, I have; that's why the day is totally blocked out.

Anonymous: *oh if id known that i wouldnt have tryed to set a meeting up. thx

Photo credit: 131j on Flickr

The Changing Face of UK Geo Data ... But Changing With a Bang or a Whimper?

This is not the blog post I set out to write. The one I set out to write was about Flickr, about machine-tags, about noticings and about transport data feeds. I had it all mapped out in my head during one of those wide awake in the middle of the night and your mind's buzzing moments. But as I started to research the blog post that I had set out to write, it mutated.

So with the caveat that I'm well aware that I'm making a sweeping generalisation whilst simultaneously doing a large disservice to a lots of specialist UK data providers ... 

Until recently, if you wanted a source of geo data in the UK you had three choices.