Posts tagged as "data"

Maps, Maps And MOAR Maps At The Society Of Cartographers And Expedia

Updated September 13th. 2012 with embedded YouTube video.

Wednesday September 5th. 2012 was a day of maps. To be precise, it was a day of maps, maps and MOAR maps. Two events, two talks, back to back. Packed choc-a-bloc full of maps. I also cheated slightly.

Firstly there was the International Cartographical Association's first session of the newly formed Commission on Neocartography. Cartography, neocartography, maps; what is there not to like? I'd previously spoken at the UK's Society of Cartographer's annual conference so it was great to be asked by Steve Chilton, SoC and Neocartography chair, to speak at the Neocartography Commission.

Where You Are Isn't That Interesting But Where You Will Be Is

Every once in a while the thorny topic of location privacy rears its ugly head, often in tandem with a new location based service or the discovery of what an existing one is really doing. There's often cries of "Big Brother" and "company X is tracking me" as well. But lost in the rhetoric and hyperbole around this subject is a well hidden fact ... your current location isn't actually that interesting to anyone apart from yourself.

For most of the day we tend to be on the move so even if a service does know your location that fact becomes irrelevant almost immediately. Intrusive location based advertising is normally held up for inspection here but without context a location is just a set of longitude and latitude coordinates, coordinates that are out of date and no longer relevant almost as soon as they've been detected.

Maybe a location based service I use does want to target me with location based ads, but for example, if I'm on my irregular commute from the suburbs to the centre of London on a train, I challenge anyone to find an ad, intrusive or not, that would be contextually relevant to me in sufficient detail that would warrant an advertiser paying out the not insignificant sums that such ad campaigns cost. Unless maybe, just maybe, it's an ad that offers me a viable alternative to SouthWestTrain's execrable and expensive train service, but that's just in the realms of fantasy.

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.

If You Live In The UK, You Need To Know About The Communications Data Bill

On Thursday June 14th. 2012, Theresa May, the UK Secretary Of State published the draft Communications Data Bill. If you've been reading or watching the UK media you might well be aware of this. The bill is hugely controversial, not least because it requires all UK internet service providers to track and store for 12 months the details of every email sent within the UK, every website visited from within the UK and every use of a mobile phone within the UK. This is a huge undertaking and will gather an equally huge amount of data. It's also a costly undertaking, one that is ill conceived and impractical, one that is a massive invasion of our personal privacy and right to communicate with each other and one that is fundamentally undemocratic.

It's costly because the estimated price tag is £1.8bn over 10 years, a price tag that the country cannot afford given the current economic climate and the austerity measures which are being applied across all aspects of the United Kingdom. The estimated price tag is also just that, an estimate and the UK Home Office has already stated that the final figure is likely to be much higher.

Now The Metropolitan Police Want Your Phone's Data

As a relatively prolific user of social networks and social media I generate a fair amount of data. Whilst I'm wary of what the social networks do with the data I generate, I appreciate that there's no such thing as a free lunch and the data I generate contributes towards the revenue that keeps these services alive. There's an uneasy tension that exists between big data and my data. I applaud services which allow me to retain or get back the data I put into them; Facebook, I'm looking at you here. I frown in a disapproving manner at services that make it challenging to get my data back without recourse to some coding; Foursquare and Flickr, I'm looking at you here. I'm quietly furious, yet continue to use services which are valuable to me but make it downright impossible to get my data back; Twitter, I'm fixing you with my steely gaze here.

"Disk Utility Can't Repair This Disk"

"Quis backup ipsos backups?", as the Roman poet Juvenal didn't say but might have if they had had computers in the first century AD.

Like most geeks I pride myself on being able to maintain the computers I use on a daily basis. Just like real men don't eat quiche and real programmers don't use Pascal, real geeks don't call for professional help or technical support.

But then the day comes when one of your hard drives goes crunk, you go through all the tricks of the trade you know, you exhaust searching for possible solutions on the web and you realise that maybe, just maybe, while it's not time to eat quiche or starting coding in pascal, it's probably time to call for some professional help.

Like a lot of people, I've amassed a not inconsiderable amount of digital media over the years, in the form of apps, songs, movies and photos. Most of these live on my laptop and are religiously backed up with SuperDuper! and with Time Machine to external drives, with one of these drives holding the overspill. This aforementioned external drive had given solid, reliable service over the years but had started to act ... quirkily. Fearing a critical mass of bad sectors I decided now was a good time to backup my backups.

Costa Rica And Nicaragua; A Border Dispute In The Age Of Web Maps

The popular press and media likes nothing better to poke fun at people who seem to ignore their own senses and instead rely on their GPS sat-nav systems, which frequently results in people ending up in the middle of fields, in the middle of rivers or even, in extreme cases, almost driving off of the edge of a cliff.

But the strangest example of this sort of behaviour was in the first reports of recent events on the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua that seemed to implicate Google Maps as justification for Nicaraguan troops crossing the border into Costa Rica and raising the Nicaraguan flag on Costa Rican territory. The dispute seems to hark back to the 1850's where the contested border between the two countries followed the course of the San Juan River, the course of which has since moved somewhat, as rivers are wont to do. Costa Rica asserts their sovereignty on the disputed land based on the 1850's arbitrated border which follows the course of the river and Nicaragua asserts theirs based on the fact that the river has moved so some land must be theirs.

Talking GeoBabel In Three Cities (And Then Retiring It)

You're invited to speak at a conference. Great. The organisers want a talk title and abstract and they want it pretty much immediately. Not so great; mind goes blank; what shall I talk about; help! With this in mind, my first thought is normally "can I adapt, cannibalise or repurpose one of my other talks?". This sometimes works. If there's a theme which you haven't fully worked through it can serve you well.

But a conference audience is an odd beast; a percentage of which will be "the usual suspects". They've seen you talk before, maybe a few times. The usual suspects also tend to hang out on the conference Twitter back channel. Woe betide if you recycle a talk or even some slides too many times; comments such as "I'm sure I've seen that slide before" start to crop up. Far better to come up with new and fresh material each time.

Service Suspended On The London Underground (API)

If you build it they will come. Or to put it another way, sometimes demand outstrips supply. After the phenomenal success of the Transport For London Tube API, the London Datastore blog sadly notes:

Owing to overwhelming demand by apps that use the service, the London Underground feed has had to be temporarily suspended. We hope to restore the service as soon as possible but this may take some days. We will keep everyone informed of progress towards a resolution.

In the meantime, if you want to see how it does looks when the API is up and running there's a video clip of Matthew Somerville's recent Science Day hack visualisation over on my Flickr photo and video stream.

No Victoria line service after 2000 tonight Photo Credits: Martin Deutch on Flickr.