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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.

[scribd id=100297709 key=key-15vmdecagp3xopiyihgt mode=list]

Slide 2

So, hello, I’m Gary. I’m a self-confessed map addict, a geo-technologist and a geographer. I’m Director of Places for Nokia’s Location and Commerce group. Prior to Nokia I led Yahoo’s Geotechnologies group in the United Kingdom. I’m a founder of the Location Forum, a co-founder of WhereCamp EU, I sit on the Council for the AGI, the UK’s Association for Geographic Information, I’m the chair of the W3G conference and I’m also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Slide 3

There are URLs in this talk but this is the only URL in the entirety of this talk you might want to take a note of. Although if you go there right now, it'll 404 on you, later today or tomorrow, this is where this slide deck, my notes and all the links you'll be seeing will appear on my blog. Slide 4

One of the things I love about writing a talk for a conference is how the things I hear and the things I read get mentally stored away and then, somehow, they start to draw together to form a semi-coherent narrative around the talk title that I inevitably gave to the conference organisers around 3 months prior. So it is with this talk, which in Sesame Street fashion, has been unknowingly brought to you by ...

Slide 5

Kellan Elliott-McCrea, previously at Flickr and Yahoo! and now at Etsy ...

Slide 6

Aaron Straup Cope, previously at Flickr and Stamen Design and now doing stuff at the Smithsonian ...

Slide 7

... and my children. No, really. This isn't just an excuse to put a photo of my family up on the screen behind me so you can all, hopefully, go "awww".

Slide 8

But before I get into anything to do with location data, big data, my data or anything interweb or social network related I want to try and frame the context of my thoughts by talking about communication, or to be more precise, the way in which we communicate. We are, politics and warfare aside, a social species and communicating with each other is something we do a lot of, although the manner in which we communicate has changed a lot.

A lot of our communication is both verbal and non-verbal and relies of face to face, person to person, proximity so that the verbal and non verbal approach comes together to express what we intend to say.

Slide 9

Some of our communication is written, the old fashioned way, using pen and paper, although a lot of commentators have called out the "death of the letter". Whether that's true or just good headline making hyperbole remains to be seen, but to be fair, I can't remember the last time I actually sat down and wrote a letter.

Slide 10

A lot of our communication is still verbal but via a phone, be that a land line or a mobile. We call and we text. A lot.

Slide 11

But be it talking face to face, texting someone or even writing an email, the intended audience is still narrow, person to person, or person to small audience.

But the interwebs have added to this sphere of communications and now we broadcast our thoughts, feelings and experiences, sometimes regardless of whether we think anyone will see this, let alone empathise or communicate back. A lot of this broadcasting has a location context, be it explicit via a geotag or implicit through mentions of a place or some other geographical construct.

Slide 12

While we still talk, meet, engage and sometimes broadcast, like I'm doing right now, this human-to-human interaction has been augmented, maybe complimented by electronic communications.

Slide 13

We're as likely to post a Tweet on Twitter or a status on Facebook or Google+ or another social network as we are to speak face to face.

Slide 14

And because this type of communiqué is electronic, that means it generates data as we go. Today we generate lots of data, big data, on a daily basis. It's probably not unfair to say that there's data being generated in this very auditorium, right now, as I'm saying this.

Slide 15

Some of this data is implicit. A by-product of what we're doing. Whether it's our cell phones loosely mapping out where we are, not a privacy invasion I hasten to add, but the simple way in which cellular networks work, but that's a topic for another talk on another day, or our GPS navigation, be it built into our car or our smartphone, providing anonymised traffic data probes to show where freeway congestion is, we don't consciously set out to generate this data. It's a by product of what we're doing.

Slide 16

But a lot of this data is very much explicit. We type out a status update on our phone, our tablet, our laptop and we tap or click on the button that says "go" or "submit" or we take a photo, maybe add an image filter or a comment and tap or click the button that says "share" or "upload".

Slide 17

By doing this we're explicitly communicating, explicitly broadcasting and sharing with our friend, family, followers and the interwebs in general ... and in doing so, we're playing our part in generating more and more data.

Slide 18

And generate it we do. Lots of it. We call it big data, but massive data would be a more accurate definition of it. Whilst our own individual contributions to big data may not be that big, when you put it all together it's part of an ever growing corpus of big data and there's companies that both provide the means for us to broadcast and share this data as well as, hopefully, providing a means of revenue for them to enable them to keep doing this. The amounts that get generated each day is almost too much for us to think about and comprehend. Once a number gets that big, we can't really deal with it. We know it's a big number but what that actually represents is hard for us to get our head around.

Slide 19

So let's look at just a small sample of what gets generated on a daily basis from the social big data, communicating, sharing and broadcasting services I tend to use, if not on a daily basis then at least on a weekly basis. I Tweet and update my Facebook status at least once a day, sometimes up to 20 times a day. I check-in to places on Foursquare at least 10 times a day and take and upload photos to Instagram and Facebook around 3 times a week. That's just my contribution, think how many people are doing the same thing to get to the sort of volumes you can see on the slide behind me.

Slide 20

But how long will this continue? Remember the people I spoke about right at the start of this talk, some 16 slides back? It's time to bring them into the picture. Firstly, my children, although this applies equally to pretty much all children. Remember when you were a child? The summer vacation was endless. The skies were always blue and the sun was always out (remember, I'm from the UK where Summer and sun do not always go together, in fact it was pouring down with rain as I wrote this at home last week). And just like the summer vacation was endless, so were your parents and the people around you, they were eternal and would always be there. Remember feeling like that? But then the inevitable happened. We grew up and we discovered, often the hard way, that the summer wasn't endless and that almost everything is finite.

Slide 21

Social networks and social location networks aren't finite either. They get born, if they're lucky they grow and then at some time or other they ... stop. If it's a social network you don't use then it doesn't really bother us much.

Slide 22

But if it's a network you've shared a lot of content through, what happens then? A lot of people, myself included, immediately get into "I want my data back" mode.

Slide 23

But is it your data. Of course it is. You made it. You composed that Tweet. You shared that link. You took that photo. You were at that place you check-in at. Of course it's your data.

But there's a point to be made here. You may have created that data, you may own that data, but the copy of that data in that social network is just that. It's a copy. It's not necessarily "your" data and because most of us don't preserve what we send up into the cloud on its way to our social networks, you may have created it, but the copy in the cloud isn't necessarily yours.

Slide 24

It's an easy mistake to make. I may be a geo-technologist and many more things besides, but I am not a lawyer, and apart from the lawyers in the room, more of you aren't and most of the people who use social networks aren't lawyers either, unless it's DeferoLaw, which is a social network for the legal profession.

Slide 25

We see phrases such as “you retain your rights” …

Slide 26

... like "you own the content posted" ...

Slide 27

... and "you always own your information" and immediately the subtleties and complexities of data ownership, licensing, copyright and intellectual property are cast aside. We say to ourselves, "it's my data dammit, I own it, I want it".

Slide 28

And it's this belief that we really are lawyers in our spare time that makes people think that somehow the data they've shared via a social network is physically theirs, rather than a bit for bit perfect copy that we've licensed to that social network. We forget for a moment that we're using that social network as a cloud based backup, in some cases the only backup, of our creations and we mutter darkly about "holding my data hostage".

Slide 29

The blunt, and often harsh reality, is the age old adage that "you get what you pay for". If you pay, you're probably a customer. If you're using something for "free" (and I say free in very large italics and inverted commas here), then you're probably, unknowingly or unwittingly, the product. Harsh. But fair. It's our content that the social networks monetize and that allows them to keep their servers and disk storage up and running. You might have seen that previous slide with the Tech Crunch post and be thinking "ah, but Flickr Pro is chargeable and if my subscription lapses I can't get my photos back". That's actually not really true, if not particularly simple, but bear with me for a few more slides.

Slide 30

Now let's forget "big data" for a moment and think about "your data" instead. Actually, let's think about "my data" for a moment. As of last week, my social media footprint on Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram and Flickr looked something like this. Facebook's numbers would be up there too, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Now in the grand scheme of things, in the massive numbers thrown about around about "big data" this is but a drop in the ocean. But ...

Slide 31

I created these check-ins, status updates, tweets and photos. They're important to me. Very important to me.

Slide 32

And as Aaron Cope pointed our earlier this year, my small, insignificant contribution to big data is part of my own, very subjective, very personal, history.

Slide 33

As I may have mentioned before, I'm a geo-technologist and a high percentage of my explicit big data contribution has a geo or location component to it. I'd like to map our where I checked-in, I'd like to see where I was when I Tweeted or what photos I took at a particular location. Some of this "mappyness" already exists in some of the big data stores where my contributions live, but not all of it, it's far too niche and personal for that. But it's still important to me.

Slide 34

Remember, in 99% of the social networks I use, I'm not the customer, I'm contributing to the product. But how do my regularly used social networks fare here. Regardless of whether I own the data I put up there, how easy is it to get a copy of?

Slide 35

Firstly, what about a one click solution? Can I go to a particular page on the web and click the big button which says "give me a copy of my data".

Slide 36

Facebook is the only one of my 5 social networks that does this. Well, it almost does this. At least I'm sure I used to be able to do this.

Slide 37

I can still request a download of my information. But it now only seems to give me my status updates since I enabled Timeline on my account, though I can still get all of my photos and messages since 2008. Rather than say that this doesn't work, I'll just file this under "needs future investigation" and move on.

Slide 38

Sometimes this lack of a one button download of contributed data is a deliberate decision on the part of a given social network. Sometimes, it's a hope that with an API, some enterprising developer will do this, but most of the time, that doesn't always happen.

Slide 39

So talking of APIs, surely the remaining social networks will have an API and let me knock up some code to get a copy of my data contributions. Surely?

Slide 40

Not all social networks do. An API tends to come after a social network's launch, if it comes at all, and often it doesn't let me do all that I want to do.

Slide 41

Thankfully, all the networks I used, with the exception of Twitter not only provide an API, but let me use that API to get my data. All of my data.

Slide 42

This is a good thing and meets the requirements for an API to meet what Kellan Elliot McCrea calls "minimal competence". He went on to say

"The ability to get out the data you put in is the bare minimum. All of it, at high fidelity, in a reasonable amount of time.

The bare minimum that you should be building, bare minimum that you should be using, and absolutely the bare minimum you should be looking for in tools you allow and encourage people who aren’t builders to use."

Slide 43

Kellan was behind Flickr's API and his sentiments are, to my mind, admirable.

Slide 44

Sadly, Twitter doesn't let me do this and fails the minimal competence test miserably. Deep in their API documentation I found the justification for this as being essential to ensure Twitter's stability and performance and leave it as an exercise to you the audience to work out what I think of this excuse.

Slide 45

The sad truth here is that when it comes to our own individual online data history, there's not always a willingness to make it easy for us to get copies of our history, if it's even on the radar at all.

Slide 46

But if we can't always get our data history back, maybe the solution is to make an archive of it before it goes in or keep that archive up to date as you go ... a personal digital archive or PDA (and not to be confused with personal electronic organisers, or PDAs, such as the Palm Pilot).

Slide 47

Thanks to web APIs and another social network, admittedly one for people who know how to code, a lot of this is already possible and the scope, range and functionality is growing by the day. The irony that I can build my own personal digital archive out of code found on another social network, which itself is built around a source code archival system is not lost on me either.

Slide 48

So, firstly, there's my own Instagram (and no, I'm not going to share the URL of where this lives I'm afraid. The idea here is that this is a personal archive, not a clone of a social network).

Slide 49

My own Instagram is called parallel-ogram. It's on GitHub; you can download it, configure it, run it. For free. Slide 50

Parallel-ogram works as well on my phone as it does on my laptop, showing me exactly what I've uploaded to Instagram. Indeed, it goes one step further than Instagram as currently there's no way to see what you've uploaded other than through their mobile app. Parallel-ogram doesn't allow me to take photos or upload them, at least not yet, but it does allow me to go back to the day I first uploaded a photo, grabs copies for me and twice a day it uses the Instagram API to see what I may have uploaded and quietly grabs a copy and stashes it away for me.

Slide 53

There's also my own archive of Foursquare ...

Slide 54

It's called privatesquare and it's also on GitHub Slide 55

Like parallel-ogram, privatesquare quietly uses the Foursquare API to go back to my first check-in and twice a day quietly synchs my check-ins for me. I can go back and look at them, see maps of them and browse my check-in history. Unlike parallel-ogram, privatesquare also allows me to check-in, even if I don't want to share this with Foursquare. In short it allows me to use it both as an archive and also as a check-in tool, and if I want to use Foursquare's official mobile app, I can do that, safe and secure in the knowledge that privatesquare will keep itself up to date.

Slide 61

I take a lot of photos. Some of them go into Instagram. All of them go into Flickr. But I can archive Flickr as well.

Slide 62

It's called parallel-flickr, it also lives on GitHub and it's also filed under "something I really must install, configure and get running when I have some spare time". Slide 63

So I have my own archives of Instagram, Flickr and Foursquare. I sort of have my own archive of Facebook. But what about my Tweets?

Slide 64

Well until Twitter decides that their site is stable enough to let me grab my Tweets through their archive, the next best solution is to archive by another means. I've put the RSS feed to my Tweet-stream into Google Reader, which helpfully never throws anything away. I did this a long time ago and I have almost all, but 100% all of my Tweets. Now all I need to do is write some code to read them from Google Reader and then get the Tweet data from Twitter, which then do allow via their API. Sadly, this is also filed under "something I must do when I have the time". It's not perfect, but then again, none of what I've discussed is, but it's a start and that's good enough for the time being.

Slide 65

Finally, you might have noticed the links in my slides look sort of like bitly links, only on the domain. That's because I've been archiving my short links for a few years now

Slide 66

Using my own short URL archive and my own, self hosted, URL shortener. I just thought I'd mention that.

Slide 67

So, my big data contribution, my personal online history, is important to me. Yours might be important to you too. We're often told that we can't have our cake and eat it, but with the advent of the personal digital archive, maybe we can thanks to the enterprising people who create APIs in the first place and those who not only use these APIs but also put their code up for all the world to use, free of charge. Your online history may not be that important in the grand scheme of things, but it's your online history, it's personal, you made it. When social networks go the place where software goes to die, you might just want to preserve that personal history before the servers get powered off forever. Maybe the geeks will inherit the Earth after all.

Slide 68

Thank you for listening.

From Where 2.0 To Just Where; With Meh 2.0 Somewhere In The Middle

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.

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.

This was most definitely a Nokia event. Not only were we Gold sponsors of the event but I was lucky enough to get a speaking slot, my second Where appearance, and I was amply aided and abetted by a geographically dispersed crowd of fellow Nokians hailing from not only The Valley, but Atlanta GA, Chicago IL and Berlin. As a bonus, I got to do not one, but two product launches, plus some sneak peeks at what's coming up location wise from the company.

Meh 2.0 notwithstanding, it was also good to see several Yahoo! alumni for a long overdue catchup. Geo-beers may have been conspicuous by their absence, but geo-cocktails were very much apparent.

Sadly, Yahoo! also provided probably the lowest point of the whole conference. Right slap bang in the middle of proceedings, Yahoo! announced yet another round of layoffs, culling almost 2000 employees. When this happens, the last place you want to be when you're waiting to hear whether you still have a job is at a conference and my heart just went out to my ex-colleagues who had to sit their, with a fixed smile on their face, as they waited to hear news from the Yahoo! mothership down in Sunnyvale.

So, to recap, a mixed bag of events and emotions at this year's Where. Personally and professionally I think it was a great, team aided, success. Hopefully we'll all return next year to find the "wow" at Where is back and to put the "meh" firmly behind us.

Wrapping this retrospective up, I should include the traditional slide deck from my talk, together with my notes. You'll find them below, hosted on Scribd this time as an embedded PDF. Since Slideshare went freemium, my decks are now just too big to be hosted by their free account offering which has a 10MB limit. At some point, I'll drag all my decks from Slideshare and put them up on Scribd.

[scribd id=100298958 key=key-23j0fhnk1syubpgvzv5n mode=list]

Slide 2

Good afternoon everyone. I'm Gary. I'm a geo-technologist by profession and a geographer at heart. I’m the Director of Places for Nokia’s Location and Commerce group.

Slide 3

But first some recent history. If you were here at last year’s Where, you would have heard Michael Halbherr, the head of Nokia’s Location & Commerce, introducing you to a concept … a truly global location platform, one that is built on the world’s most accurate mapping and navigation assets. If you were at Nokia World in London in October, you would have heard me talk about the launch of what we now call the Where Platform. Fast forward to today and I want to update you on how Nokia is continuing to deliver on the promise that Michael and I talked about in San Jose and in London … to grow the “Where” ecosystem, to provide a horizontal yet device agnostic set of API offering and a growing list of companies and apps that are using these APIs.

At Nokia Location & Commerce, our aim is to be the Where company. Why?

Today, the internet is well organised around the concepts of “What” and “Who” with search engines and social networks providing the answers to these questions. We are striving to provide answers to questions of “Where.”

Location is massively important to today’s internet, whether it’s on mobile devices, on tablets, on laptops or the other myriad ways in which we access the internet. Over 40% of mobile searches have location within them or are looking for local information. There’s a hunger for location-relevant information and this proves to us that the concept of “local” has never been more essential to today’s users, customers and consumers.

Slide 4

The days of someone owning a single internet connected device are almost over. We’re now buying, owning and using multiple mobile devices. At the same time, these devices are getting smarter – firstly, because they are increasingly connected to the cloud and secondly because they are sensor-rich. From NFC for payment in stores and on transport, to more advanced sensors that interpret if you’re running versus taking a bus, all the way to sensors that connect with devices like wrist band heart rate monitors – these sensor-rich devices provide us with critical data that helps us better understand location related behavior which in turn helps us to identify patterns and trends.

To build the Where Platform, we believe you need four essential components … data, a platform that uses this data, APIs that expose the platform and apps and experiences that showcase the power of the platform and its data.

Slide 5

So first, there’s data; we have a lot of data, from best-in-class, navigation quality, mapping assets through to global, yet local, location based data.

Slide 6

The Where Platform is built on top of this data and what’s more, it learns from the data. We call this a learning engine and it’s because there’s really two sorts of data out there … reference data and activity data.

Let’s start with a Place. Where and what is this Place? This is reference data, the index of world around us and it enables the routine location functions we take for granted, such as search, routing and navigation.

Then there’s activity data that utilizes the types of sensors I just spoke about to understand how people interact with their devices, their apps and the real world around them.

Or to put it another way, we know about a Place and we can know what actually happens, in the real world, at this Place. Put these two types of data together and it becomes what we call smart data and it’s this that powers the Where Platform and enable us to create a digital, predictive model from all the Places and objects in the physical world, including our user’s needs and activities.

Slide 7

The reference and activity data I mentioned earlier, combined as smart data, powers the Where Platform. The platform in turn powers the showcase for this, our apps, which I’ll cover in a few slides time. But apps aren’t enough in today’s world, you need robust APIs as well.

There is a unique opportunity to work with you and with developers to build the where-enabled ecosystem; across verticals and across the screens we use on a daily basis, to power the experiences you’re building for your users.

So let’s dig a bit deeper into the APIs …

Slide 8

We already have a set of modular, configurable, highly performant APIs that are easy to use and to integrate, with an active developer community who appreciate our simple and fair terms of use. For the web, we have JavaScript APIs for Maps and for Places as well as a new Places web service API, more of which in a few moments. We’re going to be unifying the JavaScript APIs for Maps and for Places into single API under the Nokia Maps for JavaScript API banner.

There’s also our Map Image web service API and our upcoming Maps API for HTML5, which I’ll talk more about in a few slide’s time.

And for native mobile use, there’s out Maps API for Qt and our Places API for JavaME and coming later this year our Maps API for Windows Phone.

Slide 9

APIs are of course utterly critical to the Where platform and the Where ecosystem but we also to ensure that we cover all the screens that act as touch-point between the digital and real words for people throughout their day. As I move from my computer at work, to my laptop, to my in-car nav system, to my tablet, our goal is to have an offering for virtually any of these screens.

In addition to the Places API, I also touched on APIs for Qt, for Windows Phone and for JavaME for Nokia devices. For non-Nokia handsets and platforms, you can already see the power of the NLP on on the web and coming soon will be native HTML5 support.

You may already know of the Nokia Maps app for Windows Phone, but Nokia Maps is already available via the Amazon Android Store and includes routing for drive, walk and public transport.

We’re also announcing a closed beta of our Nokia Maps HTML5 API, which is the first of many huge milestones we hope to achieve to expand our APIs and presence across screens as quickly as possible.

Slide 10

I mentioned a few slides back that we’re making a commitment to support the Where Platform across all screens, by making the platform device agnostic and truly horizontal. You may recognise the mobile devices behind me and, although these are screenshots of our maps on both Android and iOS, these are not mocks-ups, they’re from real proof of concepts, using the Where Platform. But these are not apps that we’re releasing so don’t rush to your mobiles to try and download them. But if you want to see them live, in action and in person, you’ll be able to see and play with them at the Nokia booth.

Slide 11

Now, a few slides back I mentioned our Places web service API. This is in addition to our Places API for JavaScript and so I’m really pleased, or as we say in Britain, chuffed, to announce the public beta of this …

Through our Places API you can: Discover Places by searching explicitly and nearby Display Place information, basic and extended data attributes, rich content, editorial and user generated content; this is far more than the offerings of some of our competitors Interact with a Place, share it, navigate to it

Through the Nokia Places API, you can find locations in more than 1.5 million areas (cities, districts, and regions) as well as more than 120 million point addresses across 15 countries.

Slide 12

The term Places API is usually synonymous with searching for Place information and with displaying a page containing this information, but there’s far more to Places that just this. Look at these heat maps behind me; they’re great examples of the type of experience you can create using the Nokia Places API. These dynamic heat maps are produced by combining Place categories and other algorithmic inputs to show were you might want to eat or shop. This is great for getting a feel for a locality that you may be unfamiliar with.

We know that a powerful set of API offerings is critical to our ability to recruit partners to help build the Where ecosystem. This is why I’m excited to share the launch of the Nokia Places API web service with you today.

Slide 13

At Nokia, we realize that becoming the Where company is not an easy task. The Platform alone is not enough, nor is produced a set of APIs enough. There needs to be support, documentation and tools which work the way you work. But we also know that sometimes you just want to join in the fun. And so, over the past year we have been working hard to grow the Where ecosystem.

We’ve added customers such as those listed here and these have increased the hits to the platform from 560M/month in Q1 2011 to 4.6B/month in Q1 of this year; that’s around a 750% increase.

Slide 14

For example, we have been working with Yahoo! since late 2010. All Yahoo! sites that have a map element will be served by one of Nokia’s Location & Commerce data center locations around the world.

Slide 15

Whenever one of millions of Yahoo! users checks out a location, Yahoo! sources its mapping/imagery, routing, traffic, and geocoding services from the Where Platform.

As Dirk Daumann (Nokia Head of Map Services Platform) says “We have served millions of Yahoo! users worldwide for around 150 days. Our service has been available to 99.9 per cent. This means that we have constantly exceeded what was agreed, something that we are very proud of. During peaks, we serve 1200 queries per second, a number that we estimate to grow when the transition of all Yahoo! sites to our services has been completed.”

Slide 16

Additionally, we recently announced our partnership with Groupon to collaborate on a redesign of the customer experience of deal discovery, purchase and redemption.

We plan to do this by working with them to offer market-leading, location-sensitive discounts and deals that are more locally relevant and convenient. By the way, as we’re early in our relationship with Groupon, the graphics you can see behind me are a mock-up, not a real app, so no heading to the Marketplace to download please.

Slide 17

What I’ve just been talking to you about over the last 15 minutes or so, shows, I hope, the massive amount of investment and commitment we’ve made over the past year to building a where-enabled ecosystem and in achieving our goal of becoming the Where company.

Similar to our Platform and APIs, we’ve met major milestones with our apps as well. Today, we have 5 apps that are based upon and showcase the Where Platform:

Nokia Drive provides free, in car navigation for driving and reaching destinations safely. Nokia Transport allows you to have all your commuter information at your fingertips: No more carrying around city maps or timetables—it is all on your device, wherever you are. Nokia Maps provides new ways to discover and explore the world around you. Nokia City Lens is an augmented reality browser turns a phone’s camera viewfinder into a new way to spot nearby attractions, shops, restaurants and places of interest. Nokia Pulse is an exciting new way to privately check in, meet up and stay in touch with the people, like family and close friends—with just one click.

In fact, these apps are one of the best ways to illustrate the power of the Where Platform. What we’ve done with our apps is just the beginning. And with the power of the platform and our APIs, the opportunities for you to build unique, location-relevant solutions are endless.

Slide 18

We see an opportunity to work with you to build a where-enabled ecosystem. For all of us to become part of something bigger. To be part of an ecosystem that stretches across screens. That spans B2C, B2B and B2D. That answers consumer’s where-related questions and empowers them to explore and enjoy the increasingly merged physical and digital world around them.

If you’re interested in discussing further how we can work together, please swing by the Nokia booth – it’s number 208.

Slide 19

… thank you for listening

Hacking WP Biographia's Appearance With CSS

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 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 ... `

Biography heading

Biography text


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');

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.


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 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"

TSA ... WTF?

Photo Credits: Niels Heidenreich on Flickr.

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

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.

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).