Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mapping in the Arts event in Durango, Colorado

I received an email from the organizers about an event in Durango (which is in the very scenic southwestern corner of Colorado, for those who may not know it) on Mapping in the Arts: Ways of Seeing. It will take place on September 7-9, and is described as an event for people who love art, writing and the land, with thought-provoking presentations and workshops on how:

• maps inspire the artistic process
• mapping is used as a metaphor for discovery
• maps shaped the history of the West
• maps change the way we view the world
• mapping is a tool for envisioning a sustainable society

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Insights from science fiction authors, good and bad

I just came across an excellent interview in the Guardian with William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer, who coined the term "cyberspace". As someone who tries to look a little into certain aspects of the future, I found it interesting to see the article say that

"... he has stopped looking forwards. 'The future is already here,' he is fond of suggesting. 'It is just not evenly distributed.' ... The problem, he suggests, is one of time and place: things, technologies, now happen too fast and in unpredictable locations."

A few things he said in the article which especially struck me as interesting were as follows:
  • "These days, 'now' is wherever the new new thing is taking shape, and here is where you are logged on"
  • "I'm really conscious, when I'm writing now, how Google-able the world is. You can no longer make up what some street in Moscow looks like because all your readers can have a look at it if they want to. That is an odd feeling."
  • "I think we are getting to the point that a strange kind of relationship would be one where there was no virtual element. We are at that tipping point: how can you be friends with someone who is not online?"
The last comment is especially relevant to the current frenzy of activity in the social networking space, which I am looking closely at right now - more on that in future posts. But anyway, read the article, it's good!

By way of contrast to the thoughtful insights from William Gibson, a little while back someone forwarded me a link to this Google lecture by Bruce Sterling, which has to be perhaps the worst and almost certainly the most irritating presentation I have ever seen. I have a half-theory that the whole thing might be a spoof by the people who write "The Office" - it has the same cringe-worthy feel about it. Basically up front he says that he won't really talk about his ideas (about "spimes") since they're so widely published and he's sure everyone knows about them (though explaining them was supposed to be the subject of his talk). Instead he mainly talks about how visionary he is and repeatedly plugs his books. My favorite bit is right at the very end in the Q&A (yes, I did last that long, thinking that surely he must say something insightful at some point), where he asks whether anyone has read his book, and one person puts their hand up. Hint to presenters: if you're not going to talk about your ideas because you assume everyone knows about them, it may be a good idea to ask this question at the beginning of your presentation rather than the end! Perhaps Bruce has written some interesting things (he wrote an article in Wired recently which was okay), but I'm not inclined to rush out and see him speak on the basis of this showing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Upcoming gigs

Just a quick note to say that I am going to be speaking at a couple of upcoming conferences. The first is GIS in the Rockies, in Denver on September 12, where they have a pretty strong line-up of the usual suspects for their "all star panel":

Peter Batty, Former Chief Technology Officer of Intergraph Corporation
Joseph K. Berry, Keck Scholar in Geosciences, University of Denver and Principal, Berry & Associates
Jack Dangermond, President, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI)
William Gail, PhD, Director, Strategic Development - Microsoft Virtual Earth
Geoff Zeiss, Director of Technology, Infrastructure Solutions Division, Autodesk, Inc.
Andy Zetlan, National Director of Utility Industry Solutions, Oracle Corporation

GIS in the Rockies has always been one of the strongest regional GIS conferences, and I think they are anticipating 650+ people. There's a "social mixer" right after the panel, which hopefully most of the panelists will attend, at the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, which I happen to live above, so I will definitely be there!

The second event is FOSS4G, in Victoria, Canada, where I'm giving a 5 minute lightning talk in the open session on "The past, present and future of the geospatial industry" - I felt like a bit of a challenge :) !! I'm looking forward to that actually, having never done a 5 minute presentation before - it will be interesting to figure out what to say. And I'm also going to be on the closing panel, with Tim Bowden of Mapforge Geospatial, Mark Sondheim of BC Integrated Land Management Bureau, and Frank Warmerdam, President of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). It will be my first FOSS4G and I'm looking forward to meeting a different crowd and getting some new perspectives on things.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More on "is geospatial special"?

Hello again, sorry for being quiet the past couple of weeks, have been pretty busy between some vacation and some time looking into new business opportunities. Anyway, hopefully I will be posting more regularly again for the next few weeks.

I thought I would just do a short follow up on my earlier post on GeoWeb, which generated a few comments and emails. "Mentaer" made the following comment:

I see almost once a month why geo-data are special and deserve some special treatment - even if I talk to IT people. I am thinking for instance on geographic projections, geo-ontologies (i.e. fuzzy terms and objects), and spatial indices for databases... ending up with spatial web searches such as "lakes near Zurich". So... "geo" is special from my point of view, at least as much as medical databases and images? ;) (otherwise a whole bunch of GIScientists makes unnecessary research?)

I thought I would pick up on this one. Of course there are specialized areas of work with regard to geospatial data, just as there are with numbers, but the point is that 99% of people who can do useful work with geospatial data don't need to worry about these things. I thought that the statement that geospatial data was at least as special as images was a good parallel actually. You can do extremely complex work with images, of course. But you also find images on almost every web page you access, everyone reading this blog has devices for creating image data (aka cameras), many people have a phone which can create image data, many of you will share this image data that you create with your friends using online services. So I see a lot of parallels here with geospatial data - images are a little further ahead in terms of being completely pervasive, but not by much.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Looking for some top notch web developers

I am still considering my next career move and have been talking to a number of established companies as well as bouncing around ideas for my own startup. I have recently focused in on what I think is a great idea for a startup, which includes aspects of social networking and location going in a direction where I haven't seen anyone else going yet, and I think it could take off really quickly.

So I'm looking around for a couple of top notch web developers who might be interested in getting involved in this. Preferably looking for people in the Denver area, but working remotely might be an option for the right person. Desirable experience / skills include the following (I'm not expecting all of these in one person):
- Ruby on Rails or Python (platform still TBD but these are probably the front runners)
- Building large scalable database applications
- Building large scalable web applications - experience with Amazon S3 and EC2 would be a plus
- Great user interface design and development
- PostgreSQL and/or PostGIS (though again, platform still TBD)
- Development of social networking applications (including the Facebook Platform)
- Experience with online mapping development (Google, Microsoft, etc) a plus but less important than other things on the list

If you have any interest, please get in touch! And again, there is the caveat that this may or may not happen - but finding the right people would be a big vote in favor of going this way. I think this is an opportunity to develop something very cool, have a lot of fun and make some good money (down the line)!

Apple iWeb to support Google Maps

There is just a passing reference in this liveblog from Wired on today's Apple announcements that the latest version of Apple iWeb lets you "drag in Google Maps", so Apple seem to be continuing their close relationship with Google Maps that we saw with the iPhone.
The main subject of the Apple announcements was some new iMacs - which I was quite pleased about, as I've decided to get an iMac to manage my photos, having been impressed with both Aperture and iPhoto on my MacBook, and I'd heard rumors that they were about to launch a new line so held off. Will try out the Google Maps and iWeb stuff when I get one (they're supposed to be available immediately but are not on the Apple web site at the time of writing this).