Tuesday, December 21, 2010
We also have a winner in our logo contest, which you can see at our new FOSS4G Denver 2011 web site. We had over 800 votes in total, thanks to everyone who voted! The logo design was an interesting process. Creating a logo is always tricky because you have as many different opinions as people involved in the process! We used a site called crowdspring, as you will know if you voted – multiple people compete to create your logo, which we found worked very well. And then they also have a voting process you can use if you like, which I found very helpful to choose a winner from the multiple good entries.
And as mentioned in passing above, our web site is now up and running - it will have a lot more content added to it over the coming weeks. But check out the timetable leading up to the conference – some significant items coming up are the call for workshops which will be out in mid January, and the call for papers which will be out at the beginning of February.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
We have simplified the experience of identifying locations on the map. A simple tap on the map replaces the Identify Location tool.This is nice to see, since I'd pointed out in a couple of my recent usability presentations that it took a minimum of six clicks, and more typically 9-10 clicks, to display feature information on ArcGIS for iPad, and suggested that perhaps a single tap on the map would be simpler. My voice has been heard!! Or maybe it was just a coincidence :), but either way a big usability improvement for the product, well done ESRI folks!
Update: hmmm, I just tried it out briefly (rather than just reading the description), and looks as though it still takes 3 clicks to actually see the attributes of a feature, and still has some significant issues distinguishing between features that are close together. So some improvement but not as good as I had hoped.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
All the conference sessions will be within the hotel itself, and a large new bar connected to the hotel lobby is nearing completion, which will have 130 different beers on tap (I will try to do my conference chair's duty and sample all of them once it opens, later in December!). So that should all be conducive to great socializing and networking. Right across the street there's an excellent assortment of reasonably priced "fast but fresh" food places, so loads of convenient food options very close by, though of course the conference will be well catered! Plus there are literally hundreds of bars and restaurants within walking distance - the location gets an outstanding score of 95 for walkability at walkscore:
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
The one coming up is WhereCamp5280 on November 19th. Eric Wolf, Ben Tuttle and I ran the inaugural one last year which was a great success, see James Fee's review. I hear a rumor that James will be back this year, so I guess he must have liked it! Eric and I have both been a bit swamped on other things recently, so Steve Coast has kindly taken up the organizing reins this year, thanks to Steve for that! Last year we were kindly hosted for free by Denver University (DU), this year we will be at University of Colorado Denver on their Auraria Campus, which has the advantage of being within easy walking distance of downtown. And this year we've decided to do one day rather than two. But two things that haven't changed since last year is that the event is FREE, and we'll be holding the social event on Friday evening at my loft, I expect there will be plenty of geo-beer from the Wynkoop Brewing Company downstairs and that may fuel some geo-karaoke later on. All this is thanks to our kind sponsors, who at the time of writing include Enspiria Solutions, ESRI, Google, MapQuest and Waze.
I'm expecting a great group of interesting attendees and presentations again this year, so highly encourage you to come along. And remember it's an unconference, so we are looking for as many people as possible to participate - prepare a short presentation or come prepared to lead a discussion on a topic that interests you!
Sign up for WhereCamp5280 here, and if you feel like sponsoring at anywhere from $16 to $1024 (can you tell that a techie geek set the sponsorship amounts?!) that would be great, but otherwise just sign up and enjoy the great free education, networking, and beer :).
So WhereCamp5280 is a great local event, but in September 2011 the global geo community will be converging on Denver for a fantastic double bill of FOSS4G and SotM.
For those who don't know, FOSS4G stands for Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial and is an annual international gathering organized by OSGeo. The last North American event was in 2007 in Victoria, BC, and since then it's been in Cape Town, Sydney and Barcelona, so we're delighted to have Denver join that list, and expecting a great turnout from around the world.
Eric Wolf and I led the bid to bring FOSS4G to Denver (which is one of the things we were busy on that was competing for time with WhereCamp5280). Eric was originally slated to be the conference chair, but unfortunately due to circumstances beyond his control he has had to stand down from that, and I have just taken over that role in the last week (well unless the OSGeo board fails to approve the change at their next meeting, but I'm assured that's not very likely!). I'd like to publicly thank Eric for all the work he did to bring the conference here - it was his idea initially, and definitely wouldn't have happened without all his efforts. We have the core of a great local organizing group set up already, but are still interested in recruiting a couple more folks, so if you'd like to help out please let me know. It's going to be a great event, and I'll be blogging plenty more about it over the coming months.
And on top of that it was announced today that Denver has also been selected to host State of the Map (SotM), the global OpenStreetMap conference, also in September 2011. I attended SotM in Amsterdam in 2009 and thought it was a fantastic event. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it this year, but I will definitely be there next year :) ! The two events are distinct, but several people were involved in both bids, and we recognized that a lot of people would be interested in attending both, so the intent is for them to run back to back. The SotM date isn't fixed yet, but FOSS4G is locked in for September 12-16.
So if you're in the Denver area already, plan to be at WhereCamp5280 on Nov 19, and if you're not, make plans to be here in September 2011!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
- I'll be talking on "Smallworld and Google: the best of both worlds" at the Smallworld conference, on Friday September 10 (there's a clue about in the title of the talk :) !!)
- The latest version of my "Geospatial Revolution" talk has a double outing the following week, with keynotes at the NSGIC conference in Minneapolis on Monday September 13, and at GIS in the Rockies in Loveland, CO on Wednesday September 15
- Sneaking in between the previous two on September 14 is the second Ignite Spatial NoCo (Northern Colorado), in Windsor, CO, where the title of my talk is "Don't make me think", after the excellent book of the same name by Steve Krug, which is all about usability, something I've been working on a lot recently. I guess that's kind of a busy stretch, with four presentations at four events in four consecutive working days, plus a product launch right before that :O !! There's a good lineup of speakers for the Ignite event, with Brian Timoney, David Cole, Kate Chapman, Matt Ball and Mano Marks among those I know.
- The week after that it's off to the UK for the Ubisense User Conference, where I'll be talking about Ubisense applications on September 22
- I plan to stay on in the UK for the one day W3G (un)conference in Stratford upon Avon - it being an unconference there's not a formal agenda, but I hope to do a slightly expanded version of the "Don't make me think" talk there, if they'll have me
- And for the benefit of our Danish readers, I'll be doing a keynote at the Geoforum.dk Kortdage in Århus on November 1-3 ... my mother is from Denmark so it's always nice to have an opportunity for a visit there.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The article says that Google is paying $14.50 an hour, so a back of the envelope calculation for 300 people for a year says that they will be spending around $8.5m on labor alone (excluding overheads), which is not a huge deal for Google, but not insignificant either. Perhaps there is some other grand new plan behind this, but I have to think that this indicates that Google has realized they have a lot of work to do to improve their map data.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
You can see my presentation below, which was on "Location and the Internet of Things". The Ignite format allows you 20 slides which advance every 15 seconds, for a total of 5 minutes - it's quite tricky to get the timing right. I will try to post with a few tips on doing Ignite presentations soon, this was my third go at this format.
Update: Glenn has now posted a better quality video of the presentation on youtube (original ustream video included below too, just in case):
And here is the ustream version as a backup (clicking the small play icon at the bottom of the window below seems to work better for me than the large play icon in the middle, an eccentricity of ustream :) !)
Friday, May 7, 2010
We had a lot of interesting discussion, Joe Francica did a nice writeup, and Dale Lutz said the panel was "the buzz of the conference". So without further ado, here is the video, an hour and 45 minutes long :O !!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
In alphabetical order the panelists will be :
- Steve Coast, founder of OpenStreetMap and Cloudmade
- James Fee, best known for his widely read blog, and an evangelist at WeoGeo
- Ron Lake, the original author of GML, and Chairman and CEO of Galdos
- Andrew Turner, CTO at FortiusOne, who generally tries but fails to avoid conference promoters calling him “the father of neogeography”
I’m planning for the discussion to be very flexible and interactive, and I’ll take questions from the audience, but I do have a few topics and questions lined up. The following are some candidates:
- Can crowdsourcing give you good enough quality? What are its limitations?
- What does crowdsourcing do to the notion of “authoritative” data?
- Many OGC standards are based on a technical approach that is 10 years old and predates newer web standards and approaches. Do they have a future or do we need to start again, or significantly rework them?
- What are the limitations of the more lightweight data sharing standards like KML and GeoRSS?
- What are the factors that determine whether a standard becomes widely adopted or not?
- Will Google become the default way we find spatial data (or has it already)? Would this be a good thing or a bad thing?
- Do you think that the traditional GIS vendors will still be around in 5-10 years?
Sunday, April 18, 2010
But in the mean time I thought you might enjoy this rough video from my iPhone showing Thomas and Molly in action (higher quality video to come at some point!).
Monday, February 15, 2010
Impact of changes upon the geospatial industry and upon customers
Based on all these assumptions, we will have the ability to know where more or less everyone is, all the time – but with individuals having control over which people and applications can know their location, at what time.
As with managing social network connections, users will be able to manage a common set of location sharing rules that are used by all applications. For example, work related applications may only be able to access a person’s location during working hours, certain applications or people may only be able to access an approximate location rather than a precise one, and so on. This will be integrated with the more general methods for managing sharing of information with groups of friends / business contacts (so for example you can set a location sharing policy with groups of people defined in other systems like Facebook or LinkedIn).
There will also be widespread mechanisms for determining where you are more precisely than can be done with a GPS (or in situations where GPS does not work well, for example indoors). As mentioned previously, a common one will be using one or more kinds of proximity sensor.
In general with most location services there is a requirement to provide them based on where you are now, but also in many cases based on where you will be in the future. I may want to find a restaurant to eat at right now, or I may want to find somewhere to make a reservation for dinner in the city I will be in tomorrow night. This can be done manually of course, but we will also see increasing integration with calendars, travel reservation systems, etc, to build a model of a user’s future location and enable applications around that.
Location aware phones will be a massive source of crowdsourced data, using both passive and active approaches. Passive approaches – automatic uploading of location data periodically – can be used for things like determining real time speed on roads (and footpaths, cycle paths, etc). Passively captured data can also be used to identify likely changes to road networks or other geospatial data – for example if lots of people are travelling at 30+ mph along a path where there is no recorded road in the database, that is probably a sign that there is a new road there. And conversely if a normally busy road suddenly has no traffic then it is probably closed. Active approaches to crowdsourced data will be discussed in the scenario section.
This section includes a few examples of potential usage of the technologies discussed previously.
Highly personalized “what to do” services
There will be widely available services to make suggestions to people on what to do in a given location – combining highly detailed location data with huge amounts of user created data on restaurants, bars, music venues, bands, and so on. Technologies like Amazon’s recommendation engine very much apply here, to look at what other “people like you” like in this area (based on explicit information you provide – “I like sushi” – or implicit information derived from other places you have been, or restaurants you have rated highly, etc).
Sophisticated social planning tools
Location based social planning tools will grow enormously in usage as smart phones and social network usage become pervasive. Currently there are a number of applications that show where your friends are now but they have relatively low adoption, which means that they are still more at the novelty stage rather than being genuinely useful for most people. This will change dramatically over the next 5 years.
Active crowdsourcing for data creation
Crowdsourced geodata creation has huge momentum at the moment, with OpenStreetMap being the most notable example. Easy to use tools on smartphones will make this even more prevalent, especially for simple items like points of interest. More active mappers will use tools that make requests proactively – for example they might get an alert that OpenStreetMap is not sure whether the street they are currently on (or are close to) is correctly named, so please could they validate it.
We will also see significant growth in real time crowdsourced data – for example current gas / petrol prices, how long is the wait for a table at a given restaurant, etc.
“Safe driver” insurance
Car insurance companies will offer discounts for users who participate in “safe driver” programs, where the driver agrees that if her car exceeds the speed limit, this information will be passed back to the insurance company, with penalties resulting when certain thresholds are exceeded (in terms of amount by which the speed limit is exceeded, number of incidents, etc).
Enterprise location-based services
In the enterprise, we will see a huge growth in the use of location-based services, driven by their widespread adoption in the mainstream consumer world. Currently most enterprise applications involving location tracking tend to be specialised niche applications, often on specialised hardware like rugged tablet PCs. This is likely to change to make much greater use of mainstream devices like the iPhone, and using commercial services to store and display location information.
This is likely to impact the enterprise in two broad areas: one is that mobile / field based workers will have much better and simpler access to information, using the type of location-based services already mentioned. And the enterprise will have a real time picture of where all its employees are (as well as other resources and assets). Traditionally geospatial applications have been more about documenting and analysing the past, and planning for the future, but there will be significant growth in applications focused on real time information. This will also be driven by other sensor-based information. For example, utilities are seeing significant growth in intelligent sensors on their networks, especially in the electric industry where there is a strong focus on building the “smart grid”. A combination of sensors on the network and location tracking of employees, vehicles and assets will give electric utilities much greater visibility of their operations than they have today.
Summary of 5 key points
- Location tracking will be pervasive in 2014 – all mobile phones will have location tracking, and current limitations like inability to run applications in the background will have been addressed. Compasses and cameras will be fused with GPS to provide much greater context around the user’s location (and orientation). We will have the ability to know where everyone is all the time (with appropriate ways for people to limit access to their location in various ways).
- Location aware smartphones will create an enormous amount of free and accurate crowdsourced data, both relatively static (road networks, points of interest) and very dynamic (traffic speeds, gas prices, restaurant waiting times).
- Mainstream consumer-focused location aware smartphones and related location based services will make significant inroads into the enterprise, significantly reducing the cost and effort required for many mobile applications. This will provide better tools for mobile / field workers, and an increased emphasis on real time geospatial applications for many enterprises.
- While current location is extremely useful for many applications, future location is also very useful, and there will be an infrastructure in place for applications based on future location in addition to current location .
- An important area of focus should be developing appropriate policies and laws around sharing of an individual’s location information. We cannot just stop the advance of technology, and there is a danger that the technology is advancing much faster than policy in this area. This would be a good area for the AGI to add value, by initiating / encouraging work on policy and legal issues.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Certification Emperor Has No Clothes
Peter Batty, Nov 1, 2003
Geospatial Solutions Magazine
The GIS certification process recently rolled out by URISA and others aims to "recommend a formal system to evaluate the competency of professionals whose primary job responsibility involves the design and use of geographic information systems" (see www.gisci.org). But a major argument against GIS certification is stated in the frequently asked questions (FAQ) at the certification site.
In answer to the question "Why not test an individual's knowledge of GIS skills to certify competence as other professions do?" the FAQ responds: "It is felt that general agreement on the skills needed for the GIS profession has not yet been achieved, given that there are so many different professions that use GIS technology . . . it is very difficult to design a single examination that can fairly evaluate the basic skills needed". After "not yet been" I would add "and will never be". The range of spatial applications and technologies, and skills needed, continues to diversify rapidly and promises to do so well into the future.
The problem of creating an exam is swept under the carpet by requiring formal GIS education in order to be certified. The obvious issue with this is that the great majority of GIS professionals do not have any formal GIS education. To overcome this objection, there is a grandfathering provision, which allows anyone with eight years of technical experience in the industry to become certified. How this evaluates anyone's competency is a mystery.
Furthermore, a five-year recertification process requires one to do a certain amount of GIS-related education. The problem with this is that the most appropriate development path for many GIS professionals may not be to take academic GIS study. It may instead be to learn more about XML, or environmental policies, or relational database tuning, or utility network design. To insist that someone has to do education within a very narrowly defined set of GIS courses or conferences would do the industry a major disservice. This is not to say that a continuing GIS education is bad. It may be a great option for some people. But it is just one of many valid options to help people do their GIS-related jobs better.
In 2008, the grandfathering option goes away, which means that a prerequisite to being certified is to have obtained a degree in GIS. If anyone took certification seriously, this would massively reduce the talent available to the spatial industry as the 99.9 percent of people who have degrees in other subjects would be excluded. Obviously I don't think that will happen, but again it begs the question of why bother with the certification process?
Does certification pass the test?
Many of the reasons advanced for certification do not stand up to scrutiny. One is helping employers with recruitment. But a glance at someone's resume will give much greater insight into whether someone is appropriately qualified for a position than certification does. Another is that "it is felt that the nation's taxpayers deserve assurance that competent and ethical GIS professionals are being hired with their public tax dollars". I smile at the thought of millions of taxpayers lying awake at night worrying about the competence of their government's GIS professionals. Personally, I'd prefer that the GIS professionals my tax dollars are funding be doing their jobs rather than spending time applying for a certificate that bears no relation to their competence. It is even claimed that GIS certification will improve the lives of citizens, which seems like a particularly desperate attempt at justification.
As spatial technology expands into the mainstream, a hugely diverse range of skills is required to implement systems and move the industry forward. The space is so broad that it makes no sense to try to have a certification process. To implement a consistent process, the certification criteria need to be either so broad that they're meaningless (as with grandfathering) or so narrow that they apply to a tiny fraction of relevant people, and would greatly hamper the industry if anyone took certification seriously.
We should not be trying to hide spatial technology in the back room and restrict who can use it. Instead, we should be promoting usage by everyone.
Monday, January 18, 2010
I think the announcement is particularly interesting as Steve Jobs is said to have stopped Apple tablet projects before - according to the New York Times:
Another former Apple executive who was there at the time said the tablets kept getting shelved at Apple because Mr. Jobs, whose incisive critiques are often memorable, asked, in essence, what they were good for besides surfing the Web in the bathroom.So if they are announcing this (and you buy this quote, which is plausible), there has to be something substantial about the tablet beyond just being a MacBook without a keyboard or a larger iPhone.
So I think (not based on any inside info, just on filtering all the rumors and thinking about what makes sense from an Apple perspective) that there will be two big ground-breaking things about the Apple tablet.
First, it is widely predicted that the tablet will be Apple's attempt to redefine the world of printed media (like the iPod redefined the music recording industry and the iPhone redefined the mobile phone).
This certainly makes sense. The Kindle and other eReader devices have made an interesting start in that space, but as I said in my initial review of the Kindle, it is good for sequential reading of text, but not good for more random browsing, like reading newspapers and magazines. And indeed the Kindle is only good for text, not for other kinds of media. With the Apple tablet I would assume that of course you will be able to browse arbitrary web sites, but imagine that it is also highly likely that there may be a simplified full screen user interface, which would provide a great platform for magazines, newspapers, book publishers etc to create compelling multi-media content including text, photos, video, audio, etc. Available content would presumably include a mix of free and paid, like the current app store / iTunes models (and this would give the struggling traditional news media industry another potential business model for the future). One interesting potential screen technology for such a device comes from Pixel Qi, who have been linked with the Apple tablet in some posts. Obviously it would also be a good device for watching movies, TV shows, youtube and other video content.
However, I think that doing that alone is probably not enough to hit the size of market that Apple would want. The tablet clearly won't replace an iPhone, as it won't fit in your pocket. So the question would be how many people, if they already have a smart phone and a laptop, would buy another device in between those two (in size and cost), with a lot of overlap in functionality. This is partly a cost question, and partly one of convenience - would traveling techies, even devout Apple fan boys like me, want to carry three devices everywhere: iPhone, Tablet and MacBook? I think not. So I believe that the second big thing is that the device has to be a good replacement for a laptop too, and again there are plenty of rumors that support that.
For this to be the case, obviously there needs to be a mechanism for text entry that is a good alternative to typing on a physical keyboard. A simple on screen touch keyboard probably isn't going to be good enough to persuade people to give up laptops in large volumes. So I think Apple must have more up its sleeve here. One of the more intriguing rumor threads that has appeared in various places is that the new device will have a "steep learning curve", and that the way that you interact with it is "unexpected". Obviously having a steep learning curve is not something that you would expect in general from an Apple device, especially one aimed at the mass market, unless there is a compelling reason for this. So I think that this has to be around a new mechanism for text entry, and more broadly interaction with the device. Apple acquired a company called Fingerworks in 2005, which had a lot of interesting technology in the areas of multi-touch interaction, gestures, and text entry, and Apple also owns a lot of patents in this area - these are discussed in various places including AppleInsider (who also discuss a tactile touch keyboard) and gizmodo. The old Fingerworks web site was recently taken down, which has increased speculation that their technology is involved. One of the more intriguing aspects of this is the use of "chords", which means that you can trigger different actions by pressing different combinations of fingers (for example, your thumb and third finger versus your thumb and fourth finger) - this video at CrunchGear gives some examples. Another is an approach to user interaction where the keyboard and pointing device are integrated, you don't have to move your hands from one place to another as you do with a touchpad or mouse.
One final comment is that to meet its aims as a news reading device, you will need the ability to be connected to the Internet all the time, but most people will not want to pay for two separate wireless data plans for their iPhone and Tablet, so it will be interesting to see how they will address that. Obviously I would assume they would support WiFi, but I would also assume that some or all models would also have 3G wireless built in. Will there be an option for simple tethering with an iPhone I wonder (if Fake Steve Jobs' rant - bad language warning! - has been enough to make AT&T finally get their act together!)? Or will there at least be some sort of package deal on a data plan if you have both an iPhone and an Apple Tablet?
I'm looking forward to the announcement on January 27 :) !!