Archive for the 'Web Publishing' Category

OpenLayers: Still popular on YouTube, years later.

Posted in OpenLayers, YouTube on March 22nd, 2014 at 06:32:32

In 2007, I posted a video to YouTube; it was just a 5 minute, silent how-to video showing how to load data that you had in a shapefile, open it in QGIS, style it, export it to a mapfile, and load it into OpenLayers. I’ve given pretty much this exact presentation to groups around the world: from Cape Town, South Africa, to Osaka, Japan, but at the time it was just a quick demo I put together, related to a wiki page: Mapping Your Data, in the OpenLayers wiki.

I hadn’t paid attention to it in forever — I uploaded it to YouTube back in 2007, and I haven’t really thought about it since. So as I’m using YouTube a bit more recently, I actually looked at my analytics… and realized that this video still gets *400 views every month*, with an average of two minutes watched per view.

This means that 20 minutes gets wasted watching this video every day (on average); that is more time than I spend on YouTube in an average week. (Given my new employer, I can imagine that changing somewhat in the near future.)

Amusingly enough, for a long time this wasn’t my most popular video; the OpenLayers video is a bit long, and with no sound, can be a bit of a drag. (The pace of it, even 7 years on, still impresses me though; I spent a whole weekend just going through the motions to get the flow down. It really does work nicely.) My most popular video for a long time was an N95 Accelerometer Demo:

This demo showed the use of a Python script to use the accelerometer and simple 2d graphics to move a ball around the screen. (The Symbian Python APIs for interacting with 2d graphics were terrific, and I wish modern phones had something similarly easy.) In the week after that video launched, it had *1500* views; but it was a flash in the pan, and hasn’t maintained its popularity, getting only 2 watches in the last 30 days. (This video was popular enough that I was invited to join the YouTube monetization program, unlike the OpenLayers video, which was never ‘viral’ enough to get there.)

I’ve never been much of a video guy before — another thing I can see changing — but I’m now putting together some of the videos from my quadcopter flights. Last night, I published my bloopers from the first couple days of flying:

But I guess I can never expect, based on my current views, that anything I do on YouTube will be more popular than a silent video I published about OpenLayers back in 2007.

I guess this really just goes back to: OpenLayers was a unique experience, and is probably the most impressive thing I will actually work on for the benefit of the internet at large… ever.

Hidden Writing Archives

Posted in Web Publishing on November 2nd, 2013 at 23:48:18

So, recently I realized that my website essentially hasn’t been updated since 2007. (I noticed last week that I had an announcement on there about the presentation I gave at FOSS4G… in 2006. As a current event. Yeah, my website isn’t particularly up to date.)

So, I’m working on moving bits and pieces of it to git, so I can track history and changes more easily, and also because I think that having it open presents no risk and provides opportunity for me to more easily track what I’m doing there in public. However, since the website has been essentially a dumping ground for my various crap for the past 8 years, I’m being a bit cautious about it, and moving things in one by one. (There is some content in my webdir which should not be publicly available — everything from passwords to old client content which is currently protected by password.)

In the process, I came across a collection of articles that … I might have written.

I say might, because I have no real memory of writing them. However, they have examples which use my name; they are written in a style which is semi-consistent with how i would write, and most importantly, they’re hosted under my formal/writing directory (which no one else has ever had access to), which is also explicitly prevented from being crawled by robots.txt. The modification dates on these files are in November 2005 (all on the same day; which likely means they were copied en masse from something even older).

They’re all of things that were of interest to me at the time — how to integrate RSS into IRC bots, how to parse mood information from LiveJournal RSS feeds, how to parse the LiveJournal live stream, etc.

The thing is… I have no idea why I have them. Or why I hid them.

At the time, I was working on getting contracting work — this was before I had started working for Ning, during a time when I was grasping for contracting work to make ends meet, having ended my commute back and forth to wedü. I guess this means that I was actually (essentially) unemployed for a brief period there… perhaps I thought writing articles like this was a good way to draw attention to myself. But then my question becomes… why did I hide them from my robots.txt?!

My biggest fear is that this content is actually stolen from somewhere else — the topics are general enough that it could be. However, given the specifics of the topics, I think that they can’t all be.

While I would believe that someone else could write some of those, it would surprise me that anyone else wrote all of those, and put them in one place. So I think this *is* writing I created… but I have no idea why. With no historical version control, I can’t refer to that (curse you, younger, more foolish self!), and at this point I’ve switched computers enough times that there isn’t much left in the way of detrious of conversation logs from that time; even my email records only go back to 2006 consistently. I think this was actually content that was probably created before transitioning my website to a hosted webserver; this was from the days when it just ran off the server at the apartment.

I’ve googled titles and snippets of these; I see no other evidence of them on the web. I think this means these probably are my original content. Given that, I think I’m going to go with: share and enjoy! I’ve put these into the github repo under formal/writing, where you’re free to do with them what you will. I may try to tidy them up… heck, I may even try to write a few more, because I actually enjoy the writing style.

I just… find it weird that I have this content that the internet at large doesn’t have access to which I apparently wrote 8 years ago and have absolutely no memory of… what a weird thing to find.

(If you have any memory of me writing these articles, why, or evidence I’ve shared them in the past, I’d love to hear it!)

How to Scare Your Users, by Flickr

Posted in Flickr on October 24th, 2008 at 13:05:58

A friend of mine recently had his account ‘restricted’ by Flickr for “potentially offensive content”. His comments on Flickr’s treatment of the issue are concerning to me: as he describes in his entry:

They still haven’t gotten around to telling me what this content IS or why it is potentially offensive. … “There are millions of people visiting Flickr who may not see the world the same way you do” is certainly true, but a dangerous way to run a community.

I understand Flickr’s needs for the adequate use of controls on users accounts in order to make the site they want it to be, but threats of account termination on a service like Flickr are very concerning to me. I’ve invested a lot of work in my photos on Flickr, and although I’d like to continue to use the service, the feedback of anonymous users being able to lead to account termination with no human feedback in the loop is a scary prospect.

I’d love to hear that this is an oversight somewhere, but if I don’t see Dan get some feedback on his issues, maybe I should consider abandoning Flickr as the primary place to host my photos. Convenience isn’t really worth the possible risk of having an account terminated — presumably taking all its content with it — without even having feedback from a human on why. Clearly, that risk always exists with the Terms of Service that exist on the site — almost every site I’ve seen which has lawyers behind it has some sort of “We can do whatever we want, and in that case, you’re screwed” clause in their terms of use — but to have it become clear that they follow this path in something that seems a routine matter to resolve is a somewhat scary precedent.

Flickr Authentication API Documentation Bug

Posted in Flickr, Web Publishing on October 18th, 2008 at 08:54:17

In the Flickr authentication API documentation regarding their Authentication Specification, the example in section 9.2 seems to have an invalid value.

They provide the following:

  • API Key: 987654321
  • Parameters: method=flickr.auth.getFrob
  • Secret: foobarbaz

According to section 8, this should result in taking the md5sum of:

foobarbazapi_key987654321methodflickr.auth.getFrob

Which is 91216d07a9e945a8e2bf2b2660e7ba86 . Hoewever, the md5sum used in the api_sig parameter in the example is 5f3870be274f6c49b3e31a0c6728957f. (I’ve tried several different combinations, and been unable to figure out what this value might be based on.)

This yws-flickr post also confirms that the documentation appears to be incorrect.

I couldn’t find the appropriate place to put this given a short search, so I’m publishing it here in hopes that it will remind me to inform someone who might be able to fix it. (There are 5 authors listed on the spec: Emailing all five of them feels like overkill, especially since I’m pretty sure that not all of them still actively work on flickr.) If you know anyone who might be involved, feel free to pass it on…

Flickr’s Interestingness Patent

Posted in Flickr, Photography on October 16th, 2008 at 06:02:07
Easter Sunday at First Parish
My most ‘interesting’ photo

One of the things that has always confused me is how Flickr’s ‘interestingness’ score worked. It’s clearly not based directly on views — my most ‘interesting’ photos have ~500 views, while my most popular ones have ~5000. The same is true of comments, tags, groups, etc: Some of my most interesting photos are, all in all, the least obviously ‘popular’ ones.

However, reading through the patent on Interestingness, I see:

[0027] The statistics engine generates statistics and other metrics based upon aggregated metadata. In one embodiment, the statistics engine determines the popularity of metadata (e.g., tags) within a grouping of media objects over a predetermined time period. For example, the statistics engine may determine the number of different users that have assigned a particular tag to one or more media objects within all groups on the system, within a single group, or within a set of media objects, over the last 24 hours. The aggregation engine may determine (and display) a histogram of the tags, and may determine the most frequently assigned tags (at any point in time or over a predetermined time period) by determining those tags either having a frequency exceeding a minimum threshold frequency or belonging to a predetermined number of the most popular tags.

The patent application doesn’t directly claim that this is used in the interestingness calculation, but this type of time-period based tag aggregation/valuation is clearly a non-obvious metric that can’t be calculated by looking directly at user-visible information on a single photo.

Still, none of this really changes the fact that I wish that flickr had a per-person ‘most interesting this week’ sort: my ‘eastern bunny’ photo above has been at the top of the interesting list for ages, and I want new interesting photos, damnit!

Finished FOSS4G Photo Uploads

Posted in FOSS4G 2008, Flickr on October 10th, 2008 at 05:13:26

I finally finished uploading all the photos I took at/around the FOSS4G conference.

FOSS4G 2008 Set

Includes photos from:

  • Various nights hanging out at the bars/hotels during the conference
  • A trip up Table Mountain with OpenLayers/OpenGeo folks
  • GeoDjango Workshop
  • Sessions, exhibition hall, etc.
  • Pictures from the Gala Dinner at Moyo
  • Closing Session
  • OSGeo AGM
  • OpenLayers Workshop
  • GeoServer Workshop

Photos that are taken at the conference center/of conference proceedings are also tagged with foss4g2008:

foss4g2008 tagged

And most photos of people who I recognized are tagged with first name in the title, and with a username (as used on IRC or other unique identifier) attached as a tag:

Photos of Arnulf
Photos of Steven

Photos of the OSGeo AGM are also tagged as such:

OSGeo AGM Photos

I’ve made my tagging settings as open as possible, but I believe you still need to be a contact on flickr in order to add notes/tags to photos: simply add me as a contact, and I’ll add you back.

Any names I got wrong, please let me know, either via email or by simply commenting on the flickr photo.

Thanks to all for helping to create such a photogenic conference.

Free Maps for Free Guides

Posted in Locality and Space, Mapserver, OpenGuides, OpenLayers, TileCache on February 11th, 2007 at 08:46:05

A bit more than a year ago, when I was just learning how to use the Google Maps API, I put together a patch for the OpenGuides software, adding Google Maps support. It seemed the logical way to go: It wasn’t perfect, since Google Maps are obviously non-free, but it seemed like a better way to get the geographic output from OpenGuides out there than anything else at the time.

Since I did that, I’ve learned a lot. Remember that 18 months ago, I’d never installed MapServer, had no idea what PostGIS was, and didn’t realize that there were free alternatives to some of the things that Google had done. Also, 9 months ago, there was no OpenLayers, or any decent open alternative to the Google Maps API.

In the past 18 months, that’s all changed. I’ve done map cartography, I’ve done setting up of map servers, and I worked full time for several months on the OpenLayers project. Although my direction has changed slightly, I still work heavily with maps on a daily basis, and spend more of my time on things like TileCache, which lets you serve map tiles at hundreds of requests/second.

So, about a month ago, I went back to the Open Guide to Boston, and converted all the Google Maps API calls to OpenLayers API calls. The conversion took about an hour, as I replaced all the templates with the different code. (If I was writing it again, it would have taken less time, but this was my first large scale open source Javascript undertaking, long before I gained the knowledge I now have from working with OpenLayers.) In that hour, I was able to convert all the existing maps to use free data from MassGIS, rather than the copyrighted data from Google, and to have Google as a backup: a Map of Furniture Stores can show you the different. You’ll see that there are several layers — one of which is a roadmap provided by me, one from Google — and one from the USGS, topographic quad charts.

It’s possible that some of this could have been done using Google as the tool. There’s nothing really magical here. But now, the data in the guide is no longer displayed by default on top of closed source data that no one can have access to. Instead, it’s displayed on top of an open dataset provided by my state government.

This is how the world should work. The data that the government collects should be made available to the people for things exactly like this. It shouldn’t require a ‘grassroots remapping’: There are examples out there of how to do it right. I find it so depressing to talk to friends in the UK, who not only don’t have the 1:5000 scale quality road data that Massachusetts provides, but doesn’t even provide TIGER-level data that the geocoder on the Open Guide to Boston uses.

Free Guides, with Free Maps. That’s the way it should be. The fact that it isn’t everywhere is sad, but at least it’s good to know that the technology is there. Switching from Google to OpenLayers is an easy task — it’s what happens next that is a problem. You need the data from somewhere, and it’s unfortunate that that ’somewhere’ needs to be Google for so many people. I’m thankful to MassGIS and to the US Government for providing the data I can use, and to all the people who helped me learn enough to realize that using Google for everything is heading the wrong way when you want to not be beholden to a specific set of restrictions placed on a corporate entity.

Yahoo! Pipes: Turning Pipes into Application

Posted in Ning, OpenLayers, Pipes on February 10th, 2007 at 20:29:19

So it seems clear to me that the Pipes application is a step in a really cool direction. I don’t know if there’s anything incredibly innovative in the idea of making programming easy, but Yahoo! has gone a long way towards the goals that other people have put into place. Ning thought that letting people code would be the way forward: give them a sandbox, let them copy paste, and they’ll build applications. The idea was right: there are a lot more people out there who want to be builders that aren’t. It turned out that the people who want to be builders didn’t have the skill level that they needed to build PHP code, even with mix/match and copy/paste.

Yahoo! Pipes is the followthrough on that idea: make it possible for people to take a set of input, and get a set of output, passing it through multiple filters.

The next step is obvious: Let people turn the filter settings into a web page, with the output being another web page. Search for all content 5 miles from a given Craigslist location: Take the user input as drop down boxes or something in an HTML form, and make the output a Yahoo! Map. Boom: you’ve turned everyone who can create a pipe into a web application builder. Stick ads along the bottom, and you’ve done one of the things that Ning tried to do: make money off applications in the same way that so many have made money off content.

I’m sure that Yahoo! already has this in mind, whether they’ve written about it or done it yet or not. It’s only a matter of time. It does make me wonder if someone could build something that did this without needing Yahoo! to do it… It seems like at the moment it would require altering a pipe on the fly, which I don’t see a way to do, so either there needs to be a further API, or we’ll all just need for it to get done :)

Update: Looking today, you can control the input of text inputs from the URL that you fetch the RSS with. This means that I can go ahead and build the pipe thingy for my own pipes as is. That’s pretty cool. I’ll show one with MetaCarta stuff on Monday.

Perhaps I’ll build an OpenLayers based Yahoo Pipe output viewer. It wouldn’t be that different from the GeoRSS viewer… but it would need a way to visualize non-Geo content. Ponder ponder.

More Mapserver Goodness

Posted in Locality and Space, OpenGuides, Spatial Databases on April 22nd, 2006 at 03:39:34

In the vein of my previous post, I bring you another nifty trick: This time integrating Google Maps and Mapserver (kind of).

Visit static renderer. Browse Google Map. Then, when you’re looking where you want to be, hit the link up top, and off you go — transported to a world where data is public domain or licensed for re-use :)

I’m still trying to find a happy medium level of size of markers — when you’re zoomed way out, they’re too big, but when you zoom way in, they’re too small, so I don’t know what to do, but it *works* and that’s the important part.

Interface suggestions welcome — perhaps a side by side view is better? (I think I may be having a bit too much fun…)

Mapserver, Postgis

Posted in Locality and Space, OpenGuides, Spatial Databases on April 22nd, 2006 at 02:24:38

After hours of fighting with Postgis, Schuyler finally got bia into a state where she would do the right thing when told to install it, so I was able to load the data from the Open Guide to Boston into postgis, and from there, to talk to it with mapserver. The result is a couple of pretty cool looking maps: Boston Metro, and Boston Metro Big, 1000×800 and 2000×1600 respectively.

The maps underneath are provided by Public Domain datasets, wrapped up in a tidy little easy to use package by the folks at OpenPlans through their “Sigma” project, and I’m extremely grateful to them for their efforts! They’ve saved me a ton of work, and allowed me to produce something that looks pretty damn cool.

If that’s not an advertisement for Open Geodata, I don’t know what is.