Archive for the 'Email Posts' Category

Geomancers Meeting Links

Posted in Email Posts, Locality and Space on May 6th, 2006 at 23:26:01

Summary of Geomancers Meeting:

I showed up late, as usual, but luckily Allan was there early to catch
people as they came in. Attendance peaked about about 9 — enough to
fill two tables of people. The meeting examined and discussed the
Camberville Greenmap, being published by Jerrad Pierce, and the various
things that can be done to make it more interesting and interactive:

* Web based format (mapserver/WMS/tiling something or other)
* Linking locations to the Open Guide to Boston or a similar site —
allowing people to click on something and finding out more about it,
and possibly adding their own information to it
* Allowing display of more information, since you don’t have to
overwhelm people with everything at once like you do on paper:
various layers let you put the pieces together to build up your own
interesting greenmap

There was some discussion of how the data was gathered, and about the
MrSID format that the aerial photography from MassGIS is in (mostly me
whining about it). There was discussion of some of the symbol choices —
how a chevron facing in the direction of the road can be misleading and
make people feel like it’s indicating a direction. All in all, the
greenmap is looking really cool, and I’m looking forward to getting a
version of it online and seeing what more can be done with it.

After my computer got on the network, we were able to talk about the
Boston Freemap that Schuyler and I built, some of the issues we were
having with it, and how to solve them. There was discussion of the
problems with using a WMS for the soure of a tiled clientside WMS
browser: labels intersecting tile boundaries, as well as roads or road
labels being drawn at weird angles. We also discussed (as was mentioned
on the list) the various tradeoffs of using different image formats,
some of which comes down to the fact that mapserver doesn’t quite do
what it would be nice for it to do.

There was some discussion of the work that went into the mumbai freemap
project: hand-digitization of vector information obtained from the local
planning board, and the attempts to convert said data into a reasonable
projection which would be overlaid on top of landsat satellite imagery,
something that’s not typically done.

There was some discussion of the Platial platform, what works about it,
what doesn’t, where the value is, and how it can be used for the Real
Estate field. Apparently, the housing market statewide is in a serious
decline: we’re passing the peak of the bubble, and many houses are
selling at 20-30% below their assessed value. This is a having a huge
impact on the real estate industry, and is something that may be able to
be alleviated in part by the sharing of local information: turn your
entire block into a cheerleader about a location. They want the value of
your house to be higher so that the value of *their* house can be
higher, and teh local view is a view that no realtor or anyone else can
give you but the people who live there.

There was also discussion of various ideas about what you could do with
the various data out there from a geographic point of view: the ability
to churn out a ‘local rap-sheet’ would be a nice idea for a startup
targetted towards Buying agents for real estate.

We’ll probably do another gathering in a couple weeks: Possibly in
someplace quieter, and maybe not on a friday evening to attract a
different crowd. The Muddy Charles is fine at 5, but towards 7 you
really have to start shouting to get yourself heard, and I’d like to go
someplace with food for a change at some point, since I don’t drink beer
🙂 Any recommendations or suggestions for date/time/place would be

Links below are what was left in my browser history, or what was left
behind, and what I could remember. Feel free to add to it.

Link-based Summary of meeting:
* Greenmap
* Mumbai Freemap
* Boston Freemap
* Open Guide to Boston
* Platial
* MLS Listing
* Lowell Deeds Blog
* Boston World66
* World Flooding Map
* MassGIS Raster imagery

geomancers Meetup, Discussion, Links, Follow-up

Posted in Email Posts on April 7th, 2006 at 20:19:40

Number of people attending: 8 at various points in time

Topics Discussed:

* Copyright issues related to using Google Maps to geocode locations.
Alternative solutions to this type of behavior, such as openstreetmap
and openlayers. Quality of free map data.
* Museum project. Goals and aspirations for said project.
* Open Guide to Boston. Goals for project.
* Location-based services. Gumspotting. Cell tower based locations. Wifi
based locations.
* Demonstration of really nifty art-exhibit type interactive display from
Craig F., of Emerson College.

Establishment of next meeting time:

Meeting at Muddy Charles, from 5pm-7pm (or whenever), for drinks and
more socializing. This will probably become a regular meeting time,
barring extreme protest from members who are unable to participate.

Administrative: I will be posting a link to this message to the
geomancers-announce list. This message will inform readers that the next
such meeting will be next Friday, from 5pm-7pm, and that all discussion
should head to the discuss list.

Links discussed:
* OpenStreetMap:
OpenStreetMap is a ‘grassroots’ remapping project, using people with
GPSes who go out and trace roads, tagging them, and mosat recently,
working to generate pretty maps from the content.


* Open Guide to Boston:
The Open Guide to Boston is a wiki-based approach to local location
based information storage, using (mostly) free data as a boostrap and
offering integration with Google Maps for displaying and editing of
nodes. Also offers ‘nearby’ searches, and structured metadata
exported as RDF/XML.

* Skyhook/Loki:
Windows-only system (at the moment) — determines location based on
nearby wireless access points

Public domain data from the US Government put to use providing
geocoding services.

* Castle Square Wireless Project:
Castle Square is using the MIT roofnet software to provide wifi to
residents over a SpeakEasy DSL line rebroadcast in a mesh network.

* CMP Presentation:
The Collaborative Mapping Project is an effort to build a device
which allows the MIT museum to take to the streets of MIT and
Cambridge, and explore the history and richness of media of the world
around you.

* Platial:
Using Google Maps to create your own personal atlas.

* Where 2.0:
Where 2.0 O’Reilly conference, Jun 13-14th, San Jose, CA.

* Cell Locative Services:
Visual attempts at mapping cell phone towers to locations based on
latitude and longitude collected via a bluetooth GPS.

Improving Searching in OpenGuides

Posted in Email Posts on February 25th, 2006 at 22:06:28

Per a request on the Milton Keynes guide, I took up the matter of looking at making searches include more than just the text of the entry, but instead also listing the metadata in the nodes. I successfully completed this in the following manner:

* Modify the in the dist to be more along the lines of:
You can see here that this indexes phone address city postcode website fax summary, as well as categories and locales.
* Tested this to make sure the results worked. Number searching seems broken, but other than that it’s in good shape.
* Head in to try and make this change to the underlying guide code.
* Realize that searching is basically hardcoded into write\_node, with no easy way around it. Resign self to this fact and decide that double-indexing is the way to proceed.
* Write a CGI::Wiki Plugin. Bang head against wall until realizing you need to set @ISA yourself.
* Write reindexer similar to above.
* Find “write_node” in Place Reindexer plugin above write\_node (see code snippet at end of email).
* Test it out. Seems to work okay.
* Upload code to
* Post to mailing list.

I’m not sure if anyone else will find this interesting, but I certainly did, so I figured I’d share the knowledge in case anyone else out there wants it.

my $indexer = CGI::Wiki::Plugin::Indexer->new;
$wiki->register_plugin( plugin => $indexer );
$indexer->reindex($node, $content, \%metadata);
my $written = $wiki->write\_node($node, $content, $checksum, \%metadata );

Help out the Open Guide to Boston

Posted in Email Posts, OpenGuides on February 18th, 2006 at 12:01:42

This was originally posted to a local geo-hackers list, but I haven’t
received any response yet. It was long enough that I wanted to publish
it in a Google-able form as well.

I’m Christohper Schmidt, local mapping, geo, mobile application, web
development, RDF, RSS, and otherwise technically oriented hacker. Jo
Walsh mentioned my name on this list a few months back, as the organizer
of the Open Guide to Boston.

I’ve been working for the past couple months on boostrapping the content
in the Open Guide via the sites for Boston, Cambridge, and
Boston-Metro. Since there is no database-protection on copyright in the
US, pulling the data from these sites for repurposing it is a (as far as
I know) valid legal use of the data, and the Boston OpenGuide has
prospered significantly from these additions in terms of Google hits due
to the sheer size of the dataset.

However, it’s now coming to a point where adding more random content
isn’t helping to expand the guide in a way that’s entirely beneficial.
What is needed to expand the Open Guide to Boston is, quite simply, more
content about the places that are described.

A relative few of the nodes have full content — reviews, pictures, and
so on. Judy Jetson ,
Full Moon ,
Mojo Music . However, the large majority
are relatively devoid of life. I want to bring life to them, because I
want this to be even better than citysearch, even better than anything
else there is out there as a guide to what is around Boston, and I want
to encourage people to use it everywhere.

I have a couple reasons why. First, I hate closed systems with
unneccesary licensing and all the crap that goes along with things like
CitySearch and the other similar city directories. More importantly,
however, I feel that an open source of awesome information on what is in
andd around Boston lets people build more interesting things that pull
that data in. I have several personal goals that would use this data,
enabling users to get more information about what’s around them at
wireless hotspots, or when using a mobile device.

I would love to see more interest from the geo community in and around
Boston and especially my hometown of Cambridge. I’ve pushed for quite a
while to get the content to the level it’s at, but I simply can’ty visit
every restaurant in town. I would love to see more interest from
external parties because it might encourage me to keep on working at
what seems to be a very gargantuan task of documenting every thing I can
in town. An annotated Yellow Pages is a great goal, but requires far
more resources than I can bring to bear.

I’d be willing to demonstrate or pontificate on any of my desires or
goals, if persons are interested in meeting up to do this sometime in
the next couple weeks (or anytime, really). I’d also love to hear what
the Open Guides software isn’t providing that you would like to see: the
Google Maps component is something that I already put together and
committed back to the main tree, and I’ve got a couple other hacks in
the guides hosted on my server that aren’t in the main branch.

Looking forward to hearing from anyone who’s interested in helping,
evangalizing, or suggesting things that might be done better.

First Post-via-email

Posted in Email Posts on February 2nd, 2006 at 08:31:04

This post is to test WordPress 1.5’s ability to check posts via email.
I oftentimes wish, when responding on a mailing list, to send my
thoughts or whatever directly to the weblog. Hopefully this will let me
do that.

jcowan wanted to do something like this about 2 years ago when I first
met him, but as far as I know, he never did. We’ll see how it works for

In reality, this is actually my 5th post-via-email, but the first 4
didn’t work. I think this one will. (Who knew that WP1.5 shipped with
such a broken mail->post interface?)