Archive for the 'Social' Category

The story of a procession…

Posted in FeatureServer, Locality and Space, Social on June 8th, 2007 at 05:52:03

Maps tell stories. They tell all sorts of stories, but one of the stories that they tell the best are processions: series of photos taken over a wide area over a period of time, but with the same principle actors.

The most important procession to me right now is the one that I’ve been working up to for four years, as of tomorrow. At the church shown (using the Boston Freemap TileCache, FeatureServer for feature translation from the Flickr API, and OpenLayers, of course, as the map interface) on the map I put together, I’ll be getting married tomorrow to the lovely Jessica Allan.

From Chicago to Champaign-Urbana to Manchester, NH to Cambridge, MA, with more late nights and late flights than I care to remember, more love and devotion than I can describe, and more acceptance of my tendencies to show utter obsession with anything I’m doing than I could possibly have expected, my relationship with Jess has flourished, and I couldn’t be happier to be tying the knot tomorrow.

Okay, so the relation this has to mapping or technical ramblings is tentative at best, but I still think it’s cool. 🙂

Can You Copyright the Globe?

Posted in Locality and Space, Social on May 6th, 2007 at 20:39:23
Can You Copyright the Globe?
Can You Copyright the Globe?

Originally uploaded by crschmidt.

When at the Museum of Science, I noticed that the giant globe in the atrium near the entrance of the museum is copyrighted by Rand McNally. Although I understand that the interpretation of a lot of raw data to make a 3D model of the Earth is definitely a creative work, it was still strange to read ‘Globe copyright Rand McNally…’

Asking Smart Questions

Posted in OpenLayers, Social on May 6th, 2007 at 17:57:38

I think from now on, I’m not going to try to answer questions on mailing lists which don’t follow the guidelines of “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way“. I spend way too much time trying to extract information that’s needed to solve any
problems. Obviously, in some cases, it’s hard to know which information is important, but with two open source projects with growing user populations, it’s very hard for me to take the time to coax every person through getting the information that is important to solving problems.

I think it is a sign of the growth in popularity of the OpenLayers and TileCache projects that I’ve come to this stage — it’s only when projects reach a certain level of maturity that people start asking enough questions that I don’t feel like I can just answer everything. Certainly, for the first 6 months of the OpenLayers project, I never felt that answering questions on the mailing list was something that was a burden to do, but over the past couple months, it’s been an increasing level of traffic from users who haven’t taken the time to investigate the cause of their problems fully. I think the time has come to stop devoting as much energy to solving *every* problem, and instead solve the problems that can’t be solved by other people.

Of course, an additional step is to work to create a forum in which users can offer cash to solve their problems — you put up a question, with a cash bounty on it, and you either increase the amount of money you’re willing to spend to get your question answered, or you answer it yourself.

This seems like the kind of thing that there should already be software to do. I’ve never heard of any, though. I wonder why that is. Probably something obvious I’m missing.

Why Large Standards Organizations Fail

Posted in Locality and Space, Social on November 18th, 2006 at 13:30:33

Lately, I’ve seen a couple of attempts of large standards organizations to migrate in some way or another to the more community-driven specification creation model demonstrated by the FOAF and GeoRSS communities. I think that these communities are a great model of the right way to create application-level specifications, but I don’t think that large standards orgs are going to find it possible to migrate to this framework without a very significant change in the way they look at what they do.

Community based standard creation offers a great number of benefits. Without a large corporation behind the specification, it seems to have been possible to create an environment where the ‘survival of the fittest’ in terms of inclusion into the spec is much more likely than in a case where large competing interests don’t have any impetuous to create a small specification. This environment is likely created by the specification creators being implementors. Implementors are more likely to head to the simplest thing that could possibly work. Implementors care about how difficult a spec is to understand, because if they don’t understand it, they can’t implement it.

Large corporations don’t have the same feeling. A representative of Sun, IBM, HP is going to try to solve a lot more cases than he or she will personally implement: The reason for this is that in those large organizations, a specification will be used by dozens or hundreds of different implementors, to solve different goals. This is great when the result is a specification which is well suited to all of those needs — however, typically what happens is that a specification grows in complexity with each additional use case. You end up with a large specification which can be used to solve lots of different needs, but doesn’t solve any of them perfectly, and is difficult to implement — or at least to understand how to implement — due to the added complexity of addressing dozens, or more, of use cases rather than a single simple case. The single representative of a large organization is going to be speaking as a representative of far more people than a single use case.

There are certain specifications which are better built this way. The fact that so many people have spent time thinking about XML has resulted in a format which is extremely flexible, and can play the roles needed in thousands of applications. The specification has been around long enough that tools which understand XML are very mature, and this maturity makes XML a useful tool for information exchange among a wide number of tools. I think an implementor of a new toolkit to work with XML would, however, argue that XML is not easy at all: there are many edge cases which need to be handled, and the fact that these tools are already created hides these complexities.

Application-level specifications are not well-suited for large-organization standardization. Application-level specifications should start by addressing the simplest thing that could possibly work. Large organizations don’t have an interest in creating the simplest thing that could possibly work. Starting small and expanding into something larger is a pathway that large standards bodies have thus far successfully demonstrated the ability to do.

It is possible that someplace like the W3C could succeed at this, but it would require changing the way these standards are generally created.

* Open communication. Even in the Geospatial Incubator group, the primary communications channels are currently closed: private mailing lists, private telecons, and private wikis. Implementors have not been invited to participate. This is a large mistake: standards for application use need to involve applications. There are a number of applications developers who would love to take part in standards development who have not yet been afforded the opportunity to.
* Changing development strategy. Rather than spending months going through 17 calls for comments, last calls, etc. to get to a recommendation, get something out as quickly as possible and iterate on it.
* Require that a specification have implementations before it is complete. I’m still not aware of a good, W3C released or endorsed XML parser. No tools to convert some existing data format to any kind of XML. No way to test how the specification is supposed to work and make sure you’ve got it right. Conformance testing is a good part of this, but is not all of it. When working on RSS 1.1, we had an implementation for WordPress and support for XML::Parser patched in Perl before we even released the spec. We included testing, Relax-NG testing, and a validator service. All of these and more were important to the rapid (though limited) uptake the technology received: no one had any serious questions about RSS 1.1 that couldn’t be answered by reading through the example implementations.

These changes, however, are antithetical to the way that large standards organizations work. In general, grassroots implementors aren’t part of large organizations which can afford to be members of these standards organizations, or when they are, they aren’t often implementing these standards as part of their work for that company. Since large standards organizations depend on large corporations memberships for revenue, choosing to allow small-potatoes implementors participate means that they give up possible revenue stream. When this happens, the larger customers start wondering what the benefit there is to being a member: if anyone can just come in on their own time and influence the standard, what is the benefit to pay large sums of money to participate?

Part of the reason for this shift is that organizational costs for creating standards have been headed downward. For $500/yr, or less, I can get my own webserver with lots of bandwidth. I can run mailing lists, Web pages, Wikis, IRC channels. With VoIP setups, I can achieve relatively cheap realtime communication, and the grassroots standards developers typically have more of a preference for somewhat real-time online communication anyway. When I can obtain all the organizational materials I need to create a standard for less than $500/yr, what purpose does a $50,000 a year membership to a standards org get me?

Typically, the answer is “Access to the right people”. Getting the members of the RDF developer community in the same place for discussions is not easy, and doing it with telecons does take work. However, as the grassroots development practices mature, they are demonstrating the ability to create specifications in ways that do not work the same way as XML was developed. Good specifications limit the need for specification ‘marketing’ — if a spec does what you need, you’ll find it, and you’ll use it, if it’s good.

So, with organizational costs heading downwards far enough that people are willing to contribute the resources out of pocket, with developers tending to group together without the need of an organizational support, and with the resulting specification having the support of application implementors, what do standards organizations offer to application specification development?

I think you can guess what I think the answer to that is.

OpenStreetMap Pledge: Update

Posted in Locality and Space, Social on June 18th, 2006 at 15:13:30

For those of you who saw my pledge to OpenStreetMap a couple weeks back… you might have noticed the deadline passed.

The OpenStreetMap project communicated via the mailing list that:

Requests for immediate and regular data dumps of all the data need to go to
the back of the request list right now. OSM still needs to focus on data propagation rather than data export.

No monthly data dump has yet been made for June, and no one has completed the technical changes neccesary to create a daily database dump. The timeframe for the pledge has passed.

All the World is a Map

Posted in Locality and Space, Social on June 17th, 2006 at 13:16:08

Temporarily on the frontpage of Digg this morning, the Wired article now has 208 diggs. Pretty cool: I don’t think anything I’ve been this involved in has been dugg before. (Then again, maybe it has: I’m not much of a digg reader.)

A conference for “neogeographers,” — a generation of coders whose work is inspired by easily obtained map data, as well as the mashups made possible by Google Maps and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth.

read more | digg story

BarCamp Boston

Posted in default, Locality and Space, Social on June 3rd, 2006 at 21:59:22

Went to BarCampBoston today. Took Schuyler, Jo, and Gregor with me. Had a great time, the venue provided by Monster was absolutely incredible in a lot of ways. I’d really like to thank the people at Monster for their time and effort pulling things together: everything at the conference *just worked*. (It’s like it was a mac or something!)

Schuyler and I gave a presentation on mapping on the web, centered primarily around OpenLayers and the uses for it:

Ever since Google first ‘solved’ interactive web-based mapping for the masses, providing an API to put your data on top of, people have explored the space at an ever increasing rate. From Google Maps Mashups to all new datasets created out of the existing data, and hacked into that ever-lovable interactive mapping interface, people are creating new, exciting, and sometimes even innovative ways of looking at existing data.

Come discuss the things you’ve done with maps, the things you’re doing with maps, and what you think of the ‘mapping revolution’. See what alternatives there are to Google… and why you might not want to be quite so dependant on the corporate data silos.

The links which were shared during the meeting are available from my BarCamp Presentation page.

OpenStreetMap Pledge

Posted in Locality and Space, Social on May 30th, 2006 at 13:30:05

If someone sets up a way for me to obtain, nightly, the worldwide output of the getnodes function for the whole world, and the corresponding getlines call from those returned nodes (as described in the file dao.rb), before the 10th of June, I will donate $200 towards the OpenStreetMap project.

I will also, from this data, set up a rendered version of OpenStreetMap, in a tiled instance of OpenLayers, on hardware that can support a lot of traffic, and build code that will convert this data into a shapefile every night, to be used by whatever projects people want to use them for, releasing the shapefile under the same license as OSM.

Anselm Hook has offered to match that contribution.

Anyone else who is in, please comment here, and I will communicate it to the OpenStreetMap developers.

Windows Live Local comes to *my* town

Posted in Locality and Space, Social on May 30th, 2006 at 10:44:36

A Windows Live Local truck just drove down the street next to the park I’m on. Looked like it had a camera on top of it. Seems that Cambridge may be picking up some more content from Windows Live Local in the near future…

Was a brown Ford Explorer, with some kind of camera-type mount on the top. Sadly, I didn’t snap a picture before it turned the corner.

Where 2.0 Itinerary

Posted in Social on May 25th, 2006 at 04:26:29

I’m going to be giving a lightning talk called ‘Geolocation with GSM Cells’ at O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference, on June 13th, 2006.

Depart: 12 June, Boston, 4.40 p.m. and arrive in San Jose at 8.05 p.m. (JetBlue flight #471)

Conference: 13th->14th, Where 2.0, Fairmont Hotel, San Jose. (I still am not exactly sure where I’m staying during this time period.)

Staying in San Francisco on the 15th->16th.

Return: 16 June, 10.35PM, Oakland, (JetBlue flight #476)

I hope to get to do a bunch of things in SF: I love that city, and I did not get nearly enough time there last time.

Anyone out that way, either for the conference, or just in the San Francisco area, that I should plan on meeting up with? I know that there’s a lot of West Coast hackers that I talk to regularly, but the West Coast is big 🙂 I’d love to meet some people I’ve only known online in person while I’ve got the chance.