Archive for December, 2004

RSS Zeitgeist wins Feedster Developer Contest

RSS Zeitgeist wins Feedster Developer Contest, Web Application Category

Thanks Scott and Feedster! This is the best way to get an iPod.

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My Yahoo! Ski Report to RSS

My Yahoo! Ski Report to RSS

New to the My Yahoo! to RSS service, is the Ski Report Module. Customized snow updates in your RSS Aggregator. The formatting is a little funky, but it’s passable.

why? I am going to Tahoe next month, and procrastinating this morning.

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Santacon UK

Santacon UK

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All-Party Parliamentary Group on e-Democracy

All-Party Parliamentary Group on e-Democracy
All-Party Parliamentary Group on e-Democracy
Tuesday night I was happy to attend a public meeting by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on e-Democracy on “Online Campaigning: Lessons the UK can learn from internet use in US elections”, sponsored by the Hansard Society and voxpolitics. Straight ahead summary from BBC and voxpolitics weblog.

I’ll stick to a few rough impressions. And it is impressive. Medieval halls of the House of Parliament. Awesome. Reverential. A strange setting for discussion of technologies designed to demystify such places. Everyone except for the few MPs and Lords in attendance were “Strangers”; whether a foreigner like me or a voting member of the UK public, you’re officially considered a stranger in the Parliament. Of course we felt welcome, really. But this is indicative of the structure of power in the UK: institutionalized and creaking, and increasingly irrelevant. Or so I’m told (as it actually seems healthier in some ways than the US political system).

The e-Democracy group is a few forward thinking MPs, thinking “If we don’t master technology, technology will master us”. You catch a small bit of their workings, in the committee room were mounted four CCTVs announcing going ons in other chambers, possibly a technological improvement over some ancient system of shouting down halls. Twice a division was announced; a division is a formal vote when the strength of auditory aye’s or nay’s isn’t sufficient to determine support. The first literally had a “Lord-a-leaping” to get to the vote. The second had the chairman of the meeting leaving during a question on how much will MPs really pay attention to electronic discourse! Another insightful moment came when the chairman was answering a question from a Conservative MP, saying “I hope we won’t see him at the next meeting, but it will be a great loss.” Ahhh, they really do like each other.

So, what can the UK learn from the US elections? Stephen Coleman, Oxford Internet Institute, reported on a survey of Internet users in the US election. Despite all the talk of the transformation of politics by the web, the most influential medium for voters was email and talking. Yes, just talking about politics was the number one indicator of political involvement. On the other side (of the pond), Phil Noble, Politics Online, raised up an old fashioned barn burner, channeling the Howard Dean revolution. Particularly, he sited the quickness of online organizing, and the vast amount of money raised online. Weblogs are embrionic of a conversational democracy. He brushed aside the failure of the Dean campaign, despite the revolution of participation in that campaign. And I wonder, what can be done differently next time? (There must be a lot of examination and discussion of this question right now; there’s no reason to wait 4 years).

So the answer seems, not much right now. UK elections are not dominated by money, and are organized along party lines, rather than individual candidates. The old media is much more diverse. The major parties receive free time on TV to broadcast political messages. Third parties have a voice. “The British tend to underwhelm things, and there’s a US tendency to be overwhelmed”. Yet on change, everyone “Tends to overestimate in the short run, and underestimate in the long run”. Agreement seemed to fall on the influence of technology enabled networks. British MPs are unlikely to read weblogs, but may perhaps read an influential weblog that bubbles out of the network. Analysing and identifying high valued connections in the network may be a usable compromise for the government and people to have direct conversation.

Stephen Coleman was skeptical of technology providing a magic bullet for government and public renewal. It needs to be done right, and is skeptical of the government “giving” democracy to the people. It will need to come from the grass roots, which has it’s own worries. BNP or UKIP could gain influence through these technologies. “Let 1000 flowers bloom, and they won’t all smell sweet.” But what about positive minor parties, like the Green Party.

Blogging was particularly singled out for criticism. Too time consuming to read and write. Partially I think it’s a misconception of weblogs as solely a personal diary. Weblogs are written by groups of individuals, organizations. And of great importance will be analysis tools, to understand the network and the content of the discussions. Identification of emergence and spread of new ideas. Statistical gauging of support. These are some ideas I hope to pursue at the EU JRC next year.

Side note, there was mention of what politics can learn from reality television. These programs actually get people to pay to vote, while you couldn’t pay these people to vote for their MP. Some bizarre possibilities. The OII accurately predicted every eviction on Big Brother, by picking the housemate that looked most like a Conservative!

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worldKit MapProxy Update: Urban Area and Tiger Line

worldKit MapProxy Update: Urban Area and Tiger Line

MapProxy has been updated with these new features.

  • For certain cities, “Photo” maps will return high resolution, color images from the UrbanArea data set.
  • Tiger line maps from the US Census are available.

For example, here’s San Francisco Urban Area and NYC Tiger.

(You’ll also see a very small bit of the upcoming revision to the worldKit website.)

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Feedster Developer Contest Entry: RSS Zeitgeist

Feedster Developer Contest Entry: RSS Zeitgeist

Since the Feedster Developer Contest entry form makes it public…

My entry is RSS Zeitgeist. Make your own Zeitgeist-y trend map from hits of Feedster searches. It requests 400 results via Feedster’s RSS feeds on your search term, and plots the trends using the very nice PHP/SWF Charts.

Yea I am diggin for an iPod. Want to listen to the Breezeblock via RadioPod.

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EOGEO Brainstorming Session on Geo Blogging and RSS Mapping

EOGEO Brainstorming Session on Geo Blogging and RSS Mapping

EOGEO is a forward thinking group, and this session focuses on some of my favorite ideas….

EVENT: EOGEO Brainstorming
DATE: Monday, December 13, 2004
TIME: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
LOCATION: MIT Room 1-115 (See below for link to map…)

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Geo Blogging … RSS Mapping … Distributed Geoprocessing …
….. Can these help bridge the digital divide?
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The digital divide might seem like it’s in Africa or some other distant
place, but when it comes to geographic data, even those of us who are
connected via gigabit ethernet connections can’t get the data we need
nor do we know how to easily share that data with others. Dealing with
geographic data is hard. But it does not have to be. In fact, it should
be fun! There are many good ideas bubbling around and there is a lot of
open source geospatial software out there that can help.

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The National Public Toilet Map

The National Public Toilet Map

Toilets maps are not new. Juvenile, sure (who can imagine a National Continence Management Strategy?). Incredibly useful: the city is a wilderness of biological control in pay for access and clandestine movements, compared to the free toilet “wilderness” of Swedish forest or Sierra mountains.

The National Public Toilet Map by the Australian Government, is a model of targetted, usable location based service. Browse or search by address or lat/lon. Per toilet info: opening hours, nearby services, provider info, nearby toilets (in case this one is getting cleaned). A trip planner and personalization (favorites etc). Apparently frequently updated.

Still needs: mobile device interface, for in situ use. open data, for recombinant growth .. discussion forums and rating systems, sharing favorites, integration with other data sources (say pub locations for more relaxed crawls).

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Borders: Shatt al-Arab

Borders: Shatt al-Arab

The border that had me thinking about borders somehow missed out on the last weblog post.

Shatt al-Arab is the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, forming the border between Iraq and Iran. The river as border dates from 1639, the division between Persian and the Ottomans. But the border had problems from the start.

A river might seem a natural geographic demarcation. Nope. The region of Shatt al-Arab is home to the Marsh Arabs, who quite naturally used both sides of the river for their livelihood (and hopefully will again as post-Saddam restoration efforts take root).

More directly, a border defined by a river delta is not static. Officially, the border is the lowest point of the river, the Thalweg. The lowest point is prone to differ year by year, as floods shift materials and flow. In a sense, this border is entirely conceptual and has no permanent physical reality. So, earlier this year, a British patrol out of Basra was picked up by the Iran, because they had strayed into Iranian waters .. in other words, someone’s maps were out of date.

I’d really like to hear about other borders without precise geographical definition. Suppose ultimately, all borders will fail as the continents drift.

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