Archive for May, 2006

Xtech Presentation Finito

My XTech presentation on GeoRSS is complete! There were a good number of questions, so by that measure the talk went well. My slides are here if you’re interested. Suw Charman has very detailed notes.


mapufacture, the GeoRSS aggregator

mapufacture is a GeoRSS aggregator. Here you can layer multiple GeoRSS feeds from different sources into a single map, and search the database of GeoRSS feeds by keyword and location. Search results are themselves available as GeoRSS feeds.

So you’re welcome to check it out, and feedback! If you’re at XTech this week, come find me and I’ll give you a demo. And remember this is all under development, so consider it a working prototype.

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Brighton Underground

On Saturday, we went underground, into the sewers.

Sewers are like a revelation. You always know they there, but mysteriously out of sight and of unknown configuration. There’s no Google Maps for the sewers. In Brighton, infrastructure exploration is a sponsored activity. While watching the introductory video with faux Martha Gunn, the smell starts to hit you. Initially a detterent, the odor starts to seem inviting about halfway through Martha’s dragging bit. Our guides were regular water company workers, gleefully and with semi-disbelief at the public enthusiasm, proudly showed off the Victorian brickwork in the maze of tunnels, that replaced cess pools and wells of Brighthelm.

The photo above is the junction of the London Road and Lewes Road sewers; London and Lewes Road are the two main valley hugging routes out of town. London Road Sewer is flowing at a pretty good clip, eclipsing Lewes Road .. maybe more folks out for the day up that way. It was all pretty clean actually, all sensible, and hydrologically modelled. And most of it original; Victorian Brighton planned for even bigger booms then what occured and the capacity is excess unless something like a hurricane comes through. The guides mournfully told of a workers toilet, with direct sewer connection, blown clear off the floor by the 1987 hurricane; this is like connecting your laptop directly to an internet backbone. Since then, they’ve built a three mile long storm water holding tank underneath the sea front from Brighton to Hove (!), and the biggest problem is clearing out road grit washed into the system.

The best part is emerging up the road on the Old Steine. A pretty strange sight to see 3 dozen people emerging from a hole in the ground.

Except that this is Brighton, and this day was the Brighton Street Festival.

I find some human-animal hybrids particularly disturbing. There was a very accurate Chicken at Burning Man a couple years ago that was just too accurate. Something about knowing there’s a human being inside, filtering their experiences, cognition, and interaction to such a different organism. Animals with human or greater characteristics are much more fathomable.

We had a pretty good run on the Brighton Festival this year. The Lost and Found Orchestra by the Brighton local Stomp Company was a lot of fun, and as usual had me banging on various bits of ephemera all week. I’m a bit parochially proud after discovering their local origins. Souterrain riffed off the landscape and village of Stanmer, for a beautiful trip into the underworld. Souterrain is, too appropriately for this post, French for “underground passageway”. La Clique was not disappointing; drunkeness, maximum mugging for the audience, general retardation, acrobatics, and a rapping granny.

One of our last meals out around these parts was at the Sushi Garden, pretty much the most authentic sushi place you’ll find in Brighton. We ordered a Brighton roll, which features shrimp tempura. They seemed much more at home on my plate then dancing in the street.

Next sushi stop will be SF, which will make me forget all about European sushi.

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WaterWiki 7 months on

The WaterWiki was launched last fall, to support the UNDP Water Governance Community of Practice in Eastern Europe and former Soviet states. This was possibly the first use of Wiki technology within the UN, and it was a great project to work on. Yes, a labor of love.

Since, its grown to 500 pages and 68 registered users. A majority of its growth is due to the work and championship of Jeurg, the regional coordinator for the CoP. But gradually, the wiki is being adopted by other members of the CoP, for recording their own knowledge and organizing events and courses. It is now being utilized for the writing the UNDP’s Regional Water Strategy, the core document for the Community of Practice.

A second UNDP wiki has grown from the WaterWiki pilot .. the Civil Society Atlas. There’s interest in expanding the concept into a general resource, with a UNDP working group dedicted to Wikis. The technical challenges of packaging my crufty hacks on a now old version of MediaWiki for wider distribution has been taken up by Kairat Alaichiev.

And this summer, Anna has accepted an internship with UN-INSTRAW, to work on a similar project, spreading the wiki virus even further.