Wansbeck! First council to provide machine readable planning notices.

Wansbeck in northern England is providing their planning applications in the PlanningAlerts.com format. They are the first council to provide this data in a machine readable format, simply at the initiative of their web dev. Yea for motivated individuals and for councils getting it! This is the long term goal, and no one really wants to write a screen scraper .. the best day for a screen scraper is the day it’s retired.

PlanningAlerts.com gets a GeoRSS API

PlanningAlerts is a project to provide better access to planning applications; I got involved in after investigating Weaver House. I added an API to get at the data .. GeoRSS feeds precisely. And now the API has launched .. here’s the brief spec on the PlanningAlerts API.

A feed is used in this Mapufacture map on Weaver House, layered with a BBC Weather GeoRSS feed and a Nestoria properties GeoRSS feed, all over OpenStreetMap.

Of course, it works at Google Maps too.

Shyamtronics on Tottenham Court Road saves the day

London is a pretty large modern city, right? Well yesterday in all of London there was only one place that I could walk into a shop and purchase a replacement AC adaptor for my Thinkpad T60 (left behind in SFO after witnessing a dozen police officers arrest and handcuff a 60 year old woman for an outstanding DUI warrant, just a bit overboard and upsetting) (also thanks Lenovo for introducing a new series of laptops with a completely new connector for the power adaptor).

That place was Shyamtronics, 246 Tottenham Court Road. They had everything on the shelf. They will definitely try to scam you, so be on your toes and don’t worry if they act hurt when you suggest a lower price. I’m totally thankful they exist anyway. And they weren’t easy to find, Thinkpad support didn’t suggest them (why not?!) and they’re among dozens of other small shops on Tottenham Court Road.

This was the first time that street view browsing actually useful to me. Check out Street Sensation.


Two short ideas for evolutionary and adaptive systems

Three years ago I was studying for a masters in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems at the University of Sussex. That’s just UK academic speak for ALife. I was building evolutionary simulations of complexity increase in ecosystems .. basically a bunch of numbers doing interesting things if you thought about it or visualized it in the right way. Since graduating, I’ve been obviously focused on other things .. very very interesting and exciting things very much of the times. But I do miss the simulations and the ALife, and I have an ever growing list of things I’d like to hack in my tiddlywiki tech tickler file. Anyway, I had a couple ideas recently which I’d like to do more with than just stuff away for another day .. so I’ll take “action” and blog them!

    Urban/Countryside Auto-classification of Geograph images
    Geograph contributors are photographing every grid square in the UK. With human look at these photos, it’s simple to classify that area as urban or countryside, or any number of finer grain categories, and that seems like useful thing and some nice maps could made of the results. Automating that doesn’t seem that tricky .. take the color palette of a group of training images and run those through a machine learning algorithm. Bet it’s very learnable and a fun little hack.

    School that Can See Itself
    At Lift, Ben Cerveny blew everyone’s mind with his talk The Luminous Bath, and we’re all waiting for the video to be posted since no one really quite understood it the first time. There were bits and pieces, phrases, which stuck in my head, illuminating all sorts of things .. one of which was “individuals in a school of fish can’t see themselves” .. alluding to how our own social tools reveal our own higher order behaviors, and suggesting just how different a dynamic that will create.

    Flocking behaviors are one of the classic algorithms of ALife. So easily, each individual could get additional input, some information about the state of the flock as a whole. Say the group was trying to elude some predators .. what happens if every member of the group has non-local knowledge of predator proximity to any other member? What happens to the flocking dynamics .. I can only guess there will be new stabilities and instabilities, periodic behaviors, maybe chaos.