If Google Maps Were Real

Mashable (perhaps one of the cooler sites I visit each day) has a nifty story about an artist who drew Google Maps icons as if they existed in the real world.  It’s rather interesting to think about these big push pins existing in real life, or a pop-up box over a building.  Take away the surprised looking people and I think we’ll have a pretty good idea of what large scale augmented reality is likely to look in the near future.

Visualizing Average Days Worked and Vacation by Country

I’m a big fan of infographics, so much so that I sometimes find seeing spatial information organized in an non-spatial way (ie a map) to be the clearest way to communicate an idea.  This infographic detailing average work week lengths and average vacation days is one of the ones I think really works.  The combination of a typical ‘graph’ along with some cute graphics really makes the thing accessible.  The data does have some holes, I think, because the ‘average work week’ seems to pull down a tad.  I’m assuming part-time work is included.  It’d also be interesting to see an economic variable in there, like GDP or per capita income.  Does working harder and longer get your more money?  And I have to admit, for all my talk about infographics, the next question I have is I’d like to see it on a map 🙂

The State of Mapping APIs.

Adam DuVander over at O’Reilly has written a decent summation article on the current state of mapping apis in the world.  It’s a short read and highlights some issues, but I think the more important take-away is the lack of cross pollination between geographers and internet mappers.  He doesn’t even discuss ESRI’s api, for instance, and it offers many of the capabilities for which Adam is asking.  There’s simply too much stove piping between the ‘experts’, meaning traditional geospatial experts, and the ‘amateurs’, which are mostly people coming from more traditional computer backgrounds.  Unfortuantely, I fear it might be on the shoulders of the geospatial experts to teach the rest that what we do is important and relevant.  Otherwise we’re libel to see much re-inventing of our spatial wheels… except maybe with added spinners.

Facebook Discovers Places Exist

Alright, I admit I stretched a bit for that headline.  However, the important bit is that Facebook has now added Places to it’s features.  Places allow you to tag where you’re at when you post status updates.  On the benign side of the coin (that’s the Harvey Dent one for you DC nerds reading), this will allow a richer connection between people’s status and their location.  You’ll be able to start getting a good feel for what places drive your friend’s positive or negative status.  There’s an associated iPhone update their iPhone app that automatically tags your location, should you opt into using Places.  Otherwise, you can ‘tag’ your location manually if your phone does not support LBS.  On the malignant side of the coin (Two Face side), this raises a whole host of privacy concerns.  Cyberstalking isn’t anything new, but the ‘scale’ of the problem given the popularity of Facebook just got a whole lot worse, I think.  On top of that, make sure you’re not updating Facebook status during ‘work’ time when you’re actually at the local watering hole.  Your boss might be able to find that information out and use it against you.  We already have plenty of reports of companies using Facebook updates and information against employees.  Take the warnings of Google’s boss Eric Schmidt – be careful what you put on the Internet!  You don’t want to have to change your name every couple dozen years to cover up past online sins.

US Broadband Rollout Receives Failing Grade, FCC Says

It’s been in several news sources, but I think ArsTechnica does the best job of discussing the issue.  The short of it is that thousands of people are still without access to broadband in the US.  The most interesting thing for me is that, when you get down to it, this is all a geography question.  The initial report from 1999 basically listed a county as having access if a single person had access.  The new method says that 1% of the population in the county has to have access to count, which is still a fairly loose metric.  However, even that one change made the report conclude the US is failing compared to even a decade ago.  Not this concerns access, not subscription, which is a critique some on the FCC have made about the report.  In addition to the geographic change, the FCC bumped up the standards that are now considered “broadband” (a welcome and long needed change, in my opinion).  That also is not without controversy from critics.  What I find oddly lacking in the reports I’m reading about the FCCs conclusion is a comparative international component.  The fact of the matter is that when the US is compared with most other industrialized countries, access, speed, cost per megabit, and adoption are sorely lacking.  Perhaps that should be factored into evaluating the US’s success in broadband deployment (or perhaps it shouldn’t – please discuss in the comments if you’re itching to give an opinion!)

Photos from this year’s ESRI UC!

I just got a new camera for the UC and I took a boatload of pictures.  Like most people with too powerful a camera pared with tool lightweight a skillset (GIS people can relate to this), most of my product was junk.  However a few interesting pictures did make it through the trash heap into the realm of tolerable.  Check out my photo stream on Flickr to see the dozen or so that were worth salvaging!

Frank and Jesse kick it at the GeoLounge

ESRI User Conference Plenary – LIVE BLOG!

Plenary Live Blog

Welcome to the 2010 Plenary Live blog!  The show is just starting.  Kudos to ESRI for this year’s bloggers station.  I totally dig the two table thing.  Lots of room to get around and get the job done.  The opening music is a tune I’ve not heard from Macy Gray (I think).  Kinda dig it.

Jack’s on the stage.  It’s the 30th anniversary UC and the largest show they’ve had.  He just welcomed us and said we’re from all planets.  Jesse and our’s jig is up!  Just kidding.  He talking about learning from friends, which I think is going to bring out the VGI stuff pretty heavy this morning, I’m betting.  First up is the meet and greet part, where we’re supposed to introduce ourselves to each other.  That shows the only downside to the new table setup – the only person I can reasonably meet is Barb!

Continue reading “ESRI User Conference Plenary – LIVE BLOG!”

Light Bulbs to Get New Labels

The FTC is mandating that in 2011, light bulbs get new labels that emphasis luminosity more so that watts.  If you take a look at the labels shown at the link, it features quit a bit of new information to help buyers determine the best bulb for their needs.  The emphasis on lumens over watts is a good change, as it’s the actual measure of light instead of energy usage.  I personally like the “average yearly cost in electricity” of the bulbs.  From the example, I’m not sure $7.23 for a incandescent bulb will hurt many people’s wallet, but think how many light bulbs you have in your house.  The total can become a healthy chunk of change each month!

Mobile Phones Collecting Location Information About Customers

Assuming you don’t live in a metal box that’s trapped under a heavy rock buried far, far into the Earth’s surface, you should be aware Apple is launching a new phone in the next day or so.  Part of that is the role out of a new iPhone OS – OS 4.  It’s available for most of the current iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch devices already and can be downloaded as of… well, now.  However, what you might not be aware is if you install the OS, you’re agreeing to allow Apple to collect anonymous location information about you.  The information is supposed to be used to help make their location services better, as well as to sell to location providers to do the same.  The information is collected in near real-time and there’s literally no way to opt out (other than the obvious opt out of not using one).  Think you’re safe with Android?  Think again. Google has been collection location information (sometimes not so anonymously because it includes your phone number) for a long time.

To me, this represents one of the great potential downsides to the mobile phone market.  There’s a lot of value in information about you and companies will most likely be fairly aggressive to collect the information.  There isn’t really a functional way to opt out of these systems without grossly crippling your phone.  We hope that phone carriers and phone manufacturers use this information responsibly and protect the rights of their customers.  Unfortunately there’s a long history of corporations NOT being so responsible with customer information, despite intentions to the contrary.  For me, the take away from this change in the iPhone’s terms of service is that we, as consumers, need to more aware of the value of our information, and take as many steps as possible to protect that information.  That being said, if I had AT&T, I would be second in line (behind Jesse, most likely) to grab the new iPhone.  So it’s hard to practice what I preach at the end of the day.