The National Archives Blog, Transforming Classification: Blog of the Public Interest Declassification Board recently asked different listservs – ”What records should the US Government prioritize for declassification?” They took suggestions from historians and the public in five categories: older records (25+ years), newer records (less than 25 years old), records relating to nuclear weapons policies (also called “FRD information”), records of general interest, and records from the various US Presidential Libraries. Continue reading
As you shiver in the cold today during what The Weather Channel is predicting could be the coldest winter on record for decades in North America, reflect on the 1780 snowstorm that hit George Washington’s army at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, NJ, now a National Park that commemorates the Continental Army’s winter encampment (December 1779 – June 1780). Here the soldiers survived the tail end of what historians and paleoclimatologists dub, “the little ice age”. Continue reading
On December 26, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson nationalized the U.S railroads from 1917 – 1920 in response to the infrastructure demands of WWI. While it only lasted four years, the nationalization and standardization needed for the war effort led to innovations in railway infrastructure and planning. Railways have always been closely tied with advances in cartography, mapping, and infrastructure.
Once upon a time there was a services division at a company…they liked and saw potential in location. They decided to save some licensing $$ and acquired a data company. After a few years, as hardware moved forward and operating systems changed, there seemed to be a disconnect between the hardware and services divisions of the company. Part of the disconnect was that the services division was keeping the hardware division afloat, or so it seemed to me. Don’t get me wrong, the hardware is top notch (don’t tell Sue, but I have even thought about switching phones a couple of times). However, while the hardware was good, the services are great.
Now the big M has said it will purchase the hardware division (so much to hope for and fear in that one) leaving behind the services division. On the data side of things I think this is a good thing, on the app and services side of things I think this is phenomenal for iOS and Android users. It seems a bit like the Erdas/Leica/Erdas/Intergraph roller coaster in terms of Navteq/Nokia/Here set of transitions, but at the core is the potential, both proven and future, of location technologies. And at the heart of that potential is data, data, data.
When we talked to the folks from Here at the Esri UC (coming in episode 425) you could tell that they are as excited as ever about the data and products they bring to market. Their partnerships with software and hardware companies make it clear that all is well and good for the portion of Nokia that will be left to the name after the hardware division (and a bundle of patents) is claimed by its Redmond overlords. I do question what kind of tomfoolery can go on at the larger corporate level in the next few months as the transition occurs, but the results should be a strong services and data company come the end of the transition period.
(and a true Microsoft phone to boot, given the Surface Pro, this is a good thing…I think)
Intel Labs is sponsoring a national civic hacking event June 1 -2, 2013 in order to solve community challenges using publicly-released data. They are calling it the National Day of Civic Hacking, probably because national day of collaborative software coding sounds like work. The event is supported by 20 government agencies including NASA, U.S. Census Bureau, FEMA, NSF and other offices. The event challenges are place specific and are focused on addressing the local needs of each community. According to the Hackforchange about page people, sponsors,organizations, and city, state, federal, government looking to get involved can attend, contribute data, or promote the event in their community.
The concept was created by the same researchers who started wethedata.org to address grand societal data challenges using open source data. These four topics have often been discussed on VerySpatial in regards to geospatial technologies and neogeography including digital access, digital literacy, digital trust, and openness. However, despite the fact that generally over 75% of local data is geospatial and their specific data is very location heavy, the Civic Hackers identified are engineers, technologists, civil servants, designers, artists…. but no geographers, neogeographers, geospatial analysts, or GIS is mentioned. Maybe everyone from the GIS community should get involved so that next year we all get a shout out.
The Guardian UK online has a media section called, “Data Store: Show and Tell“, which true to its name uses visualizations to tell a story about data. According to The Guardian Data Store team, infographics and data visualization have become the language of the Internet because everyone has access to free tools that make it possible to visualize complex data. In the past few months they have shown, among others, visualizations of Italian election results, Twitter’s languages of New York mapped, and an animation of Britain’s new rail network.
Their recent Show and Tell is about “US Baseball stars immortalized in statue-explore our interactive map” that shows how The Sporting Statues Project at the University of Sheffield mapped every baseball statue in North America. The mission of the Sporting Statues Project is to record and research statues of sportsmen and women around the world. To date they have collected information on over 600 statues; 249 of them U.S. baseball statues. The interesting part of their website is not just the maps and data, but also that the project itself grew out of a “labour of love”. Like many GIS mapping database projects, the data was collected and mapped by people who have an interest in the topic, the geospatial skills to map it, and the desire to share that data with other interested users. They were able to use maps, posters, conference papers, and their website to show that what they were doing was about more than just a physical statue and points on a map, but connected to world history and current events.
The Data Store team mention a disclaimer several times that “Google have paid to sponsor this page but all editorial is overseen and controlled by the Guardian Datastore team.” Google and The Guardian Datastore have a close relationship. In 2012, they hosted a live Q&A debate event focusing on the role data has to play in policy making and transparency around international development and foreign aid. Google has sponsored other journalism events, including journalism skills conferences to educate the next generation of digital journalists.
A BBC article, “Pretty Pictures: Can Images Stop Data Overload?” by business reporter, Fiona Graham, supports what many geospatial researchers have argued about the many reasons for business to use GIS and visual images. A neuroscience and psychology lecturer at Brunel University found using images help the brain process large amounts of data because they can use and retain the information more efficiently. They use David McCandless’s Information is Beautiful website as an example of data visualisation.
One thought that the article raises is the abscence of any spatial vocubulary even though data visualization leans heavily towards geospatial patterns, analysis, and mapping. GIS and other geo-spatial techniques remain an invisible step in the process between data and visual outcome or “pretty pictures”. Finding support for the use of images in the business world might be step towards raising awareness of the diverse applicability of GIS and geo-visualization.
The World Bank has announced it will be joining the open data movement as of July 1st. All of its research and associated data will be found on a portal called the Open Knowledge Repository. Right now the repository holds a couple thousand of their book and publications for free download. By July 1st, the data is supposed to show up as well. There’s no word if any of the data will be specifically geospatial, but as we all know, it is pretty easy to take spreadsheet data and import it. The World Bank has had a fairly controversial history. Hopefully the movement toward open data will allow more eyes on their activity, whether it’s to critique or support.
The US Census Bureau has released county to county migration for the 2005-2009 period. The data shows how people are moving around the US between counties. I was rather surprised to find out that only a bit over 1/3 of people who moved went to a whole new county. I would have guessed more than that. Maricopa County Arizona seems to have a lot of action going on. The received people from nearly 1,000 different counties around the US, but they also sent people to over 1,100 counties around the US. The realtors there must get a LOT of traffic. If you’d like to see the migration patterns for any particular county or even any particular state, you can download the excel spreadsheets yourself from this site.
New York City has just implemented an open government data law that is now in effect. The Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications will post standards and then existing data will be converted over the next year to comply with those standards. Within 18 months, all departments must have a compliance plan in place and all data must be open by 2018 in a common portal. We’ve talked a lot about federal data portals and a bit about city portals on the blog and podcast, but it’s interesting to hear local governments joining the movement. Open data standards are increasingly important for transparent governments, but they do create technical challenges for agencies and even industries. A lot of geospatial data is collected with proprietary license restrictions that are complicated by these open data laws. Furthermore, there can even be debate about what is ‘open’ when talking about data formats. Is Microsoft Office .docx format ‘open’? It’s based upon XML, which is freely readable and adaptable, but it’s a semi-proprietary version. It’s neither fish nor fowl, as the saying goes. Open data formats even raise questions about privacy and confidentiality. If the technical format is well documented, what’s to keep me from deconstructing a file to get private information even if its encrypted or protected?
All of this is not to say I think open data laws are bad, just that they should be well debated and thought out. I’m personally encouraged by the adoption of open data laws, particularly in large city like New York.