Urbagrams – Mapping the social city

In order to investigate the idea of a social archipelago, the notion that our cities are “fragmented islands of social activity separated by large areas dedicated to commercial workplaces, flows of vehicles, residential sprawl or industrial sites.” Anil Bawa Cavia analyzed more than a million Foursquare check-ins in a number of cities and mapped those data as points to create a series of social activity density maps, which he calls urbagrams. By looking at the resulting maps for cities such as New York, Paris, and London, we can get a picture of the spatial distribution of social activity through Foursquare, and see where social activity is clustered and how the patterns differ from city to city.

Via Gizmodo

Wedding Geography

Several crafty types have created homemade moving compass wedding invitations for their weddings including a heirloom quality one made of recycled chip board, a super fun interactive one posted on Crafster with a great compass related poem, and some artistic hand drawn maps and compass invitations by Pier Gustafson. On the basic logistics side, many wedding sites are offering free wedding mapper tools to create wedding directions on-line or to insert into invitations such as a cute one from WeddingMapper, MapIcons which lets your replace standard Google icons with wedding related ones, and custom wedding maps by Natalie Michelle on Etsy. Of course there are a number of GIS people who have proposed spatially including Cathy & Brian’s heart shaped Finger Lakes, Leslie and Michael’s Street View proposal, and Derek & Kristen’s Garmand GPS proposal. I don’t personally know any of these people but congratulate them and offer my own compass related quote, “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery”.

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!)

Don’t Go North, It Will Take Longer!

Or so people believe, studies show.  Wired News is reporting a couple of experimental studies that suggest people think “North” is a harder route to travel than “South”, even when moving in a fairly localized area.  The perception, apparently, is that North is uphill and South is downhill.  On trips to North Carolina, when I was a boy, my father would joke the trip back would take longer because it’s uphill all the way.  Apparently, his joke was more indicative of people’s perceptions than he knew.  Both of these studies use experimental situations.  It would be interesting to take real world travel information and see if people moving around in the real world actually behave the way the experiments suggest.  If you ask me, this says more about geography and spatial knowledge in the US than anything else.  It shows we need more spatial education!

The Biggest Game Worlds

Years and years ago, Jesse, Sue, and I had a discussion about the size of game worlds.  The image represents a pretty impressive rundown of the sizes of various current games.  I was impressed at some of the sizes and had no idea some were that large!

Jesse update: There was a question of the source of Frank’s image…some of the folks talking about it are over at Reddit and over on CrunchGear. On a tangent, the question of virtual geographies continues to pop-up in various pop culture locations. Some of my favorites are the sci-fi geographies they often highlight over at io9.

First US Offshore Windfarm

Anyone who talks to me about energy will quickly learn I’m a HUGE fan of offshore wind energy.  So this news item in the New York Times caught my eye pretty quick – regulators have approved the US’s first offshore windfarm.  As the opponents point out in the article, this is just one of several hurdles that have to be overcome before it becomes reality, but it’s a pretty big one.  Several other countries have experimented with this stuff with pretty good successes, so I have a lot of high hopes for US versions.

On a side note, has anyone ever wondered why windmills have three arms?  Turns out there’s a good engineering reason behind it all.  Slate has a good article talking about the engineering benefits of various designs.  The basic punchline is that three blades have the optimal energy output, environmental impact, and manufacturing costs we seek in a good windmill.  If manufacturing costs decrease with better processes, two blade systems might make more sense.

Global cost of data

I have three different web server accounts now-a-days, whittled down significantly over time once I found a provider I was happy with that supported multiple domains (I am afraid to even count the number of domains I have sitting doing nothing but representing an idea). The multidomain provider is in the UK. Then I have two accounts with another provider where my original account with them is in China and the newer account is in their US data center. Earlier this week I received an email from the China/US provider suggesting that I switch the site I have on their server in China to their US center. I was a bit shocked since I have tried to make that very move before and their were more hoops to jump through than I was willing to go through, now happily it is a single click on my administrator account page.

The change in heart? It was actually (as to be expected) a change in their wallet. Apparently through a number of factors their costs for bandwidth in Asia have skyrocketed to the point where they claim that it costs them 10 times as much now per megabit of traffic. Looking at this from a global market perspective it isn’t too surprising with the dollar not exactly strong. Locally (without any research, just a broad trends statement) it looks like the increasing internet market in China is putting pressure on resources and infrastructure…aka supply is probably being outstripped by demand.

While it is only a small indicator of what is probably a number of processes at work, it is an interesting blip to pop up on my radar. Does anyone have hard statistics or numbers for the cost of bandwidth in China? After exams are over, I may even look into myself 🙂

Want Google’s Gigabit Network in Your Town?

Looks like you’ll have to get in line with the other 1,100 or so towns that have applied.  Apparently there is a LOT of demand for 1gb fibre network.  The map at the link shows the spatial distribution of the towns that applied.  It shouldn’t be any huge surprise that the coasts seem to have the most interest.  Either way, Google will pick a couple of winning towns by the end of the year.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care if it hits my town, but the odds don’t look particularly great for anyplace.  For me, it shows how much desire we have in the US for faster and cheaper connections speeds m0re than anything else.

Via Engadget

Daylight Savings Time Uses More Energy

If you ask me, this should go into the “duh” file, but I’m glad someone did the numbers to prove it – Daylight Savings Time uses more energy.  Indiana recently changed their laws to require all the counties in the state to adopt DST.  In the past, 15 counties had opted out of the practice.  This change allowed researchers to setup a nice ‘controlled’ human experiment to see if DST actually saves energy.  Turns out, it’s a big fat waste of time.  As an active hater of DST (I don’t like it when everything is suddenly different one day to the next), I hope others verify these results so we can take’em to our legislatures in every state.  Yeah, DST made sense when Franklin first proposed it, but the modern world has pretty much killed it’s usefulness.