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October 11 2011

Four short links: 11 October 2011

  1. Personal Best (New Yorker) -- excellent Atul Gawande column on coaching which has me wondering how to open up different aspects of my life to improvement. Interesting to me because, behind every continuous- or self-improvement technique are the questions: "do you want to get better?" and "if so, how far will you go in pursuit of that goal?".
  2. CyberTracker -- tool for non-profits tracking things in the real world. Used around the world for ecology, disaster recovery, even crime-fighting. Brings geospatial data capture and analytics to environmental orgs who otherwise could never afford it.
  3. Eye-Tracking in Painting Restoration -- The consequence of the different gaze pattern is that when asked to describe the content of the painting, viewers of the unreconstructed version did not realise it was a painting of an erupting volcano. The painting had lost its meaning and viewers could not view it as originally intended by Martin. (via Ed Yong)
  4. The Era of Objects (PDF) -- a collection of essays around the future of networked objects, from a Blowup event on that topic. Writings from Bruce Sterling, Julian Bleecker, and others.

January 27 2011

Social data and geospatial mapping join the crises response toolset

A new online application from geospatial mapping giant ESRI applies trend analysis to help responders to Australia's recent floods create relevance and context from social media reporting. A screenshot of the Australian flood trends map is embedded below:

This web app shows how crowdsourced social intelligence provided by Ushahidi enables emergency social data to be integrated into crisis response in a meaningful way.

The combination of Ushahidi and ESRI in Australia shows that "formal and innovative approaches to information collection and analysis during disasters is possible," said Patrick Meier, "and that there is an interface that can be crafted between official and non-official responses." Meier is a research fellow at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and director of crisis mapping at Ushahidi and was reached via email.

The Australian flooding web app includes the ability to toggle layers from OpenStreetMap, satellite imagery, topography, and filter by time or report type. By adding structured social data, the web app provides geospatial information system (GIS) operators with valuable situational awareness that goes beyond standard reporting, including the locations of property damage, roads affected, hazards, evacuations and power outages.

Russ Johnson, ESRI's global director for emergency response, recently spoke with me at the ESRI federal user conference in Washington, D.C. Johnson spent 32 years as a federal employee in southern California, predominantly working in the U.S. Forest Service. He was one of the pioneers who built up the FEMA incident response system, and he commanded one of the 18 teams around the nation that deploy assets in the wake of floods, fires and other disasters. At ESRI, Johnson helps the company understand the workflow and relevance of GIS for first-response operations.

Our full interview is contained in the following video. Excerpts are noted below.

What happened in Australia with ESRI and Ushahidi?

"This was the first time that a major media group used Ushahidi and its media reach to crowdsource reports from the disaster affected population," said Meier. "The combination of crowdsourced reporting with official reporting is noteworthy. And the fact that all of Ushahidi's services were used simultaneously in Queensland is a first."

Johnson hailed Ushahidi for its value as a platform for creating more "boundaried data" from the crisis data circulated around a given event. When better filters have been applied to social data, tagging or filtering, there's an opportunity to add it to GIS. "The web app allows the user to start toggling on social media of a specific variety and then turn on GIS to add hotspotting information," said Johnson. "Based upon that filter, which can be added to the validity of certain information, you can start to see needed resources."

It's similar to leading edge experiments with putting loosely bounded social data into structured forms to make it more actionable, said Johnson. "It makes it all more trustworthy — or at least your confidence is higher. We're all trying to figure out how to take this gift and use it to become more effective and intelligent. The area I work in — mapping and geography — immediately provides context. If we can refine that context, it can lead us to other capabilities. If we know where other responders are located, can we direct closest available resource to the highest need problems."

August 19 2010

July 12 2010

Four short links: 12 July 2010

  1. Shogun: A Large Scale Machine Learning Toolbox -- open source (GPL v3), C++ with interfaces to MatLab, R, Octave, and Python. Emphasis for this toolkit is on SVM and "large scale kernel methods".
  2. The Agnostic Cartographer (Washington Monthly) -- land and sea are easy to measure compared to the trouble you get into when you put names on them. The end of the colonial period, hastened by World War II, ushered in a broad crisis in geographical data collection. “The modern era collapsed under its own weight,” says Michael Frank Goodchild, a British American geographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “By the 1970s it was apparent that it was no longer going to be sustainable to have a world in which national governments sustained geographic information.”
  3. Niu Personalized Newspaper to Launch -- sign up, select news sources, and every day you get a personalized 24-page print newspaper on your doorstep. They're not attached to print, but print is the delivery mechanism their customers preferred.
  4. Ambient Devices -- amazing lineup of products that ambiently reflect data (mostly weather). I love the umbrella whose handle glows if you should take it today. (via data4all on Twitter)

April 22 2010

Four short links: 22 April 2010

  1. Whitehouse Released Open Source Code -- four modules for Drupal with features the White House needed, including integration with the Akamai CDN.
  2. Android on iPhone -- it's like constructing an apartment building out of lasagne: an astonishing feat of engineering, even if it's not ultimately useful for anything. (via waxy)
  3. A Practical Guide to Geostatistical Mapping -- covers R, SAGA, Google Earth, and other tools. (via Flowing Data)
  4. Open Data Saves Canada $3.2B -- interesting case of charities fraud, where official institutions were slow to respond but opening the data that revealed the fraud prompted action. Notable to me because the investigators as outsiders didn't have power but the data gave power to the rest of the industry, who had a stake in making sure the fraud was fixed.

February 19 2010

Four short links: 19 February 2010

  1. How to Seasonally Adjust Data -- Most statisticians, economists and government agencies that report data use a method called the X12 procedure to adjust data for seasonal patterns. The X12 procedure and its predecessor X11, which is still widely used, were developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. When applied to a data series, the X12 process first estimates effects that occur in the same month every year with similar magnitude and direction. These estimates are the “seasonal” components of the data series. (via bengebre on Delicious)
  2. Vodafone Chief: Mobile Groups Should Be Able to Bypass Google (Guardian) -- Vodafone and other telcos want to charge both ends, to charge not just the person with a monthly mobile data subscription but also the companies with whom that person communicates. It's double-dipping and offensively short-sighted. Vodafone apparently wants to stripmine all the value their product creates. This is not shearing the sheep, this is a recipe for lamb in mint sauce.
  3. Open Data is Not A Panacea, But It Is A Start -- The reality is that releasing the data is a small step in a long walk that will take many years to see any significant value. Sure there will be quick wins along the way - picking on MP’s expenses is easy. But to build something sustainable, some series of things that serve millions of people directly, will not happen overnight. And the reality, as Tom Loosemore pointed out at the London Data Store launch, it won’t be a sole developer who ultimately brings it to fruition. (via sebchan on Twitter)
  4. Our GeoDjango EC2 Image for News Apps -- Chicago Tribune releasing an Amazon EC2 image of the base toolchain they use. Very good to see participation and contribution from organisations historically seen as pure consumers of technology. All business are becoming technology-driven businesses, realising the old mindset of "leave the tech to those who do it best" isn't compatible with being a leader in your industry.

December 15 2009

Four short links: 15 December 2009

  1. Opticks -- Opticks is an expandable remote sensing and imagery analysis software platform that is free and open source. Hugely extensible system. (via geowanking)
  2. Best Buy, Samsung, And Westinghouse Named In SFLC Suit Today (Linux Weekly News) -- the Software Freedom Law Center is suing them for selling GPL-derived products without offering the source. They've been unresponsive when contacted outside the legal system.
  3. Twitter Helps Reunite Owner with Camera -- Kiwi blogger saw camera fall from car in front of him, posted a picture from the camera to his blog and asked "anyone recognize someone from this picture?". How long do you think it took to get a hit? I love that New Zealand is a village with a seat at the UN.
  4. R vs The Internet -- seminar held in New Zealand about the effects of the online world on law, including matters of suppression and contempt. See session notes from TechLiberty and video of the sessions from R2.

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