Taarifa was announced in various mediums as being a winner of the sanitation hackathon. To this end two Taarifans are currently representing all Taarifans in Washington DC and San Francisco. More will come from this, I’m sure. However, all of the projects of the sanitation hackathon should be given the same pedestal and treatment.
The number of projects and energy that the sanitation hackathon generated should not be lost, and energised by the constant support and coverage;“The event featured nearly 1000 registered hackers at ten locations worldwide who developed some 62 new prototypes.” – Sanitation Hackathon Site
While this moment is still in the here and now we should all move forward, collaborating, instead of competing. From this solve the technical challenges within the sanitation issues which we face. Undoubtedly, it is a naïve and deterministic proposition to suggest that technology will solve the world’s problems. However, events like the sanitation hackathon have demonstrated that technologists from all walks of life can work together. Building a social side to these systems is a bigger problem than the technological ones, prizes and recognition aren’t replacements and should not be considered replacements for this. The hard work starts now.
Written and submitted in the Hotel Kilimanjaro, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.81669, 39.293198)
On the 3rd to the 5th of April I attended GISRUK (Geospatial Information Research in the United Kingdom) to give a paper on Community Mapping as a Socio-Technical Work Domain. In keeping with Christoph Kinkeldey‘s love of 1990s pop stars Vanilla Ice made a second slide appearance, leveraging the fact it’s a very technical academic title. In short I’m using Cognitive Work Analysis (CWA) to create a structural framework to assess the quality (currently defined by ISO 19113:Geographic Quality Principles – well worth a read…) where there is no comparative dataset.
CWA is used to assess the design space in which a system exists, not the system itself. In taking a holistic view and not enforcing constraints on the system you can understand what components and physical objects you would need to achieve the values of the system and vice-versa. In future iterations I’m going to get past first base and look at decision trees and strategic trees to work out how to establish the quality of volunteered geographic data without a comparative dataset. Building quality analysis into day one, as opposed to being an after thought.
Written and submitted from Home (52.962339,-1.173566)
Last year I attended the H4D2 (Humanitarian for Disaster 2.o) organised by (and at) Aston University and Geeks Without Bounds. One of the outputs that I worked on was the HXL Extractor. Basically take data out of GeoSPARQL, a geospatial semantic database and fire it into a GIS program. One of the team members had already been experimenting with and semantic databases and triplestores (this was most definitely a good thing, allowing us to move quickly) so our ‘mission’ was to create a middle layer to connect to a triplestore, then using the WFS-T standard to fire the extracted data into a GIS program of your choice. Interestingly the ‘project lead’ was communicating with us from Geneva via Skype, this and the prior work bellies the need for clear and concise problem statements prior to the hack. Because some of the team had been able to think about what they had to do we’d been able to work more effectively, even while learning technologies on the fly.
Going to the International Conference for Crisis Mapping Hackathon in Washington a few months later, HXL was still going strong and I got to meet the instigator of the project CJ Hendrix face to face. He’d amassed a team which went on to rightly take first prize at ICCM, now its being used by by UNOCHA with papers forthcoming. The project is growing, as evidenced by the amount of work going on in the team repository. Understandably our small team in Birmingham just did a little bit, but every little bit, helps.
Now H4D2 is coming around again on April 12th – 14th. This will then be followed up by SMERST (Social Media and Semantic Technologies in Emergency Response) a more academic focused conference on April 15th – 16th. Most importantly, you didn’t need to code to contribute, all are welcome from designers, videographers, bloggers, journalists and you! Registration for the H4D2 is open and is again at Aston University in Birmingham. Register here: http://h4d2.eu/registration. It’s going to rock.
Written and submitted from the Serena, Dar Es Salaam (6.810617, 39.288284)
I recently had a whistle stop tour of Asia, from Hong Kong to Indonesia, finally to Kuala Lumpur. The flight to Kuala Lumpur was great, 12 hours working solidly, had room, great meal, service the works. Cathay Pacific were kind enough to upgrade me to Hong Kong. Drinking champagne into Hong Kong and what followed over the next three days of Chinese New Year will stay will me for the rest of my life. However, this blog post isn’t about that. It’s about my excruciating 14 hours of torture that Malaysian Airlines passed as “Malaysian Hospitality” from Kuala Lumpur to London.
A few hours after online check-in ‘opened’ I tried to reserve my seat. The online system just wouldn’t take me past a screen. No error message, upon clicking ‘next’ nothing would happen. Reload/relogin and the same thing. This resolved itself at 0645, where the √knack all, was available.
After a very speedy trip from downtown KL to Kuala Lumpur International, the first signs at check-in were dire. Using the business check-in desks (Sapphire status from Oneworld Alliance – consequence of flying BA a lot) I got the boarding card for the flight and apparently checked in my bags. Although as I was leaving, I hadn’t received a baggage tag and the airline assistant hadn’t apparently noticed the 20kg of Samsonite I’d lugged onto the conveyor belt.
I’d requested a seat with leg room or an aisle seat (I’m 6’6″/2 metres tall), however, they told me to speak to ticketing in the terminal. Upon entering security I asked for the same thing. I was informed that it would cost 7500 ringit (about £1500) for a better, business class seat. One of the things I’ve discovered since getting a mortgage, is that paying that sort of money for a seat upgrade isn’t probably not as needed as paying the mortgage. However, I was informed that the gate staff could be able to do something. They passed the buck onto the hosts and hostesses on the plane. Funnily enough they couldn’t do anything either.
The issue with them not being able to do this, was that they were too polite about it. A very nice hostess explained that the seating arrangement and legroom arrangement was designed for ‘asian passengers’. Ok fine. However what about Yao Ming.Potentially people from the Asia may be generally less tall, however Malaysian Airlines, you’re a global airline. Be ready for people over 6 foot to travel with you.
With a seat acquired and legs having slight movement issue, I shrugged them off and went into the normal flight routine; headphones, Economist and music playlists abound. Generally I smile and nod when someone sits next to me, cursory ‘hello’ and try to stay in my ‘zone’. I’d planned to add to the thesis over the flight, so being relaxed was an idea. The plane filled up and the safety announcement started to play. Then the piercing shrieks shattered through my eardrums.
I had two babies either side, two behind, joined a very young infant. As I looked around the mother with baby commented “You’re the unluckiest man on this plane”. Unsure if this was true, but it felt like it. Taking off the bassinets were affixed in front. The legroom became non-existent and it was impossible to move the movie screen. Slightly claustrophobic, it was very hard to move without knocking a baby trying to sleep, or person looking after said baby.
Getting the laptop out to work was difficult, but just possible, with the screen at an oblique angle. I started to tap away. With ‘The Thieves‘ (brilliant film!) on the screen the background noise was about manageable. Towards the end of the film, the sound of gunshots and diamond heist(ing) was broken by a chorus of unhappy baby. One started crying, then the other. Then all of them in succession. This continued for 4 hours. Nothing worked. Rammstein, Beethoven, Top Gear, Shantaram. You name it, I tried it. I asked the attendant if there was anything they could do, apparently there wasn’t. I tried to leave it an hour, fatigue was seriously setting in. Getting four hours sleep doesn’t bode well for a flight. The crying made sleep impossible, watching a film was hard – the noise just stresses, making it near impossible to concentrate.
Impossible to move, impossible to relax, being on your nerves wanting to sleep. It wasn’t a happy place. I requested to see the cabin services director, only to be told that he was resting. I sat on the stairs at the back for 3o minutes. After this shaved and washed, in an attempt to relax. Within 10 minutes of sitting back into the chair, the chorus was back, the situation was untenable. I requested for sleeping tablets, the best they had was Panadol. Was severely feeling let down by Malaysian at this point. Especially when the father of said child had been assigned another seat, from the overheard conversation between him and his partner, at his request, specifically for him to get some rest on the plane. Seriously Malaysian Airways, don’t let this happen again. Don’t inflict other’s spawn on others, inflict it on them.
The Cabin Services Director arrived shortly after. I was informed there was an aisle seat available and I could sit in it, surprisingly it has worse legroom, I didn’t care, it was vaguely quiet. However, this occurred six to seven hours after being on flight. Half way through one of the longest flights in the world. Why did it take so long? Why aren’t families assigned seats together? Why aren’t people with Oneworld status given priority on seats – this raises the question why should I fly with you if you don’t honour your status levels?
These questions have ruminated in my mind since. I hope that Malaysian Airlines can answer them. Otherwise British Airways and Oneworld more generally will need to clarify them. Genuinely I love the experience that BA provides (the reason I’m in Oneworld), code sharing is annoying, fine. However an experience like this has severely shook the sheen that flying with the Oneworld network and the value of the ‘status’ they’ve given me. This based off an earlier experience with American Airlines (another Oneworld partner). I hope they’ll answer them soon. Otherwise, it becomes a toss up between Skyteam and Star Alliance.
Written and submitted from Home.
Kate Chapman and I initiated the first community feedback session, timed for the Asia timezones. However, we had participants from across the timezones.
- Wanted: Cartography in OSGEO in consensus for a workshop, potentially using D3.js and CartoDB
- Wanted: “The best way of deploying MBTiles”
- Wanted: Food security and running a data driven election campaign
Issues with equipment and bandwidth this meant a true conversation was, IMO, hard to get started in a forum. We switched to text soon after it was started. However, the feedback was valuable to further scope what the community-at-large would like to see at FOSS4G in 2013.
Written and submitted from Taman Rasuna Complex, Jakarta, Indonesia (6.219665,106.837202)
Workshops and code sprints are an integral part of the FOSS4G conference. It’s an opportunity for those with awesome projects from a community, technological or novelty perspective to showcase exemplar projects and demonstrate the cutting edge of geo.
Our theme is “Geo For All”. Accordingly there are many opportunities and ways to develop the workshops and code sprints. March 4th is the deadline for workshops submission. Over the next month we will be holding Google Hangouts, not just in GMT but for those in other timezones, from the west and east of the Americas to the Far East and Africa. We are actively seeking participation from all members of the OSGeo community; old hands as well as new ones. This is an opportunity to contribute and shape the type of workshops and code sprints that, you, the OSGeo community would like to see at this year’s FOSS4G in Nottingham.
We’d also like to hold a hackathon, building along the lines previous hackathons like RHoK, Sanitation Hackathon and Angel Hack, to support truly open source geospatial projects.
What we’ll need;
- Problem Statements
Europe and Africa: To Be Confirmed W/C 18th of February GMT | EAT |
Asia: WIB: Thursday 14th of February: WIB: 1300 | CST: 1400 | JST: 1500 with Mark Iliffe and Kate Chapman
The Americas: Wednesday 20th February GMT: 20:00 | EST: 15:00 | PST: 12:00 with Matt Walker and Jo Cook
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Written and submitted from (22.287759,114.147477) Queens Terrace Tower 2, Des Voeux Road West, Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China.
WhereCampEU this year, rather earlier than normal, was in the Eternal City of Rome, Italy. After the threatening of Snowmeggeddon in the UK, a jaunt to Italy was a welcome respite. An action packed unconference timetable started with a presentation on Taarifa by myself. This was a follow on presentation from W3G but focusing on the characteristics of developing technology; needing to know the users and how they’ll use the ‘solution’. Developing solutions to first world problems then applying in the developing world isn’t useful and is dangerous, however, is the method de jure in some organisations.
A presentation on how the World Food Program uses the OpenDataKit, for collecting information in South Sudan followed. It would have been interesting to have heard more about the rationale and why they were using what they were using. The use-case was a take picture, see what is about, the intelligence that they sought to gather. However, the presenter didn’t stay around, so if anyone in the geo-sphere knows, please get in touch!
CartoDB was given a live demonstration. We’re quickly moving past the desktop for GIS and spatial analysis and into the cloud. I’d like to know how these cloud based GIS services compare with ESRIs and MapBox’s offerings. It’s a brave new world!
Michael Gould‘s 37 things you didn’t know about ESRI was a passionate talk about ESRI from its inception to the present day. A leviathan in the GIS space, the culture is seemingly anything but corporate America. In the examples mentioned the social conscious dominates decisions; from the positing of boulders on the ESRI campus to the acquisition of new companies.
A Taarifa breakout design session occurred with a special guest appearance from a snow-bound London. But more on this in a later blog post.
The day ended with an OSM Q&A by myself and Shaun McDonald turned into a wide ranging discussion about the OSM project and the challenges within. Getting new contributors to keep contributing was one point of discussion as was the need for improved internationalisation and languages.
An evening of Pizza, Dolcé and Grappa followed. The night ended in a spectacular deli/bistro/bar known only to locals and lost where campers. Bottles of Chanti and Prosecco were enjoyed and toasts made.
Standing out the following day was Laurence Penny‘s updated 1-D Maps . It’s never the same things, constantly reinventing itself with from the acquisitions and collection held by Laurence. Going from Doom, the Mille Miglia to Roman Era Road Routing with a detour around the metros and undergrounds. It was 2 hours long. Words fail to describe the brilliance that emanates from the presentation. I really look forward to seeing it in an updated form.
A certain Henk Hoff of the OSM Foundation, brought proceedings to a close on a wide ranging discussion on the foundation, how it functions and operates. The day and conferenced ended over pizza, chianti and sambucca. Just the way things should end!
Written and submitted on the Rome to Milan Eurostar (having just gone through Bologna!)
After the Sanitation Hackathon one of the key lessons learnt was that the coders had scant knowledge of source code repositories. Learning how to checkout, commit and merge are skills that weren’t covered in detail during my own time at university, but were very valuable once hitting the world. In Dar code was shared through USB pens, version control was through separate folders, if at all. Kinu and TanzICT (two great technology incubators) invited me to stick on a developer hat and do a code repository Mobile Monday workshop - MoMo is about fostering cooperation and innovation between developers globally.
Github in my opinion is the best repository on the internet because of the awesome tools, cost for open source projects (free!) and using Git as the entry point. Also the documentation, is thorough with step by step guides taking you from being a novice to a git ninja.
The workshop was divided into two sections with a break in the middle. In the first section a straw poll was conducted to get an idea of the operating systems in the room. It was about 2/3 Windows to 1/3 Linux. This was followed by an introduction to source code management and a conceptual overview of the process of committing and pulling code. Everyone started to download the appropriate software to their computer and install the .NET framework! Break time.
Coming back after learning some new things about the attendees (like ice cream and favourite drinks) we started to go through the git lifecycle. We followed the help.github.com notes to setup and created a repository called “Kinutest” to get social and collaborate. After starting with the basics of committing and pulling, collaboratively code started to get generated. Issues were encountered with merging branches. This kicked off a discussion on merging using Nvie’s model for development. After 3 hours of frantic work and many learning experiences we ended up with some collaborately written README.md files and two PHP files!
Obviously this is only the start of the process. Going really deep into Git is something that can’t be covered in 3-4 hour session, it’s always a constantly evolving and learning process. The crowd were excellent, however at times they would just use their exuberance and charge on ahead. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, however can be challenging on trying to keep the entire group together on a task. But hopefully provides an introduction into code repositories. Did someone mention unit testing…?
Written and submitted from KINU Innovation Space, Dar Es Salaam (-6.77802,39.26721)
The format for the judging was adjusted slightly from the traditional ‘present to everyone’ approach. We set up in away from the main hackspace, where presentation groups presented to the judging panel composed of luminaries from the technology and sanitation sectors. In no particular order;
Jon Gore is the managing director of E-Fulusi a boutique mobile and software development company working in Dar Es Salaam.
Elias Chinamo is an assistant director of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Jason Cardosi is the country lead for the Water and Sanitation Program.
Jones Mrusha is one of the founders of the KINU innovation hub.
Gary Gale is the Director of Places at Nokia.
More to follow on the presentation of the hacks and results!
Written and posted from the Sanitation Hackathon, COSTECH, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.77457, 39.24125)
The sun set, the heat rose, the hacking continued. Teams stayed until 0200 blazing trails into their respective code bases. Here is a short summary of the state of play;
Open Defecation Reporting refined their problem statement, going indepth for pretty much all of the first day. Now they’ve started developing a USSD reporting application. They’ve worked through issues of how to geolocate a USSD signal and how to derive coarse location by village. In their design they’ve looked at how to go from a open defecation area to an open defecation free area.
Electronic Performance and Monitoring had a look at various platforms from Ushahidi to Taarifa and a few other monitoring platforms. They were put in touch with the various software communities development teams and started to test the applicability of the platforms in solving the presented problem.
iWash and Behavioural Messaging refined their problem statement, starting with a Sample Behavior Messaging Content. From here the group looked at various SMS providers, building a platform for the dissemination of this information using a rules based approach. Here an issue needs to be resolved; money for paying for APIs. One of the issues was that they used their free credit for trying the API and now need a credit card to continue using the service.
Written and posted from the Sanitation Hackathon, COSTECH, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.77457, 39.24125)
The sun has risen and hacking has begun! Flickr and Twitter hashtags are #bongosafi. We started off with the usual introductions from problem statement owners and ministry officials. Got a bit of a shake on by loosening up people and getting the hackers to communicate.
Now we’ve just started the grind. Design work is under way, numerous flip charts are being used. The aim will be to catalog as much of this as we can. From this start developing the sanitation problems ailing 2.5 billion people globally. This starts now!
Written and posted from the Sanitation Hackathon, COSTECH, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.77457, 39.24125)
I’ve been involved with open source software for a bit of time now as well as the odd random hack in various hackathons. I believe in open source as a paradigm because it allows for spontaneous cooperation and collaboration. However, being open isn’t just a state of mind. The business case stands up. When companies go under, the software, as an asset ceases to be developed. In open source when a community ceases development (for whatever reason) it can be picked up by another person, group etc. Because of this it’s important for the development and design process to be open and clear for outsiders, this lends itself to more collaboration and the community can grow itself.
The obverse of this is closed open source development, but where organisations profess to be open source. This blog post was formed due to a comment about developing an app (which already exists, but never mind – reinvention of the wheel seems the flavor de jour currently) and inviting someone to partake in the closed process. Just because your source code is available doesn’t mean that your project is open source. Listening to your community adds breath to your decision making, avoiding technological masturbatory projects and ultimately that leads to a better product. Open source is 10% code, the other 90% is design process, communication, community engagement among many other factors. Releasing your source code and not wishing to listen to a community of developers is just cynical, abhorrent and wrong.
Written and submitted from the Nottingham Geospatial Building (52.953, -1.18405)
I was fortunate to attend and provide a problem statement for the London WaterHackathon in 2011. A year later I’m very fortunate to be an organiser for the next iteration; Sanitation Hackathon. The hackathon will grapple with the global sanitation crisis: 2.5 billion lack access to basic sanitation and 1.5 billion have no sanitation facilities at all. Consequently, those 1.5 billion people defecate in the open.
For me, the WaterHack experience was phenomenal. It was a chance to collaborate with intelligent, innovative and motivated people while working on one of the biggest development challenge; the supply of water. In London the Taarifa team first came together during WaterHack. We designed and built a system that would take reports from either citizens or government and place them in an interface and a workflow for administrators. Once a crowdsourced report came in you needed to action it. We worked well as a team, after the hackathon we stuck together and formed a community. We deployed the platform with the World Bank and other partners in a few countries. At the same time we created the Taarifa Organisation to support the Taarifa project.
Ensuring a legacy from any hackathon is important and the Sanitation Hackathon is no different. Having hackers turn up, write some code and leave isn’t sustainable. Part of the solution is to facilitate communication with other sites. Instead of compteting, open source software is about collaboration. The same applies here. The different sites will communicate with each other, so what happens in Dar Es Salaam isn’t replicated in London and vice-versa.
Another critical piece is ensuring that the right tools and environment are there for the participants. During the hackathon in London and Dar Es Salaam we’ll aim to have server space available for teams to use during the hackathon. This will also mean their hacks (if server side) will be available online. This is so others can see their work and functionality during the event as well as after, potentially getting feedback from problem statement owners, NGOs and Ministries. All the code will be open source and available on Github so more hackers can develop on top of the solutions. Technically for the event we aim to have blisteringly fast internet, a lot of power points with a few spare Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards available for hardware hacking.
Due to the rise of the maker movement and cheap customisable hardware it’s important to stress that a hackathon isn’t just about software, hardware is equally important (An important distinction here is that software in the sanitation sector generally refers to behaviors, but here refers to actual software, such as programs.) The equilibrium between software and hardware has been at play within the IT industry since its inception. The hackathons in London will aim to address the global sanitation challenges, however if we can facilitate the right environment then hopefully the right best) solutions, hardware or software, will result.
Join us physically in London, or at any of the global sites. If you can’t make join us on Facebook or Twitter and get involved!
Written and sent from Kaginge Road, Dar Es Salaam.
I attended and presented at the w3G conference around ‘Geo for when you really need to go’. With the upcoming sanitation hackathon I spoke about how Taarifa and community mapping are being used and can be used for sanitation issues. I’ve been thinking a lot about how aerial imagery could be used to augment community mapping in getting more spatial data. I believe that while mapping roads and facilities are great, we need a better method for monitoring open defecation areas. These areas can grow and shrink rapidly, as such monitoring and identification should be a priority.
I’ve written a problem statement about the subject; “Crowdsourcing open defecation through aerial imagery”. In this I think aerial imagery could be the solution to this problem. The imagery needs to be high resolution with the device collecting cheap, easy to deploy and replace. Ie. a parrot drone.
I’ve discounted weather ballons because of them needing a human who knows how they work, then how best to collect useful data with them. With a drone you should turn it on, press a button or two and it then flies off to collect your data. With the sensors on board it should then reverse geolocate the image, as you’ll know the latitude, longitude, altitude, focal length of the camera and resolution.
To demo this I decided to break Vicchi’s (aka Gary Gale’s) law of conference failures. I flew the drone over the audience at W3G. It didn’t kill or maim, crash or fly into anyones head. Which was better than the last time. As you can see by the videos and pictures, not everyone was convinced it would work!
Video here: http://telly.com/IJ8ET
Written and submitted from British Airways Heathrow Terminal 5 (51.47258,-0.48967)
Phew. Quite a lot of acronyms. So without further ado;
- ICCM – International Crisis Mappers Conference
- RHoK – Random Hacks of Kindness
- DC – Washington DC
- NYC OEM – New York City, Office of Emergency Management
After the Rethinking Cities conference in Barcelona, I was travelling to DC for the conference for Crisis Mapping ICCM. I was hoping for a continuously eye opening conference from the cutting edge. However this wasn’t to be, see here for wider details. Serendipitously I then got pulled into Code for Change event, hacking for the NYC OEM. They wanted something with a workflow and tasking system that would allow citizens to report problems with fallen electricity lines, snow drifts and abandoned cars and the such like. After a short sprint and a great meet with the guys and gals at mWater it was off to DC for ICCM.
Heather Leeson and Willow Burgh were exemplary in getting a bright bunch of hackers together for the hackathon. I was pitching a new API for Taarifa, following REST-ful principles. The idea behind having an open reporting platform is great, however we also want the data we collect to be open as well. Also we’re starting to look at seriously integrating sensors into Taarifa, so the data can come in from sensors and get pushed out.
Above is a pressure sensor which Sam Wilkinson hacked on during the Washington DC hackathon while he was in Southampton (hands across the ocean!). Myself and Jeremy Baron (good to meet you!) where formulating the API, but were starting out as Django beginners. Needless to say we didn’t get to the point which Sam got in England, however we did know a little more about REST APIs and Django.
Combined with some tablecloth design and interface work – done while having dinner in Front Page Restaurant on Dupont Circle literally on the table cloth! We somehow got 2nd prize in the hackathon. It really shows how the Taarifa community is pulling together, with new taarifans complementing existing ones, across the world. I’m constantly astonished.
Written on the train from Nottingham to London St. Pancras and submitted just before the train pulled into the station (51.5362298,-0.129432)
Barcelona, London, New York then Washington. Instead of flying direct to Dulles International, I wished to fly into Reagan National (DCA) airport (~2-3 miles/10 minutes from central DC, as opposed to 90 minutes for Dulles). This makes getting in and out of central DC a snip, instead of a faff with the metro, buses and taxis. As I’d been travelling for a while I got a first class ticket from NYC to DCA, ¢50 upgrade free. The reason for this was simple; Concorde Lounge. Do not under estimate a shower after travelling for 18 hours.
The flights were ticketed and issued in Barcelona, the luggage was checked through to DCA, tickets were given to me and the One World desk checked me in. Short hop to Heathrow, wait for six hours then NYC to DC. However I left at New York as American cancelled my flight, claiming lack of payment;
Dear Mark Peter Iliffe
Thank you for your recent reservation on American Airlines. We were unable to issue your ticket and would need to speak to you to verify the payment details or if yo could provide us with another form of payment since this is the second decline. Please call American Airlines reservations quoting your booking reference XXXXX.
You will find the contact telephone under the Customer Service link for your country.
Our opening hours are Mon-Fri 07:00 – 16:30,
Please be aware that other airlines flights booked via American Airlines are on a request basis only and fares are not guaranteed until ticketed.
Thank you for your attention to this. American Airlines Reservations
I received that at 2228 on the evening of the 9th. My flight to NYC was at 0800 on the 10th. So no time to ring the UK centre – it wasn’t open. I phoned the US one. After being on hold for 30 minutes (at £0.56 a minute) and told they wouldn’t called me back, I cancelled, taking two days in New York instead.
A few things about trying to fly with American and by extension OneWorld.
- They can’t spell an automated email message. No-one has ever gone ‘Yo’ at me in an email before. Especially a major airline. This really annoyed me.
- First class doesn’t mean first class with them. If there is a payment issue and they can see that the ticket has already been issued, phone and email, don’t just email. For American this doesn’t seem necessary.
- I briefly spoke with the BA desks at Heathrow, they were as apologetic as they could be, however couldn’t really do anything. What is the point of clubbing up and staying in the same program if one of the partners just jogs off?
- If the person on the end of the phone asks if you can call them back do so. Otherwise you’ll loose their custom.
In the end I had two awesome days in NYC and took the train to DC. Passing through the American countryside at sunset was nice. A shower would have been better.
Written and posted from Washington DC (38.8988,-77.0279)
A fellow member of the OSM Foundation replied to a conversation on the mailing list: “As a guerrilla academic…“. The context was around a suggestion for increased academic cooperation within OSM. To this end I proposed a new working group for the OSMF: Academic Working Group. This would have the aim of improving the academic quality and communication of those using OSM in their research and facilitating collaboration.
Below is the start of the manifesto. It’s not complete, but it’s a start.
Academic institutions use OSM data. Be it part of their published research or testing hypotheses. Some of the publications are listed on the wiki: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Research. However within OSM and OSMF this research is undertaken under the researchers own initiative. Researchers are looking at OSM through recommendation (supervision) or self interest within their own academic structures. Given the growth of OSM and the research into it, it seems likely that academic interest will widen and grow.
Support academic research in OSM, encouraging best practices and acting as a forum for researchers. This has the aim to support researchers starting out with OSM but also to unify a community of existing researchers; collaborations and knowledge sharing will hopefully follow. Identification of areas of research for the community as a whole among potential themes of usability and business models (as a starting point).
- Uniting existing researchers, either at existing institutions or those following independent academic study.
- Provide documentation (a la learnOSM) but focused for researchers.
- Provide a forum for researchers to discuss their research and bridge into the community
- Support and provide problems to the academic corpus.
- Communicate potential collaborations, needs, wants.
- More TBD
Working Group vs. Community
I think this is hitting a gap that exists in the community currently. I don’t see potential areas for conflict. However that being said do we have enough members within the OSM(F?) to create and steer the working group?
WWWG vs. other WGs
There is a small amount of overlap in interest between this proposed AWG and other Working Groups. I can see potential overlap with communications and strategic working group. Communications as this would aim to focus on building up the OSM academic community. Strategic as they may wish to commission studies or at least support them, into critical areas of OSM.
Again, I’ll throw this to the OSMF. Where should we go from here?
Written and submitted from the London St. Pancras to Nottingham Train.
Geo is coming home. My home anyway, Nottingham. The Global Geo Conference FOSS4G, is now FOSS4G Nottingham 2013. We as the organising committee wish to make this the best year for geo. We want moar geoness than any other previous conference, raising the bar for conferences to come. We’re standing on the shoulders of excellent conferences at Denver, Sydney, Barcelona, Cape Town among others.
A small cabal within the LOC is charged with fixing the workshops and the hackathons. We’re not going to do it small. We’re not planning a hackathon in a small room with a dodgy urn of coffee. This is going to be better and better. We’re going to reach for greatness. 2013 will be the year for geo. Are you ready?
Written and submitted on the train between Nottingham and London St. Pancras Station (52.30467,-0.67508)
I was fortunate to be invited to give a talk at Mapitude. Unsurprisingly I spoke about community mapping, spatial data infrastructures in developing nations and Taarifa. I also touched upon open data and how services and platforms using open data need to be developed. I think that open data is great – for more info watch this TED talk by Tim Berners-Lee – however I believe open data is only the beginning not the end point of data development.
We need platforms and services, which are open and free to use for the vast majority of citizens. This presents opportunities for new business models, while the data should be free at the point of service, the costs of collecting and distribution (if not crowdsourced – I’m not implying crowdsourced is free to produce either) need to be paid by someone/something. Data is just data, it doesn’t help improve sanitation or water access but wrapping it into a service or platform could and should.
Platforms and services like Taarifa, Ushahidi and Open Street Map all are very expensive to run, however need to be free for the public good that they serve. I doubt advertising can fully meet the needs and costs – look at Facebook, whereas I believe over a long term grants and loans are unsustainable. A freeium model could be the way forward, tailored around a service being offered which the platform sits on, which is free up to a limit. Deciding on who to charge for an what is a difficult question and would be needed to considered carefully, with questions around licencing and ‘fairness’ paramount. As such the communities which create the open source software which drives the platforms and services need to be part of any decision that takes place and be at the heart of the community and process.
I’m not saying that open source platforms and services using open data need to make a large profit, this is a charitable enterprise after all, the profit needs to be reinvested to support innovation, be it buying equipment, investing in training or paying for hosting. However open data, open platforms and open services need to make money, which can be reinvested in supporting its community, providing free services to those that deserve and need it, while enforcing payment from those that can pay.
Written and submitted from Mokka City, Dar Es (-6.8162376,39.2885885)
As most of you know, I like riding motorcycles. I’ve even mentioned them a few times previously. Since 1530 on the 27th of November 2007, they’ve played a large part of my life. Being a ‘biker’ my friends, when the topic of bikes came up, would discuss stats like speed, acceleration to 60′ and the point that I would no doubt be killed in a gruesome fireball in a dumb accident. Stuff like that. Clarksonian-esque stuff. I’m annoyed and afraid but all of that, it’s just all wrong.
I recently took the annual pilgrimage to Skegness (you just have to do it, to see it’s wonder of nature, rock, fish and chips, crap weather and chavs) with a friend. He was riding a Yamaha YBR 125, while I was on my 650 Bandit. And it was grand. Speed wasn’t the objective, cruising the flat Lincolnshire countryside on the way there, then the twists, turns and drops of the wolds on the way back, via Lincoln itself.
It was a pure experience, speed cameras weren’t noticed or worried about. A feeling not felt in a long while, I believe since last being on the continent last year. This is the problem, because of the all the guff on the roads today it stops being a pure experience, soiled in someway. The youtube link is a track from Mogwai, “I know you are but what am I?”. There is a zen like state to it, I really enjoy long tours, lasting a week or two. As such the majority of riding isn’t fast and furious, it’s relaxing and needs a suitable soundtrack, hence Mogwai (on a side note I can finally listen to them again – happy about that!). In the UK it’s rare and nigh on impossible to get this feeling. Slovenia beckons.
Written and submitted from Lee Rosy’s Tea Shop (52.954335, -1.144121)
The digital economy program encompasses five universities (Nottingham, Cambridge, Reading, Exeter and Brunel) with numerous Doctoral Training Centres (DTC) training ‘the next generation of researchers’. I’m quite fortunate to be at the Nottingham Digital Economy DTC, which is rare in that it has a combined research hub and DTC. From time to time the hubs and DTCs get together in conference, where the collective research efforts and outputs is demonstrated. However every so often the research council – i.e. the people that write the checks – wish to see the results of their labours.
Due to the nature of the PhD programs – in a cohort, as opposed to individual working – they wished to understand value for money, more specifically the research impact that the programmes have had. The format for this was a poster/live demonstration of gadgets, followed by an interview session with some direct, searching questions. It quickly became apparent the role of the DTC staff was multifaceted, focusing not just on research and supervision but deftly dealing with the work associated with the DTC. Having a window into this world offered a very different perspective on the process of research councils, from the council’s expectations to the reality of research output and the seemingly intangible process of ascertaining ‘impact’ – Impact seemingly being if you’ve done something useful and interesting.
Meeting the other DTCs with the twist of funders and assessors was a good break from the usual, made special that it only happens every few years. The only downside of the process was the EPRSC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) was based in tragic town of Swindon. However the bods have pulled a bit of a wheeze by placing the building next to the train station, adding a dedicated footbridge. This means, if day tripping, you don’t physically have to enter the town. Instead you walk in the footbridge (from the set of Threads) direct to the centre, unfortunately without seeing the famous Swindon vistas! All in all a good day all around!
This post I guess has been a long time coming, basically hit it’s zenith and then subsided. About a month ago I had serious doubts within the PhD, around whether I was ‘good enough’ to complete. The majority of doubt focused around completing what I had perceived to be an easy task of implementing a ‘simple’ algorithm. This turned into three weeks of nothing. Breakthrough occured on what was supposedly a three day break in Marseille – before a 12 day conference schedule in Avignon (AGILE) and Amsterdam (WhereCampEU).
It would be fair to say I’d hit the lowest point of the PhD then. It was a sequential thought process, if I can’t do this simple thing, how am I prepared for the harder things later. Doubt set in, and the analysis was concluded in that I should quit. Then the break through came and all was good, confidence restored. I then read ‘The Valley Of Shit‘ a blog about going through the same thing; “Valleys lead to somewhere else - if you can but walk for long enough. Unfortunately the Valley of Shit can feel endless because you are surrounded by towering walls of brown stuff which block your view of the beautiful landscape beyond.”
Anyhow, I feel out of the valley now. All is good.
Written and submitted from Coffee Company, Amsterdam, Netherlands (52.371554,4.896772)
How do you engage different groups of people and keep people engaged? These people may be some of the most highly skilled and sought after professionals. They could walk into the larger IT conglomerates (The Googles and Microsofts of the world) and name their price. They have families, nice things. So why do they give up their spare time over weekends to work on something they will have known for 5 minutes beforehand, with the potential of pulling an all-nighter. For little or no reward. If there is a reward it’s unlimited coke, burritos and pizza with a dash of chocolate and crisps. I believe they do it for the thrill of the chase, camaraderie and the challenge.
In conversation with a good developer friend he added that “90% of open source software exists because people can’t get any software written at work”. He was quoting a source which I’ve forgotten, but if someone can enlighten me I would be grateful; It’s a great quote!
It brings me on to musing about the dynamic between management and leadership. When I was eighteen I was at a leadership seminar, which for the first hour found very tiring. A combination of ironing and shoe shining the night before with a refreshing run at period zero (circa 05:30). The second hour I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It started with the beach scene of Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks gets disorientated coming up the beach, things go numb, then a solider is screaming at him “What do we do now, sir?”. Our hero organises his troops then, from the front, charges up the beach and his soliders follow him. They beach is taken, good guys win, bad guys loose. The end.
This part was led by a guy who, frankly, had been sunk a few too many times in his illustrious career. However he launched with gusto in leading by example, however impressed the point of knowing when to let others take the mantle. Being an exemplar shows to others how to act, even if they’re afraid, galvanising them into taking a deep jump into the unknown. But said leader needs humility to know when they’re not the best person lead and allows others to step up and show the same level of skill.
One of the sayings I’ve across (from my father) is “Too many chefs, not enough cooks”. In theory it holds, but in practice falls over horribly. Consider a developer team, hungry for success, in all probability educated at the finest institutions on the planet and capable of developing cutting edge software and hardware. Each one of those developers will have ideas on how the project could work better and given the opportunity probably would manage an aspect of the project better. In the context of a hackathon, I think consensus can be reached within the group, in trusting the individual coders, who are giving up their free time, effort and skills to achieve the best they can do. This effort inspires other people and by default, the people that first step out into the unknown become the leaders instead of managers. These people form a nucleus around which the project (with respect to Taarifa, but could easily be a product or service) is built, they lead (not manage) by example. This doesn’t particularly conform to a specific type of programming ethos, it isn’t Aglie, Scrum or Lean, it should just be common sense.
Written and submitted from the Novotel Docklands Hotel, (51.50789,0.02329)