Left my house near Raleigh, NC at 4 AM to fly out to California. I was a bit weary after nearly 11 hours of travel when I arrived at the Where 2.0 registration desk. But, I did manage to show up just in time for lunch! Brady Forrest of O’Reilley, Program Chair for Where 2.0, joined me for lunch and brought me up to date on events thus far. He said the morning tutorials were well attended and seemed to be quite popular (see schedule for Monday). Also, nearly half the people who registered for the conference were in attendance for the first day events. Also, overall attendance looked to be higher than last year. Several announcements are lined up for the week as well from both big and new players in the geospatial community. Looks like lots of good stuff for this year’s event!
The afternoon tutorials included another four tutorials. Naturally, I chose to attend the one by Google entitled: “Searching the Geoweb: Exposing Your Geo Data to Search Engines” by Lior Ron and Mano Marks. Their session focused on how to get your geospatial data to be recognized by search engines (or at least Google). Google has already been scanning web sites for links to GeoRSS, KML, or KMZ files as well as the Google Earth Community and other known locations. They gave tips on how to improve the chances things will be indexed. A significant point is that you shouldn’t make a single large file with tens of thousands of placemarks. Better to break down the content into different files. The one piece of real news in this session is that Google is now supporting a new sitemap file format for geospatial content. This means you can very specifically tell the search engines to look for a KML, KMZ, or GeoRSS file which will then be almost immediately scanned into the geosearch index. The last half of the session was dedicated to discussing how to create good KML content using various tools as well as directly coding KML. Google said there will be more of these tutorials during the Google I/O developer conference later this month.
Keep reading for some details on Ignite/Launchpad.
After a short nap, I managed to pull my weary body down to the Ignite/Launchpad. I really enjoy this format because each talk/demo only lasts 5 minutes. So, you get a blazingly fast dump of information usually well targeted to get the main points across.
I didn’t manage to get details on every speaker, but here’s a few I did catch:
- Andrew Turner – Mapufacture – Andrew managed to get about 10 minutes worth by speaking really fast. He described Mapufacture which provides a way to view maps of geospatial content from a variety of sources and with different mapping applications. It supports GeoRSS feeds and KML. All their maps are also available in GeoRSS or KML so you can view them in Google Earth as well. And there’s an API for doing more with the data like searching both spatially and over spatial timeframes. And the site supports OGC WMS interface specification for querying the data.
- GPSMission – Got a quick demonstration of this new geospatial gaming system. It can be played with GPS-enabled phones (possibly with just a GPS as well?). They have an interface called the “Mission planner” which makes it easy to create a game where you go outside and find specific locations (like a scavenger hunt?). Anyway, this could be worth looking at.
- ipoki – These guys were at last year’s Where 2.0 Ignite and they’ve made a lot of progress. They changed their name slightly, but their purpose is still the same. They provide a site with a focus on helping you keep track of the locations of people you want to keep in touch with. The goal being to find ways to get together when it makes sense. They’re announcing a new interface to Facebook so you can invite all your Facebook friends to share their location with you in ipoki. A smart move! Their site is most popular in Spain, but from their KML map for Google Earth showing the ipoki population sharing location publicly, it appears they are getting increasingly popular in other parts of the world.
- Neighborhood Maps – Bernt Wahl of UC Berkeley gave an interesting overview of their efforts to enhance neighborhood mapping. They have researched new ways to better identify the boundaries of neighborhoods. Most data available is typically not very accurate. Yet, according to their research, you can get very interesting information by analyzing data according to neighborhoods rather than for example by city or town. He briefly showed an example of crime statistics by neighborhood. Interesting information, but I didn’t get a URL for where they are publishing it.
- GreenMap.org – an organization trying to get the entire world to collect information for creating more environmentally sustainable living. They have helped nearly 500 communities in 50 countries so far create maps. They’ve been refining and sharing new iconography for showing information on maps important to environmental efforts. They also are announcing an effort to start using opensource technologies called OpenGreenMap.org. I’m wondering why they would spend all that extra effort?
- Pushpin – Pushpin has its origins in financial sector data analysis. They’ve had a API available for commercial applications providing access to a vast array of data with mapping capabilities. They are now working on a free Rest API which will allow access to a subset of their data sources and mapping technologies. He described their efforts to help organize geospatial information by using URLs – which reminded me immediately of Tagzania which was doing this over two years ago. But, I do agree with him that using this technique makes things more discoverable to search engines – if the engines get smarter about scanning according to URLs.
- Focation – Two guys from Vietnam have worked hard to create a mapping mashup that not only provides good travel information for their country, but also provides a Wiki-like interface for people to annotate and add new information to the maps. The site is Ajax enabled, so you often don’t have to re-load the page to make the changes (making it speedier). I think these guys won the contest for the furthest traveled for the Ignite talks. They did have some innovative techniques. I liked an idea they have for showing large amounts of placemarks using a colorized grid instead of overlapping icons.
- Ordnance Survey – the last talk from Ian Holt was – intriguingly amusing. The last organization I expected here was Ordnance Survey from the UK. They have been universally panned by most of the Where 2.0 generation of geospatial technologists. The primary reason being that OS refuses to let anyone use their mapping data without their collecting a license fee. I guess they are trying to improve their image because they came here saying they will be offering an “open source” project. Only it wasn’t clear how this would change anything. Ian demonstrated an application which amusingly lets you compare the OS data to “other” maps (specifically Google Maps) to show how the OS data is so much better. For those of you who don’t know, a former OS technologist named Ed Parsons left there and is now one of the top dogs on the Google Geo team.
More Where 2.0 2008 coverage: Google John Hanke Keynote