Mapping California by lidar
Originally uploaded by marypcb.
A German group called the Free Art and Technology group put a GPS tracker on a Google Street View car: they pranked the driver, and, in one case, filmed him urinating against a streetlamp (this link NSFW if you dislike four-letter words).

It immediately made me think of taking this photo as we passed a mapping car near Davis, California; the driver looked at me as I took the snap and I wondered 'is it an intrusion of privacy to photograph a camera car?"
Because we were playing a mediascape; it's a virtual real world GPS treasure hunt with added Whack a Mole. It was part of the latest London Girl Geek Dinner and it's huge fun. For full details with more pictures, see Mole at hole 2! No, hole 2!

I now have some of these on a GPS iPAQ including one where you help prisoners escape from the Tower of London and it would be a fun thing to do with a bunch of people. Whack a Mole is like rounders without a bat or ball and UXB is Battleship, Boggle and Mastermind with added beeping. On a serious note I think place-coded gaming will be a big thing and place-coded information will be a big thing, but I'd quite like to just play Whack a Mole again!

GPS all the way to 3GSM

My EasyJet flight was better than expected; buying priority boarding and jockeying in the lounge meant I was about the third person on the plane so I nabbed the window exit row seat. A chap from TeleAtlas sat down in the aisle seat and we were deep in discussion about maps so quickly that no-one wanted to sit between us! They make 1500 edits a day to the US map database, they use little trucks with cameras that capture the height of bridges and the texture of buildings so one day your GPS will say turn left down the High Street between McDonalds and the brick building. And in one South American country where the roads are too narrow they put the cameras on the beer delivery trucks.

You can now buy scratchcards on EasyJet!

Barcelona is warm and sunny with blue skies and the evening parties range from geeking on the stand to geking above the stand to cava and jamon iberico at the rather trendy Sugar Club. Total for Monday; two airports, one car, three taxis, one metro...

Going somewhere?

I suspect it's the company behind the Tube JourneyPlanner runnwing but this covers much more than London; it does the whole of the UK, including the Channel Islands, and it has flights and ferries as well as trains, tubes and buses. And trams; putting in Ikea Croydon gets me tram stations in Croydon. They're going to add maps to it; at the moment you get a timetable with a price for as much of the journey as they can, which includes the different train fares available. There are versions for Palm and Pocket PC and one coming for BlackBerry, or the Web site can send the details to your phone. Handy!

Where, who, what - attendr

I have to like a site that mocks the -r convention of Web 2.0 sites but I also really like being able to see who at a conferenec comes from where using Attendr. We're going to need a 'MyPlace' microformat for embedding the map view we want of ourselves in our profiles along with our geocode to plug straight into these kinds of sites instead of entering the information from scratch each time. How about having it as an InfoCard property, to give me control of where it gets used and for what...

Social networking sites are so last year, events sites are very this year - and intown2 is trying to cover both bases. If you're in London, or Seattle, or San Francisco or wherever for a day or so, and a friend of yours happens to be there too, why not meet up? Well, usually because you don't know they're there at the time. Put your address book and your calendar into intown2 and as long as they do the same, you'll be able to catch up with people.

This has the same barriers to entry as any other social networking site: you have to put in all your friends (by hand or by importing a CSV file) and so do they, plus you have to enter your travels one at a time. Obviously there are privacy issues with importing your address book and calendar into a public site wholesale, but there has to be a better solution.
- Offer the service as an add-on for existing social networking sites like Linked In, where you can cross-check against your address book, you've already done most of the work and where there is a big enough pool of other people who have too.
- It would be a natural add-on for Plaxo, where you're already trusting them to keep addresses up to date.
- Offer to scrape your address book in the same polite way Linked In does rather than making you export a file by hand, and offer to scrape the calendar for multi-day events as a starting point (always with the option to leave an event out).
- Or go the distributed route like FOAF; when more people have calendar info published on line, a site could aggregate it and help you find passing friends that way.
It's quite late to start a social networking site from scratch, even with a clever idea like matching locations. If a lot of people have to do a lot of work for an non-deterministic reward (you might not find any travelling friends going your way), even a free site has a high cost.

And the free account only allows you to add 10 friends; I think I can keep in touch with that many people by email, actually. The public events categories are an odd mix of sport, theatre and gay pride marches. The site asks for the cities you visit most but doesn't offer those as quick options when you create a trip. There's no widget to put on your web site encouraging people to click through to intown2 to check if they're going your way. It's a nice idea, but there are a lot of rough edges.


Wikipedia doesn't have maps on most articles, so is a site where you can tag a place on the map and link it to a Wikipedia article. It doesn't find everywhere (Christchurch matches four places, none of which are in New Zealand or Sunderland) but it's an excellent way of locating places. It would be nice to cross-link with some of the photo-locating projects so you could read an article, find the place on the map and then see what it looks like.

More event sites: AllConferences to Zvents

Ever since sbisson ranted about the poor adoption of universal event formats, I've been keeping an eye out for calendar sites that list events and I've found a couple more. I don't think they're going to compete with or Eventful because they're much more focussed.

zvents is very pale-blue-and-orange-with-white-space Web 2.0, similar to Eventful: I'm seeing this look a lot at the moment. Unlike , it only covers the Bay area. You can search by events, venues, tags, groups or people, and when you get the results you can switch the list to a map view or a calendar view. With a lot of results the map and main calendar view show you the number of results rather than the individual events, but you can get a 1 day, 3 day, 7 day and 30 day view as well. Here it's the guided tours that dominate rather than the bookstore events, but when you get down to individual events they're very well presented with maps, times, repeat events, similar events, other events at the same venue... More useful details than Eventful.

AllConferences has a hierarchical drill-down of categories and an advanced search, though you can only search by one condition and picking March 2006 without a date produces events from June 2004 as well. There are conferences going back to 2001 and those are what you see when you search by City; the general search box does a better job. Look here for commercial and academic conferences.

These sites tend to be better for finding a specific event on a specific day than browsing through the possibilities for a longer period of time. For that, I want to be able to start with a large pool of results and filter them. The best filtered view of search results I can think of - and it has deficiencies still - is the hotel map view in Expedia; you can zoom in on the map to refine the list of hotels, or remove hotels from the list to clear them from the map view. I'd like the same for events; let me zoom in to an area, or a category of events, or a smaller date range, or to a time range across several days (what's on every evening next week?). Let me remove all the sports events and everything that's recurring rather than a one-off and trim down from any day in March to just these 9 days. It's all about underlying hierarchies of logical units: know that a week is a logical unit of a month, know that Kirkland is within the greater Seattle area. Some of this you can do with a folksonomy, but a categorised hierarchy is going to help for geography, discrete units (today/tomorrow/this week/next week/this month/next month/this year) and distinguishing between broad tags (music) and specific tags (baroque). Organic tagging can define a problem space, but it doesn't structure it well.

Do we have these kind of detailed schemas for describing not just the obvious properties of events (date, time, venue, organiser etc) but also the range of values so we can build the filters?
It lists far fewer events than the other event sites I've come across, but the Webtowns section of the Seattle Pos- Intelligencer site has wonderfully specific information for all the districts of the Pugent Sound area from Algona to Yarrow Point. You get concerts, art shows, readings at the local library, cinema listings, restaurant reviews, census data, traffic camsrelevant news stories and a possted history of each area - all on the same page or as links when there's too much detail to show. You can add events to your calendar . Classified ads from each area too, to tick another Web-2.0-ecommerce box. This is one of the nicest local information sites I've found.

Calendar sites:

Researching a piece on InfoCard, the identity metasystem and the laws of identity and catching up on Kim Cameron's IdentityBlog, I spotted a familiar name; there are some people I keep coming across in the industry and Sam Sethi is one of them. Tracking him down led me to another calendar site, Again it's metadata slice and dice, with an emphasis on venues as much as events, so I can see what's on at the Mountain View Computer History Museum. Interesting, but unsatisfying. The search does better on CA than California - I think they should be a synonym. I'd like to see more grouping within results. It comes up with 4330 events in California for March; I'd like to be able to explore those by week or day or geographical region or event type or other finer grain information rather than just sorting them and paging through them a dozen at a time. There's a good mix of events though it's rather flooded with recurring events at Borders & Barnes and Noble. The tag cloud on the front of the site makes it look teen-oriented, I'm not sure what criteria the 'Sort by relevance' uses and my impression is 'interesting information, not enough tools '. When I'm browsing rather than searching, I still need to be able to narrow things down. I can't quite find the kind of events I want; the tag cloud is a mix of high level and low level and I suppose the fact that it doesn't make it easy to find the broad groupings of events I'm after may mean that the site doesn't have events of the kind I'm after (neat, mainly technology-oriented things to do in California in the first half of March).

Location, location, location

GPS on phones isn't bad unless you're up North, driving north; we lost the signal around Wyboston and didn't get it back till we were in Gateshead. Assisted GPS tells the GPS receiver where to look for satellites based on which cell your mobile phone is in, which saves on battery power and speeds up acquisition. But AGPS hasn't taken off and anyway, cells can be up to 10km across in rural areas so I'm much keener on using the details of the cellular network to derive more information - like E-GPS which adds time synchronisation to locate you so you can get the GPS connection more quickly, or fall back on the time signal if you're indoors (70 percent of all location-based services are initiated indoors according to Cambridge Positioning Systems). I was disappointed that HP didn't put the CPS system into the Mobile Messenger last year. Now SimCom is putting it into their S788 handset; I hope it makes it into a broader range of devices soon.



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