Thoughts on HERE

When was the last time you bought a CD? Come to think of it, when was the last time you plugged an iPod into your computer and synced music from iTunes?

That’s what I thought.

The fact that HERE may be for sale (publicly, which is somewhat unusual in the world of acquisitions) and that it languishes is really no surprise. (“Reviewing strategic options” is a vaguebooking/subtweeting way of saying “Make us an offer.”) HERE is the CD of navigation. Many years ago, I supported a customer that did a lot of multi-modal transportation analysis. In the pre-OSM world, you had TIGER and a handful of commercial data providers. (Remember ETAK?) This was around the time that in-vehicle navigation was becoming commonplace in personal vehicles. The data in those systems, NavTech, was highly sought after but unavailable in standard GIS formats at the time. After a while, NavTech entered the GIS data realm, and its US product became the flagship commercial data set in the HSIP Gold database; a status it holds to this day. In some government circles, users clamored to get NavTech/Navteq/HERE data for their analysis. The rest of the world, however, has moved on.

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Give a Little Bit for OpenStreetMap

Kate Chapman of HOT OSM has started a project over on Kickstarter to fund the development of a Haitian Creole OpenStreetMap book. She sums it up much better than I can over on the project page:

In 2011 the first free OpenStreetMap book was written with support from the Google Open-Source Office using the Floss Manuals book writing technique. This book is currently available in French and English. There are two official languages of Haiti are French and Haitian Creole. French is the language of government and Haitian Creole is the language of the people. By not having instructions on how to get started in OpenStreetMap available for everyone the growth of this free map is slowed.

The goal is to raise $2,000.00 by May 30th. The role OpenStreetMap played in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti is pretty well-documented. So get on over to Kickstarter and help keep the success going.

Ten-Second Tidy

Things have been a bit hectic the last few weeks and that’s left little time for blogging. Quite a bit has happened so I thought I’d do a little round-up (if for no other reason than to clear my own head).

In no particular order:

Steve Coast to Microsoft (I told you it had been a while) – Firstly, congratulations to Steve (#sincerity). Secondly, this clearly is the final proof that crowd-sourced data in general, and OpenStreetMaps (sic) in particular, has no real value when compared to “authoritative” data sources (#sarcasm).

Google Fusion Tables – The only real problem at this point is the size limitation but, otherwise, this will be a game-changer for storing and sharing data. In its current form, it’s already fairly easy to push your data up and expose it through Google’s APIs. It’ll be interesting to see if it gets easier. Support for spatial queries hints at some analytical capability, too. Speaking of which…

Analytics in GeoCommons – This is one to watch. They are debuting a new function each day on their blog. FortiusOne builds their platform API-first, UI-second so everything they are showing should be exposed through their APIs. This will be a huge step in moving cloud-based geospatial technology from the “bit-bucket” stage to having a more complete workflow on the cloud infrastructure.

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Be the Crowd

I have generally been very happy with GIS in the Rockies (more on that in another post) as it’s good to get a look at different uses, concerns and perspectives. This afternoon, I sat through the “Collaboration Panel” discussion. The panel was made of of a few people representing state, regional and local governments and well as utilities and academia. Almost uniformly, there was a fear (yes, I mean fear) of crowdsourcing that was best summed up by the following statement:

“Crowdsourcing presents a vulnerability to us.”

Thank goodness Glenn Letham was sitting there and tweeted it or I might not have believed I heard it. Over the course of the discussion, talk kept returning to the image of “just anyone” editing spatial data, opening up potential liability for jurisdictions. Another gem:

“When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.”

I will grant that the entire discussion did not focus on crowdsourcing but it was a topic that was circled back to several times. I was left with a sense that, when these people think of crowdsourcing, they literally picture crowds of the “great unwashed” making random edits to critical data sets from there iPhones. Fear, uncertainty and doubt was projected at such a level that it exposed, well, fear, uncertainty and doubt on the part of the panelists.

A great premium was placed on data being collected and managed by “authoritative” data providers, who collect data using a set of validated business rules and procedures. Yet a great premium was also placed on getting to the point where such data sets can be freely shared. This exposed to me another issue: a complete lack of understanding of the concept of crowdsourcing.

I realize that, for governments, there can be legal and statutory issues with publicly sharing data sets (the Privacy Act with regard to parcel data, for example) that must be worked through. For this discussion, I will set those aside. The following statement was made late in the session:

OpenStreetMap will never be an authoritative data source.”

To that, I offer this (which I could not offer in the session since the floor was not opened):

If you feel you are the “authoritative” provider for street data for your region and that you capture that data using vetted procedures and business rules that assure data quality and accuracy *and* you profess to want to be able to share that data with the public, why don’t you donate that data to OpenStreetMap so that it would then be providing “authoritative” data (or at least data derived from an “authoritative” source). People who choose to use OSM for their applications would then be using high-quality data.

Why not, rather than tear down the concept, engage and participate, provide the model for how to do so and demonstrate leadership? In other words…

Be the crowd!

QGIS 1.4.0 Released

QGIS 1.4.0 has been released. As Terry mentioned on Twitter, that news seemed to get lost amongst the discussion of the GeoDesign Summit and the rebranding of ArcGIS 9.4 to 10.0. I have made use of QGIS in the past and have been perusing 1.4.0 lately. I must state that I am not an analyst nor do I play one on TV but I have been very happy with this release. Continue reading “QGIS 1.4.0 Released”