March 26, 2011

where were the NSW election maps?

Posted by josediacono @ 9:40 pm under Uncategorized

I can only sadly conclude at the end of election night that this was another missed opportunity for the mapping and spatial fraternity and I am kicking myself for not doing something about it.

A quick google search of “nsw election results map” found this

which linked through to this…

NSW election results

Heaven help the average punter who just wants to find out where all these electorates they are talking about on the TV and radio are.  A bit further down the search results,  the Sydney Morning Herald came to the rescue with its interactive map. A good start but it could have been so much more.

It colour coded the electorates as results came in and gave a thumbnail description of the demographics of each electorate. Rather than a textual description it would oh-so- feasible to include census graphics from the ABS from Brad Spencers Demographic Drapes or the new online Atlas of NSW – wouldn’t that have been so powerful in the hands of the  TV election commentators?

They could have walked us through the key characteristics of the electorate they are talking about as Stephen Lead did for Bondi in this short video of the online Atlas of NSW.   Instead the only map to be seen on the ABC was a black NSW state outline with a dot for the electorate in question which doesn’t exactly help you understand where Marrickville is in relation to Mulgoa?

So why didn’t the media use maps? (I have to admit I didn’t look at every channel so if the others did a better job, please tell me).My guess they havn’t got their heads around how to do it yet. So whose job is it to educate them or, in the case of the ABC who are getting into it, lend them a hand? It has to be the spatial people, because we know where to get the data they need.

But we have to think about it well ahead of time – its no use railing on election night! Who exactly do I mean by ‘spatial people’. I think it falls to our associations – SSSI, SIBA, GITA and other bodies such as the CRC-SI. Do they have staff whose job this is – or should they create the positions? Or just co-fund one person to do it on behalf of the industry as a whole?  I suspect a lot of people have it as a small part of their role but it really isn’t anyone’s priority. It takes time to build a relationship with a journalist and this process would have needed to start months before the election so that websites were up and running, commentators trained in how to use them and Google ranking them in searches.

Getting the media to use maps and getting them to write stories about them are two sides of the same coin.We criticise the media for pouncing on bad news stories like the poor public servant who releases data that turns out to be wrong (myschools in Tasmania). We can hardly expect government departments to fall over themselves to publish the data we are clamouring for if they risk a media furore. Can ‘someone’ start feeding journalists good news stories like this one in the Sunday Observer?  The ABCs Futuretense has run several excellent mapping stories so they are clearly interested. But again which ‘someone’?

p.s. I just found this map of sausage sizzles and other election day activities



March 21, 2011

Georabble and bus apps

Posted by josediacono @ 9:23 pm under Uncategorized
Ross Johnson wonders if this is the queue for Georabble

Ross Johnson wonders if this is the queue for Georabble

Georabble was definitely a huge hit. The upstairs room at the Occidental hotel in York street, Sydney  (great location) was packed with spatial people, journalists, a lawyer (who introduced me to a top iphone app called Tripview which I downloaded for $2.50 on the way home).

Two especially interesting talks were Monique Potts of the ABC on Queensland Flood Mapping and Chris Broadfoot, joint winner of the recent apps4nsw comp who explained next-bus, a website app that uses RTA realtime bus info to let you stay in bed a couple of extra minutes. See all the buses approaching your stop. As always, much of the challenges involve getting the data. The live bus feed seems to be still intermittent but Tripview which uses static timetable data tells you what bus is coming in theory, is a good second.  Tripview allows you to choose your bus stop from a google map rather than having to guess the non-obvious stop description you have to select on the 131500 website. Thanks to the ‘rabble’ of organisers. Great job guys.


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March 7, 2011

apps4nsw hackfest

Posted by josediacono @ 9:56 pm under Uncategorized

From 8am on Saturday 19th February, 160 website designers, developers and government people got together at the Powerhouse Museum for an apps4nsw development day. Their challenge was to build an app in about 8 hours, using data from the NSW Government.

Find out what happened next… apps4nsw hackfest 2011

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January 31, 2011

Real Time Tube map working again

Posted by josediacono @ 12:07 pm under Uncategorized

Live London tube mapMy first blog posting for almost 2 months! The main reason was a long, cold but very enjoyable trip to the UK. Very impressed with how our Nokia phone navigated us round the country, and especially through central London where it knew all the one way streets and showed us accurately even which lane to be in – though I wonder how many accidents happen as drivers try to drive while looking at the tiny blue arrows on their screen. My job of co-pilot is still safe as satnav reader.

I’m pleased to see one of my favourite mashups the real time London Tube Map is up and running again. It has an chequered history when the real time feed was totally overloaded. More

September 14, 2010

Heaps of data from New South Wales

Posted by josediacono @ 2:33 pm under Uncategorized

GIPA is important for NSW mashups because it will lead to more data being released

The Australian Bureau of Statistics hosted a meeting for Statisticians in Sydney on Thursday 2nd September  about GIPA and Open Government. GIPA is the NSW Government Information Public Access which came into force on 1st July 2010. GIPA  replaces the Freedom of Information Act. It encourages and authorizes state and local government, ministers and their staff, state owned corporations (including utilities) and universities to pro-actively release data. Exceptions  “when there is overriding public interest against disclosure” are clearly specified.

Officials who release data are protected from civil suits.

GIPA  covers  all sorts of data, not just about documents. It can be emails, tables, transcripts, stats, reports or raw data.

The law doesn’t say anything about the format the data has to come in. It could be on paper, or a pdf which wouldn’t be too helpful for a masher. There may still be a lot of scraping and formatting.

Speakers from the ABS, Office of the Information Commissioner, Dept of Fair trading, police examined the implications, benefits and issues raised with great honesty.

Data could be misinterpreted, misused or abused if it was”just dumped out there”.

On the one side were the policy makers saying “data can then be used creatively in ways and combinations bureaucrats and lawyers have never thought about”, on the other were those who fear that is it precisely because data was collected for one particular purpose, that it could lead to dangerous or erroneous assumptions if it were used for another. For example, the police collect operational data about crime. But where drug dealers are found is not necessarily the same place they live or where the drugs are consumed.  Many crimes go unreported, so what if people in a particular suburb are more likely to report more crime than in another? Their suburb then looks more crime-ridden, businesses may not locate in the area, therefore disadvantaging the residents or property values go down.

But like it or not, data will be released and reused. So how do we enable meaningful interpretation and use, while at the same time not tying up public servants in reformatting or explaining data to the extent they can no longer do their regular jobs?

  1. Give an explanation. People won’t necessarily read it but at least the Minister can look at the explanation when questioned about it.
  2. Finding out what people are really asking will help you provide meaningful data and offer additional data if you think it will help.
  3. If you don’t have the information in the form they request, you don’t have to jump through hoops, just be helpful, offer them what you have and explain the limitations.
  4. If the data is incomplete or poor quality, just say so. Tell the story.
  5. Expect questions and criticisms when you release data.
  6. Put frequently requested data on a website. Making it understandable, easy to search and retrieve.
  7. Use the Data Quality Tool from the ABS to create a Quality statement.  This tool was demonstrated and helps both producers and users to assess and compare seemingly similar datasets.
  8. Embrace the opportunity to improve data you release from crowdsourcing.
  9. You can release secondary data (i.e.if you are the Dept of Planning and someone else has collected it) but if the requester would be better served by going to the original source you can refer them on. You can also release any data you hold that has come from outside NSW.
  10. Q What if a private consultant asks you for data they will make a profit from? A If this ties you up and thus impacts on your core business you do not have to release the data because if it stops you doing your job that is not in the public interest.

Good news for parents

Your child is going for their first job in a cafe. You want to make sure they will be fairly treated. In about 18 months you will be able to look at a NSW website to check whether they have any harassment claims against them, do they pay penalty rates on Saturdays or how many times they have been inspected.

Kate Harrington and Helen Palmer of the Government Chief Information Office run the NSW data portal used by the NSW app4state mashup competition.  The goal of is to be the single point for people to visit for data because it is very hard for outsiders to find what they are looking for. They took us behind the scenes of the portal “what happens when you click on the ‘Request for Data’ button”. (Basically a lot of running around by them to get the data from the custodian).

There is an international wave of improved public information access:  from the US where every government agency has to release at least 3 datasets (annually??) to the UK where the two most asked for datasets are public toilets and school catchment areas. Their apps4 prefix has spread around the world from Finland to Africa.

August 1, 2010

Another Election Mashup

Posted by josediacono @ 6:12 am under Uncategorized

This was created by Google engineers did for the upcoming federal election:

It uses the latest version of the Google Maps API (v3), which is optimized for mobile phone web browsers.

July 31, 2010

The Art of “Goography”

Posted by josediacono @ 9:14 am under Uncategorized

View the moon and planets too on Google Earth

Alan Noble wrote The Art of “Goography” using Google to teach Geography for Victorian Geography teachers but its links to other “how to” instructions make it a good starting point to anyone getting into Google mashups

July 16, 2010

Mashups at Energy Australia

Posted by josediacono @ 12:33 pm under Uncategorized

Outage Mashup of customer data, network and Google map

Sydney electricity supplier, Energy Australia is using Mashups  for media communications, senior management briefings and engineering collaboration. They are bringing GIS  into the limelight by delivering information in a quick and user friendly way.  Craig Hersant and Daniel Hansen are speaking at the GITA conference in their paper “Using GIS to accelerate business performance” and Daniel will lead a session in the Mashups workshop to show how it is done. More

They paint a picture on a Google canvas  of an outage situation, a proposed network change or critical infrastructure. It is combined with output from GIS, customer service and outage management systems. The possibilities are endless.

Staff walk senior management through a scenario using the familiar backdrop of a Google map, switching easily into Google Earth 3D imagery or Streetview to clarify a question.

June 28, 2010

Live London Tube map uses new Transport API

Posted by josediacono @ 4:03 pm under Uncategorized

“What a bright spark can do with open data – and the tools to use it”

Live London tube mapThis is developing into an interesting story. A brilliant ‘live’ tube map showing trains zipping around the London tube in near real time, was launched a couple of weeks ago. It shows what you can do when you get open access to official data according to an article in the Sunday Observer. It was obviously widely read.  I couldn’t get on the site at all, but later learned the API has now been suspended due to overwhelming demand.

The Observer article also introduces an interesting new term “securocrat”.

June 25, 2010

Mashup winners

Posted by josediacono @ 3:39 pm under Uncategorized
Which Bin Victorian winner

Which Bin Victorian winner

The worthy winners of the Victorian and NSW competitions were announced this week.  But take the time to look at the others too. Here are a few of my favourites.

Congrats to Brad Spencer of NuMaps who was one of the few ‘traditiona’l spatial people to enter (and win) with his Demographic Drapes

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