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Archive for 2012


Published in Personal

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Charles Dickens

A Year Changes You

A year ago I was helping run a startup, determining how we would sustain and grow our business in a competitive market. At the same time we were a happy, childless (yet expecting) couple enjoying complete freedom of schedule. Within twelve months our lives have dramatically changed.

We sold the company and I’ve change from a track of decreasing company size back up to a large company. I no longer have to worry about making payroll, taking out the trash, and maintaining server uptime. Fortunately this relaxing of responsibility coincided with the biggest gain of responsibility nearly anyone can have – a kid.

Sayge Green Blanket 13.jpg

Over the past 6 months we could not have asked for a better experience. Sayge is continually happy and laughing, a model of happy child. The stability and support of a well-established company have allowed me the flexibility to shift my schedules to be the attentive and caring father that I want to be.

Live’s Lived

The year has also included unfortunate experiences. Corrie’s grand-father finished his 96-year amazing journey. Who else have you met that was at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, earned a Law Degree, an MBA from Harvard, served in World War II, was a representative in government, and successfully ran his family business for 40 years.

A long-time friend passed away far too young from women’s cancer. Rachel was an incredible attractor – able to easily bring and connect friends. She helped my sister get her first job at HHS and was a fearful Carcossonne player. I wish Sayge could have met her.

Living Forward

Perhaps the theme of the year should be “relative”. The dichotomy of life and loss, of success with stress. Responsibility is just beginning. There is much to accomplish and improve for our and the next generations.

Next year I’m excited about even bigger dichotomies – solving large, important problems in technology and society while making sure to enjoy and live through the simple pleasures and new experience of life. If we commiserated or celebrated this year – thank you, it was wonderful to be with you. And for those of you that I have not yet met, I look forward to celebrating with you in 2013.

CBC Spark Interview – The Future of Digital Mapmaking

Published in Neogeography

CBC Radio SparkEarlier this week I was fortunate to interview on CBC Spark with Nora Young about the “Future of Digital Mapmaking”. We discussed a wide range of topics on the state and future of map making. Open data communities such as Openstreetmap, location ads, Google and Apple’s new platforms, augmented reality and more.

I truly enjoy thought provoking conversations that think more broadly about the domain and where it’s going. I hope you enjoy the interview and please let me know any comments or thoughts you have.

(direct mp3 download)

Guerilla Geography from Daniel Raven-Ellison

Published in Neogeography, Technology

Guerilla GeographyAs part of Geography Awareness Week National Geographic hosted a talk about guerrilla geography by Daniel Raven-Ellison. You can read more about Daniel’s work on his site or blog The Geography Collective.

Daniel’s talk was enjoyable and resonated with what made me adopt geography as a new career. He passionately seeks to experience and perceive places and to teach others. His Mission:Explore books provide intriguing experiments, particularly for children, to learn more about where they live, how they move, the history, culture, and environment of places. And particularly relevant to guerilla geography, about how they can impact and influence this space as a medium for expression and commumity.

He also riffed a bit on psychogeography and reminded me of Tim Waters’ sense tours where he advises people to stop when they see something interesting, close their eyes and smell or hear in order to leverage the other senses in really understanding a place. Or Christian Nold’s biomapping and sensory journeys. Daniel has done “urban earth” walks through major cities while taking a photo every 8 steps. The result is a visceral flow through living urban centers giving you a mere glimpse of the life, paths, and people that inhabit these areas.

Mission:Food bookDaniel is building very simple and effective tools and experiments for anyone to engage with geography. It has large similarities and goals to my work in Neogeography which utilizes potentially more advanced, and often technical, tools but in similarly colloquial ways to share stories and personal experiences with location. What’s also interesting about his work is that he introduces the scientific method in subtle ways such as challenging kids to record the outcome of days they walk under a ladder and days they don’t in order to determine if there is in fact an impact on one’s luck.

Perhaps more controversial, but arguably important, he encourages children to “Meet your meat” that you’re going to eat. Visit the local farm to see the cows, sheep, or other animals and understand the flow of food through the land and from the environment that forms your meals.

I’m not sure if they’ll post his talk from this week, but you can watch his talk from NatGeo Live!.

Citizen Volunteer Technology for CrisisCamp Sandy

Published in CrisisCommons

After a disaster some people want to do more than just send money, they want to share their time, knowledge and expertise to provide potentially far more valuable assistance than just $10. This weekend, volunteer hackers and technologists convened at CrisisCamps in over 10 cities and virtually online to assist in developing tools to assist the ongoing response and recovery for people affected by Hurricane Sandy. Driven by requests for help from citizens as well as traditional response organizations it is clear that there is a shift into new capabilities for remotely helping in disasters.

CrisisCampDCCollaborating in realtime over Skype, IRC, Wiki, Hackpad, and likely more these volunteers in collaboration with HurricaneHackers worked on over a dozen projects to assist people in finding &reporting open gas stations, identify building damage, room sharing, getting kids back to school, and a lot more you can read about on the wiki. For the more visually inclined, Willow from Geeks Without Bounds made a great summary Prezi presentation.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the FEMA National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) and work directly with people from FEMA, the White House, and Red Cross. In particular I became involved in the problem where gas stations around New Jersey and New York have been running low or out of fuel and citizens currently cannot find where to get gas near their location or what they can expect to pay. This data should be available from the companies, and indeed HESS is a model that is openly publishing their fuel inventory data.

What was surprising were other unofficially official sources of data that are from volunteer organizations and users that are more accurate and more up to date than anything that was available through official organizations. All Hazards Consortium is an non-profit that is publishing daily exports of data from the point of sales for about 70% of the fuel stations. This is augmented with data from ImSocio, a group of Youth Community maping group of high school students in Somerset, New Jersey. They are individually calling stations directly and updating the information that is published in an open KML feed and maps.

Together, a non-profit and a group of volunteer high schools students working through the weekend, represented the some of the best up-to-date information that was broadly available. Additional sources of data included social media monitoring of hashtags like #findgas, #njgas, #nygas, mobile web collection interfaces, and communities such as Waze that published their drivers’ ‘chit-chat’ notes about gas station status.

Individuals armed with easily accessible open data and no programming skills can literally publish informative interactive web maps during their lunch break and then send them out to the world via social networks. — Chris Brown

FEMA has made it very clear that they want to enable as much local support and response as possible. They are in the business of coordination and the more that citizens and local organizations can help one another the better the resiliency. The concept of “crowd-sourcing” means as much for on-the-ground scaling as it does for web scale. And the “crowd” is not just full of amateurs, but experts in a variety of domains and experience that are offering tremendous support that can provide meaningful support to affected citizens. There is still a lot of learning. It was clear in discussions at the NRCC that these concepts are new and difficult to accomodate within the traditional response protocols, but there is definitely a desire to evolve and adapt to these new communities.

There will likely be more CrisisCamps coming up in the future that you can join. If you just have a computer and internet connection you can help.

Academy of Achievement

Published in Business, Conference

Congratulations, you’ve succeeded at the first third of your life. How are you going to succeed in the next third? – David Rubenstein


If you read any of my posts over the last week you may have noticed a few interesting checkins and comments from well know places and people. I was incredibly fortunate to be an invited delegate to the Academy of Achievement summit in Washington, DC. It was a singularly unique opportunity to dine with US Supreme Court Justices, a personal tour of the capitol building from members of congress, and generally inspired by intelligence, capability and surprising humility of the world’s most accomplished people.

The Academy of Achievement is an organization celebrating its 50th anniversary connecting and recognizing individuals that have undoubtedly achieved renown. Nobel laureates, public heads of state, Pulitzer prize authors, and numerous other world changing leaders of our time. Once a year they gather to induct a new class of honorees who then share their experience and insights to the next generation of leaders and changers, or as they referred to us “troublemakers”. The class ranged from well-respected leaders such as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Congressman Edward Markey, and Judge Sonia Sotomayor to innovative creators such as Sal Khan, Nobel Laureates Roger Tisen and Adam Riess.

Andrew & Ralph Nader

There were extremely impressive colleagues in the delegates as well. You can read about Khaled’s work providing communications to the rebels in the overthrow of Gaddafi. Bassem Bouguerra left his engineering job at Yahoo to rebuild Tunisia; Humairai Wakili built an NGO to incubate women-owned companies in Nablis, Palestine; and Josh Nesbit‘s use of mobile phones to dramatically alter access and capabilities for medical support around the world are just a few examples of the delegates who are so impressive they challenge you to evaluate what is worth working on.

Held this year in DC, the entire summit was shaped by the current US politics and pending elections. Regardless of the of the ideology of the speaker, nearly everyone shared their frustration and concern about the deep divide by the US leadership. Yet despite this current concern there is admiration of what “America” is – more than a country or set of single laws, but of an idea that is permeating more of the world each day and particularly by the people that are currently shaping their own countries.

The General and the QueenThe Academy of Achievement publishes the talks online through iTunesU and on their website. Over the four days of intense discussions I’ve had many new inspirations and reflections that I will be writing about more.

Any event that ends dancing with Aretha Franklin, Colin Powell and others is undoubtedly an amazing experience.