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OpenDataDay and Hacking for DC

Published in Data, Technology, Travel


World Bank GlobeI often say that Washington, DC is a city that thinks more about the world than it does about itself. Situated as the Nation’s capital, headquarters to a multitude of multinational organizations, and even home to people from all over the world, DC works at large scales that cover other cities, regions, and countries. Even the governance of DC itself is subject to the politics and power of unelected officials.

So it is a bit ironic that the international OpenDataDay Hackathon, hosted locally at the World Bank brought together so many smart and technically talented people to work on local DC datasets and solutions.

8500623959_2ffc953865.jpgYou can see the summary and links to all of the various projects on the OpenDataDay DC hackpad. There is a wealth of interesting links, problems, ideas, and output; from mapping the locations of trees by species, to analysis of DC public school vs. charter school performance and walkability.

Beyond just this one day event there is a burdgeoning community of people that are data astute and gathering together to perform some really great projects. DataKind is hosting a follow up DC DataDive on March 15-17, 2013. Data Community DC is an umbrella of at least four other meetup groups discussing data visualization, data science, data business and the R analysis platform.

And if you want to focus on DC, then the new Code for DC chapter of the Code for America Brigade has a few focused projects looking at social services, neighborhood councils, education, and even fire hydrants. Sometimes it’s necessary for us to spend our time and volunteer efforts locally in the communities where we live.


Geospatial Preservation at Society of American Archivists

Published in Conference, Data


Cross-posted from the GeoIQ Blog

ChgoButton_9_24_10.jpgLast Week I participated in a panel with spatial archival experts at the at the Society of American Archivists. Led by Butch Lazorchak of the Library of Congress, and also joined by Steve Morris from GeoMAPP, and John Faundeen from USGS, the panel was a full spectrum discussion of “Geospatial Data Preservation” ranging from the Library of Congress’ $10 million acquisition and access to the infamous Waldseemüller 1507 map Universalis Cosmographia of ‘America’ USGS’s environmental conditions for storing historic satellite imagery to GeoMAPP’s work in gathering time-stamped state geospatial data. Butch in particular provided an inspiring overview on what’s special about Spatial – density of data, representation vs data, and the difficulty in capturing interactivity of more modern digital maps.

The Archivists were a new community to me – people that are passionate about the capturing and storing of data – often until the end of time! But they also vary in their core missions – often diverging on the utility of the captured data and information. Very few seem to be really thinking about archives as a useful resource today and only focusing on the long-time storage and eventual access of the data by some unknown entity. As one member of GeoMAPP said: “All of the Archives are storing this superseded GIS data in dark archives and aren’t really providing access to the datasets and don’t have web mapping interfaces”

Clearly, we think a bit differently about archiving – choosing to focus foremost on access to data which will result in improved archiving of data, distribution, and analysis on utility and benefit. My presentation Maps as Narratives: Making Spatial Archives Accessible

focused on the concept that maps have been, and are increasingly a vital resource for people in their daily lives and work. By providing users tools to access and use historic and realtime data, we can then capture this data and provide it to other users and data repositories.

Particular to internet feeds, and social media we can’t easily predict what data will be useful. Neogeographers create visualizations of twitter streams, photos, foursquare checkin’s, friend locations. How do we know which of these are the modern correspondances of tomorrow’s US President or Global business leader? Through easy mechanisms for sharing data and maintaining links we can begin tracking this information in it’s varied forms, providing better insight and archiving of data for later reuse, whether it is tomorrow or in 100 years.


Map Tiles to go

Published in Data, Standards


Back in February of this year we worked with the World Bank, USAID, and CrisisCommons to deploy a large amount of map imagery and tiles to the Haitian Government and clusters working in relief. We included a forked version of crschmidt’s haitibrowser to work offline on USB sticks.

One of the issues we encountered were the vast amount of pre-rendered tile images that needed to be moved to the device. The overall size was not that large – in the hundreds of megabytes. It was the number of files that caused issues in copying and replicated these USB sticks in order to aid in the proliferation of data.

I’ve long been an ardent supporter of SQLite and Spatialite as Open Data containers for geospatial data. It’s a portable, offline, open standard, relational data store that provides great access and compression. About a year ago we even added Spatialite support to GeoCommons – so anyone can convert data to a SQLite database.

Almost exactly three years ago, Mikel put OSM on the iPhone after realizing that Apple was using SQLite to store the tile cache for maps. It makes simple sense to put blobs of images inside a table schema for fast storage and retrieval.

Earlier this week Development Seed released a command-line toolset called MBTiles to bundle tiles into SQLite. You can get the source code here. It’s great to finally have the beginnings of a set of tools to better utilize SQLite for storing and sharing tilesets.

Chris Schmidt has shared his ideas and added broadening support to TileCache in support of storing tiles in SQLite so that anyone using TileCache can now easily load tiles offline.

I’m excited to see more adoption of easy mechanisms for interchanging data – raster and vector. We have a couple of ideas and things brewing in how to combine these tiles with other vector data as well as rendering that could really provide some good mechanisms for open spatial data stores.


World Bank Data released

Published in Data


Data | The World Bank.png

Announced today, the World Bank is openly releasing all of their indicator data. Previously, the World Bank had provided an API, but the full data downloads is a welcome move in the realization that access to raw data can enable many possible projects and analyses that a simple interface cannot.

The World Bank’s Open Data initiative is intended to provide all users with access to World Bank data. The data catalog is a listing of available World Bank data sources.

It is clear that an organization as wide reaching and impactful as the Bank has a vast amount of data across many organizations and groups. Pulling these data together, normalizing, and sharing them is a noble, and well done, effort.

Central African Republic | Data | The World Bank.pngBesides just the data catalog, the World Bank has provided an excellent inspection by country and indicator for actually moving through the data without having to be a developer. For example, the Central African Republic demonstrates the depth of information on economics, social welfare, health, business development, and the environment.

I also believe I see the indelible fingerprint of the excellent work of Development Seed on the design, and layout of a complex catalog of data, indicators, and communication. Having also worked with the World Bank on several projects, it’s interesting to see a large, multinational organization embracing innovative tools, open data, and information sharing in the pursuit of global development. There are also some more great announcements coming in the future.

And don’t forget to get your World Bank Data iPhone Application.


Data Dissemination to the Haiti Government

Published in Data


Haiti Data Dissemination Project In a joint project with the World Bank, USAID, and numerous other partners, there are now 6 TB hard drives on the ground in Haiti with mapping tools and satellite and remote imagery data being shared with the Haitian government. Read more about the project on the FortiusOne blog.

Schuyler Erle and Tom Buckley will be heading down on Tuesday to provide on the ground support between the government agencies and the community.

A tremendous thank you to the numerous individuals and groups that helped and provided tools or data: World Bank, San Diego State University / Calit2, Internet2, Georgetown University, DigitalGlobe, Delta State University, Sahaha, Crisis Mappers, OpenStreetMap, NOAA, Ushahidi, DevelopmentSeed, TelaScience, STAR-TIDES, CrisisCommons, USAID, GeoCommons, OpenSGI, GeoEye.