If Where2.0 is the cutting edge of geospatial technology - at least in the consumer space, then WhereCamp is the alpha brainstorm and prototyping of Where2.0 2010.

WhereCamp panorama

There are plenty of summaries around, and each gives insight into the different aspects of the unconference. You have your high-fallutin' corporate types, developers, and ancillary community advocates that traveled from Portland just for WhereCamp.

Check out the constant stream of twitters of wherecamp.

So many hats

The most important thing I learned at WhereCamp actually had nothing to do with geo.

There has been a lot of discussion leading up to Where2.0 and WhereCamp about the benefits of open data exchange between a number of the geospatial repositories that are coming online to share and aggregate data. Both Sean Gorman of GeoCommons and David Troy spoke in their presentations about the importance and capability of interchange.

However, while the concept is easy - lets share data - there is a lot of difficulty in the specifics. 45 minutes in an ad-hoc session could very easily diverge into many channels of non-resulting vectors.

Instead, Steve Coast introduced us to a brilliant technique for investigating, analyzing, and brain-storming on difficult and potentially controversial issues. A technique that is perfectly adaptable to solving problems in short-time periods with a large group of people.

Six de Bono Hats is a process walking through various perceptions of problem solving. You preset a time limit on each, everyone in the group "wears" this hat and offers insight with this perception. After the fixed time, you move on to the next hat.

  • White hat (Blank sheet): Information & reports, facts and figures (objective)
  • Red hat (Fire): Intuition, opinion & emotion, feelings (subjective)
  • Yellow hat (Sun): Praise, positive aspects, why it will work (objective)
  • Black hat (Judge's robe): Criticism, judgment, negative aspects, modus tollens (objective)
  • Green hat (Plant): Creativeness, Alternatives, new approaches & 'everything goes', idea generation & provocations (speculative/creative)
  • Blue hat (Sky): "Big Picture," "Conductor hat," "Meta hat," "thinking about thinking", overall process (overview)

By using this technique, we were able to lay out a good path towards interoperability and interchange. We acknowledged previous and current efforts in geospatial and non-geo domains and also the difficulties that will be faced. You can read the resulting notes here.

The technique was so successful I applied it at the GeoPrivacy session. It came in half-way through after I saw that the conversation for the first 30 minutes was turning into a ping-pong game of point-counterpoint with no real guidance or outcome. So we performed a much fore-shortened de Bono hats and came out with an adequate list of privacy concerns, and suggestions of future actions.

A week passes

camping at the GooglePlexWith WhereCamp and Where2.0 2008 over, I completely collapsed on Monday morning. Having the two conferences back to back means that is an incredible concentration of experts and enthusiasts. There is also the follow-on of the well-packaged Where2.0 with the unwrapping to dig inside of WhereCamp that brings us back to innovating and collaborating.

It was a grueling but completely inspiring week. I'm not sure how the future will turn out, but I know I'm very excited about it.

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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.