OS Trumped

Just returned from a pleasant day at the RGS-IBG annual conference. An event well worth attending as its mellow and covers a range of subjects. However it is largely colonised by human geographers, a strange breed. Thats not for want of the RGS trying to get physical geographers involved… Time will tell.

Anyway the OS are one the of the primary (platinum?!) sponsors of the RGS (along with Land Rover and Rolex from memory). So the map of the venue, and how to get to it, prominantly displayed on the back cover of the abstracts naturally used

Open Street Map data. Nice one!

C5 Aviator

I have a habit of destroying watches and, over the years, have always ended up coming back to my old trusty Casio Flight Planner. Its a solid digital watch that just keeps going, but the glass has got badly scratched over the years. So my search for a new watch begun with a long list of possible constraints. However key to this was a sapphire glass, not too big and waterproof. In addition a chronograph and alarm would be useful. After trawling around the main watch manufacturers I came across Christopher Ward Watches, a UK firm that designs functional, high quality, watches using Swiss components (and, indeed, are now Swiss made). They started out with 2 or 3 basic designs but have expanded this year to 8 or 10 models. And they are a company that stand by their products; you get a 60:60 guarantee (60 days return, 60 months warranty) and can email the owner directly.

So what did I buy? Well a C5 Aviator. Its the smallest watch CW do, incorporates a sapphire glass and is self-winding (similar to the Seiko Kinetic). The Aviator moniker refers to the aviation style variation on the design. Its a great watch and seems to serve my needs. It does only come with a leather strap and, given I like to wear a watch when I swim, I prefer a rubber/nylon strap which has been ordered from elsewhere.

Getting things done…

I’ve been an advocate of the Getting Things Done (GTD) for a number of years now. In a management era that seems to be defined by self-organization manuals, this one stands out from the crowd by its relatively simple explanation of why things don’t get done and how to go about rectifying the situation. The everyday solutions are really useful and, when augmented with an electronic diary, provide a great way to keep track of projects. David Allen has a nice business developed around the methodology and deserves the credit he receives.

To whet your appetite, he suggests augmenting a system where each “activity” is organised as a project with a timetable of things to do. The next item is noted as an action and given a “context” (such as a place like “the office”) where it must be achieved. The power here is being organised so that all the action points are listed in one place. An action may involve contacting someone in which case you keep track of responses required, whilst you might receive a communication which needs actioning. Its the simplicity of organising projects in this manner, and keeping track of it, that is a real productivity booster. And the biggest cause of a decrease in productivity…. having to remember “things”!! So he is a big advocate of writing something down as soon as you think of it in order to keep track of it.

Now running such a system with a paper based diary would be hard work, but “going electronic” in a combined PDA/PC setup is the ideal solution. I guarantee that as soon as you create an email folder named “WAITING FOR”, moving all your sent items that you expect a response to in to it, your life will be changed!! Anyway, in terms of a setup for organising projects I have long used Note Studio, a personal wiki-like software that runs on a PC/Palm combination (meaning you can take it with you). It isn’t perfect but has some great features that make it well suited to such a purpose. Unfortunately the developers have stopped working on it and no longer sell it (although if you hunt hard you can find it via 3rd parties). One of the downsides was that it was entirely textbased and didnt allow the incorporation of doodles or sketches.

Enter the recently released NinerPad, a paint/sketch app for the Palm specifically aimed at GTD. As a first release it is remarkably complete offering near-unlimited canvas size, sketch tagging, search facilities, reminders etc. This alone makes it well worth purchasing, however the developer has a real vision for the inclusion of new features including the addition of text entry which would give it the best of both worlds.

Maximising the benfits of publication

As Editor of the Journal of Maps, I’ve recently been chatting to the British Geological Survey about the potential for publishing some maps. What became clear quite quickly was they spatial data is their core business and, often, it is presented in map form, although there are other formats. A large number of people are involved in the production of a single piece of output and it is clear that the organisation wants to demonstrate it’s value by getting maximum exposure to its products and giving credit where credits due.

This is all fine for more traditional academic roles within the organisation, but is more tricky for someone who is, for example, a database programmer or cartographer. Indeed, just publishing a map raises all sorts of issues concerning how the internal review process is linked (if at all) with the external peer-review process and how this is actioned once completed.

Clearly a “traditional” journal is able to offer limited support is these scenarios, hence the discussions I have had. I would like to think we are quite forward thinking at JoM, however I know that some of the following does occur in other subject disciplines. Suffice to say that the geographical sciences tend to be quite conservative. Anyway, these are some of the ideas that I hope we will be trialling:

-publication based upon satisfactory peer-review, but no modification. Rather the peer-reviews are published with the paper for ongoing public review with a new version produced at a later date

-primary and secondary authors. In the case of a geological map, the field geologists would be primary authors and cited in the same way as a “traditional” paper. Secondary authors would be everyone else that assisted in the production of the final map. This could be tens of people who would receive recognition for the work they have done.

-publication of data in the journal. We are currently doing this, with the data being cited separately. Note that this can give the opportunity for those who compile the data to get recognition, and be cited separately, from the primary authors.

TagCrowd

Came acrossTagCrowd today which is an interesting service that analyses a piece of text and provides a visual cue as to the types of words and their frequency. You can create “stop lists” which exclude certain words from the count, as well as specify minimum frequencies (to be included) and maximum words in the image. They are also working on an API so that it can be embedded in a page. Below is the image generated for the RSS feed of this blog. Not sure what this says about me, but I think I use “although” too much!

created at TagCrowd.com

NGA Coastline Data

I came across the NGA Prototype Global Shoreline Data, otherwise known as NGA PGS, after a link from the EVS Islands Project. This seems to be one of the best (freely available!) world datasets around at the moment. Its derived from LANDSAT 7 (GeoCover) multi-spectral imagery and uses the Short-Wave Infra-Red (SWIR) bands to define the land water interface to about 50m. Gaps are in the dataset due to cloud, snow and ice (~10%). Well worth a look!