Last day for CloudMade London

Today’s the last day for the CloudMade London team. We’re not powering down any servers. It’s business as usual for the rest of CloudMade, but for me, Andy, Matt, Shaun and Emma it’s time to finish packing up junk and selecting office furniture to purloin.

It’s been an pretty amazing year. Our team here in London was working with the OpenStreetMap community to further the goals of the project, and I hope we did a good job of this, but I can’t help feeling regret at not having done more, or certainly at not being able to continue the work.

It’s been hectic. Time was gobbled up on the various OSM communication channels and on CloudMade support emails. What was left was generally spread too thinly between many projects and ideas. I’ve been in the eye of the OpenStreetMap storm, watching powerless as the debris flies past. I’m sure future jobs won’t ever be quite the same (and not nearly as much fun), but right now I still have a head full of project ideas and a busy inbox, so I need to learn the lessons and get better at juggling these things.

Last week I saw some great talks at the Open Source Show and Tell, and some of them really related well to OpenStreetMap and to what might have come next for our team.

Leisa Reichelt talked about the Drupal 7 User Experience Project. A group of paid people worked on a major UX overhaul for the next version of Drupal. She described the type of usability studies they did, and some of the processes they had to go through to introduce these ideas and have them adopted by the drupal developer community. She said they used video a lot (see YouTube group), not just because it gets across usability ideas well, but just as a more engaging way of getting their message to the community. She stressed the need for feedback early on, and throughout the process. Now OpenStreetMap is just at the beginning of this process, with a few people starting to mention UX as the next big priority (Not just front page flower-arranging. We need to look at the whole user experience) As an Open Source project, we’re pretty small fry compared with Drupal. Certainly we can try to do a similar thing, but it’s shame there’s no longer a paid team of people who could dedicate themselves to this.

Iain Farrell talked about Canonical and their work with the ubuntu community. He talked about the big community conferences they hold every 6 months. Naturally this made me think of OpenStreetMap’s State Of The Map conference, but actually these are all about getting ubuntu developers together to brain-storm and design the next releases of the software. Clearly this is another highly “mature” Open Source community, and the conferences fit into a very specific point in their carefully controlled release cycles. What’s the closest thing OpenStreetMap has to this? Probably our London developer meet-ups and “hack weekends”. That’s another thing we’re going to struggle to do now, if only in terms of having a venue.

Things like release cycles and UX reviews all require a level of coordination beyond the basic mish-mash of individual developers scratching their own itches. As OpenStreetMap continues to grow, we’ll need more coordination. I’m sure Foundation Working Groups will be part of the solution, but these are made up of volunteers too. I’m sure we’ll make it work one way or another, but I’m sorry our CloudMade team didn’t get to see things through to the next level in 2010.

OpenStreetMap at Where2.0Now

At Where2.0Now I presented the OpenStreetMap idea with these slides:

OpenStreetMap talk at Where2.0Now on slideshare

I will post a video link if and when it comes available, but here’s a wee photo for the time being:

Harry Wood presenting at Where2.0Now

Promoting OpenStreetMap

I like to highlight similarities with wikipedia. The approach of letting anyone edit without strict moderation, the wiki “soft security” approach, really does work. But I think to some people this will seem unlikely, particularly if they’ve never heard about the details of Wikipedia. Hopefully this audience was web-savvy enough to get the idea.

The usual pitch was modified slightly. Normally we’ll say “Mapping is fun! Go out and try it!”, as a core message. I did mention mapping techniques, including the simple pencil & paper (something else I always like to highlight) but with a room full of GIS industry people I mainly tried to talk more about using OpenStreetMap. The last slide is a new one where I encouraged people not just to view OSM as a source for a one-off data download, but as an ongoing collaboration with other interesting possibilities. You can tap into the updates stream, you can contribute data back and benefit from further updates, and you can contact the OpenStreetMap community to ask questions and get involved.

Promoting CloudMade

Naturally I mentioned CloudMade services a few times.

The CloudMade style editor is an exciting tool for anyone interested in trying out quick and easy custom OpenStreetMap renderings.

I also mentioned Cloudmade downloads which offer more manageable (country level) extracts than the full Planet downloads aswell as ESRI shapefile downloads, all for free!

I’m still working for CloudMade for a few more weeks, but even if I wasn’t, it’s pretty natural to drop in a mention of these things when talking to firms about using open licensed geodata. There’s a bunch of other interesting products for geo-developers on the site.

Promoting myself

Of course the conference was a great opportunity to make a start at promoting myself. Things are winding up at the CloudMade London office which is sad, but the OpenStreetMap project is going from strength to strength, as is the geo-scene in general. In 2010, after I get back from Christmas in Brazil, my plan is to start freelance IT contracting work (although not ruling out permanent positions) I’d love to continue doing OpenStreetMap work, but I’m still trying to gauge how likely that is. Any hints/tips/ideas/job offers are welcome!

Where2.0Now AGI Northern Group Conference

Yesterday was the Where2.0Now conference of the AGI Northern Group.

Where 2.0 Now banner

Here’s the list of speakers again:

Rollo Home did a great job organising this, and managed to put together a really interesting day. There was all the usual geo-buzz and excitement around neogeo technologies which we see at London tech conferences and meet-ups, and this is always fun, but yesterday was interesting for a couple of other reasons.

Firstly there was lots of guys in suits there. Like at the other AGI geoconference events, the “traditional” GIS industry was out in force. A lot of the speakers (myself included) were taking the opportunity to spread the “neogeo” message to these people. It was also an opportunity for we cheeky whippersnappers to learn a thing or two from them. Lots more work to do on this. I feel the OpenStreetMap community in particular have a lot to learn and a lot more to offer big-business GIS firms if we could only learn to speak their language better. As usual, the conference participants widely agreed that there’s no point drawing strong distinctions between neogeographers and paleogeographers, and as usual we went ahead and did it anyway 🙂

Secondly the event was interesting because it was definitely not in the The South. No… not in California either. We ventured up to Harrogate in North Yorkshire to reach a whole new audience. We should do this more often. Thanks to GeoPlan for a great venue, and thanks to my mate Paul for putting me up at his house.

Some follow ups…

Blog posts: Tim Waters, Ed Parsons, Steven Feldman , John Fagan

The busy #geocom twitter stream was preserved as a pdf by Steven Feldman    Total failure to tweet by me I’m afraid.These MindMaps from Ant Beck give a nice overview of topics covered in the talks.

(update) I have blogged again with a little more detail of what my talk was about. I have uploaded my slides to slideshare with a ‘geocom’ tag (munged with the other events in the series). Maybe  they’ll be uploaded separately by the geocommunitylive user too.

Videos of the talks were also made, but probably won’t see the light of day for a while (…so surprise me)