More WhereCamp.eu

In meetings on March 14, 2010 at 8:45 am

On the second day of WhereCamp.eu we moved to the luxurious Guardian offices in Kings Cross. There were fewer attendees in a much larger space, giving the event a distinctly different feeling.

At the start of the day I met up with a former colleague who was going to the open source in geographic information systems session. So I followed him. The session was about the organizational support provided by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. A theme that came across, and echoed from yesterday’s sessions, was the problems with open source tools being focussed on the needs of developers, rather than the needs of users – although there is optimism that the Quantum GIS project may be addressing this issue.

Then there was a session about using historical data. It was led by Peter Miller from ITO – whose colleague impressed enough the previous day to make his affiliation on the wall enough to convince me to attend. The pitch was to initiate a project to make current and future data better quality. Using the example of high speed rail planning. We were shown currently available consultation data and invited to think about the social consequences of poor quality data locked in PDF documents. The discussion focussed around the idea of time-travel and there was some serious scope creep from the initial concept. Peter proposed turning historical and current images into data – extrapolating backwards in order to improve the tools to plan ahead. As he said: “getting people who are excited about the past makes the tooling much better for planning the future”. The session concluded with a group of highly motivated people agreeeing to work on a project to create a 1921 version of the rail network on Open Street Map – a good result for a well-prepared pitch.

The last session before lunch was about accessing location based services on the iphone. Tom Melamed took us through various ways to simplify writing an application using wrapping technologies. Contending that the best way to develop an iphone application is to write a web page, Tom first presented the W3C geolocation specification and demoed how a mobile accessed webpage can ask a browser to provide location. He went on to show PhoneGap – a wrapper around a webpage delivered as an application (needs a mac to use). Another solution to this is titanium (and there are several others providing similar Objective-C avoiding solutions). Another useful tool mentioned was jQTouch – a javascript user interface library that makes web pages look and feel like iphone apps. It can be combined with phonegap to build apps – phonegap apps are allowed on the app store (and it also works on android).

After lunch was spent watching the rugby international; and chatting to others who were torn over their priorities. As the closing session and hack review overlapped the last 20 minutes of the match (Ireland-Wales, in case you are wondering), I took my computer (and the audience) into the session with the rugby streaming over the wifi. As soon as the game was over, it was time to present my hack for the weekend. The hack is a sunrise/sunset calculator that will be posted here tomorrow. As there were only three hacks presented, it stood some chance of claiming the prize. It didn’t win, but the voted result was closer than expected. Congratulations to Michael Dales for his winning hack.

Wherecamp was a great experience. Both days were memorable for the quality of the sessions and the generous spirit in which everyone shared their thoughts and ideas.The organisers stressed that anyone can organise a WhereCamp (or indeed any other camp) and encouraged us all to thing about doing so.


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