Open Map Technology

I’ve been doing a lot of work with maps lately. Mainly Google Maps. Apparently, Google’s ToS isn’t as straightforward as I thought, and certain very reasonable situations render usage outside Google’s terms.

I’m not saying I don’t like Google Maps though, I’ve come back to it many times for dozens of projects over the years; it’s indispensable. However, there are open alternatives. I researched the open alternatives for a series of Quite Useful posts (my other blog):

It’s incredible to see what people are with open source technology in this area.

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Rewired State Project: StateAware

I went to the Rewired State event yesterday to contribute to contribute code based on hacking government data sources and APIs. My project was called StateAware, and it aimed to collect, combine and enrich data through APIs and screen scraping.

I wanted StateAware to achieve two things:

  • The government won’t make sensible APIs, so let’s do it for them
  • Make people more aware of locally relevant government data

The project I worked hard on the project at the event, but it’s not even at the proof of concept stage yet. It was too ambitious for a one–day event.

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Mini App: TweetFu

Around Christmas I was watching TV with the family and messing around with my netbook. It’s got Linux and Ruby on it, so I can actually work on that tiny thing. I came up with a script called lovehate.rb: it downloads matches of love and hate on search.twitter.com, then calculates the frequency for each term and presents a "winner".

For some reason this script fascinated me: love almost always won, and I really wanted to find out what trends affected this. I made the script more generic and used it to compare other terms; eventually TweetFu.com was born.

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Vim Stuff

I get a lot of hits to my blog from people looking for Vim resources, probably due to Vim for TextMate fans. I think Vim might be getting a resurgence from developers using Linux on netbooks and the refreshing speed and efficiency of Vim.

Here are some of my recent discoveries and tips for Vim.

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Google's a Glutton for It

There was a time when journalists finally realised what cookies were, and Google got heavily covered in the press for using them to track what you were searching for. Google said they use the data anonymously, and so the argument moved on to the lifespan of the cookies.

Recently Google stated inviting users to enter profile data. You can see this if you’re logged in, google.com/ig users will have no doubt seen it by now. This can be as detailed as you want: full contact details, date of birth, place you were born, employment details and a photo.

I’m not entirely sure what the point of filling this out is, Google don’t make it 100% clear. They say, “the more information you provide, the easier it will be for friends to find you”. Previously Google only stored your login details, now they’ve furnished these with a complete profile. That’s enough to make privacy concerns greater than ever.

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What Hosted Blogging Should Look Like

I like Tumblr — they’re very generous with what they let you edit, so you can run a pretty serious blog with only a domain name and some spare time to make a template. I use it both as a lifestreamer and blogging system. WordPress.com is also pretty good, although a bit slow at times. No matter which hosted blogging software I try, though, none of them really deliver 100%.

It’s hard to please everyone, but existing services have some pretty serious omissions. They also do things most people don’t need. Trying to bend WordPress.com into behaving how I want is sometimes so much work just getting cheap hosting and running my own copy would be easier: and that’s the kind of time wasting I’m trying to avoid.

How hosted blogging should work

#1. No duplication of other services

The entire philosophy for the system should be plug and play. People should be able to easily select services they already use, and they should be supported fully. Anything from comments and captcha codes to images should work. These third–party systems should just plug in with a few clicks.

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