Seeing Forests

Michael Bauer’s Look at Local, Social and Ontology

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Where 2.0 2008

May 21st, 2008 by admin

The most relevant Local 2.0 session from Where 2.0 was the Map Monetization session moderated by Greg Sterling. With Tiffany Chester from Block49 Lat49 (thanks Sebastien!), Ian White from Urban Mapping, Jed Rice from Skyhook Wireless, and Steve Pace from Open Street Map, the group overall presented some useful commentary. The upshot was that while “micro local” (the group used “hyper local”) had great click-through and lower costs, it suffered from lower inventory and lower traffic, leading one to question whether a “long-tail”, “micro local” strategy will pay off. Mostly, this may just be waiting for Ad Words to become available from Google although some on the panel thought that there is an actual conspiracy against micro local “keywords”.

What was more interesting was the observation that a lot of companies are looking at “product location” in the context of activity-driven applications. For example, Kraft is fielding a “location-based” menu planning system. Many other companies, like Baskin Robbins, are upgrading their store finder applications, presumably with an eye towards product location as well. Co-op marketing funds could be used to pay for these kinds of services. Other monetization strategies were discussed, including subscription models, mobile interstitials, and “pay-per-itinerary” in addition to (or instead of) advertising-based models. All of this discussion was still in the context that that it’s just hard to drive traffic to micro local right now.

The biggest announcement at Where 2.0 was Google announcing they were now integrating GIS (Geographic Information System) geographic data in the GeoWeb (broadly defined as any web-based content with a geo tag – lat/long coordinates). Essentially, this was an agreement for ESRI, the leading provider of GIS data, to publish structured “GeoData” into Google Earth to complement the unstructured “GeoWeb” content. In addition, Google touted that KML (Keynote Markup Language) is rapidly becoming the default standard for the GeoWeb.

Along these lines, Adrian Holovaty from EveryBlock presented some interesting work with the integration of a variety of structured “governmental” content – building permits, restaurant inspections, zoning changes, filming permits, crime reports, and property records – with unstructured “GeoWeb” content – Yelp reviews, Flickr photos. The result in EveryBlock included a browsable permalink for “every block” in a city. While espousing a number of guidelines for effectively soliciting content from bureaucracies, Adrian made one of the more interesting admonitions to “roll your own” maps, using the likes of Mapnik, TileCache, and OpenLayers to avoid the one-look-fits-all of Google Maps.

Fire Eagle, Yahoo’s Internet Location Platform, was presented by Tom Coates. This open location platform, which utilizes OAuth for security, privacy, and access control, touted a number of supporting applications, including Navizon, Loki, Dopplr, Plazes, BrightKite, LightPole, and FireBot.

A number of other notable presentations included Sam Altman at Loopt, the provider of a mobile location client for different devices and carriers noted their growth, focus on privacy, and the move towards subscription models for mobile location. Sean Gorman from FortiusOne provided an update on the GeoCommons and how its interacting with FreeBase, OpenLocation, and MapMixer. Mak Mok Oh (thanks, Tim) from Everyscape presented looking at the inside of spaces like malls as well using different anonymous individual tracking techniques.

There were some really fun (if not potentially troubling) presentations on different versions of “geo reality”. James Au talked about Second Life and the integration of Google Maps into Second Life. Even potentially more eye-popping (and brow raising) was the use of “augmented reality” presented by Tom Churchill of Earthscape to superimpose more content directly onto observation systems – such as those used by police department helicopters in pursuit of suspects. A source for a number of new domain names was presented by Paul Torrens of ASU in Crowd Modeling. Using AI and simulation techniques, Paul was able to utilize “synthetic data populations” to model “urban panic”, “quiescent civilians” and “punctuated equilibriums” to model crowd behaviors in urban settings. What’s truly relevant is the use of things like “customer loyalty cards” and cell phone usage to model true behaviors in commercial settings.

One major disappointment of the conference were the presentations by the large companies like Nokia, Microsoft, and Autodesk. Essentially marketing presentations a lot of which had something to do with maps At least SAP had a doll house where you could break light bulbs and invoke their CRM system somewhere in central Europe.

Disaster recovery assistance through the use of web-based geographic assets received plenty of attention. Mapfacture, InSTEDD, and Poly9 all had presentations on the subject with Mikel Maron from Mapfacture providing some salient experience noting that the hunt for some missing persons (like Steve Fosset) using combinations of technologies such as Google Earth and the Mechanical Turk actually interfered with Search And Rescue operations (with untrained people calling SAR units directly). Still, the promise holds out for the use of such technologies and approaches in conjunction with humanitarian organizations such as the UN and the Red Cross (when governments permit such help).

Last but not least was Dash – the open source car navigation system. They launched with Funambol, an itinerary system for the car that sounded particularly relevant for Local 2.0. Of course, coupled with BakTrax for finding out what song was just playing on your local radio station and the Police Trap citizen’s alert system makes this an ideal Memorial Day gift.

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  • 1 SebastienProvencher May 22, 2008 at 5:43 am

    Very good summary Michael! And very helpful. FYI, Tiffany Chester works for Lat49 (