Gregory Marler

I introduced myself and PEG role on the GECO blog.

Dec 212011

It’s been a few weeks since the JISC Geo Tech & Tools Product Launch event at London so we thought it was time we updated you on some of the follow up activities…

On the second day of the JISC Geospatial Event in London, we had two sessions to gather around tables (and/or move between them) and discuss some questions around the themes emerging from the JISC Geo projects. It followed on from the previous days thoughts “to figure out which products are going to help catalyse the spatial revolution in .AC.UKs”, but this session involved discussion that looked out wider than the presented products.

In session 1 discussions included:

For session 2 themes running through the projects and 6 stages/ways of working with data were identified and discussed.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the discussions – leave your comments on any of the blog posts linked to here or add your comments on any of these topics here. If you were part of these discussions and think an important point didn’t get noted down, do add it as a comment as well.

We will be sharing more materials from the JISC Geo End of Programme events early in 2012 but in the meantime here are some video highlights – also available from our new Podcast stream [Click on subscribe via iTunes] – to enjoy:

JISC Geo Timelapse

View the whole of the first day of the JISC Geo in just 1 minute:  JISC_Geo_Launch_Event_Timelapse

Highlights from the JISC Geo Show & Tell 

Hear about the best projects at the Show & Tell events where all 12 JISC Geo projects showed off their work along with some guest exhibitors: Highlights from the JISC Geo Show & Tell

 December 21, 2011  Posted by at 5:36 pm Events Tagged with: , ,  Comments Off on How do you solve a problem like Geo? Highlights from the JISC Geo Event and Discussions
Oct 252011

Having backed up my computer I recently wrote a post of gamification, and then my computer unhelpfully died on me. Since then, the project I identified as the most obvious candidate for gamification, has launched a website that includes gamification (did they read my mind?). By adding a top 5 league table to the side of their submissions validation website, some users will find the same motivation as games and will help out more in order to get their rank up against friends or the top users.

Your project probably can’t be gamified. I don’t think that’s the case. Gamification doesn’t have to be through use of a league table or scores. The goal for the location phone app, 4square, is often seen as ‘checking-in’ to a venue more than anyone else to become ‘mayor’. But there are also a long list of badges(achievements) that you can be awarded. Could your users get a badge for their first use of the app, a medal when you notice they’ve added amazing metadata, or a gold star for discovering tghe use for a certain feature?

Leaf Watch league tableSo we’ve worked out your project can be gamified, but it probably shouldn’t be. Nature Locator already identified problems when you gamify. Perhaps the only ways to gamify were too stretch and it would be uncomftable implementing it into your project. But it’s still good to have thought about how you could do it. Even without gamifying the system you can still reward people. If you noticed an action would get an extra special badge, because it was an uncommon task or long/complex to do then you could set a message on the final page. Change “The data was successfully saved to the database.” to “Thanks for doing all that! We’ve save the data and it’s going to be a great help for people finding related information.“. You might not have an “employee of the month” notice board, but you can notice when people have done some good work. Thank/congratulate them directly or spread (good) rumors in the coffee room about who’s been your best user this week.

About that employee of the month postition. They wouldn’t work if you only told the employee, they need be posted on a noticeboard or where other people will see and get interested to work harder themselves. Social media is a great tool for making this happen. You can even skip the gamification and make people share what they have done using social media. With a tiny bit of code inserted into your system you can add buttons for users to share on Facebook or Twitter the page they are on. Don’t just make them a share link to your homepage, provide/suggest messages for the user such as “I just found details on ancient Athens using the the Pelgaious tool.” or “I’ve submitted an artifact and linked it to a location.”. If it’s one or two clicks away it can be fun to share what you’re doing and a lot easier than getting round to recommending the tool to friends yourself. The Pelagios team have been using Twitter well and I’ve recently started seeing tweets that link to precise pages in a fun way, such as this tweet: “Hello! I’m ancient Thera: Check me out in books and databases“.

How do you create buttons for users to share? It’s really simple, and the two most popular social networking sites have tools to help you. For Twitter use the tweet button tool an investigate the options, such as the tweet text. For Facebook I’ve realised my instructions require you to set up a Facebook app. So it requires a bit more work, but there are clear instructions to the whole process, and then lots you can do with it.

This blog post, as do all the posts on GECO, now ends with some example tweet/share links for a number of sites. Do try it out so you know how they work. You will be prompted to log in to the relevant site if you aren’t already, and you will always be asked to accect/confirm before it posts the message in your name. Unfortunately the WordPress blog system stops me adding a one-off example of how you can change the text that is posted to the site.

 October 25, 2011  Posted by at 3:11 pm Misc. Comments Off on Gamification is not for you
Sep 222011

Earlier this month OpenStreetMap(OSM) had it’s annual conference titled State of the Map in Denver, Colorado. To allow for adapting to the mile-high altitude (and perhaps the pre-conf pub trip the night before), the conference got off to a gentle but steady start. Richard Weait gave a keynote titled “Be a Mapper” on the topic of being more than just contributors, consumers, or alayisers of the rich data. We were encouraged to be a part of the community on which OpenStreetMap has grown and by which it is powered. Richard told how attending a local OSM meetup, or organising one, can be really beneficial to everyone who gets involved. Later in the day he chaired a panel “Meet the Mappers” where we got a chance to question example mappers who had a spectrum of local activitiy. The keynote was along similar lines of Professor Muki Haklay’s talk at the European State of the Map in July. Muki told the academic delegates to communicate with the general community and local users. Communinity participation being very important to do before, and while, you perform a study involving data, or teach your students how to add to the interconnected map data.

Other talks on Friday revolved around new apps and products making use of OpenStreetMap data, with various monetization plans, something everyone’s getting used to. After a day that felt more like a reunion than a conference, we went and continued strengthening the community by watching a baseball game. The home team, Colorado Rockies, may have lost, but it was a good social event with a welcome to the conference delegates displayed on the stadium’s screen, and I sat in the row of blue seats exactly a mile above sea level (though my GPS disagreed). View from the mile high seats in the baseball stadium.

Saturday begun with Steve Coast, the OSM founder, having much to say. He was instructed to hurry-up, but still wanted to spend a lot of time giving a good mention to the G3 research on Potlatch usability. Talking to Steve, he doesn’t seem to understand the scary images he used in his slides aren’t actually the eye tracking equipment that gets used. On sunday, an informal meeting to discuss redesigning the OSM website again mentioned Peter Webber and Muki Haklay and the usefulness of statistics and evaluations from their equipment.

Peter Batty gave theother keynote, and had some wondeful slides on OSM’s past present and future. In a talk about the changes in Japan Goolge Maps was thanked for being useful as a historical map. Despite the usual and expected visa troubles, 7 out of the 8 scholors funded by HOT made it to the conference and presented talks from: Tunisia, India, Georgia, Colombia, Haiti, Philippines, and Argentina.

Philippe Rieffel provoked thought with his work designing a map for children using quotes such as “why is this road yellow on the map when I can see it is grey?”.

The programme of talks is available on the OSM wiki. I think all have audio & slide recordings, some have videos which include the speaker(s). Do have a listen to some, but it’s much more fun to come to the conference next year and be part of the community.

 September 22, 2011  Posted by at 9:04 am Misc. Comments Off on State of the Map 2011
Sep 062011

After the last few years, GIS and geospatial awareness has come into our lives more and more. A number of the current jiscGEO funded projects are working to make it easier for geospatial informattion to be utilised by other disciplines or the average person.
G3 looked at the “Child of Ten standard” meaning that a 10 year-old should be able to learn to do something useful with a system in 10 minutes. It makes me really wonder what a child would do with a professional GIS program such as ArcGIS. I was in a university class where it took a lot of students 2 to 3 of the 2-hour workshops before they understood even the basics of creating and exporting/printing a map. G3 also performed a much-appreciated user-experience study of the OpenStreetMap Potlatch editor, discovering a lot of common hurdles for new users trying to get started in making basic edits to the map.

The GEMMA project recently walked through creating a map of the main London airports without specialised software or knowledge. It seemed their child of 10 might struggle to make an acceptable image, despite trying a number of options. They hope that GEMMA will provide an adequate solution when complete.

Though they are the two projects specically looking to making easier non-expert tools for GIS work, ELO Geo is creating a framework and a repository for sharing lessons and teaching material for students wishing to use GIS. The Nature Locator and GeoSciTeach are using the medium of mobile apps to make it easier for work to have a geospatial context.

Some might say GIS is a complex beast, that should only be worked with by experts otherwise mistakes and false conclusions could be made. But I’m excited about the idea that everyone could become geospatially aware, or use educational apps that are aware of the location they’re in. It empowers people to know about the world around them, and can also result in more geospatial data to be used by those experts who really know and love looking at such things.
If a child of 10 can do something in 10 minutes, then there’s not likely to be problems for anyone older. How easily would a child of 10 use the other projects, and would they find any needed instructions/tutorials without them being given? What couldn’t they do without the work of the project, or what would they have done instead (e.g. taken ages, or a flawed work around)?

 September 6, 2011  Posted by at 5:52 pm JISCG3 Tagged with: , , ,  7 Responses »
Apr 012011

Gregory Marler, PEG.Hi, I’m Gregory Marler and the Programme Evidence Gatherer, or PEG. I’ll be seeing what the projects are doing, what’s cool about them, and letting people know what I see. So you probably want a little introduction about who else I am.

I worked for the New Statesman and then studied Computer Science (International Studies) at The University of Durham. I’m primarily a web developer, the International Studies part means I pushed the geographic boundaries of my course and studied further technical stuff in Canada for a year. My geospatial interest was born during the cross between work and studies. I wrote a few articles on geocaching and web maps, and then got really involved contributing to OpenStreetMap by surveying every nook of Durham City on foot in my project named Living with Dragons.

I like getting outside to explore and helping collecting the data in OpenStreetMap to make it freely available for anyone, even myself, to use in innovative and creative ways. One example of this is the 250 elephant sculptures in London last summer. I found the location of many of them, and then created elephant webpages to display a map of their locations complimented with flickr photos and artist information.

I don’t have a peg leg, but I am Greg the PEG. I look forward to reading more about the various projects and meeting some of those that are involved.

 April 1, 2011  Posted by at 2:31 pm Misc. Comments Off on Greg the PEG
Mar 312011

Last week the Pelagios team held a workshop on linking open data and ontologies. The event started with introducing the various team members. Being a wide-spread and international team, this was also the first time several of the members had met each other. The talks, relating to linked data for referencing ancient places, brought people from various backgrounds so it was helpful and also insightful when speakers said where they were coming from as they started their talk. Geographers, classicists, developers, and general researchers or data-lovers, someone could make quite a venn-diagram of us all. It was all recorded, and concluded that the presentation slides should be shared, I’ll update this post with a link when I hear they’ve been uploaded.

The first section of talks, “Issues”, had started with the problems encountered when we want to refer to the same location in our documents or systems. Athens was a regularly used example as it could refer to various different cities around the world. Time is also a field worth referring to, especially in connection with places that move, disappear, or change names over time.

For those not familiar with the concept of Linked Data, Jeni Tennison from gave a good introduction and rules on what Linked Data should be. I recommend watching the recording, even if you’ve been working with linked data for a while, it might make you reconsider if you’re linking is strict enough and your data purposeful.

After  lunch, ontologies were discussed. Thinking about how to organise your data of terms, and seeing how others have done it. Here the subject of time continued to flow through the talks and how it’s affected previous projects. John Goodwin, from the Ordnance Survey, told us how they are providing data to be linked to so a common reference can be used for modern locations.

In the final section, titled Methods, we heard how other projects had been working on linking data together. Claire Grover talked about the Edinburgh Geoparser that scanned texts for locations and used various gazetteers to translate those into geospatial co-ordinates. This followed on to talk about the jiscEXPO funded Chalice, which is looking at historic documents from the Historic Place-Name Society so that translations can be made linking between modern names and old names for places.

The issue of fuzziness was bought up as Ceri Binding talked about working with archaeological data and time references. The Stella application shows how time periods (ages, eras, reigns, etc) relate to each other (before, after, during, at the end,…) by giving each period a minimum start year and maximum end year. Unlike monarchy reigns, some ages and time periods we can’t set the exact years to define them, further complicated by ages emerging across the world at different times at different rates. This all makes it tricky to create relations, as you make it hard to say if one time period led onto another period, or if it ended some years before the other started.

In the last talk, Eetu Mäkelä add a further level of questions by  asking if you say a building was built 2000-2010, does that mean it took 10 years to build or is it only known it was built sometime in that decade.

The day was insightful and mentioned multiple projects and services that could be good for Pelagios to use or learn from. The time is the obvious subject that could be picked up on. Both time and location are closely linked with each other but through their abstract concepts a lot can be learnt from referencing time and put into place for building up place name references.

Update: The Pelagios team now have a page about the workshop with photos. the recording will be added to that page when available.

 March 31, 2011  Posted by at 3:48 pm Misc. Tagged with: , , , , , ,  1 Response »