Following up the tools that I put together for exploring Jerusalem voter turnout data, I published a little piece on Medium exploring the results.
Read A Tale of Three Cities.
The Red Cross and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are on the ground in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan. An urgent need? Understanding the lay of the land. Which streets are usable? What buildings are still there, and which ones have collapsed? OpenStreetMap – the wikipedia of the mapping world, is stepping into the breach – providing a platform to crowdsource an up-to-the-minute picture of the situation on the ground.
As of today, over 700 people have contributed over a million and a half changes to the shared map of the ground (update: as of 9 December the numbers stand at 1618 people and 4.4 million changes. Click the link to see the current stats.) To make the information accessible to aid workers, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team is releasing daily exports for GPS devices and other information systems.
OpenStreetMap has been involved in helping in humanitarian crises before, but this is the first time they are doing so at the behest of the Red Cross themselves. Updated satellite imagery may have been just as helpful as the crowd-sourced map. Apparently, the DoD has that, and they’ve been telling the Red Cross where to focus their attention, but they haven’t yet released the images. It’s not as easy to get ahold of eye-in-the-sky images as one might think, not even for the Red Cross.
October 22 saw municipal elections throughout Israel. The contests for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were both hard fought – both for mayor and for the city council. The map applications here let you explore where in the city the votes for each candidate and party came from, and to compare the performance of multiple parties in fine detail.
One more map helps to tell the story of Jerusalem’s election. I hope to write an article just focusing on the dynamics shown here in the map of Jerusalem Voter Turnout.
Medium.com is working to remake online publishing. Again.
Medium.com is a project of Ev Williams. His creds for remaking media are impressive. He was a co-founder of blog pioneer Blogger and then of micro-messaging pioneer Twitter. Both companies changed the way the world communicates. Blogs turned every person into a publisher, and twitter wired up the global nervous system.
The rolls-royce domain name gives the site a primacy of placement, and telegraphs the scope of the founder’s ambition. It’s reasonable to assume that Medium.com was a 6 figure, and perhaps a 7 figure, purchase. We’re looking here at another bid to remake media.
“It’s not too late to rethink how online publishing works and build a system optimized for quality, rather than popularity. Where anyone can have a voice but where one has to earn the right to your attention. A system where people work together to make a difference, rather than merely compete for validation and recognition. A world where thought and craftsmanship is rewarded more than knee-jerk reactions.”
from Welcome to Medium
It’s hard to read “Medium.com” without recalling Marshall McLuhan’s seminal and concise teaching – “The Medium is the Message.” McLuhan seemed to presage the birth of Twitter in particular when he spoke of the explosive impact of electronic media. Instant information overthrows governments. And more.
It’s that kind of understanding of the sensitive dependance on the structure of the medium that seems to be underlying the work of the company. They’re creating a publishing system that aims to improve the quality of conversation, and they’re doing it from the medium on up.
Was working today to understand the General Transit Feed Specification. (This is the spec that Google uses to drive its public transit scheduling.)
I worked up this ERD/UML diagram. Helped me grok it. Thought it might help others as well.
Not entirely complete – I’m working to understand NY transit, and this is the subset that the MTA uses. If I need to, or if there’s interest, I’ll pad this out to be complete.
Livehoods uses social media check-ins, mainly from Foursquare, to show the neighborhoods of a city as they are actually lived.
It’s a good idea, and decent execution, but once I scratched the surface, it just didn’t jive with my lived experience.
When I’m in Brooklyn, I happen to land at the intersection of three of their hoods. It’s true, these are three different neighborhoods culturally, and a preponderance of people probably see the lines on the Livehoods map as a psychological boundary. Still, my life takes me into all of them – I crash in one and work just over the line in the other, walking back and forth, dropping in to stores along the way. I’m betting that most people do something similar – either with two neighboring neighborhoods or on two (or more) ends of a subway line.
From another angle, there are pieces of a single hood that are very relevant to me, and other places, physically proximate, that might as well be on another planet. Coffee shop next door? relevant. Child and Family services next door? Not so much. But a coffee shop one hood over? Also relevant.
There are likely many neighborhoods coexisting in the same space, layered on top of each other. Some of those neighborhoods will overlap strongly, and some won’t overlap at all. Some neighborhoods may not even be physically contiguous – the neighborhood of fine-art goers, for example, or the neighborhood of frequent business travelers. Is the neighborhood of a car owner similar to the neighborhood of a bike-rider? How similar?
What this needs is a demographic or psycho-graphic axis of some-sort, or even cooler – demographic and psycho-graphic derived entirely from the check-in data itself.
A beautiful business model, and a beautiful place.
The Rebuilding Center on Mississippi Avenue in Portland Oregon takes donations of no-longer-wanted material from houses that are being remodeled or demolished. Then they sell it, cheap, to folks who can reuse it. They’ve got everything – two or three warehouses packed in with appliances, lumber, fixtures, tile – pretty much anything you could want.
I’d love to see this business model in every city.
A bunch of pics at flickr
And that beautiful entrance way? City Repair
With just two days in Eugene, and one of them the Sabbath, there’s not a whole lot that I can see. The wind is carrying me up to Portland. I had one meeting at the University of Oregon here, and took some time afterwards to visit one of my favorite structures – a kiln shed that Professor Stephen Duff built with students on the site of the university’s urban farm.
As part of my tour of Berkeley from Solar Mosaic’s Dan Rosen, I was introduced to The Builder’s Booksource. I think I’m in love.
I’m in Berkeley, and my old friend Dan Rosen has been gracious enough to show me around a bit. Dan is the CEO of Solar Mosaic – a young solar company on an interesting journey.
The development of Solar Mosaic is an example of what happens when passion and commitment lead the show. The company grew from a desire on the part of its co-founders – Rosen and Billy Parish – to enable and encourage solar in whatever ways they could.
At first, they crowd sourced no-interest loans for community solar projects. They put 28.8kW of solar panels on top of The Asian Resource Center in Oakland, and continued to do the same in a small handful of other community projects. As they waded into the field, they started to sense a larger opportunity – distributed investment.
They’re about to launch a platform that will allow anybody to invest in solar projects at a respectable rate of return. The solar developers will get loans for their projects at rates below what they can get from the bank. Solar Mosaic takes a modest fee, and everyone is happy – except the banks.
The Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act that is making its way through Congress points to similar ideas – crowd-venture funding and community-owned businesses. Although they’d love to see the law pass, Solar Mosaic isn’t putting all their eggs in that basket – their investment instruments will be approved by the SEC under current laws.
What’s beautiful about what happening here is that the company’s commitment to making a difference led them into a space that they didn’t imagine they would enter. They’ll be enabling development of solar infrastructure, as they originally hoped, but they’ll be doing much more – creating a disruptive funding model that cuts out the middle-man and promises to change the way we build.