Online Maps – Ideal Government What do we want from Internet-age government? Wouldn't it be better if... Sun, 12 Aug 2012 09:49:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 OS consultation Wed, 27 Jan 2010 11:24:23 +0000 My short response to the Ordnance Survey data consultation

I think the phrase “making public data public” says it all. When a tautology is radical it’s an oblique way of saying we’re in the wrong place.

The UK needs vibrant emerging online services built on universally applicable data sets which the taxpayer has paid for already.

The agency “trading funds” rules aren’t particularly helpful to this. It’s not welcome news to anyone who hoped make new fortunes and careers out of privatising the Ordnance Survey.

But it has been clear for pretty much a decade (or 70 “Internet years”) that we need open mapping data and postcodes. Perhaps we should dither for a few more years, and then think about arranging some focus groups?

Hm. Slightly falling short on the #CMRD there. I hope others make more substantive, courteous and mutually respectful contributions. Go do it!

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David Cameron “mash-up” speech to Tory councillors in Warwickshire Tue, 04 Mar 2008 22:32:00 +0000 http://david_cameron_mash_up_speech_to_tory_councillors_in_warwickshire Look what Her Majesty’s loyal opposition came up with last week

The second announcement I want to make today is about information. For decades, information, power and control have been monopolised by well meaning public officials.

Now, because of the internet and dynamic change in our broader culture, we can consign this top-down model to history. We’re entering a post-bureaucratic age, where true freedom of information is making possible a new world of people power, responsibility, citizenship, choice and local control.

One of the best examples is crime mapping. In cities all over America, police forces regularly publish information about crimes in their area. What type of crime, when it happened, and where. Anyone can take this information and overlay it on an online map. This gives the public unprecedented information about crimes in their local area. And it gives social entrepreneurs, drugs charities, and a whole host of organisations to pick out hotspots, see what needs doing and transform neighbourhoods.

But look at our Government at home. It’s still bureaucratic, still top-down and still old-world. It still thinks it knows best and that it should keep all the information.

If you don’t believe me, try getting a supposed freedom of information request on important issues like exactly how taxpayers’ money is being spent. It’s next to impossible.; this is bad for democratic accountability….

Now, if the actual government (die Regierung an sich) were to pinch these ideas (which are already in its fredom of Information report) we’d be starting to get back on the right track. Hey; it would almost be Ideal 🙂* cheers William! Well spotted.

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London’s history proves the public benefit of public data Sat, 02 Jun 2007 12:27:02 +0000 http://londons_history_proves_the_public_benefit_of_public_data The power of shared open access to government date was proved 150 ago with the case of the cholera outbreak and the Broad Street pump. Sam points me to this on John Udell’s blog:

If you’re an Edward Tufte fan, like me, you’ll know the story of the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, and of John Snow’s map which showed deaths clustered around the Broad Street pump and which proved that the cause was bad water, not bad air (miasma). That story plays a central in Steven’s current book, and in his talk he points out that Snow was part of a larger cast of characters. One important but neglected figure was Henry Whitehead, a local vicar who collaborated with Snow. Another was William Farr, a government statistician. Although he initially favored the incorrect miasma theory, Farr had the good sense to publish the data that enabled others to find the right answer.

if you won the facts you may not necessarily see the answer. Someone else might make better use of it. They’ll definitely make different use of it.

There’s also a nice Stewart Brand summary of Steven Johnson’s talk about thinking on multiple scales of both time and space. Part of the Long Now lecture series), I think that’s was kicked off this whole thread off (which I haven’t really unravelled – I’ve got what I want and it’s a sunny day outside).

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Fresh from MySoc labs: planning alerts by postcode Thu, 18 Jan 2007 14:03:00 +0000 http://fresh_from_mysoc_labs_planning_alerts_by_postcode A Richard Pope project, currently in Beta, that gives you planning alerts in relation to your post code. We face a stark choice. We could take a joined up cross-cutting project through several Gateway review stages and go out to tender for an innovative shared service project to put something like this on DirectGov. Or we could just use and buy Richard a pint.

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Google Earth’s New USA Political Layer – Fun or a Threat? Wed, 25 Oct 2006 00:23:51 +0000 http://google_earths_new_usa_political_layer_fun_or_a_threat Half hearing a garbled radio report, then half reading a garbled article, I thought that Google was replacing Peter Snow and Gallup etc. In fact, Google has simply added a new information layer which users can superimpose on Google Earth maps, to provide some information and links for the 2006 USA elections.

However, how would we feel if Google went further and superimposed on their maps: eg. Opinion Poll results; results of detailed polling about particular political issues; or even the real-time results of “exit polls” while voting was still open?…

We’ve become accustomed to newspapers and traditional broadcasters publishing increasing numbers of opinion polls; sometimes to record people’s views, sometimes apparently to bolster opinion or to influence other people or governments. Some countries (eg. France?) ban the publication of politically sensitive opinion polls immediately before elections.

(Clay Bennett,
The world has moved on: First it was foreign controlled satellite channels; now, many people get their information and views from the Internet; This part of the Internet is dominated by huge USA companies. Google recently filed the USA federal paperwork necessary to be a Political Action Committee (PAC), allowing it to raise money for USA political candidates and causes.

Should the UK start to consider how to ensure the integrity of UK elections and politics against undue influences from overseas?

NSPCC “Be the full stop” maps mashup Mon, 25 Sep 2006 13:26:12 +0000 http://nspcc_be_the_full_stop_maps_mashup Marvellous Google maps mania remains the place to find great maps mashups. They point to this terrific NSPCC campaign which maps support for action to prevent cruelty to children. It has differernt green baloons for regions, childline type servies, and individuals. You can locate various celebrities and see their message of support. It’s kinda fun, like a map-based Pledebank.

It brings back an uncomfortable memory of being awoken this summer by quiet, insistent, worrying sounds from the holiday cottage next door, which my partner lying awake beside me also found sinister. What to do? The local Quakers were helpful, pointed me towards the social services 24-hour helpline. I tried to speak to the landlord of the cottage. It had to be a complaint to the police, which I didnt quite feel up to, so I did nothing more. But if I’d signed up to this NSPCC map I’d have had a phone number, and the moral support of my good mates Carl Fogarty, Johnny Wilkinson and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

That was perhaps the hardest “active citizen” choice I’ve faced this year. You don’t want to be compicit in the torching of a paediatrician’s home. But if the sound that child was making wasn’t a cry for help, I don’t know what was.

Anyway, join up here and we’ll all know what to do next time, if there is one (heaven forbid).

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GP creates searchable database of NHS quality data Tue, 24 Jan 2006 16:14:40 +0000 http://gp_creates_searchable_database_of_nhs_quality_data This is cool – Dr Gavin Jamie, a Swindon GP, has written a site that looks at NHS quality data. He’s used FoI queries about the Quality and Outcomes Framework to start a browsable/searchable QOF Database.

Much of this information is at least as interesting for what it says about populations of patients than what is says about individual practices. For instance the prevalence of diabetes in every PCT in the country can now be calculated accurately.

It will also allow study of the effects of the type of practice. Are small practices as effective as larger ones at reducing cholesterol. Are they better at reviewing medication? This website should allow you to answer these questions and many others.

It’s Creative-Commons licensed. It it even has a Google maps mashup within for Strategic Health Authorities and PCTs. You click on the SHA button to get to the local organisation maps. Too late to win a lava lamp from us, I’m afraid, but always in time to make NHS quality data more accessible to every one of us who uses and pays for it. Thank you Dr Jamie!

Cancel Transport Direct….Google is coming! Sun, 11 Dec 2005 22:34:28 +0000 http://cancel_transport_directgoogle_is_coming Perhaps they should hold off on Transport Direct (for which, funnily enough, I just binned a flier and travelcard holder). Google is tackling the question of public transport.*

I don’t know the figures but I guess we’re £50m in to a public-private partnership on Transport Direct. I wonder where the risk resides?
* Thanks Pete

Google maps prizewinners: you should have heard… Sat, 12 Nov 2005 17:08:05 +0000 http://google_maps_prizewinners_you_should_have_heard Ordnance Survey is delighted with the outcome of the Google Maps Mashups competition and the winners shoud have heard by now from the Ordnance Survey. I just had a note in from chief exec Vanessa Lawrence’s PA to confirm

I can confirm … that on receipt of your original email we did contact all the prize winners and have been despatching their maps to them once they confirmed the details of their OS Select choice.

I know that Ordnance Survey is very pleased that the competition was a success, and we were happy to work with Kablenet in connection with such a fascinating subject.

I’ve heard nothing from Google yet – have you? …I did send a small ping.

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Maps mashups – the judges have deliberated: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 11:30:13 +0000 http://maps_mashups_the_judges_have_deliberated The judges are delighted to report that the UK map-hacking community is alive, well, and right up at the cutting edge.

The UK has a heritage of Ordnance Survey map data which can offer fabulous detail and quality. And now the whole world has the new online Google maps which offer unprecedented advantages in practicality and user interface.

Because the Google maps – introduced only earlier this year – present an easier interface for programmers, the better-designed independent services (ie with no pop-ups or new windows, needing no plug-ins and working equally wel with all browsers etc) tend to be Google-based. Google is smarter at getting the hacker community to work using the Google service. So far it looks like “Survival of the simplest”, as Stefan says. But could this turn into “easy come easy go”?

Anyway, here’s what the judge made of the various services we looked at –


This is one for the enthusiast, and people with a passing interest in airports benign or otherwise. Perfectly good mashup with clear detailed info. One pin in the map locates the airport.

OS Get a Map

We added this in just for comparison. Technically it does use public sector data (maps), but it’s not a mashup, so it’s not really a proper entry. It lets you print Landranger maps. It opens a new window which takes away the basic browser controls. It’s more pretty but less practical than a Google map, and doesnt provide anything not already provided for some years by other (now doomed?) mapping providers like Streetmap or Multimap. Probably an example of how UK public-sector map innovation is hobbled by the Treasury-imposed business model.

Neighborhood Stats

Full set of ONS data retrievable by postcode. We had problems using SVG on a Mac (even tho using an SVG enabled browser) and the plug-in isn’t available. The judges did wonder what it has cost to deliver this modest level of usablility. The very small maps are static and didnt really work for us. Not a mashup, but geographically classified data with poor maps. Requires pop-ups, which is poor form.

Edina historic maps – only available on subscription. We didnt subscribe. So it was disqualified.

Planning portal. Clean design but uses popups. Not clear who’s behind it. Drop downs will be quite full with over 400 local authorities, But we couldnt find any actual maps, so it doesnt seem a likely contender to win a map competition.

Empress (roadworks finder) Dismisses Firfox as an unsupported browser. Needs SVG, when you could, it seemed to the judges, deliver the same functionality without. But when youve installed SVG o IE its a proper mashup, giving the roadworks, so it has the data. Special tool for panning. No data on Alexa

Ninja Grapefruit’s mapped BBC news. Very original and effective – it takes BBC news stories and places them on a map. Presents a full map of the UK with pins for BBC news stories. So full marks, except there is a glitch in the South East: “Leeds woman killed on M1” appears near Basildon and “York Minster trains youths in preservation appears in Southend. But hey, it’s just a glitch.

g-Traffic info with custom overlays with extra info in rollovers. Interesting straight comparison with Empress. But its Google-based so offers satellite and hybrid views. Gives source of data, colour coding for severity and an ETA for it to finish. You can choose traffic jams from a list or a map. Brilliant.

House sale prices – Yes, it qualifies,. It’s Land Registry data, with a pin. Takes a while to find the maps, but it’s not mainly about the map, its about the house price. Feels intrusive – it tells everyone what you sold your housre for – but this is public-sector data anyway.

Five-day weather forecast. We liked this, and want to suggest they should switch to using the much-loved traditional BBC weather icons (no longer used). Lots of detail. It seemed suspiciously sunny everywhere, but it was . Great.’s speed cameras…does exactly what it says, even though Spod claims to be based in the Cook Islands. The judges cannot possibly endorse the use of this site for criminality, of course, tho it does advertise detectors. Seems less easy to navigate for not having a post code enquiry. Quite slow, just because there are so many bloody speed cameras. More pins than map in some placees. Nice, we like it.

Lib maps. It works. Custom pins for different libraries. Demonstator only, covering some parts of the country. We like it.

Plymouth schools. Customised coloured pins, and custom bubbles for each school within each view produces mini-maps within the large map or satellite view. Pah! He’s showing off, in fact. Really clever, and useful. A winner.

Honorary mention for Place-O-Pedia
– elegance of design
– we like it.
– uses fully public data (not public sector data) so not really eligible. But it opens the way to all human knowledge being mapped out by location.

E&OE. Judges decision was arbitrary and we think about it again we risk changing our minds. Did we miss any? Let me know.

Thanks everyone for pointing out the sites, and for the fantastic work. Unthinkable just a year ago.

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