chrishaller's blog

Mapping a youth friendly city - the 910Arts project

At CU Denver, I recently helped design and implement a mapping application to collect feedback from Denver's youth about what they like and dislike in their neighborhoods. The application wasn't simply a static map often used by car rental companies, like ­car hire shannon­. It was an interactive mapping application that was used to conduct a survey. Children and teenagers were able to add markers to their home or other important places and answered three short questions about the neighborhoods around them. The whole application was built as a kiosk, and participants at the exhibition were able leave their feedback right at the spot.

The big opening was last Friday and I heard back from Darcy Varney, the curator of the exhibition, today: "... it adds a wonderful interactive dimension that has already engaged lots of people and was consistently popular throughout the weekend."

For the mapping part I rediscovered the WorldKit toolkit. One, because of its annotation feature, which is really easy of use and its ability to attach all kinds of input, especially in this case survey questions. The lack of an internet connection was another reason to go with WorldKit as a lightweight mapping solution without having to add something like GeoServer or MapServer to the mix.

Also, as much pain it is to make websites work with Internet Explorer, the kiosk mode is wonderful. If you're looking to adding kiosks as part of your eParticipation projects, you should definitely take a look at this feature

MyKML filter module for Drupal

in a project that I'm doing for CU right now, I needed an easy way to
display custom maps in Drupal, the content management platform of our choice, and the gmap module macros just didn't cut
it. I ended up creating a filter module, that allows users to insert
their Google MyMap or kml file in square brackets which will then be replaced by a
google map with the kml overlayed. It's built on the great jquery jmaps
by Tane Piper. I finished a first beta today and its working pretty well,, you can also download the source code there.Any feedback is more than welcome.

Politics on Youtube - the CNN/Youtube debates

I was impressed by how CNN and Youtube held the Youtube debates two days ago. The way questions were collected on Youtube and then presented to the candidates is a great example of crossmedia citizen engagement and I can't wait to see more of this. 

You have another chance to submit questions to the Republican Candidates for their debate on Sept 17th.

In case you haven't been following Youtube's political rise, this video is a great roundup of cornerstones along the way...

Follow-up on Where 2.0 - Andrew Turner's great presentation about the emerging GeoStack

From his presentation: 

Geographic tools have emerged that useopen-standards and support users creating and sharing their owngeodata. Together, these tools form a GeoStack that enable the entirelifecycle of data.
This talk will discuss the technologiesthat currently comprise the GeoStack and how it is enabling users toshare and use geographic data. Developers can fit their tools into anypoint along this stack, or add to existing services. We'll also discussthe future of the geotools.


Google's Geoindex

I mentioned before that Google started indexing location of online content wherever supportd. So I checked if the content on iCommunity.TV was properly referenced and yes, you can browse through all the content on a map. I'm curious to see when there's gonna be a search interface that'll let users search for content more intuitively or even time-based. I bet we don't have to wait for that very long...

GeoSummit unconference in Boulder

This Saturday I'll be at FRUGOS - the Front Range Users of Geospatial Open Source"unconference" in Boulder, CO. Anyone interested in discussing the intersection of geography, location,and technology should join us. It's basically free, besides a couple of bucks to cover food and beverages. Roughly 30 people have signed up yet, should be an interesting group and big enough to fill multiple tracks. So far the following sessions have been proposed:

  • HostGIS Linux: a Linux distro for lazy mapmakers
  • PubliclyAvailable Data <> Publicly Accessible Information: How can weencourage our public sector to embrace new models of (spatial) datadistribution
  • OGC -- what is it, who cares? (or, Standards are Your Friends)
  • OpenLayers -- Google Maps WITHOUT the Google Maps (or, Tessellation Is Your Friend)
  • Rolling Your Own Google Maps (I've Got Two Turntables and 150 Lines of JavaScript)
  • Web services, W*S, REST, SOAP, RSS, Atom Publishing Protocol
  • Mobility/Location-Based Services
  • Modeling the ancient world
  • KML applications
Go to the GeoSummit Google Group to get more information.

Where2.0 2007

The conference is over and before I'm heading out, here are some of my first, yet unrefined impressions:

- The Geoweb is here, with a broad range of services enabling the general public to annotate the earth and bring location into our everyday lives, now elevated by Google indexing kml, georss and other geo information on the web, basically becoming a geo-search engine.
- Mashups are maturing and are being taken serious, with all industry leaders offering their data via webservices and developing your own maps takes less code and hassle than before. New business models around mashups are appearing and are being embraced. Combining different information layers is constantly made easier for the semi-professional developer by offerings like Yahoo Pipes and Google's just released Mapplets application.
- 3D and virtual worlds are across the field being identified as the next step for the Geoweb, often replicating the real world, with different competing platforms, Google Earth and Microsoft's Virtual Earth chasing each other and Place9's just released RayGun, that goes the next step with avatars duplicating it's users real-world location via cell phone and gps tracking.
- Real-time location services on mobile phones are pushing forward, that are , with competing approaches (GPS vs.Wifi), like Loki,, Loopt, and cell carriers embracing or simply via twitter/twittervision
- Neogeography is maturing, with KML and GeoRSS now being acknolewdged standards by most organizations in the field
- Showing change over time with GIS data is getting big, e.g. Trulia Hindsight, GE,
- Mapping products become more user friendly, flashy and lightweight.

Where2.0 - Kickoff

I'm excited to be in San Jose at the Where2.0 conference for the next two days and will have an eye on what's next in location technology on the web and potential applications for the field of civic engagement

O'Reilly's Where 2.0 Conference brings together the people, projects, andissues building the new technological foundations and creating value inthe location industry.

Tonight the conference was kicked off by a Ignite Where, a series of short 5 minute presentations, and the launch of about six new web offerings. Besides some of the more geeky presentations about data formats and collection, a couple of neat applications cought my attention:

- GeoCommons seems to be a great new tool to mashup datasets, an approach that reminds me of Yahoo Pipes, but with the ability to upload own datasets and the use of other user's datasets.

GeoCommons is a community that enables the collective creation of intelligentmaps. With access to a huge new world of geographic data and infiniteways to combine it, GeoCommons empowers you with the tools to gain andshare insight across your neighborhood or across the globe.

- Fatdoor is an interesting approach to connecting neighbors, although after their presentation I'm left with doubts that simply adding location to social networking will separate it from other social software applications out there. On a neighborhood level, connecting online and real world is key in my eyes and I haven't really gotten the impression this is something they do particularly well. They rolled out their service in the Bay area for now and it will be interesting to see where they will take this. I do think this is a domain that has huge potential, with no service filling this niche yet.

Fatdoor is a neighborhood-based community social network. It aims to help you find out more about your neighbors.

- UpNext definitely impressed me by offering a great 3D enviroment (only in Manhatten so far though) to explore what's going on in your city. The unique thing is that all information is contained by the building rather than a point on the map and the look and feel of searching and exploring the content is amazing. Definitely a next step in visualizing local content in the third dimension.

UpNext is a 3D virtual cityscape where users can explore and discover theircity. UpNext empowers users to search visually, straight from their webbrowser, to find what's UpNext in their city.

- The all-so-popular Twitter social textmessaging service is put on a map at Twittervision, a neat application, that will still have to prove its usefulness, with more features being rolled out over the next weeks. Definitely a service to keep an eye on...

Twittervision was launched as an experiment to help visualize trafficon the emerging service Twitter. But as it has evolved it sits at theintersection of blogging, presence, location-based services, andentertainment. A grammar to support Twittervision location updates wasintroduced and now other extensions to the platform can be made tosupport additional capabilities. Twitter and Twittervision point theway toward horizontal, federated approaches of providing rich presenceand location-based services.

Besides the energy of the fast-paced five minute presentations the voting mechanism used to select the top presentation of the night (winning a full slot in the conference program sometime during the next days) amazed me. A mashup of the Mozes textmessaging API was used to collect votes live from participant's cellphones and displayed in real time. I read about this hack before and it was great seeing it applied. I will post the recipe to replicate this some time after the conference.

All in all a promising kickoff and I'm excited to see what the big players will roll out in the next couple of days. I'm still a little disappointed though that my proposal to present iCommunity.TV as an example of location in social and news media was not selected for tonight's session, also showcasing Drupal's amazing geo-modules. Considering that none of the other presentations covered this topic, I'm even more convinced this would have been a great fit.

A GPS + heartrate monitoring approach to walkability audits

Here at CU Denver, I've recently been involved in a Safe Routes 2 School project. We collected spatial information by doing a neighborhood walk with a group of parents who marked potential risks on paper maps. I also helped set up a mapping tool for the students, within the MicroWorlds framework (think of it as Flash actionscript for kids) that they were familiar with. The kids designed icons that were used as a basis for interviews with all 5th graders at Munroe Elementary School. Student leaders were trained to interview their peers and to collect the dangerous spots they identified with the help of our mapping tool. We're still in the process of importing the data into GIS and analyze the outcomes.

While working on this project, I stumbled upon Christian Nold's great approach to mapping risks based on emotions, - utilizing a GPS device and a heartrate monitor. I think this would actually be a great type of community mapping or starting point for a conversation about risks for a project like SR2S, as the conventional methods of identifying risks are mainly based on assumptions (especially when asking the parents - is graffiti dangerous?... I'm not necessarily disagreeing, but do think it depends on the urban context). And with the next generation of GPS devices replicating emotional mapping as a method for walkability audits is pretty simple and effective. Maybe I do need a new GPS gadget...


Dialogue by Design has recently released a free handbook on designing engagement processes, and a neat online wizard that supports interested users in designing their civic engagement processes, called dialoguedesigner. This is done by asking four simple questions:
  • what you want to achieve;
  • who you want to consult with;
  • how sensitive the subject matter or relationship is; and
  • how much time you have to run the consultation.

The answers include both face-to-face and online methods. Overall a great starting point for any consultation process.

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