Miscellaneous news of 2012-06-07

Today in miscellaneous news:

Open government data Zurich briefing: Today I’ve been at a preliminary open government data briefing by eZurich, an initiative to promote the IT industry in the city of Zurich, Switzerland. Zurich will be the first Swiss city (actually the first Swiss administrative body at all) to adopt an open government data strategy and launch a data dissemination portal. The meeting today brought together officials, journalists, developers, ideators and evangelists to discuss opportunities and challenges of open government data. The main challenge and most widely discussed topic was responsibility/indemnity of developers using (potentially faulty) official data in one of their apps. While including a disclaimer in one’s app may already go a long way, I’m sure we haven’t heard for the last time about this particular concern.

Open government data conference: On 28th of June, the city of Zurich will publicly launch its government data dissemination portal during the Opendata.ch 2012 Conference [german] (see this blog post by me on my company’s website [german] for more background information on the Swiss open data movement). I’m honoured that I’ve been invited to give a presentation in the Health & Environment track at the conference. The topic is my study about the hazard imposed on Switzerland’s population by nuclear power stations in Switzerland and abroad.

Google detailed the “next dimension of Google Maps”: Today, Google’s much-hyped press conference took place. According to some pundits, the mountain gave birth to a mouse. What was announced boiled down to:

  • Cacheable Google Maps (something that has been around by 3rd party providers and to some degree also by Google itself (at least on my Samsung Galaxy SII I can download GMaps tiles for offline-use, not sure if that is some kind of “Lab feature”).
  • 3D imagery ‘maps’: They look very nice, but Google is not alone/first in that field either.
  • New (portable) gear for acquiring Streetview imagery.

Peter Batty at geothought has some more very interesting – errh – thoughts and insights into El Goog’s announcements. His take-away message: Google announced that it is scared of Apple Maps (press conference next week).

NY Times Borderline blog on Leopold Kohr’s idea of ideal size of countries: The Borderline blog continues to produce great reading material. This week Frank Jacobs writes about Leopold Kohr who develop ideas about the ideal sizes of countries with such gems as:

“There seems to be only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness.” Size was the root of all evil: “Whenever something is wrong, it is too big.”

“The absolute maximum to which a society can expand without having its basic functions degrade, is about 12 to 15 million people.”

A must-read. And look at these maps of proposed countries:

Proposed sub-division of the USA (NY Times)

Proposed sub-division of Europe (NY Times)

Material to get you started with R stats package: FlowingData have posted a nice list of resources to learn R.

Recommended reading – books about places: Thierry at Georeferenced posted his list of 10 favourite books (and one magazine) that convey a sense of place. This made me wishlist some books.

An – alas – presumably unsuccessful try at Earth Standard Time: by xkcd. Nuff said, go see for yourself.

Tornado map: IDV Solutions have produced an (alas static) tornado map of the USA. It’s visually quite appealing, however, unfortunately there are some drawbacks, the most obvious ones being: it uses Mercator projection (distorting northern regions severely) and only touchdown and liftoff coordinates (giving straight lines for the tornado paths, losing much detail in the process). While this is already an appealing visualization, steps towards an improved next version are clear.

IDV Solutions tornado map

Some love for strange toponyms: Apparently, the Scottish town of Dull (population 84) and the U.S. town of Boring (population > 10.000) have become sister communities. BoingBoing formulates it thusly: “They have joined forces to promote their inherent interestingness.” The Guardian has more coverage with this gem:

Residents of both places wait with bated breath as officials in Boring, which is six hours behind the UK, voted on whether they could be officially linked. Any fears were quickly assuaged though as the Boring Community Planning Organisation in Oregon voted to make the two communities “a pair for the ages”.

Hooray for Dull & Boring!

And finally, my quote of the week (via Swissmiss):

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.”
– Duke Ellington

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