Posts Tagged ‘michal migurski’

The postal service as geographic DNS (Orange Cone)

Monday, June 7th, 2010

envelope_-_boonville_address-small

[Editor’s note: The 2010 Census Address Canvassing does this already for 145 million residential address, thus proving the concept could be expanded to include commercial addresses. I’m always curious about the accuracy and precision of geocoders. How about “front door” instead of rooftop (which often just means parcel centroid)! ;) Thanks Michal!]

Republished from Orange Cone.
By Mike Kuniavsky.

I was recently at a bar with a bunch of other technology designers. The conversation turned to the postal service.

Problem: the US Postal Service is in financial trouble

America’s postal service was partially privatized in the 1980s, so it needs to make about as much money as it costs to operate if it’s to survive. It’s having a difficult time doing that and has lost billions of dollars per year for the last several years, borrowing from the federal government to stay afloat. As the second-largest civilian employer in the US after Wal-Mart (that’s a sobering statistic in itself, on several levels), this means that it has quite a bit of overhead, while being at the receiving end of two technologically-induced competitive challenges:

  • Casual letters have largely been replaced by email
  • And package delivery has to compete with FedEx, UPS, DHL

Moreover, these other delivery services don’t necessarily have to honor the post office’s mandated responsibility to deliver mail to anywhere in the US (this is called the “universal service obligation”).

Proposal: the Postal Service should become the geographic DNS….

Here’s what I came up with in the bar: the US Postal Service (USPS) needs to become the equivalent of the Domain Name Service for geographic locations. DNS is the digital service that translates human-readable domain names such as orangecone.com into IP addresses, such as 168.75.111.15. This, more or less, is exactly what the USPS already does, but it’s still tied to the sender writing the actual physical address on the letter. However, as any recipient of a slightly mis-addressed letter that still arrived knows, the service is actually pretty good at figuring out where the letter is going. The USPS is already resolving ambiguous address data into physical locations. It’s been doing it for years.

Continue reading at Orange Cone . . .

read-write mapping: NACIS Conference Keynote by Michal Migurski of Stamen Design

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

[Editor's note: I'm just getting back from the annual NACIS conference and decompressing from backpacking, family and friends in the Golden State. Our great keynote speaker this year was Michal Migurski of Stamen Design who talked up the OpenStreetMap project. Mike has also been kind enough to help out with the Natural Earth Data site which will go live in another couple weeks once Tom and I have polished the data. Without further ado, the keynote...]

Republished from tecznotes.

[clip] I used the opportunity to talk about the fascinating OpenStreetMap project, specifically the ways in which it’s useful to a cartography audience and how that audience could benefit the project. This last thing in particular is what I closed with: I think the online face of OSM’s rendered tiles could use serious input from the NACIS community, particularly at the kinds of medium scales where the highly-detailed data blurs into “features”. Much of this happens by-hand in tools like Adobe Illustrator from what I can tell, a very different workflow from the industrial automation offered by my favorite stand-by, Mapnik.

This is a talk about a new awareness of maps and geography, and a change in attitudes toward maps.

I’m going start with a small detour here to tell you about an online phenomenon that’s going on four or so years now, called Unboxing. Unboxing is a kind of geek striptease, described in one site’s tagline as a “vicarious thrill from opening new gear”.

Unboxing is a response to the meticulous packaging of modern electronics gear, most notably Apple’s range of iPods, iPhones, and Mac computers – careful design is invested in the packaging, and careful appreciation is invested in its removal.

Why unboxing? Two aspects of the trend seem relevant here.

First, it’s a new kind of visibility into the fan club culture around popular electronics, allowing users to elevate their own appreciation of a mass-market good into a social experience. I remember bicycling past the Apple Store and the Cingular store on San Francisco’s Market St. on the day the iPhone was released. There were enormous lines in front of each, and as customers picked up their new iPhones they’d walk out the door, break into a jog, and high-five the remainder of the line. The division between fan and star here evaporates.

Second, the delivery mechanism for this fan-produced culture tends to be online sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube. Both are examples of the phenomenon of the “Read Write Web”, the now-familiar pattern of web-based communities formed around the creation and sharing of social objects like photos and videos.

One effect of these online communities is a new and durable awareness of the process behind creative production. Pages on Flickr or YouTube follow a pattern you’re probably familiar with: title in the upper-left, main “thing” just below that, and to the right at the same level of importance, the person who made it for you. Responsibility and provenance along with all the messiness and point-of-view are built-in assumptions.

In the world of text, we see this same pattern on Wikipedia.

This is the History Flow project from Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas at IBM, which shows edits to a single Wikipedia article over time as threads and contributions from a group of editors.

Like this one, each article has been beaten into shape over time by a group of people following loose rules of cooperation, so each page has an associated “Talk” page where you can peek into the arguments and negotiations connected to the particular set of facts represented there. You can see the sausage being made. You can also cause the sausage to be made, as we saw with Stephen Colbert’s parody of consensual reality he called “wikiality” and used to make occasional, abusive, hilarious forays into Wikipedia.

This is where we segue into geography.

Around 2004 or so, UK developer Steve Coast started a project called OpenStreetMap, the Wiki world map. Steve was connecting a few emerging threads: the falling cost of GPS hardware since it was made available for civilian use in 1996, the dismal copyright layer wrapped around Ordnance Survey maps, and the lack of a viable crappy-but-free alternative in the UK. It’s hard to overstate how crazy this idea was at the time; everyone knows that collecting worldwide geographic data at the street level is a massive undertaking, out of reach of an enthusiast community like the OSM of the time.

What was the state of online mapping at the time? Not terrible, but not great.

Continue reading at tecznotes  . . .

All Aboard For NACIS Sacramento in October!

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

sacramentoThe program for the 2009 NACIS annual conference has been announced. The location this year is Sacramento, Calif., from Wednesday, October 7th to Saturday the 10th. I will be presenting Natural Earth Vector with Tom Patterson and crew at the Practical Cartography Day event before the main conference.

The North American Cartographic Information Society, founded in 1980, is an organization comprised of specialists from private, academic, and government organizations whose common interest lies in facilitating communication in the map information community.

Opening session speaker will be Michal Migurski, Stamen Design in San Francisco. Michal is Partner and Director of Technology Stamen, and maintains an active blog about mapping and design. Several Saturday field trips are available.

See the nation’s most spectacular scenery on the way to this year’s NACIS conference. Join Dennis McClendon and the rolling Geodweeb party train as it heads from Chicago to Sacramento. More info is available via the CartoTalk forum posting.

trainmap