Where is The Royal Burgh of Tain? Google Maps vs Bing

Update : the title was changed to remove the word fight as web mapping is not worth fighting about… 
A little post on the dangers of relying on your favourite web mapping sites too much.  I’ve just come from a nice holiday in the Highlands of Scotland and we were staying near a place called The Royal Burgh of Tain.   As you can see Google Maps (my web mapping of choice) doesn’t have it…. Bing does though.

Tain is only here according to Google 
The town of Tain is here on Bing but not labelled on Google…. uh oh

Not really much to say other than the residents of Tain might be a bit annoyed … at least tourists can find Glenmorangie Distillery, phew!

ESRI UK Conference – Thoughts for the Future, suggestions for ESRI UK

This is just a bit of random thoughts I took away from the conference mostly to do with social media, it’s not a criticism, I guess I’m just greedy and want more of the ESRI conference goodness….

I agree with Steven here ESRI seems scared of Twitter, and they shouldn’t be!  You don’t need to tell us to “tweet nicely“, most of us have paid to be here and taken time out of work, we’re probably not going to be rude about it.   Effective use of social media means many more people attend who can’t physically be there, surely that’s a win?!   ESRIUK does have twitter accounts and so do many of their staff, some of them even follow me!

I hope ESRI UK management don’t think of social media as trivial, because it’s not.   I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and helpful contacts through it.   As with anything you have to know its limitations, but talking to your customers and potential customers is always good, isn’t it?!

 I think they could add value here by giving it the #esriuk hashtag, not “You Cack 2011” (#eukac2011)  (or even ‘Ewe Cack’?) thanks to Steven for point that out first!   Honestly no one else would be getting their wires crossed on twitter and it would strengthen their brand and link to the ESRI USA accounts better.

TOP TIP: ESRIUK the simple and smaller the hashtag the easier it is for your followers to retweet.  

There could have been tweets going out throughtout the conference advertising various presentations etc… did the sponsors have some good presentations they wanted me to see?  I can’t always be looking at the programme, but I everyone has there smartphone….

The following links provide good insight into social media in business, they may not be industry specific but you can apply their principles:

Matt Deegan “ Radios Twitter Obsession”
SuButcher – JustProfessionals Blog

On a personal note I have found support via twitter can be great and if you do it right you can engage very effectively with some of the ‘movers and shakers’ in the industry who are not necessarily the big players!

A last thing to think about, how about some video streaming for those who can’t make it?  If people like John Popham can do #Twicket with limited bandwidth and resources I’m sure a conference centre hired by the big player in GIS can do it too.    In these belt-tightening times some of ESRI’s customers may not be able to attend the conference but can still be interested in viewing some of the presentations.

Maybe they can gather at a local council office (for those without reliable broadband) instead which will have the bandwith to cope as well… Mini gatherings of GIS professionals getting together to view presentations without the travelling and overnight expenses.   ESRIUK Conference could get an international reach then as well!  Combine that with effective use of twitter and there could be some interesting conversations going on.

Hey, if you’re interested I might even know a company who could host the event for people in Cumbria!

Just an idea but I think it’s worth exploring….

ESRI UK Conference – People I met

UPDATED: Various errors (spelling, grammar etc..) have been changed since the original was posted

It’s the brief encounters and interesting discussions that make all the difference at these types of events.  Often I learn more and come away more enthused from the people I meet rather than the presentations, I think this year was no exception.

I didn’t meet everyone at the dinner bash….

Below in no particular order are some of the people I met (apologies if you are not on the list, use the comments section to point it out!):

  • Nick Chappallaz ESRI UK – Nice guy obviously quite busy at the conference, and I apologise for using video that didn’t work on ESRI’s laptops!
  • Angela BakerESRI UK – She made me feel very welcome, and was very encouraging.   She expressed a love for Inverness (I up on holiday soon near there).   I just hope I gave her a presentation that works!
  • Andrew BloggKorec – As a well as a colleague whose name escapes me (I didn’t get his business card).   They are, as I understand it, the UK distributor for this neat bit of surveying kit GPS + Camera + Rugged looking Tablet PC + REMOTE CONTROL PLANE = Geek heaven? From SenseFly, check out the video here.
  • Lisa ThomasThe Coal Authority – She did a presentation on the Geo-Futures track after me, which I talk about here.    We had a very interesting chat at lunch on Day 2 (it’s always difficult standing up, eating and talking to a fellow professional who can tell when you’re making it up!), she told me of the interesting stuff that happens at the AGI meetings (I should probably go to one, one of these days).  We also discussed presentation techniques and how to cope with nerves…. thank you.
  • Richard GreaneyRusmoor Borough Council – It’s a shame I missed his session, but I did meet his colleague (sorry I didn’t get her name), and heard good things about his presentation.  He was also excellent company at the evening dinner/awards.
  • Richard Betts , Scottish Natural Heritage – Nice to meet him and hear that his bosses seem to give him the freedom to explore new and innovative ways of working.   Again he was good company at the awards dinner.
  • Steven Feldman Knowhere Consulting – Interesting gentleman with a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm, likes to be a bit controversial. I spoke with him about derived data (interesting discussion still going on here) and Rights of Way (RoW) as well as opendata – His suggestion/advice still ringing in my ears “JFDI”!
  • Stuart LesterBirmingham City Council – From a very big authority and doing great things, we talked about how to motivate people into perhaps working differently, joined up thinking etc…   I think the Planners of Birmingham could get some interesting stuff done with his help!
  • Elavvenil KarthikeyanBLOM – Came and found me at the end of the conference, he was interested in my presentation and was doing some interesting modelling of cities, mainly for TomTom and was very interested in CityEngine.  I think there is an interesting project here.  Perhaps he’d like to come back and chat with me and the people at Procedural.

A big thank you to everyone I met and spoke with, I really enjoyed it.

Continue to thoughts for the Future, suggestions for ESRI UK

ESRI UK Conference – My Presentations

My first presentation on Day One was entitled the “10 Minute City” to a largish group of people who made the trek to the basement instead of hearing about exciting developments in ArcGIS 10.1.  Honestly, thank you for coming down and listening to us all, not just myself.   VIDEO TO VIEW HERE After initial issues relating to my video not playing on ESRI laptops and codecs (I’ve never figured out codecs all I can say is it worked on my PCs and their offices ones too).

Here I demonstrated a workflow that used CityEngine and ArcGIS as the pivot points in creating a very basic city model for visualisation and analytical purposes.   I hope this went down well and if people have any more questions about it (I know I skipped some of the detail) then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

My second presentation entitled “Games and the City” was to a much smaller audience, I gave a live demonstration and an insight into a workflow we’ve been looking at using specially built software with assistance of InfoLab21.

My quick quiz about what game and system this screen shot was from got no correct answers unfortunately (and I was going to give the person who guess correctly a snazzy GDL memory stick!).
Perhaps you would like to guess? (answer in the comments below, no prize though sorry!)

Source: RetroGamer.net

Both presentations should be available to upload from the ESRI site soon, I’ll also try and post it here soon.

Apologies to those of you who saw the presentation and saw it stall at one stage.   I’ll blame it on the lack of a mouse mat, the awkward position of the mouse on the podium oh and my shakey hand due to nerves!

ESRI UK Conference – Day 2

UPDATED: Various errors (spelling, grammar etc..) have been changed since the original was posted


I stayed on the Geo-Futures track throughout, don’t get me wrong there was great choice out there.   I would have been interested in seeing more, but on balance there was more of interest to me on this track.   Last year I did jump around, this year I thought I’d try staying where I was, both approaches worked for me.

The following is quick run-down of what stood out for me, it’s not a review or judgement on anyone’s presentation.   They were all good and very interesting.

  1. “The Transition to a Low Carbon economy” – Emily Martin, ESRI UK – More detail on this subject from day one.   She gave me some interesting ideas that I want to explore further, I love that GIS can help us understand and assess the effectiveness of new technologies.   Whilst giving us real monetary values and pay back times!
  2. “Games and the City”My presentation which you can find out about here.
  3. “GeoDesign: Asset management in the Public Forest Estate” – Tony Farndon, Forestry Commission – I have great respect for anyone that manages forests (call it a family thing). I was interested in their use of 3D visualisation to see what future landscapes would look like with new plantings (I have some ideas about this to…).
  4. “Data in the Public Domain: Is Anyone Ready?”Lisa Thomas, The Coal Authority – As a Durham Postgraduate Alumni, (Geographical Information for Development anyone?) I am aware of subsidence and old mine shafts (the library and much of Durham’s campus is on an old mine!) so I found this quite interesting.  Dramatic pictures aside, there was a valuable point to be made about releasing their data to the public.   As there needs to be a lot of knowledge required to understand some of the implications of the data that they hold.   Personally I think that without educating people, no one is ready for this kind of data.   Her points also linked quite nicely with Steven Feldman’s presentation. Also her interesting insight into the world of INSPIRE was an eye opener for me (being in the private sector) and now I understand why @alexrcoley couldn’t make it (too busy!).
  5. “The OS Road Map” – Dave Russell, Ordnance Survey – Good stuff from the OS (as always really), interesting to hear about where they think the money is, as well as upcoming 3D and other products.
  6. “Open Data – is it like giving a kid an AK47”Steven Feldman, Knowwhere Consulting – I did attend last year’s presentation entitled “Navigating in turbulent waters”.  I’ve not really spoken to him before this year but I certainly have heard of him!   No bad things, of course, but he is one these presenters with a style that you remember.  Personally I wouldn’t call it provocative or controversial but it comes close for some I guess.   This presentation dealt with the question (in my mind at least) of whether OpenData should be open to everyone.   In that, he meant that perhaps only professionals who use a rigorous and professional approach to analysing and publishing data should get to have a go.   I may have paraphrased it a bit, but using the police.uk fiasco as an example of how not to do GIS was a good example.   He also illustrated this with a ‘police crime map’ of where he lives showing a large number of crimes occurring right next to him.  

    But if you don’t understand the context of the data or how it is displayed (and it can’t just be some minor piece of text disclaiming the data) the information is useless. Other than for journalists! I would like to add, that whilst the data is made “anonymous” by a particularly stupid method, the data isn’t very anonymous in areas of smaller populations (or small streets).  Anyway, it was a very good presentation, and you can tell it got my brain working a bit!

  7. “ESRI UK Online services “ – Dave Bayer, ESRI UK – Well I was glad our hosts had technical issues (made me feel better about some of my presentations issues), but I’m glad to see that ESRI is not standing still on the online front.  It’s a shame they couldn’t access the server.  But I’m looking forward to the OS opendata base maps!
  8. “Using new technologies to deliver savings in the Public Sector” – Duncan Hill, Europa Technologies – Interesting look at joined up approaches and integration of cloud mapping services into peoples systems.   My company is not really big enough or doing the right jobs to benefit dramatically from this kind of approach (we’re on a per job basis), having said that someone else does manage our maps on a regular basis, thank you ESRI for including that in ArcGIS 10.
  9. “Real Time GIS” – Charles Kennelly, ESRI UK – The resident DJ (didn’t he play S-Club7 as an opener at last years conference?) also had technical issues, well if you put us far away from anyone else at the conference maybe this will happen!  That didn’t faze him as he whipped out the latest cutting edge technology, pen + paper!   Who knew you could do such things without a battery!   I honestly found it quite refreshing to see a presentation done a flip-chart.   Joking aside, he made some very interesting points about how computing power has come on so far that real-time GIS processing is a reality and that we should be thinking about it now because it is coming.   He also warned against the dangers of focusing attention on the finished mapped product as being the ‘source data’.   He suggested our attentions should be on the process to we used to get to those mapped products.

    He’s right and I think I’d like to talk to him further about this in relation to what I do….

So, I hope that was of some interest to people, it’s one of my longest blog posts but conferences always get me fired up and thinking about new approaches.   Which considering the title of this year’s conference is quite appropriate!

Let me have your feedback, if I’ve missed anyone out or have additional observations or information please leave a comment below.   I will add your thoughts to the appropriate parts of the post as well.

ESRI UK Conference – Day 1

UPDATED: Various errors (spelling, grammar etc..) have been changed since the original was posted


Julie Pearce presented an interesting piece on GIS use at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (it trips off the tongue doesn’t it?).   It is good to see how people are overcoming inconsistent and disparate data sets from a variety of sources/agencies.   The over-riding impression I got was that although complicated in implementation the concept is very simple.   I too wasn’t surprised by the level of farmer involvement and enthusiasm for the technology.  After all farmers are businessmen and women first and foremost!   They want, like all of us, systems that are simple, easy-to-use and cost effective.   I would have thought the main ‘fly-in-ointment’ here is a lack of provision of true (not just silly 1meg) rural broadband.   Another agency that should be lobbying government to properly fund a national fibre optic broadband network (forget urban vs rural it is a national issue!)?

Rowan Douglas from Willis Research Network tried to convince us that the insurance industry wasn’t evil!  After listening to him I’m almost inclined to agree.   It’s all about managing risk and then how society as a whole and through the wonders of insurance companies pays for things, when nature or other events interrupt our lives.   When it’s put like that you realise at the same time, that he’s correct and that somehow it doesn’t quite tie in with why our insurance companies put up our premiums without explanation.   Is their industry in need of an image makeover, I wonder?  Probably.

However his presentation did include a lot about analysis, modelling and trying to predict the impacts of disasters on people and the economy.   Some great stuff going on which I’m sure adds to the sum of human knowledge about how to cope better with ‘events’.

After that there was some really good thinking going on in the Army with a presentation from Major Andrew Williams of the Joint Aeronautical and Geospatial Organisation (JAGO).   Joined up thinking and connecting people to easy-to-use and interpret systems.  So all tiers of the Army and partners can be working from the same page.   Again it is a simple idea but difficult to implement in detail.  Portable and ruggedized servers for in the field use, using limited bandwidths.   I wondered if is there something the rural broadband campaigners can learn from here?

The ESRI UK people did what they do best with working presentations on the Crown Estate, GIS for a Low Carbon Economy (I’ll come back to this on day 2) and ArcGIS.com with the RSPB and map sharing.    Good demos I especially enjoyed the Low Carbon one as I can see this type of analysis being ever more important.

The Capability Track after lunch was a bit blurry for me as this was when I had my 10 minute presentation.  I would like to have gone to the technology track as well and learned about ArcGIS 10.1.   But listening to my fellow presenters I learned a lot and was most impressed with their presentations.  Anyway here is what I remembered please leave comments if you have anything to add or point out where I have missed something or got it wrong:

  • South Yorkshire Police – DI Gary Williams presented how they were “delivering more for less”.   Obviously, nearly everything that the police does can be located spatially.   Making it easy-to-use was imperative for them and hence the web based interface that was developed.   Now officers are able to have more information about where they are and why there are there.   Some detailed calculations of cost savings were also done as well.   It is odd to see how much a crime actually costs across the board including victim costs, but there you are.   Personally, I just want the Police to get on with it and not worry all the time about cost.   I want them to spend time doing their job correctly and not rushing through to save money, but maybe I’m in a minority…
  • Birmingham City Council – Presented by Stu Lester “Corporate Data reuse and Benefits”, okay I’m sure he doesn’t just want me to remember the Terry Gilliam stills from Monty Python right?  Fortunately I remember other things to about how bringing various data silos together can have tremendous benefits.   It’s important in a council the size of Birmingham too.   I talked to him more at the event as well and he’s got a lot of good ideas I just hope he can maintain that level of drive and enthusiasm!
  • Garsdale Design Limited (my presentation) – “The 10 Minute City” (video available here) about the potential of tools like CityEngine from Procedural to help us with master planning. I hope the video went down well click here to the article about my presentations.
  • RBSI – “Scene and Not Word”, another presentation from the insurance industry, surprisingly a lot of what they do to assess risk, claims etc may not have required a GIS system!   Fortunately they did choose GIS, and wow, do they have an awful lot of information about where we live and work!   Again most of us might not like the insurance industry until you need to claim from them (hopefully successfully).   Their GIS seems to hold lots of information and helps quickly and efficiently assess risk.   The automation of some of the processes of insuring properties can only make the job easier.   Although now all I can think of is “the computer says no” lady from Little Britain…
  • Wales and West Utilities – Talked about how from a standing start they managed to get up and running within timescales a GIS management system for their new company and network purchased off of the National Grid.  Honestly, wow! To start with no offices and rented IT, I think their achievements are pretty amazing.   Especially considering the legacy systems they will have inherited (pipes and systems).   What was encouraging was seeing how they weren’t just doing the bare minimum but looking at using the knowledge of where all their repair teams were to properly and effectively allocate them to the right place if an emergency came in.    The passing of data seemed very important to them too.   

Following on from the Capability and Technology Track we all came back to see Michael Palin who was late (I hope he wasn’t lost) so Walking with Wounded presentation came first.   I like that ESRI does this by getting someone in that is not to GIS industry focused for some inspirational presentations.   A very good and moving presentation you can find out more by visiting there site.   Next year its Everest!

Walking with the Wounded –

Then the star of the show Michael Palin came on for an ‘informal chat‘ with Richard Waite (ESRI UK Managing Director) this was good and everything you expect from Mr Palin who is now the President of the Royal Geographical Society.    However I wish he had come on first as Walking with the Wounded was a really tough act to follow.

Proof that he did make it: 

Michael Palin – silly walk = a little disappointed

There was an evening meal and awards ceremony, it was nice to talk to people informally and our table was pretty lively, I think we finished the wine….

Before the wine…

Attending the ESRI UK Conference

Okay why a post about some weird acronym type company?  Well in the world of GIS (Geographic Information Systems/Science), ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) a software/consultancy company is a big player.

Yes they are a big corporate entity but in some ways they feel more like a movement, so when their yearly conference comes round I get excited.   Not content with just advertising their products to their customers it feels as if you’re at an event for the GIS industry as a whole.   Whatever issue you might have with ESRI’s software ArcGIS etc… you can’t fault the staff’s enthusiasm and professionalism (well that’s my experience anyway) especially at events like this.

Why the blog post this year? Well because I submitted a paper about using some software in our workflow called CityEngine and was asked to do a presentation on both days.   You can find out more about ESRI here and ESRI UK here, I would also recommend some Wikipedia research on GIS.
You may have come to this post because I mentioned you somewhere, if you want to add something more (links, information etc…) or correct something contact me or add a comment to the relevant post.

  1. ESRI UK Conference – Day 1
  2. ESRI UK Conference – Day 2
  3. ESRI UK Conference – My Presentations
  4. ESRI UK Conference – People I met
  5. ESRI UK Conference – Thoughts for the Future, suggestions for ESRI UK
  6. Back in London – not really related to the conference more musings of visiting our nation’s capital.