my thoughts on w3gconf 2011


I’ve been planning to write this for a while but didn’t have the chance. This was my first w3gconf/GeoCommunity (I had been to some AGI exhibition/conferences back in 2003/04/05 but that was many moons ago!). So first my comments/thoughts on w3gconf. You’ll be able to read my thoughts on GeoCommunity 2011 in another post coming soon.

w3g (Tuesday 20th September 2011) was unlike any geospatial event I’ve been to previously. I arrived a bit late and unfortunately missed Jonathan Raper’s (@madprof) plenary on OpenData (a theme which pervaded throughout the following days of GeoCommunity). By all accounts Prof Raper’s was a lively and enjoyable session. I managed to make the last of the morning sessions and saw Rich Rombouts from SnowflakeSoftware give an interesting presentation on the many different data standards present in the aviation industry. This included a shot of some raw XML data (I will not sully these pages with how this was described by some!). Snowflake are helping to design some common data standards to help with the sharing of flight and plane information and are trying to reduce the paper trail which currently exists. You can see Rich’s presentation here.

Next up was Brian Norman (@gingemonster) who gave a great overview of designing cross-platform map applications for mobile phones. A very pretty presentation it was – you can see more of it here. In terms of mobile applications XML is generally bad as it’s too data heavy. Brian suggests compressing data or using JSON to transfer data as it is less verbose (but very difficult to understand!). Other topics included the use (or abuse) of pop-up windows in mobile map apps. Lots of thought required and some UX testing (now that’s User eXperience for those that don’t know and I guess similar to UAT (User Acceptance Testing) but probably less formalised).

Next was Ed Boiling (I think!) and his presentation on dinosaurs and the wedge of geo! This was a presentation about the difference between complex dinosaur GIS (mentioning no names!) and newer mapping applications. The key thing from Ed’s presentation was the phrase “Simplicity does not mean fewer features”. I guess that can be true and his argument went along the lines of why do something the same way it’s always been done (e.g. “the new application needs to have button x,y,z”, “why?”, “because all our mapping applications have button x,y,z!”). The alternative is to design something which is as functional but isn’t such a headache to use…that term UX came up again!

After a short lunch (where I met some geo-friends and geo-colleagues both old and new) it was time for the afternoon session. This was from Stephen Feldman and was on the history of web mapping. This was the first time I’d seen this presentation live and very good it was too! It’s amazing to think how long web mapping has been going and the number of applications and software houses that have been and gone. We were treated to a screenshot from the original Multimap website – very 90’s! You can see Stephen’s presentation here.  

After this I gave a presentation on MapAction which was briefly interrupted by a fire alarm! After the fire alarm (fortunately a false one) there seemed to be more people in the room – so maybe it was a good thing! I gave an overview of what we do in MapAction and promoted our Humanitarian Mapping Field Guide (available for FREE from the MapAction website). Incidentally 50% of advertising revenues from go to MapAction – so please click those links!). You can see the presentation I gave here.

The final session was a geo-debate on whether geo itself is a business or a feature of a business featuring Matt Toon from Google, Stephen Feldman from KnowWhere and Ed Boiling from ESRI UK. I think perhaps the topic was a wee bit too general but some good geo-debating ensued. Then the day was over and it was time for the Ice-Breaker event! All in all a great day and really amazing that it manages to be free (thanks to the sponsors for that!).

Also see other blogs on the w3gConf event at:
Stephen Feldman –
w3gConf –
Gary Gale –





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