Another fight for free data

It’s not just the Guardian that are fighting for ‘Free Our Data’. Ernest Marples set up a site offering postcode data for free, sourcing the data from Free The Postcode and utilising them in two key (free) services, and Jobcentre Pro Plus. Both services targeted at making public services more accessible and geographically relevant.

Ernest Marples got a cease and desist request from Royal Mail (the controllers of the postcodes in the UK), since they’re in breach of copyright and numerous other licenses for using it in the way they are. So the service has been shut down and they’ve now launched a campaign to petition for Royal Mail to create a new (free of charge) license for use of the postcode data for non-profit purposes. This new license, if created, would help give developers of free services (like myself) the opportunity to provide more geographically-relevant data to UK users.

What can you do to help?

Sign the petition on the Number 10 site or write to your MP and request them to sign EDM2000.

I’ve done my bit, by both signing the petition and writing to my MP – (Shailesh Vara, Concervative MP for North West Cambridgeshire).

Well done OS, you’ve done it again

As mentioned on, Digital Urban and Londonist, to name but two blogs, as well as the usual suspect, the Guardian covering the story. The Ordnance Survey have again shown their rather blinkered approach to public responsibility in favour of commercialisation by stopping a UCL CASA project to show air pollution in London within Google Earth using 3D buildings.

Since the 3D buildings are produced in part from OS MasterMap data the project is now only able to be used within government departments, as they have licenses to use the datasets already. The point of the UCL’s project was to allow the public to have a view of the situation.

The Londonist article describes the OS as the bank manager character from the Nationwide adverts, constantly going against normal thinking with ‘it doesn’t work like that’ answers. Some may think this is a bit harsh, but personally I’d say it was apt for:

The UCL’s own user interface is still available on their project site, but I don’t know how long that will last, it is, however, very impressive.

Another rant about the lack of maps

Being technical and loving maps, I tend to expect that other people that are into maps would want to use them wherever they’re relevant.  One area I always expect to see a map is next to addresses for shops/events.

I know some people aren’t technical when it comes to putting content on websites, but most places manage to at least put a link to Multimap/Google Maps, however, people who’s job it is to know about GIS I expect a little more of, and I think rightly so… a company such as the AGI (the focus of this rant) and it’s event sponsors have an interest to promote the use of GIS and mapping in general, and what better way than showing maps on their own sites in the most relevant places?

So what’s wrong with their site?  If you look on their first ‘When and where‘ page there is an address of the location of the event, with a link to the location’s website, but no map or map link.  Then you may notice the link to the ‘Travel Informtion‘, where they do at least have a link to a PDF map and to Streetmap.

Ok, so maybe that would ease my frustration, and I suppose when I saw that they’d at least put some sort of map on there, it did, a little, but of course I’m expecting more… Looking at the PDF map it is an A4 page with a map at the top, and that’s it… no directions (which they’ve got on their site), not even the address (so you can use SatNav).  Then, knowing the Streetmap website, you can’t plot routes to that location (which you can do from almost any other online map service).

Come on! People in the GIS and mapping industry should always be thinking ‘would a map add value to this information’, but it feels like sometimes they’re not thinking properly at all.

Error Messages make me smile

Don’t you just love technology? Windows coughed up the most fantastic error to date, this weekend. There I was working away, minding my own business when up popped:


Individual Applications, crash… yes, Memory cannot be referenced… at a push, but trying to tell me the whole GUI has crashed? I think you’re having a joke. Even better, click Ok and what happens? Nothing, absolutely nothing. If you’re going to give me an error message that sounds serious, atleast let it result in something interesting…

Obvious Implementations: GeoConnexion Events

It always surprises me when there are places that could so easily implement both mapping, and a data feeds of some sort. It’s even more surprising/annoying when it’s someone inside the industry.

The GeoConnexion Events page details future GIS events from around the world. The main drawback with the page is that it’s only a webpage. There’s no RSS or iCalendar XML feed, not even a Google Map (or Yahoo/VE map for that matter).

It’s not as if it wouldn’t be technically possible… the page is a PHP script, and looking at the patterns in the HTML, the events are most-likely in a database, so it would only take a couple of minute to produce an XML file so I could include it in my Google Calendar.

One step further would be if they had an interactive map on the page so you could shorten the list of events by location (whatever locations are visible in the map window are shown below).

These should be standard issue things for new websites, but it seems that people still neglect the power of opening their information for others to use and share however they need.