A while back, Wikileaks published Military logs from the conflict in Iraq covering the period between 2004 and 2009. The Guardian then published a cleaned-up dataset which categorises every death recorded in the logs, along with a date, time and location.

I’m interested in how we can build things that help us ‘play’ with data – to get a deeper understanding of the patterns (or lack of patterns) within – to let us ‘see’ how things change over time or geography etc. So this dataset seemed like a good starting point for building something…

Note – Theres a lot of data, so it may take some time to load… apparently patience is a virtue anyway. Oh… and it’s not going to work if you’re on certain mobile devices. (and I’m told it misbehaves in some versions of ubuntu – sorry)

The visualisation runs forward in time, plotting each death on a map. Larger circles represent higher numbers of deaths in a single incident.

You can select which categories of info are displayed by clicking on the checkboxes on the right hand side. You can change how quickly the visualisation runs and change how long each dot stays on the screen by moving the sliders on the left.

It’s my first stab at doing something like this, so all feedback much appreciated.

If you want to have a play with the application, it’s written in Processing and here’s the source code. The dataset I used was a cleaned up version of the original wikileaks logs which was published by The Guardian.

Yesterday the Greater Manchester Police tweeted every call they received for 24 hours. Heres a word cloud I generated (using a script to ‘harvest’ the info from twitter yesterday and wordle.net to make the cloud)

Greater Manchester Police Calls

Greater Manchester Police Calls

The cloud just contains words used in the official police tweets (ignoring re-tweets etc) on the #gmp24 hashtag between about 9.30am and 11.30pm last night.

Looks like men feature more than women, and Salford generates more interest than Trafford….

A week or so ago, I accidentally found that my Local Council (Reading) have a web page displaying live information (every 5 mins) on how full each of the town centre car parks is. Its a few clicks into the site and presented as a table and a basic map. You can see it here.

Whilst I think its great that someone has done all of the hard work to collect the data and get it up onto the site, it didn’t feel like it was particularly useful in the format its in. Above all its not particularly mobile friendly… which is kind-of what you’re likely to be using at the point when you want to know whether the carpark you are heading for is full or not.

So as an exercise in ‘how easy would it be to do something with the data’, I built this… Its a live view of how full each of the six main car parks in Reading is right now. (Note: For some reason it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer – sorry – although fine in Firefox, Safari, Chrome etc)

UPDATE: 9th Sept 2010 – The councils website is currently saying that its carpark web service is unavailable… So the map below doesnt work at the moment Update: 24th Sept 2010 – Appears to be up and running again :)

… It shows a google map, uses Yahoo Query Language to scrape the information off the councils web site, converts the info to a ‘percentage full’ figure, then pops markers on the map which are coloured green, yellow, or red depending on how full the carpark is.

Its not particularly polished – and there are loads of ways it could be improved, but for a quick hack, its not a bad start.

If you want to use it yourself (without having to link to this blog post) then you can get it here http://jimanning.com/rdgcarparks

Having hacked this together it set me thinking along the lines of…

  • It took around 2 hours to make this
  • I’m not a fantastic coder & it was the first time I had used the google maps API & Yahoo Query Language
  • based on the above, one days work, from someone who knew what they were doing, would be all it would take to make this a super useful thing.
  • If Reading council made the data available in a more ‘consumable’ way then it would be even easier to build stuff like this.

So the thought I’m left with is… what’s stopping Reading Council from turning all the data they have into formats that are more easily accessible and therefore more useful to the people who live here?

Eric Joyce MP is organising an All Party Group to campaign against the Digital Economy Act.  The Act was rushed through parliament before the Election and badly needs repealing / changing / reforming.

The more MP’s who join the group, the better chance it has to make a real difference. Please consider taking 5 minutes to write to your MP and urge them to join the group. Here’s my letter to Rob Wilson (Reading East).

Dear Rob Wilson,

In your letter to me of 12th April regarding the Digital Economy Bill (as was) you said…

“My party has pledged, that if we are elected to Government on May 6th this year, we will revisit the Bill an look at alternative options…..”

I understand Eric Joyce is organising an all party group to campaign to change this flawed legislation and that the first meeting of this group will be on the 25th May. I would urge you to email Eric (joycee@parliament.uk) with your intention to join the All Party Group on the Digital Economy. If you feel unable to join this group I would be very interested to understand your reasoning given the strength of feeling in your constituency regarding the Digital Economy Act.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Anning

Slaps wrist. Must start blogging again. Must start blogging again.

I’ve had a number of conversations recently with various people about social media and its impact on organisations. After many bungled, inarticulate attempts at explaining my thoughts I resorted to pen and paper.

Social Media and Organisations

So my hypothesis (and I’m sure its full of flaws) is that as social-media powered conversations start criss-crossing the ‘wall’ separating the organisation from the public,  the PR ‘gatekeepers’ who traditionally worked at the boundaries will end up in the background, monitoring and coaching all the newly empowered individuals that have now have ‘relations’ with the ‘public’. Meanwhile, the old-world media will increasingly report on and build stories from the public conversations happening in plain view.

Note: I have absolutely no background in PR so this is a bit of a stab in the dark based on my (probably ill-conceived) view of what PR folks do.

Interested in views on whether the picture should be tweaked (or even torn up!)

Along with one hundred or so other people I spent Saturday in Richmond at Tweetcamp – an interesting, experimental, unconference based around twitter. There are some excellent write ups of the day by…

Katherine Robertson – @TheSourceress

Neville Hobson – @Jangles

Claire Thompson – @Claireatwaves,

Amy Sample Ward – @amyrsward

Billy Abbott – @cowfish

All these posts rightly highlight the efforts of the organisers @farhan, @cyberdees @JonIn60seconds who did a fantastic job of pulling everything together – I’d also add that they deserve huge credit for getting behind something which was effectively an ‘experiment’ – Its always a bit of a leap of faith to publicly organise something with a new format where it’s not clear from the start what the outcome is going to be like – so I’d like to thank them for their ‘bravery’ as well as everything that has been said so far.

I had some interesting conversations during the morning, but the highlight for me was an afternoon session with @RadioKate @JamesCridland and @jangles where we moved the conversation beyond the ‘mechanics’ of twitter itself and discussed some of the wider implications of social media as it is impacting organisations and society.

On the “it would have been even better if” front there has been lots of good feedback in the posts above. I would only add two points…

1. The more structured/facilitated discussions were held in groups of about 10 or so. I always find that its difficult to just have one conversation in a group of that size. With any more than 6 or 7 in the circle things tend to naturally split off into smaller groups, which makes it a nightmare for whoever has the job of capturing everything and feeding it back. I think smaller groups would have made for better conversations and easier feedback during these sessions.

2. A couple of the structured sessions were focussed on drawing out the topics that people had been discussing in previous un-structured sessions. My observation was that this tended to become an exercise in ‘going round the table’ with each person contributing their own piece while someone captured each piece on the flipchart. Maybe a quicker way of doing this in the future (and one that would allow more of the group sessions to be focussed on interacting over reporting) would be to get everyone to tweet the topics then generate a wordle.net word cloud of all the tweets.

All in all an excellent day, with great organisation.

Big thanks to the sponsors @uk_gumtree, @PayPal, Start Up Essentials, @addlestones, @MyMuesli & @Yelp_London for giving it their backing.

I saw this video today (via @ianmayman) where a guy starts dancing on his own at a festival. For a long time he is the only one dancing, then another joins, then another. For quite a while its a small group, but suddenly it hits a tipping point and the size of the group dancing grows exponentially.

For me, watching this was a reminder that a single person can create something big. The trick is to start then keep going, not getting discouraged that, at first, you are dancing on your own.

Simon at webworkerdaily.com made a great screencast of Milestone Planner for their blog. In the write up he said….

We’ve covered lots of great project management apps here on WebWorkerDaily, from collaborative tools like 5pm to estimating and planning tools like Gantter. However, these tools are quite complex if all you need is a simple chart showing who does what, when.

Enter Flash-based timeline planning app, MilestonePlanner. It’s a bit like an online equivalent of the magnetic planning boards you see in some offices, and it’s nice drag-and-drop interface makes it really easy to use. It will handle multiple projects, and you can export your plans to send them to colleagues or use them in presentations or other documents.

Heres the screencast…

WWD Screencast: MilestonePlanner from WebWorkerDaily on Vimeo.

Whilst I continue to develop the next release it feels like Milestone Planner is picking up and starting to get some traction. Its been picked up on a few startup blogs which is helping to up the number of visitors. We’re about to hit the 500 registered users mark and its really gratifying to see more people coming back week after week to keep their plans up to date. Have been getting some good feedback from people and am feeling pretty positive about the whole thing.