Monday, June 18, 2007

Development 2.0

A little while ago Wepoco got a mention in an article in FreePint

I keep meaning to write something about that article since it does seem that something quite significant is starting to happen and Wepoco seems to have drifted into its orbit. Trouble is I'm not really sure what to write. So instead, in true Web 2.0 style I'll just rely on links, tags and the opportunity to edit this post later.

Here's something else on Development 2.0

And here's the Web2fordev blog I only discovered today

Reading this makes me think I should plan to be in Rome in late September.

Oh, and as a reminder to myself here are some scattered thoughts for a possible article.
  • Low cost IT - what happens when the computer costs less than the electricity it uses? (expect this to happen within 10 years!)
  • The bottom of the pyramid as a service provider (monitoring the state of our planet).
  • Why do we always have to wait (yet another) generation? (the curse of formal education).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

unreasonable acts and impossible things

Continued from unreasonable-acts-and-impossible-things part 1.

Part 2. Impossible.

The Google folks had very sensibly chosen to start their Developer Day 2007 at midday (registration from 11am), this meant I was able to buy a cheap(ish) rail ticket getting me into Paddington at 11:20am. I think it was about 11:55 when I walked through the door of the Brewery, and perhaps because it was so close to the kick-off I didn't have to queue for my pass and goody bag. I was a little disappointed that my pass just had my name on it, since when I registered I'd given myself the title Technical Wizard. Oh well, maybe next time.

I'll not attempt to summarise the talks, since others will surely do a better job, and many of them are available on youtube - see

Anyway, being one of the last to arrive I sat at the back of the hall only vaguely aware of computer graphics being shown on a screen at the front of the hall as loud music played. Soon the keynote began with Chris DiBona talking about Google's relationships with open source and Ed Parsons talking about mapping and the like - all good stuff. Then it was back downstairs for the free lunch.

The first session after lunch was more about open source. It's good to see Google regarding both the use and contribution to open source projects as strategic activities. The next session was Peter Birch's "Google Earth and the GeoWeb". Early in this presentation was a demonstration of a time line of buildings in London. It's well worth a look, see This answered one of the questions I had about support for time and animation. Another of the Wepoco team had suggested that I make the Google developers aware that in meteorology we use at least five different sorts of time. What he meant was that unlike events that have happened, events that are forecasts to happen have several time parameters associated with them, such as when the forecast is for, when it was produced, when it is valid, the cut off time for observations used for the forecasts, and others I forget right now. After the talk I walked up to the front to ask Peter about using time in different ways but as I passed the screen at the front I was stunned to see the graphics being shown between sessions included the Wepoco website - shouldn't that be impossible? How many websites are there in the world? How could any selection, random or otherwise include ? The site has almost no traffic and pretty much only provides information of use to people who don't yet have access to the Internet! But there it was - an impossible thing! It completely threw me, I had no idea what it meant. I'm not sure even now, three days later, I know what it means, but it didn't half make Alberto excited when I told him the next day - once he had decided I wasn't making it up. Helped greatly by Google's blog search which revealed -

It's probably good for Google that I went to the Developer Day alone, otherwise I suspect they might have had to deal with a bunch of drunk Wepocoists when the free beer arrived in the evening.

So now let's see if this bit of unplanned publicity can help Wepoco escape from the tar pit. I do hope so.

(19/06/2007) The Google Developer Day mashup video is now on youtube

Saturday, June 02, 2007

unreasonable acts and impossible things

Part 1. Unreasonable.

There's a programme on the TV here in the UK called Grumpy Old Men, it's supposed to be funny and sometimes it is, a bit. I have a few problems with it though, these men aren't old, heck most are little older than me, and that isn't old - believe me! More importantly they're not grumpy, they're perhaps slightly intolerant (esp. of fools) and wonderfully unreasonable.

As George Bernard Shaw apparently said - "Reasonable men adapt themselves to their environment; unreasonable men try to adapt their environment to themselves. Thus all progress is the result of the efforts of unreasonable men."

One of those grumpy old men is Bob Geldoff for f**k's sake - so what do you expect?

Now I make no personal claim to have made any great progress in anything but I do want progress to happen - with a passion. So like very many people who work in IT, rather than doing the reasonable thing with the money I earn, like buying expensive toys and exotic holidays, I write software to give away, experiment with stuff, and generally try to disrupt the very "ecosystem" that pays my wages. (OK, so I buy toys and take holidays too - sometimes).

Unreasonable behaviour can of course irritate others, it's not the purpose, but with so many reasonable people about the eventual conflict is inevitable. Maybe one day I'll figure my own way of dealing with this, but for now I simply draw on the lessons of great unreasonable folks of the recent past - Forty-Second Boyd and Grace Hopper are wonderful examples from the US military.

So what's this blog post all about? Yes, I know, I'm drifting. Trouble is that for the last 4 months the Wepoco project has been moving far too slowly as the team tries to find a way of integrating dreams of a low-cost hi-tech distributed delivery of weather services to millions of poor farmers with the reality of a bureaucratic network of state controlled weather services. So when I got a chance to spend a day immersed in geeky wonderfulness there really wasn't any contest. So on Thursday 31st May 2007 off I went to London for the Google Developer Day.

The Wepoco website uses Google Maps. It was pretty much my first attempt at AJAX programming and I'm quite proud of it. What's there today is no longer just my work, other members of the team have contributed the graphics and server-side code and helped in various ways. The website is far from perfect and has all sorts of problems that we're working on as time permits - but most importantly it's been a great way of learning what is possible on the Web in 2007. We've also found out things that aren't possible. For example it's hard to created printed documents from the web graphics, there's no easy way of showing animated maps and it hardly works on a slow dial-up line in Nekemte. This gave me several questions that I hoped I might be able to put to the Google team in London and, perhaps, they might even like to help with the project. I'd heard about Googlers having 20% of time for open source projects.

(to be continued....)