July 2010


Just a short week this week so a short blog post too I think. Fixed plenty of bugs in the two client iPhone apps I’m doing at the moment and got new versions over to the clients for testing. One of the apps seems to be running a bit slow but I think this is just an issue with how I’m keeping the UI up to date which should be quite fixable. They seem happy with the UI now which means that they’re happy with the functionality so hopefully it’s just some final bug fixing and polish left to do. I haven’t heard anything back about the other app so I’m hoping they’re happy with that one now too.

I finished off the week by attending the Hacks & Hackers event organised by ScraperWiki and OpenLabs Liverpool. The idea of the event was to bring together Journalists (hacks) and software developers/hardware hackers/general web people (hackers) and see what they could come up with by working together. We began the event by introducing ourselves and those with a specific interest in a topic declared this interest. We then had 10 minutes to meet each other and form groups around the various topics and then had 6-7 hours to get building something.

I ended up in a group who wanted to look at the social legacy left by the World Cup in Africa. Not something that specifically relates to me but I thought it might be interesting to see what we could produce. After an hour or so of looking for data sources we ended up realising that there really wasn’t much out there. We had tried looking for data on the social implications of the World Cup, looking at how previous similar events had affected developing countries and tried comparing aspects of this World Cup to England’s bid for the 2018 tournament. In the end we decided to bring together 11 facts about the South Africa tournament and 11 facts about England’s bid and display them like player lineups.

Trying to find 22 statistics proved fairly difficult, unfortunately we couldn’t find a single source to use for all of them so there was no opportunity for me to automate the process, which also meant I didn’t get to try out ScraperWiki. It did have one benefit though as the journalists could all spend the afternoon researching while I and the other developer, Francis Fish, could be working on the presentation mechanism.

We decided the best way to get the player lineups to display would be to use a HTML page styled up to look correct and then use CSS & JavaScript to present the statistics when the shirts were clicked on. Some of the CSS got quite tricky, and is still not perfect, but the JS wasn’t too bad just using jQuery to animate between properties. I thought having the numbers appear on their own on the shirts and then having any extra descriptive prefix and postfix fade in would look pretty good. A small description of each stat also appears below. I also tried out a jQuery plugin that allows fading between colours including alpha channels. This gives some nice effects allowing you to fade a colour background in by increasing its opacity without having to change the opacity of elements within the element. In the end though I found I didn’t need this but I may use it in the future.

If you’re interested in seeing what we created here’s a link to it, The other World Cup. (Now updated with the correct link)

So a very busy week as I had various projects to try to finish off and plenty to do to prepare for my State of the Map talk. Also kittens!

Happy Family

It might seem a bit odd to mention kittens on a blog post about my work week. It’s actually quite sensible though, these fluffy critters took up a sizable amount of time in my week!

But apart from that. Most of my time last week was spent trying to tie up loose ends and get the iPhone apps I’ve been doing ready for testing. I discussed the changes in functionality needed for one of the apps and the client has agreed to pay for some more of my time to get those bits added, so that’s great. I spent some time getting the most important changes done but will do most of that extra work this week and will hopefully get that app finished soon.

The smaller app that I was waiting for sign-off on I finished on Monday and sent that off to Testing first thing Tuesday. I was quite happy with it and felt it was working well. I heard from the client on Friday but haven’t yet had time to look at how many bugs they’ve found, hopefully not too many!

I began some work on new functionality for mapme.at to allow users to consolidate their favourites. Part of this work is to allow user’s to take their old favourites and merge them with places that mapme.at has found in the OSM database. The other part is to allow users to manually match OSM places on to Foursquare venues that perhaps have slightly different names or for other reasons the automated matching hasn’t been able to manage. I was hoping to have this ready by the time of State of the Map so I could announce this great effort to come up with a repository of ID mappings but unfortunately with kittens and finishing client work I didn’t manage it. In fact I didn’t even manage to finish my presentation until I was on the train to Girona and finally had an hour to sit in front of my laptop with no distractions and no interruptions. My talk on Friday seemed to be well received. People were interested in some of the applications and uses of the site and there was definite interest in the ID mapping data that I explained would be available in the future.

I described the site as a “Social Location Experimentation Platform”. I had come up with this term a few days previous, I think trying to channel some of the excitement that BERG find with their name (based on British Experimental Rocketry Group). Though I came up with it after the description I think my explanation was valid. I pointed out that the mapme.at platform allows experimentation not just by developers who can come up with some interesting and fun apps (like Adrian McEwen’s ferry trackers or my “Weasley” clock) but also by users who are able to experiment with mapme.at and with other location tracking applications like Foursquare and Google Latitude and can do it knowing that even if they only play with a service for a week and then stop using it, they won’t have wasted that week of data collection because mapme.at will do the job of storing up all their history in one place that they can access at any time and from any other compatible service.

If you’re interested in reading through my talk you can find the slides here.

As I spent most of yesterday travelling I now have a very short week this week (and hence this blog post being very late). I’m probably also going to the Hacks and Hackers event on Friday which will also restrict the time I have to spend on client work. Hopefully there’ll be less interruptions from kittens too (though this blog post has already been interrupted by them once!) On that note I better get started, see you next week!

Monday last week was spent making some final changes to the app I’ve been working on for the last few weeks. I’d originally quoted 10 days on that app so Monday was the last of the days I’d allocated on it. I wanted to make sure I got all the functionality in place so that in theory the only thing left was to add some polish to better meet the client’s branding and just make sure the app was easier to use. I delivered that last thing on Monday and arranged a call to discuss it with the client on Thursday. The call was preceded by an email with a mock-up of the app showing some slight new functionality. In the call they then went on to describe more of this and how they would send through some more mock-ups. These came through on Friday and showed various other new functionality. I had already mentioned that I’d finished the allotted time for the project and the client did seem amenable to the idea of paying for some more so I now need to go over the new documents, work out exactly what is new and how much time it’s going to take. Hopefully we’ll get that sorted and they’ll agree to pay for what should only be a few more days.

The rest of the week I spent finishing off the other iPhone app I started a few weeks ago but had to pause while we waited for sign-off. This has been coming along quite nicely, I got much of the functionality done by Wednesday and went in to visit the client and talk through the look and feel. They showed me some changes I’d need to do and also got the rest of the graphics to me by Friday so this app is nearly complete, just some visual changes that I’ll need to finish off today.

I was trying to keep this coming week free because Friday is the first day of the OpenStreetMap “State of the Map” conference. I’m really looking forward to this as it’s always so interesting and it’s great to catch up with some friends I see all too infrequently. I have a speaking slot which was actually recently moved so that I’m second up! I’ll be talking about how I’ve used OpenStreetMap to develop a “location-based social network” – i.e. mapme.at. I’m hoping it will go well and shouldn’t be too hard to prepare or give the talk as it’s always easier talking about something you’re heavily involved in. I do want to get time this week to work on some new functionality for the site though so that I’ve got something to announce! All that needs to be done by the end of Wednesday as Thursday will be spent getting to Girona via Barcelona.

So a fun and, as ever, busy week ahead. Better get started!