AGI Thoughts

The Paleotards have spoken..

I was trying to be positive I really was… picture the scene the final session of the AGI conference, had descended into the usual case of introspective soul searching, what is a GI professional ?, why does nobody listen to us ?, these newcomers don’t understand the complexity of what we do, and their data stinks, and bizarrely we should stop fighting amongst ourselves…

I felt is was like the last meeting of Association of Empire Telegraph Operators, bemoaning the fact that these new wireless equipment operators could not write Morse code as quickly.

I tried to be a little more upbeat in my comments, I really do believe that this is a time of great opportunity for the GIS industry, GI professionals are the gate keepers of huge amounts of useful geospatial information and knowledge which people are desperate to get access to, but need help to do so… if every there was a grand challenge for an industry that is it.

But no, there was to be no happy ending, at the very end of the conference as Adena has pointed out, the members of the AGI decided to award the prize for the best paper of the conference to Mark Bishop of MapInfo, and his paper “The Hype of Web 2.0”..

Like her I just don’t understand it, OK so the term is rather overused by now, but we have as a community benefited hugely from the technology and business shift that was Web 2.0, do we really want to go back to the GIS business of the late 1990’s.. well I guess maybe the AGI membership does…

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

16 replies on “The Paleotards have spoken..”

Meanwhile the BCS Geospatial SG and North London Branch had a great session on Location Based Services. Each of the three speakers’ presentations and post session discussion hit upon the tension between free/open data and services (from OpenCellID to Yahoo’s FireEagle/GeoPlanet) through to the monetization of mashed-up applications that might use them. Writeups and presentations over at and

I did attend the presentation “Hype of Web 2.0”, but the title is a bit misleading. I thought that the presenter was rather positive about what Web 2.0 stands for, namely user empowerment and participation, and the opportunities and challenges that represents for the GI industry. He pressed the need for us GI professionals to embrace those concepts and the rewards we could get from making our public facing GIS services more user friendly. I did wish he would have showed us some more specifics of what this actually means for GI, and less generics about what Web 2.0 is, and missed some obvious examples that would have fitted his presentation well, such as the wonderful work mySociety is doing with their “fixmystreet” and “planningalerts” projects.

What did trouble me was: I was sitting next to Adena, and she made the comment, reflected in her blogpost, why the presenter felt the need for a lengthy introduction to the history, concepts and common examples of Web 2.0 (new BBC website, Flickr, online applications such as Zoho, Google Apps… . It did make me cringe to play buzzword bingo).

But still it seems obvious from the fact of how many people attended this presentation, and how many people seemed to jot down extensive notes and the audience award that many (if not most?) attendees are still paleotards. The discussion sadly only reinforced instead of disproving that point.

Most GI people have been bought up on GIS tools which they know inside out. Then along comes your company and promotes/produces a destructive technology (GMaps and GEarth) with which mere mortals can do what the professionals spent ages learning how to do AND now they have to learn a whole new set of tools as well as keep pace with evolving GIS. I’m not anti the GI community but it really doesn’t surprise me that much.



I agree with your comments regarding the closing of the show. I also found them fairly depressing – but I think the AGI is changing. I also know there are many people in the audience (myself included) who feel like saying change the record – but that only adds fuels to the fire. I think we need disruptive people as much as we do disruptive technology – perhaps next year I’ll heckle.

Out of interest did you attended my presentation? If you didn’t, the nature of my title may make you think I was stuck in the 90’s. Not so. In fact I am officially only 26 months too old to qualify as generation Y (an equally hyped term that’s being over used)

Web2.0 isn’t hyped it just means many different things to many different people. To a web developer it means Ajax, entrepreneur a new business model, a marketing department a new brand, to a graphic designer a new logo, a Systems Integrator – SOA etc.etc. Also some people have genuinely never heard the term. When I hear it used on a regular basis (by the people in the know) I question the context. I want others to question the context. I want our industry to use this technology, not because it is cool, but because it can solve problems, solve them well and push the boundaries. When I hear Vanessa Lawrence talk about the new Web2.0 Service from OS I question which definition oif web2.0 is she referring to. Is it just anew logo and great graphic design or are the OS now using crowd source technology? Is an ajax scalable online tile server and public api all you need to call yourself web2.0? or perhaps a rebrand? I think the AGI as a community can utilise the full range of what Web2.0 offers – particularly in the enterprise.

In case you missed my presentation, you can view it online here:

All the best

Don’t let the facts get in the way re.;

“…the members of the AGI decided to award the prize for the best paper of the conference to Mark Bishop of MapInfo, and his paper The Hype of Web 2.0?.”

The members didn’t. The audience (delegates to conference) did. They are different constituencies. For a lot of people the distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ geo-technologies is meaningless. They are just interested in geography and place.

For the record, James Brayshaw was judged (by the Conference Committee of members) best paper. You can hear him deliver it at the AGI Annual Awards Dinner in November. Muki Haklay was Runner-up.

Although, I too found some of the comments in the final session introspective, there were plenty of positive observations regarding the opportunities for the uptake of geographic data and associated techniques.

I thought Andy Hudson-Smith’s and also Bob Barr OBE’s presentation were great. They reflected different ends of the discipline of geography e.g. Xbox 360 as a delivery mechanism for virtual environments, coupled with observations on ‘paleo’ licensing ranging to sophisticated processing of OS MasterMap to derive meaningful property/ urban classifications.

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