3D global stats, a personal advocacy tool

Do you work with global information? have you ever wished you could present it in 3D on a world map or globe? Maybe I’m alone.. either way Information Aesthetics identifies a new application by 3DLiveStats that allows the visualisation of any data on a 3D globe. Of course I am thinking of wealth quintiles, infant mortality or other development related data..

globe

an impressive & interactive 3D globe that displays information about the world in the browser, showing user-chosen geographical data attributes, varying from economical, population & financial indicators to degrees of pollution & corruption. the Earth can be rotated & inspected & displays can be changed to see information in the most appropriate form.

Such information can be displayed onto walls, used on websites a poweful advocacy tool indeed!

For the curious you should also check out 3D world blogosphere viz and 3D Data World Globe both by Information Aesthetics.

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Smarter Googling

By popular request I am going to start posting occasional pointers on approaches I use to make my life easy.Valentine google

Ever wanted to get more out of Google? Forget Boolean search, Google’s Matt Cutts left a slew of tips for us via DL.TV these tips may be found in podcasts 137 and 138, or direct from Google.

To search for an exact word or phrase use “word or phrase” …. “GlobalNomad101”

To exclude a specific word, prefix with -, for example …. “Global Nomad101” -Microsoft

Place a hyphen for an exact phrase match …. global-nomad101 .or. once-upon-a-time

Of course Google Search helpfully conducts its own spell check on words clearly spelt incorrectly, but if that is exactly what you are looking for prefix with + to avoid spelling correction errors …. +gryme

Very helpfully Google does its best with any specific number, so search for specific flight numbers, model numbers of hardware, you maybe surprised by what you find.

Are you looking for conversions? imperial to metric or currencies, just type it in …. 56 pints in litres .or. 152 dollars in euros

Can’t find the definition of a word in your dictionary, use …. define:
Apply the same approach to a phrase and it provides one with links to definitions and near alternatives …. define: once upon a time

If you are looking for subject matter in a particular filetype, just request exactly what you need, though it won’t work with music (que pena!) …. global nomads filetype:ppt

It appears one of the secrets to really getting the most out of Google is not to ask questions! apparently we need to think like an intelligent webmaster who is classifying information. “mind the gap” or “fill in the blank feature” technique is a good way to work with this, write a statement and put * where the missing number would be …. Mount Kilimanjaro is * meters .or. Population of Brazil is *

The same approach works well for a search by using a number range …. DVD players $100 … $200

Probably one of the least known and most handy tips is to search a site or domain for specific information. This will work on both high level domains such as .eu .gov .co.uk .uk .fr .com as well as specific websites.

To search for information on NGO’s on British University sites …. site:ac.uk NGO
or specifically on London School of Economics website …. site:lse.ac.uk NGO

I hope you find these handy, keep Googling!

Aid effectiveness wiki… by UNDP!

UNDP LogoYou may not be surprised to learn that UNDP has developed an excellent resource on Aid Effectiveness, tho’ you might be surprised that it is a wiki! Though not launched, and appears to have sneaked up by the back door it is certainly worth a second and third look.

Designed by a hardened field practioner the Aid Effectiveness Wiki has been developed by Aidan Cox at the Regional Centre in Bangkok following his development of the Donor Assistance Database (DAD) in Afghanistan and coordination support to Angola, India, Iraq, Maldives and Sri Lanka. DAD spun off from AIMS Humanitarian Information Centre where a very early stage incarnation the Appeal Tracking Information Management System (ATIMS) developed. Yes this history is of primarily nostalgic value.

Now UNDP has complimented its comprehensive corporate DevAid site with the wiki they can truly act as the access point to some of the best information on this topic, of course they are by no means on their own, ODI, The World Bank, OECD just to name three all conduct critical work in this area. However genuinely opening up to contributions for the broader community of expertise may well ensure that on this topic UNDP can at least ensure accessibility from one location to critical information and comment, if not develop thought leadership.

Lets sing praises where it is due. Following recent critical comments about the slow adoption of modern approaches to information management by security specialists in the humanitarian and development sphere, What do Aid workers and spies have in common? and Open Source Spying and NGO’s by the NGO Security blog. It is refreshing that in a critical area such as Aid Effectiveness advanced transparent approaches to information sharing and management are being advanced.

No doubt some find it hard to swallow that UNDP is leading the charge! However take another look, UNICEF openly publishes its RSS, podcast and vodcast at the bottom of every page on its website. Despite the excellent podcasts being produced by Christian Aid they are still hard to find on their site. Maybe traditional fears of change stressed by NGO Security are on the mark.

Wiki’s are a key information management tool, the more focused the interest the more powerful and valuable they become. Given the critical nature of humanitarian and development work we would be doing a disservice to our end clients and ourselves if we do not adopt such technology sooner rather than later.

Mapping connectivity & the digital divide!

The old maxim “if you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it” is as true today as ever… however increasingly as many people reach information overload one could argue it should read “if you can’t present information you can’t get others to act on it”.

A classic challenge is presented by internet connectivity. We are all aware that many of the Southern countries where we have worked have terrible connectivity how is this linked to the economy, production, trade, education levels, health services?

i-isp-ss.gifThis map from the Internet Mapping Project Map Gallery shows the major ISPs indicating volume of traffic (colour density) and extent (distance). A variety of maps indicate other internet measures including distance from host, network address, top level domains or ISPs/ cities and many more. Including more detailed maps and raw data!

Other internet map sources include: Rocketfuel, The Opte Project, Cybergeography who publish a fascinating Cyberatlas and Caida.

Internet Map USA

This second image from Infosthetics March ’06

“is an extremely detailed map of the North American Internet backbone including 134,855 routers. the colors represent who each router is registered to: red is Verizon, blue AT&T, yellow Qwest, green is major backbone players like Level 3 & Sprint Nextel, black is the entire cable industry put together, & gray is everyone else, from small telecommunications companies to large international players who only have a small presence in the U.S. This map demonstrates that although AT&T & Verizon own a lot of Internet pipes, they currently do not dominate the Internet infrastructure (yet).”

IP map2

I love this third image again lifted from Infosthetics Dec. ’06, whilst it presents IP address space as a map it provides a clear impression of ‘internet face’ dedicated to continents, clearly if this were broken out in more detail, particularly with breakdown for “Asia” it would become ever more useful. See original source xkcd and comments from the artist.

a chart of the IP address space “on a plane”, using fractal mapping which preserves grouping (any string of IPs will translate to a single compact region on the map). each of the 256 numbered blocks represents one 8th subnet (containing all IPs that start with that number).

When preparing my dissertation on the privatisation of telecoms in Brazil in 1999 a communications star “map” clearly illustrated how minimal traffic was making the hops to and from Africa or Latin America. Different presentation tools using different internet usage “measures” consistently confirm this picture. Though we may not be able to lift detailed quantified facts from such maps they clearly provide tools to reflect trends and bias.

Second Life, the UN and living like a refugee

Second Life enters the humanitarian and development workers sphere of interest!


“The Stand Up Awareness Campaign” is being supported by the UN on Second Life. The Stand Up For Awareness Campaign is part of the larger Millenium Campaign to remind governments of their commitment to the eight Millenium Development Goals (MDG) that they agreed to in 2000, each of the eight 2015 targets are critical to reduce global poverty. This is a far from Bureaucratic excercise, if we can’t measure we can’t manage… by catalysing development organisations, donor governments and recipient governments the MDG indicators and targets, truly provide measures of success or failure that will have to be explained away if they are not met… keeping up the pressure world-wide is important.

DarfurThere is also a simulated Darfur refugee camp on Second Life, “Living Like a Refugee” was built to inform and educate … “An awareness and action camp spotlighting today’s genocide” and even patrolled by hooded avatars. Behind this seemlingly ‘geeky’ awareness approach, after all how many people really use Second Life, is a larger possibility of bringing the complexity, intricacies and daily catastrophe of humanitarian disasters to a increasinly well networked and socially aware next generation.

second lifeTeens Second Life is an interesting development by Linden Labs, visited by BBC’s Digital Planet, yes you guessed it Second Life for teens, governed by community rules, no parents or adults allowed, only screened adults from Linden Labs. Special institutions such as schools can feature on the game but are restricted to the island they create where the teens can choose to visit.

Clearly only the privileged (bandwidth, computers, high quality of life) are using Second Life, currently it acts as an interesting advocacy medium for the humanitarian and development world. But perhaps we should be more creative… why not a self concious training medium for students around the world, an advocacy platform. At the very least it offers an interesting way to capture the interest of youth and techie’s to increasingly support real life humanitarian needs, if only by applying their technology interests and genius to global advocacy and bridging communication gaps with the elite in southern countries.

France 24… ‘new media’ News broadcasting?

France 24Global news is really taking off, much to my surprise we now have a second non-anglo centric view of the world… within one month, France 24 (en anglias) rumoured to be a reactive idea by President Jacque Chirac following the Anglo intervention in Iraq, was launched on 6th December!

To quote President Chirac, France “must be at the forefront of the global battle of images, that’s why I am resolved that our country should have an international news channel” BBC

Published in French, English and Arabic it will hopefully prove to be yet another voice, view and analysis of world events, along with Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN. Available across Europe, Middle East, Africa and North America some of us are unfortunately unable to view the channel. Early suggestions implied that France 24 would operate its broadcast News channel over the internet. Sadly this is not yet the case, the online version appears to be focused on enabling access to broadcast content, but of course does not yet have the back up of a comprehensive depth of audio, video and text data. The unofficial weblog appears to be a great location for information and comment.

Lets hope the unconventional site structure is a hint of things to come… the tag cloud, journalists blogs… just imagine a conventional broadcaster establishing a News wiki including audio and video. It is already far ahead of Al Jazeera which hasn’t organised downloads yet! It may not be so far fetched after all France 24 would gain from developing a radically different media model. As a rarity the government appointed Chariman is a self made communications and advertising man, Alain de Poulzilhac , no énarque here … “Vive la France Libre”.

Perhaps I shouldn’t get too carried away, a ‘new media’ approach by staid old broadcasting, not yet. Also the énarque appear to have generally lost their shine as Chirac hands the batton to Nicholas Sarkozy. However I am an optimist, Richard Porter of the BBC reports Iran’s interest in an English 24 hour News channel called The Press.

Just perhaps France 24 will bring a fresh approach together with its competition for our valuable time and attention? If not maybe we can look to the Iranians or one of the Anglo channels to take the next step and bring participatory new media, encompassing the views of millions, to us where, when and as we want it, whether by cell, broadband, cable or satellite… “plus ca change!”

The Renaisance, Apple Mac Apps & News – favourite podcasts!

Escaping into a reality you never were aware of! … ok, so that is over the top, however I must confess I have become a podcast addict since leaving Afghanistan recently and rediscovering the delights of broadband, (sorry again guys!), all downloadable from i-Tunes at no cost.

1. History 5: European Civilisation from the Renaisance to the present. University of Berkley.

French Revolution… Top marks to University of Berkley posting many of its lectures at last count 59 Audio podcasts and through the web site many as Video casts. The quality is very dependent on the lectururer however Professor Thomas Laqueur brings it to life, openness about his German Jewish roots adds to the value, full marks for a fascinating, insightful and entertaining account. This series illustrates what is missing or rather could be achieved with high resolution enhanced podcasts!

2. Jointly goes to Neat Little Mac Apps and ScreencastsOnline!

… sadly not for the Windows majority out there. Apple is renowned for having a broad supportive community of users and amazingly useful add on apps and widgets, I was surprised to find it really exists and they are incredibly helpful! NLMA presents enhanced podcasts on free or very cheap apps that are not only extremely useful but are a pleasure to use and often fun! Screencastsonline provides high quality full screen video tutorials on how to use Apple software with extra content available on subscription. But windows folk should not despair, with the advent of VISTA (replacing Windows XP) Microsoft has adopted a far more sophisticated front end and not a few Apple approaches so it should become a pleasure to use, your widgets are called Gadgets :-).

3. BBC Newsnight (video podcast feed)
… this was a tough call, but they just squeezed in! with excellent content on a variety of topics (sure a UK bias) not available on BBC World, recently they started releasing short format news casts more regularly, with a weekly show as usual… short and focused… like home from home. Of course the BBC seem to publish as many audio (ripped from radio) podcasts as they can, I find most of it uninteresting, but I imagine they are working on the longtail principle.

In truth podcasts are not that popular with surveys implying that pick up is not increasing dramatically. However niche markets such as humanitarian and development users such as MSF and Christian Aid are seeing sharp increases in usage because they have specialist application.

Of course I have access to broadband in Brazil… no doubt a trusty developer could easily configure content delivery software and package it with an i-Tunes like content aggregator to ensure that broadband doesn’t continue to be the bugbear it is for the populace of less developed countries and their frustrated humanitarian techies.