Buongiorno. Here are my most recent blog posts:
  • read "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Seven Patterns of Innovation" by Steven Johnson

    October 6, 2014

    ​Having read Johnson's previous book "The Ghost Map" about Dr John Snow and the Broad Street Pump cholera map I was interested to read this book about innovation.

    ​Johnson presents the argument that innovation is not a 'Eureka moment' but instead occurs from liquid networks of people and ideas. He also talks about 'The Slow Hunch' where an idea is mulled over for years or decades...like Darwin...and Newton..who are generally described as having sudden blinding flashes of insight where in fact we have fooled ourselves with a cosy story after the event.

    Innovation can come from accidental inputs (like penicillin), but you have to have an environment where something might happen before it can.

  • attended the Ribot open studio

    September 24, 2014

    ​​Part of the Brighton Digital Festival involves encouraging design and development studios to open their doors for an afternoon. One of these studios was Ribot Ltd who are fast becoming our User Experience consultants of choice.

    ​The afternoon involved talks from the team. Highlights included an application for a chain of coffee stores where users could check-in before arrival and pre-pay. The barista has a screen with your photo, name, and 'usual' coffee.

  • user journeys and "Moments of Truth"

    September 21, 2014

    ​​​​I've been watching videos about user journeys. A user journey maps all the interactions between the user and your product.

    ​​​<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/id6sKYm-fIM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

    Part of this chat on user journeys discusses where the 'journey' actually begins. In our case, does the 'house buying journey' begin when a househunter makes an offer? or when their solicitor starts searches? or when they start looking at places they might want to live? Thinking about the whole buying process can make us consider more what underlying problems our reports solve.

  • attended Geomob London

    September 16, 2014

    ​​​​Geomob is a London meetup of geo developers. Organised by Ed Freyfogle, i​t tends to attract interesting people like Gary Gale, Steve Chilton, Oliver O'Brien, Harry ​Wood.​ Mark Iliffe, ​Steven Feldman, Andrew Mackenzie​​. One of the talks was was by Angharad Stone from the Environment Agency about how they are opening up data. Another talk was from Richard Fairhurst about cycle routing from OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey data​. This included some details of how he used OS-RM and OSM to map DECC data on how busy roads are.

  • attended the GeoVation Housing Challenge launch

    September 16, 2014

    ​​​​On Monday night I attended the launch of the GeoVation Housing Challenge​ by​ Ordnance Survey and the Land Registry. It was in The Building Centre, Store Street, London. Right outside was a WikiHouse to poke around in (i'll write a seperate post)

    GeoVation is a programme from the Ordnance Survey to promote innovation in geographical-based systems. They help people/companies/groups to develop sustainable businesses from the idea stage to launch. This includes a bootcamp and the eventual 3-4 winners getting cash grants of around £30k. It is all a bit like X-Factor really.

    The original problem setting stage of the process was in July and was attended by Colin Blears and Andy Noble.

  • attended the GeoVation Housing Challenge problem workshop

    September 16, 2014

    ​​​​After attending the launch event the day before, I went up to London to the GeoVation problem workshop.

    The 'Housing Challenge' intends to fund sustainable business ideas that focus of the 'housing crisis'. This was a workshop to specifically talk about problems and not solutions, and there are many when it comes to housing. Personally, I think that Landmark needs to be deeply knowledgeable about all aspects of the housing market, especially those that show pain points. After all, our products are ultimately there to solve these pains.

  • read "The Strategic Role of Product Management" by Pragmatic Marketing

    September 16, 2014

    ​​​​Another train journey, another book (well, mini-book really). This time it was a guide to roles in Product Management​, available as a pdf at http://mediafiles.pragmaticmarketing.com/strategic-role-of-product-management/strategicroleproduct_management.pdf​

    I particularly liked The Pragmatic Marketing Framework on page 3 which I might print out and stick on the wall. They split all the areas involved in managing a product from conceiving ideas to event support. This chart of activities can be split nicely between three Product Management roles:

  • read "ReWork" by Jason Fried

    September 15, 2014

    ​​​​I was on a train journey to London, so I reread ReWork by Jason Fried and ​David Heimnemeier Hansson from 37Signals.

    37Signals is the company famous for project management tool Basecamp, which was written in Ruby On Rails... which they wrote! Fried previously distilled their learning from creating this site into the book 'Getting Real'. It encouraged much of the idea of Lean startups. This newer book throws more common sense ideas about business that we all know deep down but somehow don't act on.

    I don't agree with everything he suggests, but I think of each idea as an Agile tool to be deployed when needed.​

  • read "The 4 Disciplines of Execution" by Sean Covey

    September 8, 2014

    I just finished reading The 4 Disciplines of Execution, a book all about setting and achieving goals outside of 'the whirlwind'.

    Good term that, 'the whirlwind', meaning the seeming neverending whirl of daily activities. How do you find time to do something over-and-above simply processing daily tasks and actually do something that moves forward?

    The authors suggest:

    Discipline 1: Focus on the wildly important

    • pick the single most important thing your group should achieve

    • say how you know you've crossed the finishing line

    Discipline 2: Act of the Lead Measures

  • accepted to speak at the Open Data Institute

    August 30, 2014

    ​I'm quite excited that I have been accepted to speak at the Open Data Institute (the 'ODI') in October. I will be speaking about our first experiences of using open data in Landmark reports for the Energy & Infrastructure report. This report began life as the 'High Speed 2 report' after Tony Turck convinced HS2 Ltd to release their data.

  • Death to the TLA!

    August 30, 2014

    During our integration into the Landmark fold I have noticed the number of TLAs, three letter acronyms, that we use. It might save [tiny snippets of] time when everyone knows what you are talking about, like department names or dataset names, but when you are new it can be confusing. It's even worse because a new person might be embarrassed to ask what the letters stand for. The acronyms also help to obfuscate meaning as they allow casual use of a long complicated term.

    We found a great way to counter them. You could and should do the same.

  • Simple Audio Blogging

    May 22, 2013

    I've been planning to add some simple audio blogs to our company web site. In particular, short one-on-one interviews which will probably be held at the interviewees premises. My first thought was to use an electronic dictaphone or even use the iPhone Record app.

    We tried out a dictaphone and the results were pretty good. The unit itself was pretty cheap �50-60 and it is very portable. The sound quality wasn't bad, but as with all audio you have to be careful of background noise.

    Friends from the BNM list suggested a number of things:

  • Loading OpenStreetMap data on Mac OS X Mountain Lion

    October 31, 2012

    1. install PostgresApp
    2. download some test data from http://download.geofabrik.de/openstreetmap/ I guess I could have used wget, but I was exploring in Chrome so just downloaded it.
    3. create an empty database

    psql -h localhost CREATE DATABASE osm_england; \q

    add hstore

    1. configure postgis

    psql -h localhost -d osmengland -f /Applications/Postgres.app/Contents/MacOS/share/contrib/postgis-2.0/postgis.sql psql -h localhost -d osmengland -f /Applications/Postgres.app/Contents/MacOS/share/contrib/postgis-2.0/spatialrefsys.sql psql -h localhost -d osm_england -f /Applications/Postgres.app/Contents/MacOS/share/contrib/postgis-2.0/topology.sql

  • OpenStreetMap station data

    October 31, 2012

    Here is some quick postgis sql that I used to knock up kml of railway station sites in England. I have now forked traingraph to add my own flourishes https://github.com/jnicho02/traingraph

    SELECT node.*
      node_tags tag, nodes node
    WHERE tag.k='railway' and tag.v='station'
      and tag.node_id = node.id
    SELECT node.*, '<Placemark><name>' || nametag.v || '</name>' || ST_AsKML(node.geom) || '</Placemark>'
      node_tags tag, nodes node, node_tags nametag
    WHERE tag.k='railway' and tag.v='station'
      and tag.node_id = node.id
      and nametag.k='name'
      and node.id = nametag.node_id

  • Exploring OSM Railway Data

    October 26, 2012

    I've been using Postgis to explore OSM Railway Data. As tagging is open in Open Street Map it means that there may be a number of alternatives to look for. I am doing some counts to see what people actually tag nodes and ways as.

    http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Railwaystations states that a node should be tagged as railway=station or railway=halt to mark the actual station/halt, or, rather than being on a node, this tag could be on the building, a closed way tagged building=trainstation. Let's look at what is actually in the England OpenStreetMap dataset:

      tag.v, count(*) 
      public.node_tags tag
      tag.k = 'railway'
    GROUP BY tag.v
    	ORDER BY count(*) DESC