My New Gig

I've been saving this news for my 200th post. My new position is the software developer for UNC-CH's Ancient World Mapping Center, and I'll be working on the AWMC's Pleiades project. Pleiades (the daughters of Atlas) continues the work of the Classical Atlas Project. I'll be building a system -- and helping to build a community -- to update the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World.

Pleiades will be built using PostGIS, Python, and Plone. Our software will be open source, and developed for reuse by similar future projects in the Digital Humanities. I'll be using many of my favorite tools, and applying them to a completely new domain. Pleiades will be a driver of new developments in the Python Cartographic Library and PrimaGIS, and help steer the Plone community in the right geospatial directions. On top of all of this goodness, I'm going to get to learn a ton about Greek and Roman history, epigraphy, and Unicode. Members of the steering committee are keen to see Pleiades data in Google Earth or World Wind, and this will be a new and interesting direction for me as well. It's a dream job, and I'm still pinching myself.


Re: My New Gig

Author: James Fee

Wow sounds like a blast. Best of luck Sean!

Re: My New Gig

Author: Brian Timoney

Sean: As a proud holder of a liberal arts degree, I envy your chance to combine the humanities with mapping technology. On a semi-related note, at a demo this week a potential client held up a large, heavy Geology atlas and asked (rhetorically?) "Why can't I see this overlaid in Google Earth?" Being the ever-vigilant consultant, we'll have a WMS service prototype (powered by Mapserver) ready next week. Good luck and keep us in the loop. Will you be based in CO or in Chapel Hill? BT

Re: My New Gig

Author: Sean

Thanks, guys! I'll be blogging more about Pleiades and less about MapServer. Hopefully, somebody will step up to fill that niche. Brian, I'm going to remain here in Fort Fun. One thing I'd like to do this summer is try to revive the Front Range MapServer Users Group that Donnie Marino (formerly at DigitalGlobe) launched in 2005. I'll definitely send you a note about it.

Re: My New Gig

Author: Brian Flood

congrats Sean!

Re: My New Gig

Author: Donald Marino

Congrats, Sean! Sounds like a great new gig. Let me know when and where the Mapserver Users' Group meets! Thanks, Donnie

Data and Metadata in the Digital Humanities

I'm crossing over into the Digital Humanities lately and finding some great resources in the blogosphere. Via The Stoa Consortium and GIS for Archaeology and CRM I've been clued in to Digging Digitally and a good collection of links concerning data, metadata, and the platonic semantic cage.

The GIS industry/community has generally been solidly structure-first, as opposed to data-first. It's necessarily different in the Humanities, History and Archaeology in particular. It may take years before found artifacts are classified in the same authoritative way that we classify streets and parcels. Even then, the classification of artifacts is always open to reinterpretation as future discoveries are made. In the meanwhile, researchers need useful, plausible labels and descriptors for artifacts. It looks to me like the search for a middle way between ontology and folksonomy is well underway in the Digital Humanities.

Geographic Features for Python

The upcoming PCL 0.11 release will include a new feature model. In a nutshell, it's a Object-Relational Mapping for Python which supports the OGC's Simple Feature Profile. The GDAL-based filesystem and psycopg-based PostGIS backends are operational in read-only mode, and a WFS backend based on elementtree or lxml is in the works. An introduction to the model and a tutorial with example code has just been added to our GIS-Python wiki.

Souring on Apple

Mark Pilgrim is ditching his Mac. Tim Bray sounds like he may not be far behind. I became an iBook user in 2002, but I've mainly used my laptops as though they were Linux systems which just happened to have better hardware-OS integration, dirt simple networking, and a slicker desktop. At the 2003 MapServer Users Meeting I plugged the overhead projector into my iBook and drove the presentation directly instead of converting to PowerPoint to use the conference machine. In many convenient ways, it just works. On the other hand, I've always preferred Mozilla and Firefox to Safari, and other than iTunes and don't make much use of the Apple app suite. I don't think I'm quite ready to unswitch to a Linux laptop, but I'm getting close. The Python experience on OS X has always been crappy, and Apple's love of DRM annoys me.

Data is All

Errors in the Gutenkarte picture of Pride and Prejudice remind me of a truth universally acknowledged, that data is everything in this game. Of any of the works offered in the demo, I know this novel best. I read it last year, and watched half of the classic 1995 BBC mini this past weekend. Gutenkarte is confusing character names with place names: Wickham, Fitzwilliam, and Bingley are the most outstanding errors of this class. Not only will Gutenkarte require an all-encompassing place name gazetteer, but also a database of characters, and the sense to exclude one or the other. Works of fiction will also be challenging to geocode. In which database can one find the location of Pemberly, Longbourn, or Netherfield? Until this data is in hand, Gutenkarte can't geocode fictional -- or ancient, by that matter -- works to satisfaction.

By the way, I thought Bride and Prejudice [2004] was hilarious, and Pride and Prejudice [2005] pretty good as well.

Update: Jo also notes Gutenkarte's issue with names.


Re: Data is All

Author: Joel Lawhead

A database of characters would work but it would be a brute-force solution. The real problem is MetaCarta's "natural-language geoprocessor" is simply a keyword search rather than actually parsing sentence structure and trying to derive context and meaning. A true natural-language parser (in Python of course) looks more like this:

Re: Data is All

Author: Jo Walsh

Joel, MetaCarta's "geographic text search" does a lot more than keyword matching, but as it's a proprietary / patented codebase, we can't know how much more is really going on ;). FWIW, Schuyler says he set the "confidence threshold" for gutenkarte very low, preferring to get false positives rather than false negatives... Another comparative service to this is GeoNames' georss geocoder, which I also heedlessly accused of a brute-force approach, then had to eat my words: I'm guessing a core problem with this approach is that it's relatively easy to get 85% of the way, staggeringly hard to get it right on the other 15%. And they claim we'll have strong AI by 2026 ... ;)


The other night I helped Schuyler out with a Python and PostGIS problem. Now I suppose he was working on Gutenkarte. We saw a preview of this at the 2005 Open Source Geospatial Conference.


Re: Gutenkarte

Author: Tom Kralidis

Thanks for the info. Pretty neat stuff. I've posted some thoughts on this on my blog.


I had no idea that Microsoft prefers mix-in over mashup. Adena suggests it may have something to do with ice cream. I thought it was more likely to have come from Lisp, but a little research indicates that ultimately, the term was inspired by Steve's Ice Cream.

Python Cartographic Library Summer Tour

If two points make a line, do two engagements make a tour? I'm going to be making a series of presentations this summer about the Python Cartographic Library, PrimaGIS, and open source GIS tools for Python in general. The first is to the Triangle Zope and Python Users Group, Tuesday 27 June. My host in Chapel Hill, NC is Chris Calloway of SEACOOS. During the week of 10-13 July I will be in Santa Barbara, CA. My wife is attending a workshop at NCEAS, and I am tagging along to visit the geospatial folks at the Center, and hopefully arrange for a visit to the Alexandria Digital Library as well. If you're in the area, and interested in hearing about these projects, send me an email and I'll keep you apprised of my schedule in Santa Barbara.

No Where 2.0 for me. Although it seems to be much more about business than technology, the buzz is intringuing. If it weren't for vacation plans a year in the making, I'd probably have gone.

Sadly, I failed to check the schedules of other summer tours before getting tickets to Santa Barbara, and got burned: we're missing the Built to Spill shows in Boulder while we fly out, and missing the Sonic Youth and Pearl Jam show in Santa Barbara same night as we fly home. Argh! Rather Ripped, featured yesterday on NPR, is downloading as I write.


Re: Python Cartographic Library Summer Tour

Author: Luiz Fernando Vital

Hey, Sean lots of activities for the gispython. Surely great news! About Sonic Youth, I got to see them in a concert here in Brazil last year... really great show.... at the same night Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop.