“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Meaning, we’ve had an intense week at Ushahidi and it was time to take a day off for some fun.
The five of us still in town working on Ushahidi decided to run out to Disney World for the day. Needless to say, we had a blast!
Favorite moments: First time roller coaster rider, Brian Muita, not realizing that Space Mountain was a completely pitch-black roller coaster ride. He almost died of terror. Henry and Soyapi not realizing just how wet they would become in the front seat of Splash Mountain. David in the stocks.
Back to work now, but definitely worth the break.
We just finished day one of the Ushahidi strategy tech meeting in Orlando. We’re meeting to refine the focus and define the initiatives that we should be putting our limited resources and guidance behind for the rest of this year. Our goal was to get together a dozen of the most involved builders and idea generators behind Ushahidi over the past year, and put their brains to good use for a hard-hitting weekend of decision making and discussion on the Ushahidi platform.
Through the kindness of OSI, we were able to fly in a number of the core Ushahidi devs from around Africa, including Soyapi Mumba from Malawi, Henry Addo from Ghana and Brian Muita from Kenya. On top of that, some of the top subject matter experts from around the US and UK were able to fly in, many on their own dime, to help us figure out mapping, media data and SMS related issues. MindComet have allowed us to use their state-of-the-art meeting room facility, which has made communication amongst us techies a breeze.
The focus on day 1 has revolved around the core architecture. Specifically, what should be included as “must haves” in the workup to a finished Beta in April, and what are just “nice to haves” that we can work on after Beta is released. We’re still defining what that list is, but should have a it fairly well complete by tomorrow.
Other discussions have revolved around future and parallel initiatives, Kaushal Jhalla and Chris Blow are here to talk about Swift River prototyping and implementation. Ping, from Google.org is here to figure out how initiatives like PFIF and offline mapping fit in, along with suggestions and ideas from mapping guru Andrew Turner. Ken Banks is here to talk SMS and Ushahidi’s partnership with FrontlineSMS, while Sean Gourley is giving us guidance on what to do with machine algorithms as they apply to news feeds. Finally, we have Caleb Bell to help with web design mockups, questions and ideas to make everything faster and more user friendly, and Patrick Meier from Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to give us feedback on thoughts from the humanitarian field.
All in all, it’s been a very fast-paced and exciting day full of engaging conversation. We finished it with a dinner at the Nyumbani ya Hersman (my house), where everyone got to relax and enjoy my wife’s fine cooking.
Today saw organizations and individuals from the mapping and crisis space descend upon Orlando for a meeting. The CrisisMappers group is focused on the use of mapping in crisis situations. It came about as those of us involved in some of the newer applications in this area realized that we needed to keep our communications open. It’s about keeping us as people talking, but also ensuring that our applications can share data.
Andrew Turner started us off with a “state of the map” talk, discussing tools, resources and trends in the neogeography area. Patrick Meier then started going through how mapping is currently being used in humanitarian and disaster recovery situations currently, and what the opportunities are.
Most of the day was spent running through everyone’s applications. Whether it was the Development Seed team taking us through their amazingly well designed sites, InSTEDD talking about Mesh4x and SMS GeoChat, or hearing about Emergencity, it was a great time to see what others are doing as they use location-based data for emergency situations.
Conversations touched on:
- Open data vs helping Google/Yahoo/MS get more data
- Mobile Crisis Mapping (p2p – without towers) messaging connectivity
- Beyond just mapping… What do you do with providing community space (social space) and collaboration space (wiki)?
- When is it appropriate to build web-focused vs client-focused tool
- Offline interaction with our tools (mobile and web)
- More requirements – how do we better engage the non-techs in the humanitarian space to gather requirements for use in these applications?
- Interactive design – make maps understandable for end users (cartographic norms/rules)
It was a good first time meeting for many of us who had never met in person before. I, personally, am looking forward to the added interaction that this meeting will catalyze.
Finally, we’re all extremely grateful to MindComet (one of Florida’s top web agencies) for allowing us to use their amazing facility. It was sort of like sitting in the cockpit of a Star Wars ship – perfect for a bunch of visual mapping organizations.