Articles by Hugh

I am a web-guy, writer, and participant in the open movement. I started, and have a little software development company.

You can find me at

udell with malamud

Some great audio from Jon Udell and Carl Malamud:

This week’s ITConversations show is a chat with Carl Malamud, whose exploits I’ve followed ever since he launched podcasting a decade ahead of schedule with a project called Internet Talk Radio. Since then, Carl’s mainly known for his tireless crusade to release troves of public information to the Net: SEC filings, patents, Congressional video, historical photographs, and most recently, U.S. case law.

>Listen here.

It’s amazing the flowering of data visualization projects – and how well they sometimes bring to life abstract issues.

Here is a beautiful little project, which helps you understand the scale of the financial woes brought on by the subprime mortgage troubles in the US. It’s a complex problem with all sorts of reasons and ramifications, but the simplest explanation is this: in the past decade, banks have been falling over themselves to give out loans to really, really bad credit risks. This means that lots of money that’s gone out in loans isn’t coming back. Which means banks are going to start to fail.

You can see this by asking: how many loan repayments are more than 90 days late? And you could split that out among various banks, and track it over the period from 2002-2007, and see not just how many, but the value of those overdue payments. And if you did that, you’d get this:

bank mortgage

If you made that graph into a little movie over time, you’d be in good shape. Which is what and still i persist has done.

PS time to dump your shares of Wells Fargo, I’d say.

[thanks, as always, to infosthetics]

New Cartographers

Great article, The New The New Cartographers, by Jessica Clark, from In These Times:

Maps are everywhere these days. The ubiquity of global positioning systems (GPS) and mobile directional devices, interactive mapping tools and social networks is feeding a mapping boom. Amateur geographers are assigning coordinates to everything they can get their hands on—and many things they can’t. “Locative artists” are attaching virtual installations to specific locales, generating imaginary landscapes brought vividly to life in William Gibson’s latest novel, Spook Country. Indeed, proponents of “augmented reality” suggest that soon our current reality will be one of many “layers” of information available to us as we stroll down the street.


A great map of Australia, as seen by traditional aboriginal tribes. I can’t imagine the Canadian government doing something like this.

One curious note, below the map, the fine print says:

Disclaimer and Warning: Not suitable for use in native title and other land claims

[via: foe]

world clock

the world clock.


Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Founded in 1975, PPS embraces the insights of William (Holly) Whyte, a pioneer in understanding the way people use public spaces. Today, PPS has become an internationally recognized center for best-practices, information, and resources about Placemaking.

Here’s a little flick about Havana streets, with PPS’ Ethan Kent:

The film, and many more, was put together by StreetFilms, which is:

…a project of the New York City Street Renaissance (NYCSR), a collection of non-profits geared towards re-imagining the city’s public spaces and making our streets safer for pedestrians, bicycles and non-vehicular modes of transportation. The goal of the NYCSR is to engage the Department of Transportation and the city’s elected officials in a dialogue about how to best improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

This should be good, and pose some questions to the mission of … questions we ought to be able to answer, if we are serious about what we’re trying to do.

One Nation Under Google: Citizenship in the Technological Republic

A public talk by Professor Darin Barney
Canada Research Chair in Technology & Citizenship, McGill University.

Friday, March 14, 2008
Arts W-215, 853 Sherbrooke Street West, McGill University, Montreal
18h30, free

Does more technology equal more freedom? While the nuts and bolts of technological progress – computers, cellphones, internet access wired and wireless – become accessible to more and more people, the promise of increased civic engagement enabled by these gadgets seems to have eluded our wired society. There’s a lot more to technology, and to democracy, than wires and buttons, and it has a much deeper affect on our lives than simply being tools we can use well or badly.

In Dr. Barney’s words, “technology is, at once, irretrievably political and consistently depoliticizing. It is at the centre of this contradiction that the prospects for citizenship in the midst of technology lie.” Presenting a range of examples from YouTube to the hidden networks of food production and government bureaucracy, Barney contests the common notion that technology necessarily leads to enhanced freedom and improved civic engagement. One Nation Under Google examines the challenge of citizenship in a technological society, and asks whether the demands of technology are taking over the practice of democracy.

Presented in collaboration with CKUT 90.3FM

geohash offers short URLs which encode a latitude/longitude pair, so that referencing them in emails, forums, and websites is more convenient.

mapping london

I’m in an Advanced GIS class for which I need to produce a final cartographic project. The project must begin in ArcGIS but from there I’m free to use anything else (Illustrator, Flash, Google Earth, etc). In the spirit of John Snow, I’d like to make my upcoming trip to London a force for academic good.

Any ideas, to help out?

When you’re dealing with a flooding emergency in the middle of the worst drought for many years, the last thing you need is barriers to the sharing of geographical and meteorological information.

Yet that’s the situation faced by Australia. The authorities’ response is to consider the widespread adoption of Creative Commons licences for public-sector information.

From The Guardian UK, via Free Our Data.

This encapsulates, to me, the most compelling argument for free data. That getting access to data helps us better solve problems; barriers to data make for a less innovative, less healthy country.

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