Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Archive for December 2010

Wired UK magazine predictions for 2010, as made in May 2009

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The inaugural edition of Wired UK magazine in May 2009 (link is working at the time of writing) published an article called “What’s Next” in which they invited luminaries to predict what would happen in the world over the next 40 years. I authored a blog post entitled What next? Future predictions for the next 40 years where I summarised all of those predictions and made a promise to review those predictions every year to see how accurate they turned out to be. This blog post is the review of the predictions made for the year 2010.

There was only one prediction made for 2010 and it was by Saul Parker, an anthropologist. He claimed that by 2010 we would have:

Citywide free wifi. And not just supplied by the local authority. “A crowdsourced wi-fi network would be created if everyone turned off the encryption on their home wi-fi”

As I understand it there ARE pockets within the UK where free wifi is available as provided by various organisations, witness:

London Underground has teamed up with BT Openzone to launch the first Wi-Fi internet access on London’s Tube. The trial is at Charing Cross Station where London Underground customers can access service information on their mobile devices, smartphones or laptops.

However, there is certainly no citywide free wifi as far as I am aware nor are people turning off their home wifi encryption in great droves. As I write this blog post I have switched on the wifi receiver on my phone to discover two wifi hotspots in my area other than my own – both of them are secured. Hence, I would say that this prediction represents a rather inauspicious start to Wired’s predictions. No matter, please return here in the future to see how other Wired futurologists have fared. No predictions were made for 2011, 2012 or 2013 so my next post will be in four years time – for 2014. The one prediction for 2014 is:

Life-browsing. “As more of our digital lives go digital, we may use a program to sort our data. And it could hook up to software that understands the things people forget.” Eric Horvitz, Microsoft Research.

Reviewing today

In order that this series of posts can act as a time capsule for future readers I am going to capture the news headlines on the date of publication of each post. Here is a screen capture of the BBC News website on the morning of 31st December 2010:image














Top stories are:


I look forward to welcoming you again in four years time.



Written by Jamiet

December 31, 2010 at 10:21 am

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Greater London Authority 2010 survey summary

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The Greater London Authority (GLA) have, over the recent few years, showed a commendable willingness to make their various datasets available for mass consumption by the public. Their vehicle for doing this is a new website called London Datastore at http://data.london.gov.uk/. To understand more about what London Datastore is all about it read the paragraphs below that I have copied from the homepage:

The London Datastore has been created by the Greater London Authority (GLA) as an innovation towards freeing London’s data. We want citizens to be able access the data that the GLA and other public sector organisations hold, and to use that data however they see fit – free of charge. The GLA is committed to influencing and cajoling other public sector organisations into releasing their data here too.

Releasing data though is just half the battle. Raw data often doesn’t tell you anything until it has been presented in a meaningful way. We want to encourage the masses of technical talent that we have in London to transform rows of text and numbers into apps, websites or mobile products which people can actually find useful



One of the datasets currently available is the Annual London Survey 2010. In their own words this dataset:

…is taken from a face-to-face survey of 1,490 residents of Greater London, undertaken in early 2010 by BMG Research on behalf of the GLA. The questions explore areas of Mayoral policy and priority including policing and safety, the environment, transport, the Olympics and london life.

The data is available by demographic group, including gender, age, ethnicity and social class

and has been reported on the main London Government website at http://www.london.gov.uk/get-involved/consultations/annual-london-survey/2010 which gives a high-level sanitised view of the results. The underlying data has however been made available in a Microsoft Excel workbook at http://data.london.gov.uk/datastorefiles/datafiles/championing-london/gla-als-2010-responses.xls. This workbook is not easy to comprehend for a number of reasons:

  • These are answers only, the questions that were being answered are not provided.
  • The data is spread over multiple sheets. The site claims that this is due to Excel’s 255 column limitation which, by the way, is a fallacy.
  • Some questions allowed multiple answers and the structure of these answers in the workbook does not make them easy to consume
  • There is no analysis or visualisation of the raw data (i.e. no aggregation and no charting)

These are not intended as criticisms per se. Providing data in its rawest form is absolutely the right thing to do as it means folks like me can take it and add value to it. With that in mind I have condensed the contents of that workbook into a new workbook that you can view online (only a web browser required) at http://cid-550f681dad532637.office.live.com/view.aspx/Public/BlogShare/20101217/gla-survey-2010-responses%20-%20rework.xlsx.

You can also download the workbook and view it in your own copy of Microsoft Excel (you will need Microsoft Excel 2010). Downloading has the advantage that you can drag-and-drop data in and out of the pivot tables thus providing true analysis capability.

This new workbook contains 2 pivot tables that aggregate the data to make it meaningful. Those pivot tables use a series of slicers that enable you to chop and change the data as you see fit and discover insights not included in the official report.

Please let me know if this is at all useful and if it is please spread the word.


Disclaimer: I had to guess at what some of the questions were based on the given answers. Where the question was not obvious I did not include it.

Written by Jamiet

December 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

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More thoughts on iCalendar – how apps may help increase adoption

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Regular readers may know that I am a passionate advocate of iCalendar which is the enabling technology for subscribable calendars on the web. Previous blog posts include:

I am a supporter of Jon Udell’s Elmcity project that is seeking to broaden the awareness of iCalendar by aggregating iCalendar data per locale. My interest in the project has led to me becoming the curator for the Sunbury-on-Thames hub on Elmcity.

I firmly believe that use of iCalendar by government authorities (especially local authorities) and other organisations coupled with increased adoption by Joe Public would be a big win for all of us; up-to-date, relevant information could be distributed to the tool that people already use to manage their lives – i.e. their calendar.

At the time of writing however this has not happened even though the iCalendar format and supporting clients have been around for years; the problem as I see it is that iCalendar is not a technology that readily transfers over to the masses. RSS feeds have had the same problem – even though no-one that knowingly uses RSS feeds can deny their value I still don’t know any of my family or real world friends (i.e. those outside the technology industry) that can even explain what they are!

There was a word in that last paragraph that I made sure to use, can you guess what it was? The word was “knowingly” and therein lies an important point. Even though they don’t know it my friends and family actually use RSS feeds day-in day-out in the form of smartphone apps that consume RSS feeds and turn them into human-friendly content (news apps are classic examples). This is true of many technologies on the web today; do acronyms like DNS, TCP/IP, HTTP, XHTML, SQL, XQuery mean anything to my mother? Of course not, but she is making use of them whenever she browses the web which she does every single day. Users are abstracted away from the underlying infrastructure to the point that they are not aware of its existence.

I believe that the same abstraction principle should be applied to iCalendar. I propose that we as iCalendar advocates should not use our time trying to put the public in the know about iCalendar, instead let’s use that time to raise the level of abstraction so that they don’t have to know. More concretely I propose that a worthwhile endeavour for an iCalendar curator would be to provide, as the technology du jour, a smartphone app for their iCalendar feed.

At the time of writing I am talking the talk rather than walking the walking because I have not provided such an app for my Sunbury-on-Thames Elmcity hub and hence providing such an app for my smartphone of choice may become my personal winter project – if there are any .Net developers out there than fancy helping me then I would be most grateful – this form of development is not my strongpoint.


Written by Jamiet

December 6, 2010 at 8:57 pm

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