[ Ø ] Harsh Prakash

Quiet Musings on Cloud, Machine Learning, Big Data, Health, Disaster, et al.

Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

Taking Wolfram|Alpha on an Alpha Run

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Wolfram|Alpha is being billed as an Answer Engine for the scientifically-minded, as opposed to a Search Engine: It takes your query, implied or otherwise, that critical step further by selecting from its list of matches, the one objective description, image etc, and lays them out in context. Not that Google never attempts definitive answers [chord], but when it does, Wolfram|Alpha [note] handily beats it to it with background information. START, on the other hand, is sometimes embarrassing. Note that it may not know what to do, but it does not give the wrong answer. Yet.

So Wolfram|Alpha dares to do more than say, Google or Yahoo or Microsoft, and impresses despite its alpha status.

There are inherent risks in such an approach in that it hopes our queries are frequently specific enough, which in some cases, will not be because that is how we generally are. There is also that small issue of assigning culpability to its user for a dumb query. But through consistent performance and by avoiding curation, link-fraud etc pitfalls, Wolfram|Alpha has the potential to wean away some of the Google fan-base, notwithstanding Google Squared. And by targeting the scientific community, it has the potential to emerge as a niche Answer Engine despite semantic ambiguity or crowd-sourcing.

Bookmark it now. And keep checking.

Here are some stumpers:
* What is the elevation above sea level at 38.889483,-77.035254? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* What was the annual revenue of the state of Maryland for Fiscal Year 2007?
Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* What is the maximum height of the Guggenheim Museum NY? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* How many symphonies did Sergei Rachmaninoff compose? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START

* Developers

Written by Harsh

May 17th, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Mash-ups as Planning Tools

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Planning departments, especially those of smaller cities, have long hesitated because of technology, budgetary and other constraints to engage their constituents through web-based mapping tools. Part of the reason is simply an uneasiness with Web 2.0-esque mapping technologies.

Well, these days they have less to worry about. That is, if they don’t mind piggy-backing on corporate giants.

Pi: Quite MusingRecently, the BurbankLeader reported on how the City of Burbank, Los Angeles County, California, the not-so-undisputed “Media Capital of the World” with a comfortable population of 104,317 (2006), has trusted some online service providers and their armies of 24/7 network-support staff to host part of its mapping data. Not a mash-up feat by today’s standards, but the City has invited public input by publishing its planning project status using Google Maps‘s free Application Programming Interface (API).

According to the City’s Principal Planner Michael Forbes, AICP, “the planning projects map, run by Google, is an interactive list of all residential, commercial and industrial projects throughout Burbank that are being processed or have been recently approved or denied. Each project icon on the map includes information about the project and a link to its current status.”

Pi: Quite Musing

Pre-computed KMLs load faster than dynamic KMLs for obvious reasons, but even with clusters, loading a lot of data can sometimes stretch mash-ups beyond their user's patienceA note of caution for the impatient GIS Planner: While nowadays, a mash-up is more than a hack, most public map APIs are still constrained by their ask-coordinates-get-flat-tile design, albeit smart, when it comes to geometry-aware mapping that requires ‘queriable geometry’.
Pi: Quite Musing
Consequently, despite the established familiarity of mash-ups, the appropriateness of such mash-ups to enterprise GIS for large-scale custom mapping is still debated.

Pi: Quite MusingThen there is that question of commercial advertisements on publicly-funded maps. Note that there are ways around it: Google Maps for Enterprise, for one, allows the option to disable location-based advertising for an annual fee. The free Google Maps also requires map and custom data to be publicly-accessible. But as far as the cause of community’s access to information is concerned, it is well-served by such mash-ups.

So nearly two years after chicagocrime.org– the seminal Google mash-up that won the 2005 Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism and was named by the New York Times as one of 2005’s best ideas (“It turns out that the best way to organize much of the information online is geographically.” – Do-It-Yourself Cartography, NYT), arrived at the mapping scene followed by hordes of Google Earth KMLs; At a time when some Elite Systems Research Institutes have already tried similar approaches and not quite succeeded; At a time when companies have been successfully built from mash-ups; At a time when real-estate mash-ups have become stale and foreclosure mash-ups have become hot; ‘smallish’ planning departments are warming up to the idea of neogeographic mash-ups as planning tools. Finally.

— π

Online Tool Spotlight: Mash-Ups as Planning Tools (Summary)
Planning and Technology Today: Technology in Public Participation (Issue 90, Fall 2007) – A Publication of the Technology Division of the American Planning Association
Neogeography 101: Word Association
Google Earth [GE] @ Work
Follow Up [1]: ESRI Ketchup!
Follow Up [4]: Graphic Software
Follow Up [2]: Map Viewer and Google
Virtual Earth For Government
ESRI ArcWeb Services: Pricing Guide
* Find sample region by geometry – $0.02
* Get map of region – $0.02
* Zoom in/out of above map – $0.02
* Find places – $0.02
* Measure distance on map – $0.00
� Other Examples: OpenLayers – Web Processing and Routing

Written by Harsh

December 4th, 2007 at 11:39 pm

Posted in Mashup,Planning,Service

Tagged with ,

Neogeography 101: Word Association

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‘Genre Books’ is to ‘Writer’
‘Web Maps’ is to …?

• [a] iPhone […since the buzz is about it- the Paris Hilton of the technorati]
• [b] Paris Hilton […since the buzz is about her- the iPhone of the glitterati]
• [c] Geographer […since ESRI Press said so]
• [d] Programmer/Developer

• If you answered [c], you have spent a lot of time around ESRI-championed web maps with 8 direction tags, a dogged insistence on not exploiting browser cache and a ridiculous north arrow on every map- never mind that so far no one has turned a browser upside down.


• A Rose by Any Other Name
• Web Mapping
• The New Yorker

Written by Harsh

July 7th, 2007 at 11:30 am

Posted in Geography,GIS,Service

Tagged with , , ,

Map Viewer and Google

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Interesting web-based map viewer– very snazzy. Now only if the download was quicker.

In related news, Google acquires Keyhole: a company promising a similar 3D interface. Right now, if you google an address, Google provides links to its 2D maps from Yahoo!Maps and MapQuest. Google also provides possible address matches and map links if you type in a name, akin to what Switchboard does.

It would be better if you could click and drag on a map to limit the spatial extent for your search. Although that would clutter the clean interface of Google Local, which by the way, does show maps.

Note to self- invest in Google.

Pi: Quiet Musing
• Google acquires gbrowser.com, and moves into video search. And here‘s the Google Blog.

Written by Harsh

October 27th, 2004 at 6:15 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup,Service

Tagged with ,