Monday, June 25, 2012

2012 Failed States Index

The Failed States Index is a great mashup of data and maps. This year, the data feels much more accessible. The Fund for Peace website has been redesigned and you can actually download the data easily. I had originally planned to write about the inordinate number of African States high on the list, as well as some surprises like Mali being so low for a country whose democracy seems to be tearing at the seams, but a few days ago, John Campbell pointed out just about everything I wanted to point out, and much more eloquently. As such, I encourage you to go read his brief comments

I also downloaded the data and created a Google Fusion Table. You can click on a country to see how it stacks up in each of the 12 categories used in the index.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Did Google Get Hacked?

While I strive to write about things you might not otherwise read about, I've never had a "breaking news" story.  While preparing for today's post, however, I came across what I believe to be a hack at Google.  If it's not a hack, it's surely a mistake.  If not a mistake, it's at least worth discussing.

Google makes available a series of icons for mapping with Google Fusion tables.  There are about 200 icons that have names like "orange_blank" or "bars".  You can view all the default icons here by clicking visualize ->map.

Cool huh?  I thought so too.

In general the icons are pretty helpful.  I was surprised to discover that the icon for "temple_ip" appears to be a swastika.  Take a look:

I was looking at the symbols just a few days ago and didn't notice this, which leads me to believe it's not supposed to be there.  That and the fact that it's incredibly distasteful - a not-often-employed trait for Google.  I know the swastika is still used a lot to symbolize positive things, but it still seems strange that it is a featured icon image for Google.  I left a comment; we'll see what happens!

So there's that. A bit disturbing, hopefully it will be fixed soon. Or maybe I'm just missing something.  Feel free to let me know in the comment section!

Less "breaking" yet far more "exciting" is the news that the Fund For Peace has released its 2012 failed states index which Foreign Policy distributes.  I've written about the index before but I'm hoping to use their data, along with my new knowledge of Google Fusion Tables and Google Maps to make a cool map or two.  It won't be as cool as this one, but it'll be something I created :)  That will be next week, unless more news breaks on the infamous Google swastika.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Apple Takes a Bite out of Google

If you are just a causal map user, or a map enthusiast who has been hiding under a rock, you might have missed the map spars Google and Apple are taking at each other.  I'll preface this by saying Google Maps was what finally convinced me to buy an iPad (who am I kidding, they had only been out for a week).

Before Steve Jobs threatened to go all global thermonuclear war on Android (War Games style), Google and Apple seemed to have somewhat of a budding partnership.  There's no doubt Apple's core (no pun, well ok, pun) mobile products success is in part due to seamless and beautiful integration of maps...Google Maps.

Well Google and Apple are getting a divorce, and each seems to be trying to piss the other off by upgrading to a hotter wife.

There's no doubt Apple didn't like the idea of being so reliant on Google Maps.  It must have been hard for them to fully realize how far behind they were in the great map race.  Nevertheless, Google was perfect for the iPhone and despite the souring relationship at the top.  Apple continued to be reliant on Google Maps.  There is little doubt Apple has been working on catching up to Google in the Great Map Race for some time.  There's also little doubt that Google beginning to charge developers for every 1,000 map requests over 25,000 per day rubbed Apple the long way. 

Apple is notoriously tight lipped about product changes and development.  The decision to drop Google Maps from the iDevices was not very well hidden.

The race to out-do the other is on. We heard Apple would announce "Google Maps to be sacked" at the June 11 (today) WWDC.   Not to be out done, Google announced they would be making a presentation on June 6th about updates to Google Maps, including some pretty cool 3d stuff.

I'm reminded of the T. Pain and Justin Timberlake song, Dead and Gone with the lyric: "I hit you, you hit me, I shoot you who get locked up? Me".  It sounds much better when sung, but the point is, this is a BIG risk for Apple.  If they don't come out with a product that equals Google Maps, they are in trouble. Because of more and more location based apps impacting the user experience with mobile devices, anything less than Google Maps could see Android picking up ever more market share.

It sounds as though Apple is looking to pick up right where they made Google leave.   I've only seen screen shots from the Apple Maps announcement earlier today.  The jury is still out. Here's a thought, Google. MERGE GOOGLE MAPS AND GOOGLE EARTH.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Remember Kony?

A few short months ago the web was all a twitter with Joseph Kony and the #Kony2012 campaign.  I wrote that despite all the misconceptions and misrepresentations, the whole phenomenon was a good thing.  People were talking about Africa (Uganda) and it encouraged many people to dig just a little bit deeper.

The Kony phenomenon has come and gone.  This will long be pointed to as an example of how "powerful" social media can be.  But today, Joseph Kony remains free, and western interest is...well, see for yourself.

I suppose it's sad, but it's not as though anyone thought interest would really last. As Kony interest wains, more conflicts are emerging, particularly in Africa. Keep an eye on Mali. The transition away from the junta is far from over. I'm sure many have pointed out the irony that it was after the military coup that Azawad declared independence and the Tuaregs took over control, but it was anything but ironic. The rest of the world could see that coming the day Amadou Toumani Touré was chased from his residence. Stay informed.