Why I Track My Location and You Should Too


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Talk given by me at Where 2.0 2010

There are notes attached to the slides, I recommend that you use them to follow along as many of the slides won't make much sense on their own. Unfortunately the order of the notes seems to be confused by some of the transitions.

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  • Really what I’m aiming to do today is take you through some of the experiences I’ve had as I’ve tried to track my location throughout my daily life. I’ll take you through the good times, such as this nice clean, detailed trace I took in Sydney
  • ...and some of the bad times... yes, there’s no trace. I took a bluetooth GPS and a mobile phone with me on this trip, I cycled 230 miles from the East coast of the UK to the West coast, even took solar panels for recharging my batteries but the phone died after about 10 miles.
  • I’ve been tracking my location for a number of years but I’m only going to be talking about the past three years, this is because three years ago I created my own website that I could use to log all of this information. My original idea behind mapme.at was to allow me, and others, to track their location in as many ways as possible and have all the data stored in a single location.
  • mapme.at works with various other location sources, including the new Twitter geo features, and basically any service that works with Fireeagle or can output GeoRSS.
  • This is just an interesting diagram that one of my users put together, it seems he wanted to illustrate the various ways he’s tracking his location but it’s a great diagram to show how anyone can use mapme.at
  • We also have a few methods built into mapme.at that you can use, we have an API, we accept updates by email, by twitter DM or even by DNS. The simplest method to update mapme.at is to have some favourite places marked in advance and simply hit a URL like the one above.
  • The important thing here is that all these updates are going into the database live, storing locations for later use is relatively easy, but I’m more interested in being able to share my location with family and friends in real time.
  • A few years ago I went on honeymoon to China. My wife banned me from taking a GPS as she was worried the authorities would arrest me for mapping. Even so I was still able to map myself at a very low resolution by using mapme.at. I set up a number of favourites for the places I was going to and was able to use twitter via SMS on my mobile to update. Why would I want to track my location on my honeymoon?
  • On a trip so far, covering various cities in China I definitely wanted some record of the places I’d been but I was also taking my camera and would be taking loads of photos while in China, even if I couldn’t map the photos accurately being able to get them close to where I took them was a good start.
  • So is this all about geotagging photos?
  • No, I was in the bay area at the beginning of last year, quite a while before twitter launched their geo features, but I can still see where I was when I sent twitters, and even what I was listening to at the time, using my last.fm feed. Also worth noticing that I’m able to browse through my twitters by date too, even the twitter website doesn’t let you do that.
  • Serendipity - I put my location into my Instant Messenger status and friends can see when I’m nearby.
  • But back to tracing, detailed traces can be easy in your home country, here’s me with my iPhone tracking a 5k run that I did.

  • When you’re abroad it can get a bit harder, on this trip I used almost every method available to me.
  • DNS updates in hotels with expensive wifi, quick connections on my iPhone as I passed a McDonalds or other free wifi spot. Note that I only made a few updates on this trip.
  • I bought an aussie SIM card and put it in my iPhone, worked fine once I authorized it in iTunes but wouldn’t use data so everything was by SMS, and then every time I turned the phone off I had to authorize it again.
  • I switched the SIM to an old Sony Ericsson K750i which meant I could use data so I started using the mapme.at website on the phone’s basic browser and later used Mobile Trails Explorer with my bluetooth GPS to get really detailed traces.
  • Heading homewards again...
  • I built this clock so that I could tell when my wife leaves work and can put the kettle on for some tea and can open the door for her when she gets home.
  • My first attempt at analysing the data I’ve stored, slightly interesting but I’ve spend so much time in a few locations that the data is skewed.
  • This uses a logarithmic “scale” and gives much better results. It shows all the labels for favourite places that I’ve been to.
  • Can do the same thing with countries, obviously I spend most time in GB but have been to various other countries.
  • Same for continents, I just need to visit South America and Antarctica to complete the set!
  • This is a graph showing the time I’ve spent at favourite places. The big blue section is home.
  • It’s clear that in 2009 I went to fewer places and those I did go to I went to more regularly.
  • It’s clear that in 2009 I went to fewer places and those I did go to I went to more regularly.
  • It’s clear that in 2009 I went to fewer places and those I did go to I went to more regularly.
  • It’s clear that in 2009 I went to fewer places and those I did go to I went to more regularly.
  • This graph is similar to the previous ones but visits to close by locations are all grouped together.
  • Hiding travels near home makes it much easier to pull out interesting blocks
  • Looking at 2009 again we can still see some of the same features but others become obvious too, like the time spent in London. Obviously I spent quite a bit of time in London but must have visited different places each time so they were not as obvious on the “favourites” graph.
  • ITO World produce amazing graphics such as this image showing all the OSM edits in 2008. I gave them all of my data for the last 3 years and asked them what they could come up with.
  • All of my trips from January 2010 with each day running at the same time. It’s clear that I regularly visited Manchester, and often the center of Liverpool with a few trips to other places.
  • This is all my trips to London run at once. There’s a lot of data so it’s more difficult to pull out interesting trips but right in the centre you can see my daily commute from a flat to the Multimap office.
  • All my trips in January 2010 run consecutively.
  • My trip to Australia, you can see that on the way out we spent a few days in Singapore but on the way back we just transferred straight through. You can also tell all the places we went to in Australia: Melbourne, Alice Springs, Cairns, Airlie Beach and Sydney.
  • This shows all the trips I’ve ever taken.

  • Why I Track My Location and You Should Too

    1. 1. Why I track my location and you should too John McKerrell
    2. 2. GeoRSS
    3. 3. Map of China • Map of China trip with photos overlaying
    4. 4. Just photos? http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/2087094553/
    5. 5. Map of Where2.0 showing twitters
    6. 6. Detailed trace • Map of running around the block, without home shown
    7. 7. Map of Australia
    8. 8. Singapore
    9. 9. Melbourne
    10. 10. Map of Airlie Beach or Sydney
    11. 11. Long Tail?
    12. 12. Time spent at favourite places - 2008
    13. 13. Time spent at favourite places - 2009
    14. 14. Time spent at favourite places - 2009 Client Office
    15. 15. Time spent at favourite places - 2009 Vegas Holiday Client Office
    16. 16. Time spent at favourite places - 2009 Vegas Holiday Client Office State of the Map Conference
    17. 17. Time spent at favourite places - 2009 Local Train Vegas Holiday Station Client Office State of the Map Conference
    18. 18. Time spent by “state/region” - 2008
    19. 19. Time spent by “state/region” - 2008 (hiding travels near home)
    20. 20. Time spent by “state/region” - 2009 (hiding travels near home)
    21. 21. Time spent by “state/region” - 2009 (hiding travels near home) Inve rcly Vegas SOTM de, Holiday S cotl (Nevada) and London Manchester(Client Office)
    22. 22. http://www.flickr.com/photos/peterito/3054501076/
    23. 23. http://vimeo.com/10636004
    24. 24. http://vimeo.com/10636060
    25. 25. http://vimeo.com/10636149
    26. 26. http://vimeo.com/10636282
    27. 27. http://vimeo.com/10636333
    28. 28. Wrap Up • Real time tracking without free data plans is hard, expensive, annoying
    29. 29. Wrap Up • If you keep a history of your location you can see where you were when you created any online content
    30. 30. Wrap Up • A few years of personal tracking data makes for some impressive visualisations
    31. 31. Acknowledgements • Map data CCBYSA 2010 OpenStreetMap.org contributors • Videos produced by www.itoworld.com
    32. 32. Thank you