Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Jan 3, 2010 7:25am

here comes 2010

The odometer has clicked over, we're in a new decade. I'm trying to make a bit of sense of the previous year, so it's helpful to start by looking over a full year of blog posts like last time I did this.

These are some things that happened.


Our dog, Sodapop, died in August. The house feels much emptier, especially when I'm making pasta and expecting her to demand her perquisite of three to four noodles and a bit of bacon.

Blogging Fewer Dog-Eared Pages

A few years ago, I got into the habit of writing down the best stuff from the nonfiction books I read, and posting it all here as entries titled Blog All Dog-Eared Pages. A few friends like Chris and Russell and George have picked up on this, which made me very happy. Problem is I'm bad at habits, so my last such entry was all the way back in January, when I excerpted whole slices of the remarkable Process Of Government by Arthur F. Bentley.

I purchased a Kindle in late spring, and I think this has much to do with how this activity has petered out for me. Specifically, the Kindle and its good friend Instapaper have largely eaten my nonfiction reading, which means that there are no longer any pages to dog-ear. The counterintuitive part is that Kindle actually has an incredibly easy way to mark and save passages, with everything you highlight using the little joystick being dumped to a plaintext file called "My Clippings". In theory this should make the activity much easier, but since the medium is the message and all that blah, I'm now reading entirely different stuff than I used to. I read fewer non-fiction books and more non-fiction long-form online writings, the kind of stuff that fits into Instapaper. I'm not unhappy with this change in my intake, but I do like to be a little more demonstrative with the things I'm interested in, so I'm unhappy the change in my output. If there was a way to make the Kindle pump the clippings file back out on some schedule, that would be good. Having to plug it into a computer does not cut it.

I tried to do a "blog all clipped passages" once about film projection speed, but I don't yet have the hang of this.


I spoke in front of large groups of people much, much more this year, mostly about maps and cartography. This has been incredibly fun.

(Photo by Kris Krug)

In March, Andrew Turner invited myself, David Heyman from Axis Maps and Elizabeth Windram (formerly) from Google Maps to a SXSW panel on Neocartography: all the new stuff happening in maps online. I talked a bunch about Stamen's work of course, and it was great fun to attend my first SXSW after hearing so much about over the years since 2003 or so. I'll be back this year, for Chris Heathcote's Maps, Books, Spimes, Paper panel. Excitement.

Shawn and I did two presentations of a workshop we're calling Maps From Scratch, once at ETech 2009 and again to a shockingly-packed room at Where 2.0. It must have gone pretty well, because Brady has invited us back to do it all over again in an expanded, two-session form. This was an interesting workshop to run, because we opted for a heavy hands-on approach with a genre of server-side GIS software not known for its ease of installation. We created an Amazon EC2 AMI for participants to use as a workstation, and it went pretty well - that's all still available at mapsfromscratch.com.

My solo presentation at Where 2.0 was Flea Market Mapping, building on some of the work I've been doing georectifying historical maps and explaining why that's a fun and easy and useful activity. I expect to do more work in that are this upcoming year, if all goes well.

I also went to Amsterdam in July for State Of The Map, where I described my work on Walking Papers (more on that below). This was great fun. Aside from the excitement of biking around Amsterdam for four days with Aaron and being hosted by A'dam expert traveler Ben Cerveny, the conference itself was my first mass exposure to the rabid OpenStreetMap community. My talk started out on mapping on paper generally before shifting to the Walking Papers project specifically.

Amsterdam made me switch bicycles, from mostly riding my Univega fixed-gear to a more relaxed single-speed with wide handlebars and an early 1980's Trek mountain bike frame. I'm very happy with it, can't find a photo though.

In October, the North American Cartographic Information Society invited me to deliver the keynote at their annual meeting, which was an incredible thrill and honor. I've not done this kind of central focus talk before, so I thought I'd use the opportunity to talk about online community and sharing to an audience of academic and professional cartographers, explaining some of the trends that have led to a strong and vibrant OpenStreetMap project. Slides and notes here.

Other events where I waved my hands in front of crowds included Interesting 2009, Web 2.0 Expo, dConstruct 2009 in Brighton, and a variety of visits to Stanford and UC Berkeley. All of it was by turns gut-wrenching and awesome.

Finally, in December Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman asked me to participate in An Event Apart here in San Francisco. The audience was much more of a mainstream web design crowd, and I was surprisingly engrossed by the other presenters, especially Luke Wroblewski's talk on HTML forms and Jared Spool's always-entertaining stories from his work for Amazon.com. I posted my slides as a giant, 28MB PDF file.

Being A Fan

I decided early this year that it was important and healthy to be more of a fan, so I've made a special effort to point out things that are awesome and worthy of attention. Early in the year, that meant moving pictures of the sky. More recently, that meant moving pictures of hands and drawings. Along the way, that's meant everyone I know who is doing awesome shit, with all the design and technology and music and video work that my friends have produced. Awesome awesome awesome.

Oakland Crimespotting

We added a PIE OF TIME to long-time research project Oakland Crimespotting, have you seen it?

And, we launched San Francisco Crimespotting with the enthusiastic participation of Jay and Kelly and the City of SF's technology department and some dude named Gavin. Shawn's responsible for the port from Oakland and keeping it running.

O'Reilly published my write-up of the project's technical and social structure in Beautiful Data, a new entry in their Beautiful series.

Walking Papers

Aaron linked to a computer-vision algorithm called SIFT way back in February or so, which caused bells to go off in my head. The result is Walking Papers, a project that connects paper-based mapping and annotation with the crowdsourced OpenStreetMap project through the medium of printing and scanning.

It started as a joke and a feasibility test, but I quickly saw that using technologies like SIFT and FPDF and QR Codes was totally going to work, so a few initial tests searching for pictures of gargoyles on scanned pieces of paper turned into a proper website and service actually used by people around the world. We've even gotten a few international volunteers to translate the site to German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Italian! Thanks Jonas, Milo, Jonathan, Manuel, Hiroshi, and Emanuel!

Walking Papers opened some incredibly interesting doors to the international disaster response community, after Mikel suggested I attend a week-long hack session at Camp Roberts. Turns out, the use of such intermittently-connected technologies as paper and local networks is a super hot topic in these circles, and Walking Papers was one of a numbr of projects that's pushing some serious buttons at the DOD right now, for the kinds of people who need to make networking stuff work with a tent and a car battery and a USB key.


At some point, I basically became overwhelmed with novelty, and decided to realign some priorities in favor of doing and showing instead of talking and stuff.

Fortunately, the holiday break has been a relatively easy one to curl up in, with a trip up to Washington to see some of Gem's family and a few old friends, followed by a week or so of being a total hermit here in Oakland. We spent New Years at the Chawazek house drinking champagne and eating dessert and talking about obsolete systems of measurement. I thought back to all the New Years Eves I've had over the years from the time I was making my own plans to just the other night. I feel like I've come somewhat full circle, with a few scattered trips to Poland and a whole string of raves thrown in the middle:

  • 1993: Home in San Jose, probably with grandparents in town.
  • 1994: Party. A friend's small house party in South San Jose. Sadly we didn't keep in touch after high school.
  • 1995: Home. I was supposed to go out with friends, but my ride flaked and I didn't have a car so I just spent the evening angry and at home. This was my last New Years Eve as a high school kid.
  • 1996: Party. My freshman year at UC Berkeley, I spent the winter break back in San Jose catching up with high school friends. This was fun, everyone was talking about where they ended up for college.
  • 1997: Poland. I visited my mom for a few weeks, spent most of my time stressing about grades that turned out to be fine (A- in CS61A), and went to a small house porty for NYE. People there take their New Years Eve much more seriously, and dress nicely for the occasion. This was weird.
  • 1998: Rave. Cloudfactory NYE at a rock climbing gym in Salinas.
  • 1999: Rave. Cloudfactory NYE at a former planetarium dome storage building on the former Fort Ord near Monterey. Terry and I did live visuals, and the party was shut down at about 5:00am when the building's superintendent finally got antsy about the noise and the drugs.
  • 2000: Rave. Cloudfactory NYE at that same Fort Ord building, but this time it went all night. A curtailed party seems to be more fun than a complete one, possibly because the element of randomness that a bust or sudden cancellation introduces?
  • 2001: Rave. Cloudfactory + Infinite Beat at a warehouse in Millbrae near SFO. This was one of the last times I did live visuals at an event, but we pulled out all the stops with seven overlapping screens. I spent much of the night unhappy because I had recently had a crappy breakup and she was there, with the lighting guys in the other main party room.
  • 2002: Poland. In a cabin in Zakopane with cousins on my dad's side. Vodka in little tiny shot glasses.
  • 2003: Raves. Basically wasted this evening running around between a few different parties.
  • 2004: Rave. Gem and I were living at Otherworld, so the big party was just outside our bedroom.
  • 2005: Rave. Otherworld again, but this time we had our own apartment, where we escaped in the morning to spend the next day contentedly watching old episodes of Kids In The Hall.
  • 2006: Poland. My grandfather passed away, I went there for the funeral and to Krakow with some back-in-the-day family friends for New Years.
  • 2007: Friends. Up at Darren and Bonnie's for poker and drinking. This was my winter of terrifying back pain, but the injury stayed mostly quiet to allow me a nice evening out.
  • 2008: Friends. Rented vacation house in Sonoma, near Charles Schultz Airport, stuffing ourselves with Aaron's cassoulet for four days. Contentment.
  • 2009: Friends. Homemade pizza and board games in the Mission. Contentment.
  • 2010: Friends. Goodtime fooddrinkery up near Buena Vista Park, including an extended conversation about old time weights and measures, e.g. the furlong and the dry vs. wet gallon. The presence of an iphone puts a new twist on this kind of talk. Contentment.


  1. Health.
  2. Mindfulness.
  3. More fandom.
  4. Preparedness.
  5. Small pieces, quickly published.

Comments (4)

  1. I can certainly drink to those resolutions. They sound a bit like mine. (And: dude, what a year.)

    Posted by Tom Armitage on Sunday, January 3 2010 10:00am UTC

  2. WJW.

    Posted by Blaine Cook on Sunday, January 3 2010 2:35pm UTC

  3. Minor note: Jared Spool did not actually do work for Amazon.com, he inferred some things about Amazon.com based on his own studies. :-P

    Posted by Andrew on Sunday, January 3 2010 5:55pm UTC

  4. "Small pieces, quickly published." This makes me think of a space between tweeting and blogging, perhaps simply a new style of blogging. Could you expand on your thoughts here?

    Posted by Ross Hill on Monday, January 4 2010 5:55am UTC

Sorry, no new comments on old posts.

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