The Ushahidi Treasure Hunt

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We’ve been busy of late setting up OpenCrisis – a place to connect UK crisismappers, local authorities, responders, citizens and government folks, to produce a coordinated and prepared population to help with overseas crises, and to be able to use crisismapping techniques and tools if an overwhelming crisis ever hits the UK.

Part of the group’s aims is to get people used to crisismapping tools (both using and responding to them) when they’re not wet, cold, scared and/or running for their lives.  Ushahidi is an important part of the crisismapping toolkit, so we’ve started with that.  And one of the best ways to get people engaged with a tool is through play.  The Ushahidi zombie game is fun, but we wanted something that Brits could play competitively at an unconference, that wasn’t too far from their previous experience and wouldn’t take very much time.

Hence the Ushahidi Treasure Hunt.  We’re still working on the ideas (and planning to play the first game at BarCamp London 8), but they go something like this.  We set up an Ushahidi instance around the camp site. It has a whole bunch of categories, with two special ones: clues and answers. We start the clock running, then one by one we post up clues. Each clue refers to something within about 50m of the clue’s point on the map: in London, for instance, that could be monuments, pubs, shops or blue plates (history markers).  The contestants dash out and name the object in the ‘answers’ category – with bonus points given for a photograph of their camp badge in front of the referenced object.  And so it continues, for an hour, a a lunchtime or as long as seems reasonable on the day.  This game has the added bonus of creating live data for a bunch of crowdsourcers running the back end of the Ushahidi instance in the camp – win-win, or at least that’s the plan.

In London we’re blessed with lots of barcampers who’ve set up maps across the capital and built opendata sites based on data on its street objects. Which means that it’s theoretically possible to answer the treasure hunt without actually leaving the camp.  For a camp, the ‘photo with your badge’ rule could be useful here, but it also means that the game could be played from anywhere in the world at the same time.  It’s a thought – I’ll report back here afterwe run the first game.

Bridge Porn

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Some things still stop me in my tracks. And I admit it, I have a thing about bridges and cranes. It might be hereditary (my great-grandfather was a bridge designer), but there is something about a beautifully-designed bridge that makes me want to stop and marvel at it. Last week, it was the Roman Flavian Bridge and three-tier aquaducts in Provence, but it’s not era-specific: the Tees Transporter Bridge and Alamillo Bridge have also had me fixed to my camera and thanking the architects.

So it’s a wonderful thing to have stumbled across Structurae, a wonderful top-trumps-figure-supplying site for all things huge and beautiful.

Which is much better perhaps than the beard-related sites we were looking up yesterday in an attempt to trace the history of the Van Dyke beard. If you must, then Beards.org, GingerBeards and Ubersite seem to be where it’s at. And no, we never did find the right history – we’ll leave the theory that the Van Dyke is what’s left when you shave off all the grey bits to someone else.