Friday, April 11, 2008

Google Earth Outreach UK Launch Part 2

So I had a great time yesterday at the Outreach launch. When I arrived there must have been 250 of the great and good of the NGO world sat waiting to hear how Google Earth could be used to help them. As I said, David Attenborough was inspiring, he is a fantastic presenter, after watching him all through my life on the small screen it was distinctly odd to see him talking in the flesh. I won't report all the other 'launch' speakers as I have seen them before and they have been blogged elsewhere, which was fine because I'm sure they were new to all the NGO people present.

So how come I'd got in? Well, I'm consulting for USHMM but also I hang out a fair bit in the Google Earth outreach forum helping people with problems. Its also a bit of a hark back to an earlier life for me, in the 90s I used to work as a water geologist in Africa and as part of that was seconded to Oxfam for a while and they had we working on a refugee site. When I got back I was helping WaterAid asess a new tool for finding water

I spoke to people from , WaterAid (who launched their new layer) and others. There seemed to be a belief that Google Earth could be used to help with outreach which is wonderful to see, I've always thought that Google Earth could be used wonderfully in this way and it is fantastic to see a growing awareness of the opportunities amongst non geographers. It has to be said that Google do know how to throw a party too, the food and service was wonderful and they had built up the event by inviting some great speakers and keeping the layers quite to generate interest. There was a lot of press there.

The other week I discussed HowTo use movie clips instead of Google Earth in a talk. It's a time consuming process capturing the clips, yesterday a lot of the speakers used live demos of Google Earth and had it crash or slow right down on them which is why I don't think that a live demo is the right approach. I remarked on this to one of the Google speakers and he seemed to imply that there was value in showing how the software behaves warts and all. I can see his point but I think in front of such a big audience you have a responsibility to make everything run smoothly.

In explaining this blog and the importance of design to another Googler (who will remain nameless) I pointed out that the latest UNHCR layer uses red and green triangles as different classes of icon that 6% of the population won't be able to distinguish (a point I hope to elaborate sometime in the near future). 'Are they different colours?' , he said,'I'm red green color blind myself and I thought they were all the same icon'. Nuff said.

But the final word should go to John Snow from Channel 4 news who was there to help field questions after the moring 'launch', he did a great job but then thanked Google for showing us all these clever 'gizmos'. Rebecca Moore who heads up Google Outreach joked that she'd tell Larry and Sergey that that was what he thought of their tools.

update: link to forums led instead to USHMM. Thanks for the heads up Frank

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