Abhijeet Chavan's blog

Abhijeet Chavan is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Planetizen.

Tragedy and Technology

A Los Angeles Times article titled "Web Proves Its Capacity to Help in Time of Need" documents the importance of the Web as a communications medium.


It reunited families and connected them with shelter. It turned amateur photographers into chroniclers of history and ordinary people into pundits. It allowed television stations to keep broadcasting and newspapers to keep publishing. It relayed heartbreaking tales of loss and intimate moments of triumph...

The Internet has played a larger and larger role in every major news event of the last 10 years...In the aftermath of Katrina, use of the Internet is more vital and varied than ever.

Collaborative Mapping Of Hurricane Damage With Google Maps

Mapping enthusiasts are using Google Maps and Google Earth and other data to compile maps of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

One Web site, www.scipionus.com, is combating the confusion by encouraging users to annotate a Google Map of New Orleans with information about specific locations. Collectively, the community is creating a collaborative map Wikipedia. Anyone with something to add can enter a street address and leave a marker on the map at that location, providing a few lines of text about conditions at that spot.

URISA GISCorps Volunteer Positions Filled

URISA GISCorps got a good response to their call for GIS volunteers. All volunteer positions are now filled. Volunteers will be going to Jackson, Mississippi.


"Seven of the volunteers are map production experts. There is a lab in Jackson where they can start
their work with hardware and software ready to use. They have some data and more is coming. The
second group of volunteers will be in the field with GPS equipment. The group in Jackson will be
mapping the field data as soon as they can and hand it over to the emergency personnel."

URISA GISCorps Needs Volunteers For Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts

Urban and Regional Information Systems Association's (URISA) GISCorps coordinates volunteer GIS services to underprivileged communities. GISCorps is looking for GIS professionals to volunteer for emergency and relief efforts in the region affected by Hurricane Katrina.


"The immediate need is for 5-10 volunteers at this point. These volunteers must have enough GIS experience to work effectively in an emergency situation. Volunteers must have expertise in map production, performing analysis, data management, and etc. Expertise in disaster management and working with GPS equipment is highly desirable."

Digital Earth

In his 1992 novel, Snow Crash, writer Neal Stephenson imagined the ultimate user interface to access geographic information:


"There is something new: a globe about the size of grapefruit, a perfectly detailed rendition of Planet Earth, hanging in space at arm's length in front of his eyes... It's a piece of CIC software called, simply, Earth. It is the user interface that the CIC uses to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns -- all the maps, weather data, architectural plans, and satellite surveillance stuff." [More excerpts ]

Why Brazil Is Turning To Open Source Software

BBC reports that government agencies and state-run enterprises in Brazil are switching from Microsoft Windows to open source alternatives. According to a source cited in the story, the primary motivation is economics. The Brazilian government estimates it could save $120m a year by switching and is considering making the use of open source software compulsory for government.




Dept. of Labor's Open Source Content Management System

An article by Shane Petersen in the publication Government Technology
provides an update on how government agencies are using Open Source Software (OSS).

OSS has finally achieved an aura of legitimacy, paving the way for government agencies to pursue higher levels of OSS integration...OSS has moved from fringe applications to core business functions because more enterprises now trust its stability.

Bridging Form and Function

David Sucher argues that France's spectacular new bridge is not just a feat of engineering -- it's architecture.

"...I'd suggest that it qualifies as architecture, maybe even top-notch architecture..."


Brian Micklethwait wonders about the reason for building the bridge:

"Economically it looks crazy to me. A few more curves on the road and they could surely have saved themselves billions."

'Computer of The Future' Photo Is A Hoax

According to Urban Legends References Pages, the widely circulated 1954 photograph of what a home computer in 2004 would look like is an Internet hoax. The website provides details:

Although the photograph displayed could represent what some people in the early 1950s contemplated a "home computer" might look like (based on the technology of the day), it isn't, as the accompanying text claims, a RAND Corporation illustration from 1954 of a prototype "home computer." The picture is actually an entry submitted to an image modification competition, taken from an original photo of a submarine maneuvering room console found on U.S. Navy web site, converted to grayscale, and modified to replace a modern display panel and TV screen with pictures of a decades-old teletype/printer and television (as well as to add the gray-suited man to the left-hand side of the photo).

Top Word For 2004: 'Blog'

Merriam-Webster Inc. announced that the word "blog" was the "most looked-up word" [CNN] this year. The word will be a new entry in the next edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.

A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media during this year's presidential campaign tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's list of the 10 words of the year.

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