Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Company ethics versus technical reputation

May 19, 2014 1 comment

Over the last two years we have written a number of posts on some of the issues surrounding personal information and data privacy; from UAVs (drones) to the secret lives of phones, the collection and reuse that information continue to challenge end users and customers. How much of our personal information are we willing to trade for access to products and services?

A recent ZDNet article by Jack Schofield reported the results of a Harris poll into corporate reputation and the responses from 18,000 American adults to six categories: emotional appeal, financial performance, products and services, social responsibility, vision and leadership and workplace environment. The survey indicated that 76% of those surveyed were concerned about the amount of personal information captured by large companies, including technology giants Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft and Amazon, and less than half (44%) reported that they trusted companies to act responsibly with that information. In the category Social Responsibility, the only technology company to appear in the top five was Microsoft, ahead of both Google and Apple.

How much of that mistrust materialises as lost sales or changing preferences? According to the poll company business practices are an increasingly important factor for customers, with 60% of those surveyed reporting that they researched companies before they considered engaging with them. It seems that technical reputation is not the only measure by which companies are judged and company ethics, in particular personal information policies and practices, now play a major role in influencing our choices.




Improvements for geospatial resource discovery

Almost a year ago I wrote a post, Data, data everywhere nor any point to map, on some of the problems I’d encountered when trying to find spatial data for some projects I was working at the time. Among the main problems I kept running into were a lack of good portal interface design, a lack of reliable metadata and an unstructured approach to searching. In the intervening months I haven’t seen many initiatives specifically addressing some of those problems but I did notice the following Microsoft Research project, A visualization-enhanced graphical user interface for geospatial resource discovery, published in the Annals of GIS.  The project authors (Zhipeng Gui, Chaowei Yang, Jizhe Xia, Jing Li, Abdelmounaam Rezgui, Min Sun, Yan Xu, and Daniel Fay), are proposing a ‘ visualization- and interaction-enhanced discovery workflow‘ to address the following shortcomings in geospatial data discovery:

*) Search portals lack intuitive and visual methods to present search results

*) Inadequate functions to sort, filter, explore and analyse results

*) Missing value-added information

The prototype search portal, GeoSearch, based on a Bing Maps Viewer and incorporating various filtering and visualization tools, is reported to improve the general user experience and can help users obtain required geospatial resources effectively and efficiently. I would be very interested in taking it for a test drive.

… and while we are on the subject of improved access to spatial data, Bjørn Sandvik recently reported the Norwegian Mapping Authority‘s announcement last week to make their 1:50,000 topographic, address, road and cadastre datasets publicly available, and free of charge, later on this year.