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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Many folks know about the free shuttles for those workers who want to live in San Francisco while working at places like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay and Apple out in the suburbs. . It's another perk. I recently spoke to a GISer who was very impressed by Google's transport system. The details of the stops and routes of these essentially private mass transit systems are not public.

The folks at Stamen, who see the shuttles all over the city, tapped foursquare, hired bike messenger to the tail the busses, and tapped their own eyes at coffee shops to find the stops and map the routes.

The routes have quite an impact on the city: they mean more traffic (especially when they use public transit stop locations), shift the value of residentail properties (those near stops rise) and they generally overlap the public system in many ways, even though they are not regulated by the city itself.

- Marketplace (NPR) Dec 26, but the map has been around since this fall

by Adena Schutzberg on 12/26 at 03:47 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Government Technology has an interview with Jonathan Rosenberg, chief of the Healthcare Associated Infections Program at the California Department of Public Health. 

Among his team's creations:

...an interactive map that charts California hospitals and assigns them symbols based on how their infection rates compare with state and national averages. They hope this will help people make better healthcare choices.

- GovTech

Dr. Russell Kirby, a professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health, met with members of UNC Charlotte’s geography and public health departments to a discussion on the benefits the two disciplines can create when combined. His goal? A 12-credit GIS/public health certificate at USF for students next year.

- Charlotte Observer via @theaag

Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes known as the "winter blues," stems from lack of access to sunlight. How does geogrphy play into it - not the way you might think.

Columbia research shows that in North America, the incidence of SAD rises from the southern to the middle states, but levels off and stays bad from about 38 degrees North latitude (near such cities as San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.) up through the northernmost states and Canada, according to Terman.

But the problem becomes "more severe" at the western edges of the northern states and provinces.

Up in Sweden an electric utility found a clever way to advertise and address the problem.

The standard treatment for SAD is 30 minutes of 10,000-lux, diffused, white fluorescent light, used early in the morning. About half the patients are helped quickly -- and when treatment is tailored to a person's individual wake-sleep cycle, remission can climb to 80 percent, according to Terman.

This year, a utility company in the northern Swedish town of Umea installed ultraviolet lights at 30 bus stops to combat the effects of SAD.

I actually have this disorder; I have a wakeup light. It slowly grows brighter and brighter to wake me up in the morning. It seems to help quite a lot.
by Adena Schutzberg on 12/26 at 06:15 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Would it bother you if you knew that online retailers priced their merchandise based on your location?

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some online retailers are basing their pricing on "geolocation" and browsing history. But is this any different than what retailers do now when they build stores in different locations? Most have been setting prices based on demographics such as average income, race and population for as long as these data have been available. The price of snow shovels might be different in Sioux Falls than in South Beach. And so online prices may vary based on similar characteristics. According to the WSJ:

The Journal identified several companies, including Staples, Discover Financial Services, Rosetta Stone Inc. and Home Depot Inc. that were consistently adjusting prices and displaying different product offers based on a range of characteristics that could be discovered about the user.

Staples was the merchant most cited in the article.

The Journal tested to see whether price was tied to different characteristics including population, local income, proximity to a Staples store, race and other demographic factors. Statistically speaking, by far the strongest correlation involved the distance to a rival's store from the center of a ZIP Code. That single factor appeared to explain upward of 90% of the pricing pattern.

So, what about if you were purchasing an item online if you just happened to be out of town? Would it bother you that you receveived a price for an item just because you had a business trip to LA but you lived in Austin? Again, according to the WSJ article:

Basing online prices on geography can make sense for various reasons, from shipping costs to local popularity of a particular item. Some retailers might naturally cluster in specific areas as well—a prosperous suburb, say—boosting the competitive pressure to discount. But using geography as a pricing tool can also reinforce patterns that e-commerce had promised to erase: prices that are higher in areas with less competition, including rural or poor areas. It diminishes the Internet's role as an equalizer.

So the next time you buy online, you may want to think about how your location plays a part in the pricing your favority online merchant shows you.

by Joe Francica on 12/26 at 05:59 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Maps published on the Sunday before Christmas was titled "Where are the gun permits in your neighborhood?" The Journal News, a New York newspaper published a Google map locating and providing names and addresses of pistol or revolver permits in Westchester and Rockland counties. The data came from the paper's Freedom of Interformation Act requests, some of which were denied as described in the companion article. The data does not include owners of rifles and shotguns, which can be purchased in without a permit in the state.

Gun owners felt their privacy was invaded but the paper defending the action to ABC News, stating readers "are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhoods."

Several big city papers have published similar data and maps in the past, often redacting some or all of it after reader response.

- The Verge, more coverage

by Adena Schutzberg on 12/26 at 05:11 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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