Geospatial analytics company Descartes Labs recently sold to private equity, in what former CEO Mark Johnson calls a “fire sale.” This post is his perspective on the nature of the business over time, their missteps along the way in both company identity and fundraising, and some of the shenanigans that can happen as stakeholders start to head for the exits.
Not knowing much about Descartes’ actual business, either the original vision of the product or its actual delivery over the years, I don’t have...
This is a wild story and an incredible piece of investigative journalism from the folks at BuzzFeed. The CCP reportedly operates hundreds of camps across the Xinjiang autonomous region for re-education of Uyghur muslims.
Starting with map tiles they’d noticed were blanked out on China’s Baidu Maps service, they enlisted new data resources, built analysis tools, and combed through map data manually to identify hundreds of these prisons (only several dozen are “officially” known):
We began to sort through the mask tile locations systematically using a custom web tool that we built to support our investigation and help manage...
AWS is making its entrance into the low-code app platform space.
Geoff Zeiss on combining satellite imagery and spatial analysis to identify tree encroachment in utilities:
Transmission line inspections are essential in ensuring grid reliability and resilience. They are generally performed by manned helicopters often together with a ground crew. There are serious safety issues when inspections are conducted by helicopter. Data may be collected with cameras and analyzed to detect...
Lake Chad spans 4 national borders in the central Sahel: Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon. Since the 1960s it’s shrunk to about 5% its ancestral size, due to overuse, mismanagement, and climate shifts.
This NASA photo uses SRTM data combined with Landsat 8 to highlight the edges of the basin that was once the size of the Caspian Sea:
About 7,000 years ago, a vast lake spread hundreds of square kilometers across north-central Africa. Known to scientists as Lake Mega Chad, it...
Bessemer maintains this page of companies they passed investing on. I like the idea of publicly acknowledging your big misses or errors as an organizational accountability tool. Some big names here like eBay, Airbnb, Google, and FedEx.
Almost a year ago I shared a link to the first version of Downlink. The main feature added here is you can create your own custom views by putting a bounding box around your area of interest. Then...
Blot is a super-minimal open source blogging system based on plain text files in a folder. It supports markdown, Word docs, images, and HTML — just drag the files into the folder and it generates web pages. I love simple tools like this.
An interesting post from Robert Simmon from Planet. These examples of visualizations and graphics of physical phenomena (maps, cloud diagrams, drawings of insects, planetary motion charts) were all hand-drawn, in an era where specialized photography and sensing weren’t always options.
A project from DeepMind designed to fill in missing text from ancient inscriptions:
Pythia takes a sequence of damaged text as input, and is trained to predict character sequences comprising hypothesised restorations of ancient Greek inscriptions (texts written in the Greek alphabet dating between the seventh century BCE and the fifth century CE). The architecture works at both the character- and word-level, thereby effectively handling long-term context information, and dealing efficiently with incomplete word representations (Figure 2). This...
Fantastic visualizations from the WSJ team. Shows the history of satellite expansion divided by country, year, and orbits, both LEO and geosynchronous. A great use of maps for storytelling.
This is a concept pulled from Taleb’s The Black Swan, which I recently enjoyed. As he notes, the antilibrary can function as a reminder of how much...
As pointed out in this piece from Rahul Vohra, founder of Superhuman, most indicators around product-market fit are lagging indicators. With his company he was looking for leading indicators so they could more accurately predict adoption and retention after launch. His approach is simple: polling your early users with a single question — “How would you feel if you could no longer use Superhuman?”
Too many example methods in the literature on product development orient around asking...
This year’s excellent report from the show floor from Steven Sinofsky. It’s extensive and covers the products a-to-z, breaking down the trends by category. I’d also recommend the companion podcast conversation between Sinofsky and Benedict Evans.
A helpful guide with tips and factoids on satellite imagery. Includes a primer on the various sensor platforms, differences in resolution, color correction, infrared, and more. There are also a...
The scale of the prediction problem Uber has is wild. This is an intro to a series on methods they use for forecasting demand for their marketplace.
A neat project from the Azavea team for computer vision applications with satellite imagery.
A great list from Quartz compiling a bottomless feed of content for self-teachers.
LiDAR point cloud data for Washington, DC, is available for anyone to use on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). This dataset, managed by the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), with the direction of OCTO’s Geographic Information System (GIS) program, contains tiled point cloud data for the entire District along with associated metadata.
This is a great move by the District to make high value open data available.