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Google Maps is now more accurate!

Having been raised many times by many different people like the SW11tch campaign and various people from the Streetlife Identity Taskforce the mapping used by Google now puts Clapham over, well, Clapham.

While this shouldn’t take any credit away from map providers like Bing or the community created Open Street Map who never got it wrong in the first place, Google Maps is by far the most used online mapping service and often came up as an excuse even when a business was almost in Wandsworth (not naming names, Sainsbury’s Clapham St John’s).

It’s a bit of an early Christmas present, and inspires me to keep chipping away at the remaining Clapham/Battersea offenders.

Best political compliments

My earlier post about chugging made me think that I have been attracting a few insults lately. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. As Wilde said “the only thing worse than being talked about it not being talked about.”

It certainly makes me wonder what it is over the past year or so that means I’ve collected so many more. Perhaps I just wasn’t that interesting before, or maybe it’s a degree of forgetfulness. The only one I remember prior to 2008 was Tony Belton calling me “incendiary and ambitious” in a letter to the Wandsworth Borough News when I was Health Chairman on the council (sometime between 2003 and 2006). And I’m not sure if that was an insult or not, I remember it more because I thought it made me sound like Johnny Storm than because I took offence.

You might think it’s odd that I care about such a thing, but I know there are people who do not agree with me on most, if not all, things. After all, you only need check the 2006 Wandsworth election results to see there were probably 1,500 or so or so who liked the other candidates more and around 7,000 who just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to vote either for or against me. Once you accept that you are not, and cannot be, universally popular the insult is nothing more than another dimension to that. I accept it in exactly the same way as I accept people’s democratic right to vote for other candidates.

So, while it is perverse, I rather like that Tony Belton called me “Stalinist” during a committee meeting recently. And was tickled to hear that another Labour candidate suggested to a colleague that I was a “combination of the worst parts of Shirley Porter and Ceauşescu.” That sort of comment shows real imagination and a knowledge of both local government and international history. It invites people to decide exactly which is the worst part of either of them and I become a sort of Room 101 politician made from a buffet of negative political characteristics.

And while it wasn’t as imaginative, to be at a conference (on improving confidence in the police) and hear from someone that “abhors every word James Cousins utters” shows that, at least, they have heard of me. Although the unintended flattery was lost when I found myself sat next to the person who said it and not only have to introduce myself but also explain who I was.

So why do I appreciate the insults more than the plaudits? A Google for “best political insults” produces 10,500 results. Searching for “best political compliments” returns a meagre 2! Clearly something in our psyche that prefers to use, or perhaps to hear, the negatives of opponents rather than the positives of our side.

It is, perhaps, the return of politics. Since 1990 politics seem to have been far more about who would be the best (or at least, less sleazy) managers of the country. It seems the best bon mots come from times when there was a real political divide and debate about the country. So, for example, while you can find lots about Thatcher, Major gets off quite lightly with a general satire of him as a grey man. My particular favourite comes from a time when two huge characters dominated the political stage, and Disraeli commented of Gladstone: “He has not one single redeeming defect.”

Now we are in the longest recession ever and facing a massive public debt crisis perhaps the lines between parties are becoming clearer. Maybe those involved in politics feel the need, or feel freer, to try to encapsulate the differences. And perhaps, because they highlight the differences if I were I to have a selection of plaudits on the blog – as some do – I’d include those above, in fact, I’d probably just use them and nothing else.

Another slow-ish week council-wise, as the summer slow-down truly takes hold.

But a few things to include this week.

My weekly wrap-up last week was posted during the lunch break of GoogleLocalgov. Google are clearly targetting local government as a market and, as part of that hosted a whole group of local government types to a day at their offices. The morning was a sales pitch, frankly, for their AdWords and AdSense services.

I’ve always assumed I wouldn’t run ads on this site – so didn’t see it as terribly relevant.

The afternoon session, for which I had high hopes, covered the more creative offering of Google’s business. While better, it seemed to miss the needs of local government and just a little tacked on.

So while I got a few ideas from it, I can’t say I came away buzzing with them as I expected I would (and have to admit that Google’s offices lacked the buzz I was expecting). The upside of this is that you won’t have to put up with endless new ‘features’ being introduced just for the sake of it!

Balham Street Festival
Continuing the recent tradition of street festivals and events (in Lavender Hill and Northcote Road, with more to come in St John’s Hill, Wandsworth and – I understand – Southfields) Balham had their event last Sunday. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, but have heard nothing but praise for the event. You can read the Balham Town Centre manager’s review of it on the Balham Blog.

19 Lavender Hill
I usually don’t report on casework on this blog, because of the fairly obvious privacy issues. However, I have been asked what is happening with 19, Lavender Hill – a property I blogged about last April. Some months on and the property still looks fairly derelict.

It is still in council ownership, since some of the legal issues took longer to wrap up than anticipated. However, it is expected to go to sale within the next two months and the sale will be covenanted to ensure the new owner brings it back into use quickly. So hopefully it won’t be long before we finally see some improvement.

Finally, I have to highlight my post on chugging. There have already been a number of comments on the post, largely supportive of my view. You would perhaps expect that – but I would encourage anyone, whatever their view, to comment. I do genuinely like to see debate and have never deleted or edited a post just because I disagree. So, please, add your voice.

As I have mentioned summer is a quieter time on the council than the rest of the year. While last week saw no trips to the Town Hall this week saw only one for my regular briefing and policy meeting with officers.

Much of the rest of the week has been, not to put to fine a point on it, slightly geeky.

Managing conversations
The week started meeting a couple of guys who are developing a product that (and I can’t think of a better way to put this) manages and centralises conversations. So, for example, the debate about CCTV or councillor surgeries took place over a number of blog posts and on Twitter, making it difficult to follow unless you were watching both – this would mean there would be a central place to see them all. It’s quite an exciting idea and I’m hoping to try it out in the near-ish future.

Battersea Poems
Another meeting was about a scheme called ‘Battersea Poems’ which will be part of the SW11 Literary Festival. Poetry itself isn’t geeky, of course, but Battersea Poems is a scheme whereby individuals can text their poetry in. The poems will be visible on a website and later this year the best will be chosen for publication in an anthology.

Google Localgov
And today I’m at Google’s London offices for their ‘Localgov’ event. It has, so far, been interesting – but the afternoon promises to be much better, looking at some of the creative options Google offer. I’m hoping to pick up some things to bore visitors to this blog with!

Although I’ve had the various icons towards the top right of every page since this blog was started I’ve never really explained them or pointed people towards them, so decided it might be worth advertising the ways you can follow this blog without having to point your browser to this website.

RSS (generally) stands for Really Simple Syndication, which essentially means that articles from this website are published in a format that can be read in a ‘reader’.  The reader can either be a website, like Google’s Google Reader or in a program on your computer.  As a Mac user I use NetNewsWire, but there are plenty of free and paid-for programs for Mac, Windows and Linux.  All the feeds are handled by FeedBurner so clicking on the link will give you a number of options.

Alternatively by popping your email address in the box you can get the day’s postings delivered to you.  The delivery takes place every evening – you’ll get one message a day and I promise I won’t spam you.  Again this service is provided by FeedBurner.

The BBC News site offers a very good description of RSS feeds that I will point you to rather than trying to replicate.

The final option at the top right is Twitter.  You are more than welcome to follow me @jamescousins, and there’s a page describing my approach to Twitter on this website.  However, I should warn you that Twitter and I are having a trial separation at the moment, so following my account won’t be the most fascinating of experiences!

If you had the choice of hiding in a number of UK cities, where would you go?

Google’s Street View launched in the UK yesterday with a Wally character hidden somewhere.  And it seems that given the choice of a number of major UK cities (and Scunthorpe) Wally decided that hiding out in London was the best bet… And if you are in London where would you want to go but Wandsworth?

Wally decided to do a bit of shopping on Putney High Street, and was spotted outside the O2 store:

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While I’d say our other town centres, Balham, Clapham Junction, Tooting and Wandsworth provide competition, I’m not that surprised he chose Putney over Scunthorpe.