Crowd counting 2: MCM Birmingham Comic Con

Following on from our previous experiment, the researcher repeated the crowd counting exercise in a more crowded environment, with a more complex task for Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to attempt.

(Read Part 1 to get the intro, method and background)

We will also be talking about crowd densities, comparing different types of events (Comic conventions) and looking at the size of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC).

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Crowd counting with a 360 camera and Amazon Mechanical Turk

A proof of concept to establish how timelapse 360 photography could be used to count crowds and examine general crowd dynamics at events.


Outdoor events of all types, and especially those that are more temporary, moving (parades, processions) free to attend or unticketed typically have a difficult time establishing accurate figures for attendance.  Organizers may be incentivised to over-estimate these figures for funding or political reasons; they might also be incentivised to under-estimate these figures for licensing reasons. For sufficiently large events, or events that have taken place multiple times, organisers and emergency services will likely have produced an estimate though the methods and assumptions behind these often vary and there is rarely a clear process by which the process can be examined or scrutinized. Clearly from history and policy, a scientifically accurate estimate of attendance is rarely a requirement, arguably even ticketed and paid events could feasibly be wrong about their levels of attendance. Increasing study of events of all types mean this is a key area or investigation, or at least a key ‘stat’ for discussion. The technical feasibility and time required to carry out head counting, sampling and wider estimation is generally beyond the usual time-pressed event organiser.

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Open Audience Finder

Open Data Kit + Audience Finder = Open Audience Finder?


I’ve worked on audience surveys for a long time and I’m always looking to improve my methods. Relatively recently the roll out of Audience Finder from the Audience Agency has done a lot of good in standardizing many basic questions and methods for a range of arts organizations. (see standard questions: link)

This makes a lot of people happy as they have a basis for comparing and contrasting their results with others. Most of the arts organizations I’ve worked with see the value, one way or another. Everyone has their own tweaks or preferences to suggest but some collaboration around some standard questions is generally a good thing…

Around the same sort of time, I started learning about and putting Open Data Kit into use, for various audience and other kinds of end-user/patient surveys. Hence the combination of the two, and in this post, I will be describing how you, with less technical expertise than you probably think, can use it too.

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Open Tech Forever

“Imagine a world where almost all the products we use are manufactured locally using sustainable practices. We work with people throughout the world to achieve this.”

image: opentechforever
image: opentechforever

With links to Open Source Ecology, Open Tech Forever sets out with the ambition to never patent, copyright or otherwise prevent the sharing of ideas and designs created by them (and their wider community). On the ground, they are renovating a 1960’s barn on 40 acres in Colorado into their first “Open Source Microfactory” and ran a modestly successful Indiegogo campaign to help with the funds.

The next major project is an open challenge, inviting entries to design a ‘Forever Home’ out of Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB), that the team will then go on to build on the site in Colorado. It needs to be built to Living Building Standards 2.1, which as a set of guidelines is worth a look in itself. The use of CEB’s ties in to the open source design of the CEB Press (brilliantly nicknamed The Liberator) which you can see and even attempt to build for yourself here.

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I worked in Jessops (camera shop, good times mostly) and the pressure was always on to sell Extended Warranties with every piece of gear. Most people are rightly suspicious of extra insurance and the salesperson only has about 10 seconds towards the end of the sale to try and flog that too. It got to the point where the best way to sell the insurance was to basically say: “Look, pay £30 now, then when it gets to the end of the 3 year period, just throw it down the stairs and we’ll give you a new one: probably even an upgraded version by that point.”

If I’ve got to point out the flaws in your business model to be able to sell your financial product, then how on earth do they make any money? Simple, I bet most of us just forget about it, and I can’t honestly say I ever remember any particular customers taking my advice when it came to it. The insurance companies only win if we don’t check the details! It’s not like you’ll be investigated for fraud over a 3 or 4 hundred quid camera, of course you’ll just get a new one! Please note, I do not CONDONE insurance fraund, but in this situation I HEARTILY ENCOURAGE IT.

So while I was bored at work I thought I’d come up with a comic strip about a camera shop on a space station, and this is the only strip I ever actually made, but I did write a couple.