Keeping a side project alive with t-shirts and cash

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A selection of hats, t-shirts, mugs, and waterbottles with our logo.

My wife and I run a side project called - it is a fun little crowd-sourced memorial bench site. It's mostly fun, except when the bills come due! Most hobby sites and side projects don't cost a lot to run. Lots of services have generous free tiers to (ab)use, and they can pay well […]

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Who wrote "The call was short the shock severe"?

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Paper clippings from Scottish newspapers.

A few weeks ago, someone uploaded this memorial bench to our site: It is a perfectly pleasant little memorial poem. I wondered about its origins. A quick search shows that the opening couplet was used on war graves from 1916. But are its origins any earlier than that? One of the problems of trying to […]

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Rewriting OpenBenches in Symfony

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The Open Benches logo.

I once described my ideal coding environment to a colleague as "telneting directly into prod and damn the consequences!" I jest. But only a little. When I build for myself I treat best practices and coding styles as harmful. Chaotic evil but, hey, it's only myself I'm hurting. Anyway, my wife and I run a […]

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OpenBenches at GeoMob London

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Liz and Terence standing in a lecture theatre, presenting their work.

Last week, Liz and I had the great pleasure of speaking at GeoMob London - a meet-up for digital geography nerds. We gave a talk about OpenBenches and how far it has come since launch. It blows our minds that we've have over TWENTY-SIX THOUSAND unique benches added to the site. And it is a […]

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You can have user accounts without needing to manage user accounts

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A slide from a presentation which says "Avoice side projects with user accounts."

The inimitable Simon Willison has a brilliant presentation all about managing side projects: It is all good advice. But I gently disagree with the slide which says: Avoid side projects with user accounts If it has user accounts it’s not a side-project, it’s an unpaid job I get the sentiment. Storing passwords securely is hard. […]

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This Bench Does Not Exist

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A bench with a deformed arm.

We forced an AI to look at thousands of photos of memorial benches. Just because. Here are the results. You can view more at This Bench Does Not Exist. Here's a video which shows how the process generates images. It gives you an idea of what the model "thinks" a bench is. Download the model […]

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Using Soundex to find Duplicate Database Entries

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Benches on a website. One is called "Bertie" the other "Bert".

Our community website - OpenBenches - has over seventeen thousand crowd-sourced entries. The nature of user-generated content is that there are bound to be duplicates. Especially around popular walking routes. Here's how I culled around 200 duplicates using the awesome power of SOUNDEX! Soundex is a clever algorithm for reducing a string of characters into […]

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How we organise and store thousands of UGC photos

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A tiny micro sd card.

Our community project - OpenBenches is going really well. At the time of writing, we have 33,211 photos, taking up over 100GB. Cameras and phones all have different ways of naming the photos they save. Some files are named with a datestamp - 2019-12-25_01.jpg. Others are sequential - photo_0001.jpg. Or they might have a system […]

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OpenBenches is a recipient of a Microgrant!

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The Open Benches logo.

We're delighted to announce that our project has been awarded a $250 microgrant from Icculus! When I agreed to the award, I hadn’t heard about @eiais’s firing, or any of the others. It’s not much money, but I don’t think quantity is relevant. — Ryan C. Gordon (@icculus) December 25, 2019 (If I don’t […]

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OpenBenches - some stats

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UK map covered in thousands of markers.

For the last year-and-a-bit, Liz and I have been running An open data website dedicated to memorial benches. Here are some rough and ready numbers about how it has gone so far. 9,870 Benches At the time of writing, we're a little shy of 10,000 benches. As you can see, we have photos from […]

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