I’ve used Flickr since 2005. It used to be the ‘poster child’ of what was then affectionately known as “Web 2.0” – the concept that the web was evolving from a top-down read-only publishing network into a two-way read-write web. Websites were beginning to act like fully functioning desktop software. Forms could update information without refreshing the page. Social media was being born. They were heady days for geeks like me.
Flickr lost its way after it was sold to Yahoo! and began to be used mainly as a backup service for people’s smartphones. I was guilty of that too. The community seemed to disappear, being sucked into the algorithmic doom-scrolling FOMO-inducing behemoth known as Facebook. Dedicated photographers moved on to other specialist networks such as SmugMug, 500px, and others. But Flickr hung on in there. Out of loyalty I kept paying for my Pro account.
Fast forward to 2018 when SmugMug bought Flickr. From what I’ve seen, Flickr has been resuscitated and the community seems to be gathering again. Some of the early key figures have rejoined the staff. The user interface is being updated with some nice Flickr-y features.
And best of all, every single photo I’ve ever uploaded to the service since 2005 is still available. And findable. And Creative Commons licensed. Not many services have endured so long, and I think Flickr has a bright future. It’s time for me to really re-engage with Flickr, and for the last year or so I’ve been uploading my best images. I no longer upload by the bucket load, but have gone back to how I began, carefully choosing, uploading, describing and tagging. I enjoy it.
After the 2020 lockdown easing began, I decided to start using Cornwall’s bus services to get around and visit some places I hadn’t been to in a while. The experience has opened my eyes to just how broken things have become. Read on to see why this is.
In 2019 I used the FirstBus app to buy a bundle of 20 day rider tickets for £100 you. Rather than pay £12, I pay £5, which is excellent value. I have friends and family in the area, and it makes things much cheaper. Or it did.
FirstBus – or their division First Kernow is now called “Kernow”. They trade as “Cornwall by Kernow“. Keeping up? It gets better. In March 2020 Cornwall Council launched a new bus company called “Transport for Cornwall“. Services are provided by Go Cornwall Bus, a subsidiary of Go-Ahead Group-owned Plymouth Citybus. Plymouth Citybus also operate buses in the east of Cornwall.
I’d heard of the Transport for Cornwall initiative and thought that it was a great idea. Some of the villages who have lost their bus services in recent years will get them back. A vital lifeline for many, and a good way to encourage less use of cars. Good for people, good for the environment.
When not all A17 buses (and tickets bought on them) are equal…
There are some new routes here in West Penwith, with their own numbers. But then there’s the existing routes served by Cornwall by Kernow. Like the A17 St Ives – Pendeen via Penzance and St Just.
In the daytime, the A17 is run by Cornwall by Kernow. In the evening the A17 is taken over by Transport for Cornwall. Return tickets are transferrable – sort of. If you have a Cornwall by Kernow return ticket you can use if on a Transport for Cornwall bus to get home. But not the other way around. Day tickets are not transferrable at all.
Transport for Cornwall services will accept the return ticket purchased on First Kernow buses.
Currently, there are no arrangements for First Kernow to accept return tickets purchased on Transport for Cornwall services.
That’s right. If you follow the advice on the posters inside the buses and buy a day ticket, you have to use it just for the bus company you bought it from. But, at the time or writing (August 2020) there are no warnings from either company that day tickets are not usable. So if I use a day ticket to travel from Penzance to St Just in the daytime on a Cornwall by Kernow A17 bus, I can’t use it to get home in the evening on a Transport for Cornwall A17 bus.
It gets worse. When looking at the timetables – the most basic of functions – there is no integration between the services from the different companies.
Continuing with the Penzance to St Just example, I initially thought that the A17 service was no longer running in the evenings. According to the A17 timetable on the Cornwall by Kernow website, the last bus back to Penzance is at 18:12. I mistakenly thought that there had been a reduction in services due to Covid-19 – but it turns out that (thankfully) I was wrong. FirstBus – Cornwall by Kernow – just don’t list services by other operators, even if they carry on the same route with the same route number.
The evening services – post 18:12 are run by Transport for Cornwall. Still with me?
Since I live in the area, I stand half a chance of figuring this out – eventually. But if I was visiting here, none of this is obvious.
The timetables from each company don’t mention the other. Day tickets from each company aren’t compatible.
It’s a broken system.
Broken Timetables and Apps
At the time of writing, 17:10, if I wanted to visit St Just, I know that the A17 will take me from the stop at The Greenmarket to St Just bus station.
Let’s have a look at the Transport for Cornwall app and plug in St Just as my destination and see what the options are.
The app reports back that I can get the number 8 service at 17:42. Or I could wait until tomorrow… But if I were to look at the A17 timetable on the Transport for Cornwall website, I can see that there is an A17 leaving for St Just at 19:23.
This is why people drive everywhere. It’s broken.
Ride Cornwall – the not-so-combined rail and bus pass
It gets better (or worse) depending upon your opinion. It is possible to buy a day pass that works across trains and buses in Cornwall, called the Ride Cornwall ticket.
A Ride Cornwall ticket can be used on both of the train operators that service Cornwall but not all of the bus operators.
In the east of Cornwall, Plymouth Citybus run services. Day Rider tickets work on these buses and those by Cornwall by Kernow. Despite Go Cornwall (Plymouth Citybus) providing the services for Transport for Cornwall, assuming that the information on Cornwall Council’s own website is correct, a Day Rider isn’t valid on Transport for Cornwall buses despite this being Cornwall Council’s own company.
It’s a complete and utter mess.
One Public Transport System for Cornwall (OPTSfC)
Cornwall Council announced back in 2017 (possibly?) their One Public Transport System for Cornwall (OPTSfC) scheme. Their aim was (is?) to have a single ticketing and timetable system for the whole of Cornwall. And a single, identifiable brand.
We are launching one identifiable brand for Cornwall’s public transport, timetabling and ticketing. There will be a single point where information can be accessed digitally with tools for:
Presumably “Transport for Cornwall” is that brand. But the only thing that it is unified with is itself.
The “One Timetable” dream is currently, for travellers, a nightmare. The “One Ticket” initiative hasn’t made it – just look at day tickets. The Transport for Cornwall app doesn’t show you ticket prices. Only prices for day tickets. Day tickets that are only valid on their own services, not Cornwall by Kernow services; even if they have the same route number.
Broken, broken, broken.
£Millions of investment
According to Coach and Bus Week magazine:
“In 2015 the Council signed a Devolution Deal with Government to gain greater powers of governance over public transport. It was also successful in securing £9.5m Local Growth Funding from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership to match against its own £2.9m and deliver improvements for passengers in recent years such as upgraded waiting facilities, new vehicles and real-time information displays in bus stops across the county. This work was carried out in partnership with local transport operators under the title ‘One Public Transport System for Cornwall.’ This has recently been retitled ‘Transport for Cornwall’ and will be formally launched in May 2020.
“From 2017, successful partnership working has encouraged significant investment of over £34m from bus operators First Kernow and Go Cornwall Bus in the provision of brand-new, low-emission buses to operate the network, many with WiFi and USB charging. Ahead of the launch of Transport for Cornwall, Go Cornwall Bus has committed further investment into driver recruitment and training, depot facilities and the improvement of information for passengers to deliver the Transport for Cornwall vision.
That’s Quite A Lot of Money mentioned in this quote. And yet, timetables and day tickets are broken. I’m pretty sure real time bus passenger information is too. The last time I used it via the FirstBus app, it was listing times for services that weren’t timetabled, and didn’t show up those that I was expecting, leaving me doubt whether I’d be able to get to my destination at all.
Confusing, frustrating, and considering the huge investment, inexcusable.
Navigating the mess
There is a unified bus timetable available via Traveline South West, who also have an app. But it takes a lot of finding, and it’s competing with the non-unified apps from the individual companies.
Why Cornwall Council isn’t working with Traveline, I don’t know. Maybe they are, but I’ve lost the will to find out.
Even not all bus stops that I’ve used in the past few weeks have any timetable at all fixed to them, which given West Cornwall’s spotty mobile coverage, is just bad.
Does this situation encourage a switch to sustainable transport?
If you’ve got this far, then I think that you’ll know my answer to that. I don’t drive, and am a seasoned public transport user. I will always try to get to the bottom of tricky timetables, and I’ve had to do that in some 15 countries around the world.
But if I wasn’t so hardy and determined, and was thinking about using public transport more to help reduce my carbon footprint by leaving the car at home, I’d probably switch back to the car pretty quickly after trying to figure out this mess.
After so much investment, and several years, how can Cornwall’s bus services be so broken? I can only think that the people designing this around a table (or Zoom meeting) don’t use buses. That’s the only explanation.
How can this be fixed? I wish I knew. I will be sending a link to this post to various Cornwall Councillors in the hope that by highlighting these issues – a plea from a passenger – that something can be done urgently.
I’m sure that the current bus situation, with its smart liveries, snazzy branding, on-board Wi-Fi, USB charging and a slick-looking app tick a lot of boxes on paper. But the reality from a passenger perspective is the complete opposite.
People just won’t switch from their cars. Yet. Buses are infrequent, stop early (or huge gaps from late evening to past midnight – I’m looking at you A17 from St Just to Penzance – 22:14 or 00:14), certain tickets aren’t transferrable, timetables and apps give different information, bus stops missing timetables, and you need an esoteric knowledge of which company runs which particular timed service.
The sheer amount of traffic on our little roads is proof enough. Despite huge investment, Cornwall’s bus services are still broken and they need fixing.
The words “curated” and “curator” have become fashionable in recent years, used by thousands to describe lots of different concepts. We help people to grasp the concept of curation, providing clients with advice, skills, facilitation and research.
We also provide direct services, such as research in the cultural sectors, including historical research, 3D scanning and analysis, and advice to museums. Whilst much of our work comes from the cultural sectors – museums, galleries, libraries, archives and archaeology – we are working in other areas including retail, music and sound (think curated playlists), and helping people to approach curating in different ways.
This website will become quiet for a while, as I focus my energies on the Curatorial Research Centre, but I hope to return to blogging about personal interests here later in the year.
Self-employed individuals within the arts sectors often find it difficult to conduct development projects to improve their skills or experiment with different techniques. There just isn’t the time. Or the money to pay for the time. It’s all too easy to get stuck heading in the same direction doing the same things, rarely learning or trying anything new.
Now it’s time for me to be rather honest with myself! One of the weakest areas in my skillset is 3D scanning smaller objects. They’re tricky, and there are many different approaches to scanning them. I’ve just never had the time to get good at it. It’s frustrating, but I’ve never had the opportunity to just focus on just that – try it all out, fail, learn, get better, get good at it. I want to work with a museum and solve some tricky 3D scanning problems. And eventually I want to share some of the skills that I’ve learned with others.
And I’ve always wanted to learn ZBrush to help me make my 3D models look better online. The software has a steep learning curve, but it’s a stunning tool, and there are some great tutorials available.
I heard about the DYCP fund and decided to take the plunge and apply. Fast forward 8 weeks, and I received news that I was successful!
So I will be spending a few days a week until May 2019 working on developing my 3D skills within the museums sector. This is a golden opportunity for independent people like me working within the arts sectors, and I am deeply grateful to Arts Council England for their support.
Some of the writing is very faint, and so rather than the usual technique of using 3D capture (close range laser scanning or photogrammetry), I opted to use Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to obtain our best chance of reading all of the letters.
The results were fantastic, and I was lucky enough to be perhaps the first to read some personal names from 1,300 years ago, as I processed the data from my home office.
There have been many calls via Twitter to see more of the enhanced images, so here they are (released under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license) with thanks to Professor Michelle Brown and Dr Oliver Padel who conducted the interpretation and final transcription.
In December 2017 I was asked by Helston Museum to train staff and volunteers in how to use photogrammetry to record their historic costume collection in 3D. The costume gallery had closed and become a much-needed storage area. They decided that online 3D models, and possibly through screens in the museum, would be an interesting and engaging way to present the costumes now in the museum stores. They could record and display many more than there has ever been physical gallery space for.
The best way to capture the costumes is, of course, to use a mannequin. This would allow the costume to be viewed in the way it would have been worn, and rotated and viewed from any angle, an advantage over traditional static photographs. They would use Sketchfab to display the results.
Helston Museum decided to try the project in a very public way. Training was conducted in their temporary exhibition space, with panels explaining what was going on to the public. Projectors were used to display the results, as they happened. Staff and myself were on-hand to answer any questions from the public.
Over the course of a week, I trained both permanent staff, the Director and Assistant Curator, as well as a group of volunteers. They were shown how to light the mannequins, how to photograph them for 3D photogrammetry, and how to process and clean the 3D data on one of the museum’s existing PCs.
Some volunteers were more interested in photography, others in costume handling, and others in data processing and editing. I worked with their strengths, and the museum now have a great team to take the project on themselves. I remain available for questions from the team, and hope to teach some more advanced methods as they gain experience and confidence with 3D digitisation.
Helston Museum are Cornwall’s first museum to create a Sketchfab account, where they will share the results of this ongoing project. Visit Helston Museum on Sketchfab.
Last year (2016) I was asked by Dr Andy Jones from Cornwall Archaeological Unit to record and study the surface of Hendraburnick Quoit on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. The work, funded by Cornwall Archaeological Society, involved detailed 3D recording of the surface of the two stones that comprise the monument (which isn’t actually a quoit, more a ‘propped stone’). It was a complex task for which I used photogrammetry as the 3D scanning method. It involved careful planning and then taking many hundreds of high resolution photographs to guarantee coverage at an even resolution across all sides of both stones to enable careful study with millimetric levels of accuracy.
After processing the 3D data I began the lengthy task of analysing the surfaces in great detail. Each potential feature was subjected to four checks using alternative methods, including virtual RTI and cross sections. I burnt a lot of midnight oil ensuring finding ‘cup marks’ and tracing the grooved lines that connect many of them together. I found 105 cup marks and 47 possible grooved lines connected or radiating from them, following the slope of the stone. This suggests that the lines were made in-situ rather than before the stone was moved in prehistory to its current location. This makes Hendraburnick Quoit the most known decorated or deliberately marked stone in southern Britain – possibly topping even Stonehenge in number of human-made features (152) on its surface.
The result was this plan:
A very reduced resolution model of Hendraburnick can be viewed on Sketchfab, to aid understanding of the monument.
This year has been a strange one so far. The first months of this year saw me suffering from chronic back pain, and finding the road towards being pain free. I’m on that road, but not at the end of it yet. So, a bit of a setback.
I’m typing this on my new sit/stand electrically adjustable desk perched on an ‘active’ stool, standing on a soft rug. Some will view this as laughably hipster, others with back pain will know that anything is worth a try. It’s definitely helping.
Now that I’m easing back into work, I’ve got a number of projects underway. I’m working on another shipwreck project on the Isles of Scilly to create accessible tours of a group of wrecks, and I have a number of 3D archaeological recording contracts booked in. It’s always nice to do some gentle fieldwork. It might be a while before I’ll be able to dig again!
Yesterday saw me recording a voiceover for a shipwreck dive video. It was nice to dust off some old skills and try out some new software. I think the result sounds good. I don’t particularly like the sound of my own voice, but I am used to it after years of recording podcasts.
Along with a nearby colleague, I have undertaken another survey of the medieval Market Cross here in Penzance, where we have combined photogrammetry, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), traditional measured survey, and photography. We hope to produce the clearest possible images of the inscriptions and decorations and work with a specialist in medieval writing to see if we can provide an updated view of this important monument.
I’m also planning some meetings with museums in Cornwall to introduce the idea of 3D recording and public dissemination of their collections via Sketchfab. There are so many wonderful objects in the stores of Cornish museums, rarely if ever being displayed. As 3D scanning becomes easier, and the benefits are realised, I’m sure that this will become a rapidly growing area. I have my first meeting on Monday at a small museum that punches well above its weight.
Tehmina and I are planning a month-long trip to New Zealand this July/August, which is part of her work as Cornwall’s ACE supported Changer Makers programme. We will visit many of New Zealand’s museums for Tehmina’s research, and I hope to investigate how technology is being used to record and interpret the shared pasts of the diverse groups of people who live there.
We have also joined the Folklore Society to access their journals and become more widely involved in the field of folklore research. As practitioners of some traditional Cornish customs (mainly “guise dancing” – a kind of mumming using disguises during the Christmas period) we have begun to thoroughly research it with the aim of producing academic and popular articles to draw attention to this wonderful tradition. We have discovered some wonderful things and even talked to some very elderly people who took part in guise dancing in the 1920s-40s. But that is another blog post all of its own…
So, now we’re nearly half way through 2017, here’s to a productive and enjoyable, and hopefully more spinally flexible rest of the year. With any luck, and I say this each year, I’ll write a little more.
As the Colossus is in relatively shallow waters, it is a popular and accessible location for diving. A physical dive trail already exists; concrete stations around the site on the seabed with tethered and numbered buoys and an accompanying guide. To help divers plan a visit, and to provide non-divers with a sense of what the site is like, we have created an “interactive plan”. Utilising Sketchfab, visitors can explore a simplified model of the wreck via computers, tablets and smartphones, tapping the dive stations to explore different locations in more detail, as well as viewing “diver-eye” videos of the site itself.
We opted to create a simplified 3D plan based on the archaeological survey, clearly indicating in bold colours the different components of the wreck, rather than adopt a photorealistic approach. The wreck itself is a mass of seaweed and sand-covered dark wood which can be difficult for the layperson to interpret.
It’s a very detailed model, with a measurement point every 50cm or so across the entire town. There are 12.9 million vertices (points) in this model.
You may need a reasonably modern computer for the model to work correctly, but give it a try. Use your left mouse button to rotate the model, right-hand button to pan, and the scroll wheel (or equivalent gesture) to zoom.
If you get too close to buildings you may notice that you can see the ‘points’ that the model is made from. In the future technology will allow agencies to collect much more accurate and dense data, and faster computers will allow us to view more detailed models. Until then – enjoy!
LiDAR data is extremely useful to archaeologists to identify features in the landscape. This is my primary use of such data. In the future data like this will be useful for understanding how our towns have changed. This model is presented here for a bit of fun, and to demonstrate the many uses that this kind of data can have.