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TEDx Truro – Beyond Barriers

On a sunny Friday at the end of half term, Nick attended the TEDx Truro event, ‘Beyond Barriers’ running at Truro and Penwith College. TEDx events are the ‘little brothers’ of the main TED events, the world famous series of short videos given in the area of Technology, Education and Design under the banner ‘Ideas worth spreading’.

TEDx events are independently organised and the Truro event is in its second year, with a sell-out crowd of 250 attendees. This years talks covered a really wide range of topics, covering everything from dyslexia, gender dysphoria, mental health, sex work, to biochemistry, depression, robots and artificial intelligence.

There was an amazing buzz in the auditorium, this continued during the breaks; there was idea sharing, discussions and even a selfie with some local celebrities! It was a great networking opportunity, meeting people from Software Cornwall, Pirate FM, Plymouth University and a whole host of local SMEs.

The talks around the area of mental health particularly resonated, with both Will Coleman (from Golden Tree Productions, famous for being the driving force behind The Man Engine) and Emma Wright (working for a national cancer charity in Cornwall) talking about how they had often presented one face to the world at large, but at times had another that truly reflected their feelings and experiences, which very few people saw. Many other speakers also discussed mental health in passing, and it is vital for mental health to be discussed more openly and easily than it is at the moment.

TEDx was organised by a great group of volunteers, so many thanks to them for organising everything and making it run smoothly. They are already planning for next year – head over to to find out what it’s all about, and we hope to see you there next year!

Cross-posted at

Introduction to GIS and Confident Spatial Analysis, UCL, London

During a warm week in July, I spent three days at UCL in London running GIS courses in conjunction with Clear Mapping Co, the ADRC-E (Administrative Data Research Centre for England) and the CDRC (Consumer Data Research Centre). We ran three one day courses, developing the courses we had run at UCL in February. It was great to come back and increase the number of people who could benefit from using GIS and spatial data in their work.

We had a wide range of participants, from PhD students and researchers, to those working in Government, charities and a wide variety of other applications. We even had someone who was making the leap from working for a large commercial company to going freelance at the end of July – good luck!

Our colouring in exercise was a great success and really got the students thinking about how we choose the colours we use on a choropleth map, as well as how we select the classification boundaries for the data. We gave the students one data set, and the 20 students created 20 different maps. The lesson was to make sure you think about which colours and classifications you choose – don’t just stick with the defaults your GIS program gives you. They are always not the best!

During these and other courses, we found a few people who had experimented with the ggmap/ggplot2 libaries for making maps in R, in addition to the base R plot commands (which I tend to teach). I know there is quite a division between ggplot users and base plot users (see here for a good comparison) and while there are many pros and cons to each system, and some very good examples out there ( I’ve not yet come across a pros and cons article for spatial data. Does anyone know of one?

It’s always great teaching GIS to people who haven’t used it before. There is so much potential with spatial data; for more information about the GIS courses we can offer and how GIS could be useful for you, take a look at our ISSUU or get in contact with Nick who will be able to develop a bespoke course suited to your requirements. Email Nick at, or call 01326 337072.

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