Archive for the ‘Google Earth’ Category

When open data is not open: World Bank double speak on Google Map Maker?

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

[Editor’s note: Good news! The World Bank has listened and responded with a new blog post clarifying their stance on open data and backed away from Google Map Maker: ”If the public helps to collect/create map data, the public should be able to access, use & reuse that data.”]

By Nathaniel Vaughn KELSO

In their recent op-ed in the New York Times and on the official World Bank blog, Caroline Anstey* and Soren Gigler** made a compelling case for open data and open government that is fatally flawed. Unless fixed, it has dangerous implications for the future of open data globally. The World Bank’s new policy around map data is needlessly exclusionary: public data should remain publicly accessible.

Over the past two years, the World Bank has made great strides in making its processes more transparent and rethinking the international organization as a development platform and innovation bank.

However, on January 13th, Ms. Anstey and Mr. Gigler muddied that effort by partnering with Google on map data as an end game around many of those “open” goals. Let me be very clear:

The World Bank’s new agreement with Google is a neocolonial wolf handing out shiny blue Map Maker t-shirts.

Google Map Maker expressly prohibits citizen cartographers from using/sharing the very data they add to the map in ways that can help their own development efforts. Users are locked into the Google platform: they cannot export their data or create derivative work, especially commercial projects. Nor can they share that geo data with other online mapping efforts, especially critical during disaster relief.

The World Bank has successfully partnered on map data before, most notably in Haiti with OpenStreetMap (OSM) in response to the major earthquake and the following humanitarian crises.

The Haiti experience shows that crowd sourcing map data works. Most developing countries do not have basic local map data. Timely, accurate geo data showing roads, schools, fresh water sources, health facilities, and more help save lives during an emergency, and in the meantime we all enjoy with up-to-the-minute maps. Regardless if you are in Washington, D.C. or Nairobi, Kenya.

I agree the Bank’s core mission is advanced by improving access to geo data for humanitarian response and development planning. This serves to make development more effective and inclusive by expanding access to basic geo information.

It is appropriate to engage citizens in the Bank’s client countries by inviting them to participate (via mapping parties and online portals) and strengthen the capacity of civil society to “put them selves on the map”. That is an inalienable right and a noble effort by the Bank to facilitate.

But this new agreement falls down on close inspection of the Google Map Maker terms of service. The corporate legalese is contrary to another Bank core principle:

“the right to use that same open data to empower citizens in effective development.”

The Google partnership proposes a new digital serfdom. The Bank should instead embrace the OpenStreetMap model: a system of micro-data grants that empowers a self-sustaining wave of economic development as more data gets added to the map. The citizen map maker should have an ownership share.

I urge the Ms. Anstey and Mr. Gigler to emphasize to the World Bank’s local offices and partner organizations (including the United Nations) that this new agreement with Google is *non-exclusive*, meaning the Bank can and must open data by sharing local geo data with other organizations, like OpenStreetMap.

When the Bank partners to allow citizens to draw their own map, the resulting map data must be free and open. Indeed, open mapping tools and civil society organizations like OpenStreetMap (who innovated first with mapping parties and their online map editor) should be leveraged and grown as much as possible.

Instead, the current agreement allows Google to use local citizens to collect information for free and make exclusive profit. The agreement, specifically the general Map Maker terms or special ODbL terms for the World Bank project, should be rewritten as Patrick Meier*** suggests, to ”allow citizens themselves to use the data in whatever platform they so choose to improve citizen feedback in project planning, implementation and monitoring & evaluation.”

Terms of use like Open Database License (ODbL) promote circulation of geo data for the most good and Google has been receptive in the past to opening up parts of their Map Maker data for humanitarian relief. Let’s complete the circle so this type of license is a core part of a revised World Bank “open” data agreement and have it in place before the next disaster.

The World Bank must reiterate its commitment to truly open data with due speed.

—–

The author is chief cartographer for the Natural Earth, a public domain map database. His maps have been published in The Washington Post and National Geographic and he is a design technologist at Stamen Design.

—–

* Caroline Anstey is a managing director of the World Bank.
** Soren Gigler is Senior Governance Specialist, Innovation at the World Bank.
*** Patrick Meier is director of crises mapping at Ushahidi.

Related reading

PR: World Bank and Google Announce Map Maker Collaboration

Open Aid Partnership:

Patrick Meier, Ushahidi’s director of crisis mapping

RWW coverage

Directions Magazine coverage

Google’s Official LatLong Blog

Global Integrity

Does a Google-World Bank Deal On Crowdsourcing Ask Too Much of the Crowd? (TechPresident)

“What Gets Measured Can Be Changed”: World Bank Turns Its Data Catalog Public (TechPresident)

The World Bank Responds to the Google Map Maker Deal (Global Integrity)

 

A recap of Where 2.0: The conference for all things location-aware

Friday, April 29th, 2011

[Editor’s note: Expanded version of my post for The Washington Post’s @innovations blog.]

We use maps to show readers the “where” in our stories. But beyond simply locating the places mentioned in text, maps can create a larger narrative by adding context and showing trends (or animating the path of Friday’s royal wedding parade).

Krissy Clark, a reporter for KQED Public Radio in Los Angeles, summed up the “where” from the journalist’s perspective in her plenary talk at the Where 2.0 Conference last week in Santa Clara, Calif., “Stories Everywhere”:

The Where 2.0 Conference bills itself as a source for all things location-aware, or geo. Sessions explored the intersection of location technologies and trends in software development, business strategies and marketing.

The buzzword this year was “serendipity” — using customers’ locations, especially with mobile apps, to create experiences that delight them by providing them with relevant, unexpected information based on their locations (to paraphrase Jeff Jarvis).

More nerdy details after the jump.

(more…)

You’ve seen one block, you’ve seen them all

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

beach

Ever look close, I mean real close at the imagery you seen in Google Earth and other online map providers? You’ll notice most of it, in the United States at least, comes from the USGS or USDA Farm Service Agency. But have you noticed they sometimes doctor the imagery to remove clouds or other collection artifacts? Well, look at the above image again ;) Here’s the Gmaps view in Tybee Island, GA. Thanks Andrew and Geoff!

Natural Earth version 1.1 download + release notes. Free, great world GIS map data:

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

[Editor's note: I'm pleased to announce the immediate availability of version 1.1 of Natural Earth! Three months after our initial launch, the project reaches a major milestone. The download manager will be updated the next couple weeks. In the meantime, please check out the ZIP and release notes below.]

Continue reading and download the data at NaturalEarthData.com . . .

Volunteered Geographic Information Workshop Notes

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

This conference, organized by the USGS, happened last month here in DC, thanks Martin! Special import for crises like Haiti.

Also check out: O’Reilly’s Rethinking Open Data: Lessons learned from the Open Data front lines. Read more »

Lots of online presentations and notes, some listed here:

The main site has full listing and notes from breakout sessions . . .

Natural Earth Released, Let the Downloads Begin!

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Tom and I are pleased to announce the immediate availability of Natural Earth, free vector and raster map data at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. This is a NACIS and MapGiving co-branded product with assistance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison cartography lab, Florida State University, and others.

Do you have a new theme to contribute to Natural Earth? Great! Please follow these data creation guidelines so it fits in with the rest of the project. Find an error? Log it via the Corrections system.

Why Create Natural Earth?

We have two goals:

First, to give cartographers an off-the shelf solution for creating small-scale world, regional, and country maps. To this end, Natural Earth Vector includes both cultural and physical features and builds on Tom Patterson’s Natural Earth raster data, first introduced in 2005.

Second, we include many features missing from people’s mental map of the world in the hope of improving overall geographic literacy.

Natural Earth Vector solves a problem that many NACIS members face: finding vector data for making publishable-quality small-scale maps. In a time when the web is awash in interactive maps and free, downloadable vector data, such as Digital Chart of the World and VMAP, mapmakers are forced to spend time sifting through a confusing tangle of poorly attributed data. Many cartographers working under tight project deadlines must use manually digitalized bases instead.

Small-scale map datasets of the world do exist, but they have their problems.

For example, most are crudely generalized—Chile’s fjords are a noisy mess, the Svalbard archipelago is a coalesced blob, and Hawaii has disappeared into the Pacific two million years ahead of schedule. They contain few data layers, usually only a coast and country polygons, which may not be in register with each other or modern satellite imagery. The lack of good small-scale map data is not surprising. Large mapping organizations that release public domain data, such as the US Geological Survey, are not mandated to create small-scale map data for a small user community that includes mapmaking shops, publishers, web mappers, academics, and students—in other words, typical NACIS members. Natural Earth Vector fills this oft-overlooked but important niche.

Collaboration

Making Natural Earth Vector is a collaboration involving many volunteer NACIS members. Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Tom Patterson began working on the project in late 2008. Following the path of least resistance, the idea was to repurpose existing data that we already had as an integrated world dataset at three map scales.

The 1:50 million and 1:110 million-scale data comes from bases developed by Dick Furno and additional staff at the Washington Post for quick turnaround newspaper mapping— the Washington Post Legal Department kindly granted us permission to use these data. The kernel for the 1:10 million data was a compilation by Patterson for the Physical Map of the World, consisting of coastlines, rivers, lakes, and physical feature labels. Expanding and improving on this foundation has been our chief activity.

The core team grew to include Tanya Buckingham, who coordinates data attributing by Ben Coakley, Kevin McGrath and Sarah Bennett at the University of Wisconsin Cartography Lab; Dick Furno as populated places guru; Nick Springer as the website developer; and Lou Cross as NACIS liaison.

A cast of consultants, many regulars on the Cartotalk.com discussion forum, assisted with place names for various world regions. They include Leo Dillon, Hans van der Maarel, Will Pringle, Craig Molyneaux, Melissa Katz-Moye, Laura McCormick, Scott Zillmer and fellow staff at XNR Mapping.

Data for cartography

We developed a world base map data suitable for making a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps. Unlike other map data intended for scientific analysis or military mapping, Natural Earth Vector is designed to meet the needs of mainstream production cartographers. Maximum flexibility was a goal. For example, Natural Earth Vector comes in ESRI shapefile format, the Geographic projection, and WGS datum, which are de facto standards for vector geodata.

Neatness counts with Natural Earth Vector. The carefully generalized linework maintains consistent, recognizable geographic shapes at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. As Natural Earth Vector was built from the ground up, you will find that all data layers align precisely with one another. For example, where rivers and country borders are one and the same, the lines are coincident.

Natural Earth Vector, however, is more than just a collection of pretty lines. What lies beneath the surface, the data attributes, is equally important for mapmaking. Most data contain embedded feature names, which are ranked by relative importance. Up to eight rankings per data theme allow easy custom map “mashups” to emphasize your map’s subject while de-emphasizing reference features.

Other attributes facilitate faster map production. For example, width attributes assigned to rivers allow you to create tapered drainages with ease. Assigning different colors to contiguous country polygons is another task made easier thanks to data attribution.

Other key features:

  • Vector feature include name attributes and scale ranks – know the Rocky Mountains are larger than the Ozarks.
  • Large polygons, such as bathymetric layers, are split for more efficient data handling.
  • Projection friendly—vectors precisely match at 180 degrees longitude. Lines contain enough data points for smooth bending in conic projections, but not so many that processing speed suffers.
  • Raster data includes grayscale-shaded relief and cross-blended hypsometric tints derived from the latest NASA SRTM Plus elevation data and tailored to register with Natural Earth Vector.
  • Optimized for use in web mapping applications, such as Google, Yahoo, and OpenStreetMaps with built-in scale attributes to direct features to be shown at different tile zoom levels.

Data development

Since Natural Earth Vector is for visual mapmaking, we prepared the base layers in Adobe Illustrator in conjunction MAPublisher import and export filters. Illustrator offered us flexible tools for editing lines and polygons, organizing data on layers, and the ability to inspect the final data in a map-like form. A variety of third-party plug-in filters and scripts, some written by Kelso, were essential for linework generalization and other tasks.

World Data Bank 2 was the primary vector data source that required significant modifications. For example, we found that the entire west coast of the United States was about seven miles west of its true position and adjusted it accordingly. Slight adjustments to river positions better matched them to shaded relief derived from more satellite data. For Antarctica, we completely abandoned World Data Bank 2. Here, the coast, glaciers, and ice shelves derive from 2003-2004 NASA Mosaic of Antarctica, a MODIS product. We also updated the data to reflect recent ice shelf collapses.

Contributors from around the globe researched additional feature names beyond those original to Patterson’s Physical Map of the World. Attributing the data was performed in ArcGIS by the team at the University of Wisconsin and by Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso at The Washington Post.

Future activity

We regard the initial release of Natural Earth Vector as a starter dataset that will see periodic updates. With any project as complex as this, flaws and omissions are bound to emerge, requiring our attention. One proposal is to form a Natural Earth map data committee that will incorporate information from users, perhaps using a Wiki model, for coordinating updates. Rivers, lakes, cities, and first order admin are components still in need of refinement. Possible data for future updates include transportation (roads and railroads), time zones, and terrestrial hypsography.

If you have ideas for Natural Earth or
want to show off how you’re using the data,
please drop us a line.

Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso
nathaniel@kelsocartography.com

Tom Patterson
mtmaps@verizon.net

MAPublisher 8.2 Released with GeoPDF, KML + Spatial Database Support (Avenza)

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

mp82

[Editor's note: Expression Builder gets a needed upgrade, too, and the web map authoring tool's new features deserve a second look. The ESRI GeoDB support (Windows only for now) comes with a $349 upgrade price tag for existing maintenance customers. I'd like to see scripting (recordable with Illustrator actions) in their next release, and a method to export cut map tiles for mashups.]

Republished from Avenza (1, 2, 3).

Avenza Systems Inc., producers of MAPublisher cartographic software for Adobe Illustrator and Geographic Imager spatial tools for Adobe Photoshop is pleased to announce the release of MAPublisher 8.2 for Adobe Illustrator. MAPublisher 8.2 is the latest version of this powerful mapmaking software used to produce high quality maps from GIS data for both print and electronic distribution and now offers support for both creating geospatial PDF files from within Adobe Creative Suite and importing GIS map data directly from ESRI geodatabases.

MAPublisher 8.2 for Adobe Illustrator is a full product upgrade that is free of charge to all current MAPublisher Maintenance Program subscribers and replaces the current shipping version of MAPublisher, version 8.1, for all new customers using Adobe Illustrator CS3 and/or CS4.

“MAPublisher 8.2 is another major advance for this powerful and widely used cartographic and map-design platform,” said Ted Florence, President of Avenza, “MAPublisher now offers the first and only solution for creating geospatial PDF files from within Adobe Creative Suite and with the inclusion of import support for ESRI geodatabases offers a truly comprehensive map design and publishing solution.” he added.

MAPublisher 8.2 includes all the significant functionality introduced in earlier releases of MAPublisher as well as the following new features and enhancements.

New Features of MAPublisher 8.2 for Adobe Illustrator

  • Export to Geospatial PDF with optional retention of attributes and referencing for re-import to Illustrator
  • Support for the new MAPublisher spatial database import system for ESRI geodatabases (additional license required. Windows only)
  • Upgraded functionality for the MAPublisher LabelPro collision-free rule-based labeling system (additional license required)
  • Dozens of improvements & enhancements for the MAP Web Author Tool for automatic creation of interactive Flash maps
  • New MAP Measurement tool for measuring lengths, perimeters and areas in page or map units
  • Import and export of KMZ files
  • Enhanced grid and graticule functionality with a number of new features including full support for rotated MAP Views
  • New functionality to create attributes for text objects from corresponding map features
  • New functionality to create a map index using additional feature attributes
  • Enhanced Expression Builder with recently used list and many new functions
  • Enhanced Preferences options includes dozens of new customizable items for most MAPublisher functions
  • Upgraded MAP View panels with new functionality
  • Various other user interface improvements and performance enhancements to improve usability

Features of the MAPublisher Geospatial PDF Exporter

The MAPublisher Geospatial PDF exporter offers the ability to generate Adobe Acrobat PDF files that contain all the cosmetic features of the completed Adobe Illustrator map document as well as all the GIS data attributes and co-ordinate information of the original GIS data files, such that within Adobe Acrobat the following functionality can be performed without the aid of any special tools, plugins or other special extensions to Adobe Acrobat.

  • View map locations in various coordinate systems including decimal degrees, DMS, Military Grid and more.
  • Find a location in a map and mark it with a comment
  • Measure distances on a map using real-world units (miles, kilometers, feet, etc.)
  • Reveal the attributes of map features by clicking on the feature within the map document
  • Search by map attribute values to reveal all map features that satisfy the query
  • Option to retain attributes and georeferencing for re-import to Illustrator/MAPublisher

Features of the MAPublisher spatial database importer

  • Direct import from ESRI Personal Geodatabase (requires ArcGIS license)
  • Direct import from ESRI File Geodatabase (requires ArcGIS license)
  • Direct import from ArcSDE servers (requires ArcGIS or ArcReader license)
  • Support for point, line, polygon and Bezier curve geometries
  • Support for Annotations
  • SQL attribute query support executed on import to enable import of specific features only
  • Spatial filter executed on data import to enable selective importation based on defined data extents
  • Support for subtypes and domains during import

The MAPublisher spatial database importer for Illustrator is available as an add-on option for MAPublisher 8.2, for Windows only, for US$599. MAPublisher users with active MAPublisher maintenance may purchase the MAPublisher spatial database importer for only US$349. New MAPublisher 8.2 licenses including MAPublisher spatial database functionality are US$1549. Academic, floating license and volume pricing is available. Prices include 1 year of maintenance. Full details are available at www.avenza.com.

More about MAPublisher for Illustrator

MAPublisher for Illustrator is powerful map production software for creating cartographic-quality maps from GIS data. Developed as a suite of plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator, MAPublisher leverages the superior graphics capabilities of this graphics design software for working with GIS data and producing high-quality maps with efficiency.

MAPublisher 8.2 for Illustrator is available free of charge to all MAPublisher for Illustrator customers with a valid maintenance subscription and as an upgrade for non-maintenance members at US$549. New licenses are US$1249. Academic, floating and volume pricing is available. Prices include 1 year of maintenance. Full details are available at www.avenza.com/mapublisher.

3D Perspective in the Maps API for Flash! (GoogleGeoDev)

Friday, August 14th, 2009

[Editor’s note: This seems kinda odd given the poor image resolution, but I’m sure there’s a use for it and someone will figure out how to sample higher res tiles. Thanks Laris!]

R

2-D maps are great, but sometimes it’s cool to gaze into the distance. Today we’re happy to announce support for perspective in the Maps API for Flash. We’ve taken the regular API, added pitch and yaw, borrowed the look-around control from Google Earth, and thrown in some nifty camera trajectory support. The opportunity to see the world from a chosen point of view is now in the hands of a user!

perspectivemapgooglemapsapi

Here’s a perspective map in action. Sit back and watch or dive in and drag the view. Try holding down the zoom plus (+) or minus (-) buttons to see the new smooth continuous zoom.

Play with demos and the possibilities emerge. Shadows stretch out as the land tilts back. Foreground detail blends with background context. Movement through the world becomes first-person in nature and distant features can rapidly be dragged to the fore. On a regular map a cluster of markers might only confuse. Spin a perspective map and their pattern becomes clear as nearer markers pass in front of their more remote partners.

A key strength of Flash is its ubiquitous nature and we’ve taken care to develop an API that preserves this advantage. While supporting the latest, greatest Flash players, the API requires only Flash 9. Build a single target and API runtime code matches implementation library to player version. Flash 10 users gain the benefits of the native 3-D graphics support–rendering speed and accuracy–but Flash 9 users won’t be left out.

So how do you create a 3-D map? If you’ve not used the Maps API for Flash before here we’ve got lots of documentation to help you get up and running. For those who’ve used the API and have an existing map to hand, three quick changes should suffice:

  • Replace Map with Map3D
  • Turn on perspective:
    Map3D.viewMode = View.VIEWMODE_PERSPECTIVE;
  • Replace the old position and zoom controls with the new navigation control:
    addControl(NavigationControl);

While this new functionality is aimed at Flash developers, we also have the Earth plugin and API for those of you working with JavaScript and the JS-based Maps API. For developers using the Maps API for Flash, today’s release is just an extension of the existing Flash API; where it makes sense, we have borrowed some learnings from the Earth API (and will continue to do so). From a user’s viewpoint, if you’ve used the Earth plugin or Google Earth, the controls will all be familiar. We’ve kept the same basic key mappings. Add SHIFT to tilt the map, or CTRL to tilt your view and you’re ready to go. More features are hidden just under the surface. Animate a flight from A to B, or apply perspective scaling to your markers. See the new API reference documentation for details.

As always, for those of us working on APIs, the most rewarding aspect is of seeing what developers do with it. Here’s what some of our trusted testers have done to date:

UK Weather Tour ArcGIS Services PaperVision3D Scene
Ian Watkins Nianwei Liu Satoshi Ueyama
Eiffel Tower KMZ 3D Driving Simulator Weather Radar GroundOverlay
Masashi K Katsuomi.K Andrew Trice

Check out some more demos, have a play, make some maps, and let us know what you think!

One Planet Many People: Atlas of Our Changing Environment (UNEP)

Friday, July 31st, 2009

unatlas

[Editor's note: Fun site from the United Nations Environment Programme highlighting changes in the natural environment with side-by-side remotely sensed imagery and full write up of each place. Done both in Google Maps and available as a Google Earth feed. Map is fairly decent.]

Republished from United Nations Environment Programme.

Increasing concern as to how human activities impact the Earth has led to documentation and quantification of environmental changes taking place on land, in the water, and in the air. Through a combination of ground photographs, current and historical satellite images, and narrative based on extensive scientific evidence, this publication illustrates how humans have altered their surroundings and continue to make observable and measurable changes to the global environment.

Continue to Interactive Atlas: Google Maps | Google Earth

PREVIEW Natural Earth Vector: First Order Admin Units

Monday, July 13th, 2009

We shipped off the 1:15,000,000 scale first-order administrative units for Natural Earth Vector to University of Wisconsin @ Madison to be attributed with country and province names and alpha-numeric codes last week. There are only 3,000+ of these around the world so this is no small task! Kudos go to Tom for doing the heavy lifting on this data theme. Props to Kevin and Ben @ UW-Madison for undertaking the attributing.

Some units are super tiny (see Slovenia in the Europe detail at bottom, almost equivalent in scale to municipalities in the USA). We ignore some small, mostly island nations (see the Caribbean image below) but will include a general admin_0 polygon for the entire country instead. First order administrative units are composed what most people call “provinces” and “states” (not to be confused with countries aka “states”). For some countries, we will also include 1st order admin “regions” that group smaller 1st order units into larger statistical areas (eg: the United Kingdom’s England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland).

If you have 10 to 20 hours to spare, we need your help to complete Natural Earth Vector. Please email me at nathaniel@kelsocartography.com to find out more.

admin_1_world

admin_1_africa

admin_1_asia_se1

admin_1_australasia1admin_1_central_america_caribbean1

admin_1_south_america1

admin_1_europe1

admin_1_europe_detail1