Archive for the ‘Google Map Mashup’ 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.

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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.

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* 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.

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Map: Top Secret America, A Washington Post Investigation (Kelso via WaPo)

Monday, July 19th, 2010

tsa_map_usa_blog_promo

[Editor's note: The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex, and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it's fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping citizens safe. Discover the top-secret work being done in your community via our map and search relationships within this complex world on our network diagram. Monday's story focuses on the growth in Top Secret America since 9/11. Next up we cover the government's increasing dependence on contractors and delve into the Top Secret America neighborhood around Ft. Meade, Maryland. The map is constructed in Flash using the Google Maps API with custom map tiles for zooms 0 to 5. The government and company locations and work relationships are gathered from publicly available records. This project has been in the works for over a year, I hope you enjoy!]

Republished from The Washington Post.

A hidden world, growing beyond control

By Dana Priest and William M. Arkin

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

Watch the intro video at The Washington Post . . .

Read the article . . .

Interact with the map . . .

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!

Density (heat) map of world-wide photos on Panoramio

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

550_touristyness

[Editor's note: Neat idea, but not as detailed (street level) as the Flickr effort, post up next.]

Republished from Info is Beautiful.

Great places-to-avoid heatmap using distribution of photos on Panoramio. Nice idea! By BlueMoon.ee

World map color-coded by level of touristiness, based on analysis of photos on Panoramio. Yellow indicates high touristiness, red medium touristiness, and blue low touristiness. Areas having no Panoramio photos at all are grey.

Continue to view the map . . .

Add a touch of style to your maps (Google Geo)

Friday, May 21st, 2010

screen-shot-2010-05-21-at-41548-am

[Editor's note: Google takes a page from CloudMade's book and now allows  Maps API users to style the default map data, up to a limit. Demos at the Google link below, with live style editor with preview. Lots of opportunity to style the maps, kinda. The font still tips off the user it's Google map. Tiles are generated on the fly for the user on the Google servers, just as if the user was calling regular tiles. Dig in!]

Republished from Google Geo.

Google Maps are instantly familiar to millions of Internet users worldwide. The user interface and the look and feel of our maps combine to ensure that when a user sees a Google map on any web site, they instantly know how to interact with that map, and find their way around.

There is however an unavoidable consequence of this consistency. No matter which Maps API site you are on, every map looks the same. If you want your map to stand out from the crowd, your options are limited to customizing the markers and controls, and if your brand has a particular colour scheme that is reflected on your site, Google Maps may not sit well with it.

From today, this all changes. You are now free to unleash your creativity on the base Google map itself, as we are delighted to launch Styled Maps in the Google Maps API v3.

Styled Maps offers you control over both the types of features shown on your maps, and the color scheme used to represent them. The possibilities are endless, as the examples below show…

Continue reading at Google Geo . . .

Google Maps Elevation Web Services (Google)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

screen-shot-2010-03-24-at-104824-pm

[Editor's note: A free, sans-API key solution from the web mapping giant for showing elevation (point or along custom path) for Google Maps Mashups either in the v3 API directly or separately as a stand-alone web service. And it returns JSON :) Thanks @lagerratrobe!]

Republished from Google.

The Google Elevation web service provides you a simple interface to query locations on the earth for elevation data. Additionally, you may request sampled elevation data along paths, allowing you to calculate elevation changes along routes.

The Elevation service provides elevation data for all locations on the surface of the earth, including depth locations on the ocean floor (which return negative values). In those cases where Google does not possess exact elevation measurements at the precise location you request, the service will interpolate and return an averaged value using the four nearest locations.

With the Elevation service, you can develop hiking and biking applications, mobile positioning applications, or low resolution surveying applications.

Check the documentation out over at Google . . .

Twitter and FourSquare leverage geolocation (TechCrunch)

Friday, March 19th, 2010

ag1

[Editor's note: In time for SXSW last week, Twitter turned on geolocation (showing where a tweet was sent from along with the tweet) on their site. FourSquare, a popular check-in app, has opened up their API so developers could make use of their user's firehouse, as well.]

Republished from TechCrunch.

There’s been a lot of hoopla over the past couple of years about Twitter’s so-called “firehose.” Essentially, it’s an open stream of all their data that is provided to developers to use for third-party apps. Foursquare has a firehose of its own, but access to it has been on lock down. Today, for SXSW, Foursquare opened up its firehose a bit more.

Social Great, a service which tracks trending places in cities back on location data, has just gotten access to this firehose of data. This allows them to show in realtime the trending places throughout Austin, Texas, where SXSW is taking place. The service also pulls in data from Gowalla, Brightkite, and GraffitiGeo (Loopt).

As Polaris Ventures EIR Jon Steinberg notes (who helped build Social Great), “the numbers look crazy.” What he means is the check-in data at SXSW. Judging from what I’m seeing on the ground here in Austin, that may be an understatement. Venues routinely have dozens if not hundreds of other Foursquare users at them when they’re trending.

SimpleGeo, one company that has had early access to Foursquare’s firehose, built Vicarious.ly to visualize real-time check-ins around Austin. That data looks fairly insane as well. Most of the check-ins appear to be coming from Foursquare (which saw over 300,000 check-ins on Thursday alone) and Gowalla, but co-founder Joe Stump notes that the battle is too close to call still.

Google Public Data Explorer (information aesthetics)

Monday, March 15th, 2010

google_data_explorer

[Editor's note: Summary of data visualization web apps with focus on the new Google Public Data Explorer which has a good mix of charting and mapping. Interesting Google has approached the visualization space with their Flash API. Some offer private data but most take a shared-data (public) storage system.]

Republished from Information Aesthetics.

Google Public Data Explorer [google.com] is yet the latest entry in the ongoing race to democratize data access and its representation for lay people. Similar to Many Eyes, Swivel, Tableau Public and many others, Google Public aims to make large datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate. As a unique feature, the charts and maps are able to animate over time, so that any meaningful time-varying data changes become easier to understand. The goal is for students, journalists, policy makers and everyone else to play with the tool to create visualizations of public data, link to them, or embed them in their own webpages. Embedded charts are also updated automatically, so they always show the latest available data.

Continue reading at Information Aesthetics . . .

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 . . .