Archive for the ‘Google Map Mashup’ Category

Mountain Cart and OpenGeo Conferences in 2010

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

In addition to the Association of American Geographers conference here in DC this April, there are two conferences of note over in Europe in late summer (thanks Martin):

September 1 – Sept. 5:
ICA Commission Mountain Cartography
will meet in Romania. Abstracts due by March 1. More info »

September 6 -  Sept. 9: 
FOSS4G in Barcelona.
Abstracts need to be in by April 1. More info »

I’ve attended the mountain cartography conference before and highly recommend it. It’ll be a much smaller affair then the Barcelona conference and include many mountain outings.

The “Free and Open Source Software for GeoSpatial” conference is an:

international ‘gathering of tribes’ of open source geospatial communities, where developers and users show off their latest software and projects.

The spatial industry is undergoing rapid innovations and the open source spatial community is one of the forces driving the change. The FOSS4G conference is more than a melting pot of great ideas it is a catalyst and opportunity to unite behind the many successful geospatial products, standards and protocols.

See you there!

Color Oracle Review + The Economist’s Red-Green Fixation

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Hisham Abboud over at the Curious Chap blog promo’d Color Oracle, the software that the talented Bernhard Jenny programmed (with my sometimes helpful nagging) for simulating color blindness.

No self-respecting programmer, UX practitioner, or web site designer should be without [Color Oracle]

Nice endorsement, thanks! Hisham uses an Apple iPhone website chart to emphasize his point: “My first brush with what one can do for color blind persons was a 2007 post by Greg Raiz. Greg described how Apple was using red and green circles (same shape) to illustrate which stores had iPhone availability, and how they later switched to using different shapes”:

redgreen

By using shape to reinforce (overload) the color difference, green and red can still be used to take advantage of those hue’s strong cultural significance (green = go, red = stop). The Economist, on the other hand, persists in NOT using shape to amplify the color differences in their charts and maps. Not only does this make it hard to read on my evening subway commute, they are completely illegible for color blind readers. The January 16th, 2010 edition has a particularly egregious example:

cfn742

Haiti OpenStreetMaps + Google Map Maker

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

There are two camps opening up in the Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI or community generated content CGC) community that are sure to have big import going down the line. One is OpenStreetMap.org (editor | download) and the second is Google’s Map Maker (not available in the US and other developed world locations) (editor | tile view options | download). Both services allow users to either upload their own GPS track or digitize linework and points off satellite imagery. These two options have added to the global map, often creating the first detailed map of a place ever available to the general public.

But the two projects have very different license structures (OSM almost unrestricted, Google very restricted). Not only do they duplicate effort, but they result in “similar but different” products that do not perfectly register with each other. This is an problem that faced many in the US in the 1990s as many organizations developed their own, not-interoperable datasets for the same regions. That model has largely been replaced by single entities building fundamental datasets that other organizations and individuals repurpose.

The licensing and data coverage & registration issues are of note to professional cartographers (and first responders) more so then to the general public. But, as Sean says:

OSM and MapMaker aren’t talking and I think it is a big problem – if you want to help rescue efforts in Haiti where do you go to digitize? OSM? MapMaker?

Muki Haklay has a good comparison of the detail in each of OSM and Map Maker for Haiti. In the map here, yellow means that there is a better coverage in Map Maker, and blue means that there is a better coverage in OpenStreetMap.
Screenshot below, click for larger version.

osm-mapmaker-haiti-180110

“The comparison looks at total roads length for both datasets. The calculated difference between them using the equation:

∑(OSM roads length)-∑(Map Maker roads length)

for each 1km grid square.

The information in the file can be used for the following applications:

  • Users of these mapping products - it can help in judging which dataset to use for each area.
  • Users – it can facilitate conflation -  the process of merging datasets to create a better quality output.
  • Mappers - it can illuminate which areas to focus on, to improve coverage.”

Haitian Earthquake Emphasizes Danger of a Split Geo Community (seen over at FortiusOne’s Off the Map blog advocating for Creative Commons 0 “zero” licensing of geodata during disasters) has a overlay of OSM (Open Street Map) and Google Map Maker data.

4276602759_bbf15d1d1f

And finally, before and after images of OpenStreetMap.org map for Port-au-Prince, Haiti:

OSM just after the Earthquake

before4274264767_c9933d12c5

OSM Today

after4274264771_6873e16fa0

A Peek Into Netflix Queues (NY Times)

Monday, January 11th, 2010

[Editor's note: Props to Matthew and Amanda at the New York Times for this Google Maps mashup by zip code (choropleth) of common Netflix rentals in selected U.S. metros. Easy to use interface based on Flash API still allows advanced options for sorting and mouseOver of "neighborhood" zipcodes  returns movie watching profile. Far more interesting than dry census stats ;)]

Republished from the New York Times.

Examine Netflix rental patterns, neighborhood by neighborhood, in a dozen cities. Some titles with distinct patterns are Mad Men, Obsessed and Last Chance Harvey.

Interact with the original at the New York Times . . . (Screenshot below.)

nytimes_netflixmap

By Matthew Bloch, Amanda Cox, Jo Craven McGinty and Kevin Quealy/The New York Times

Natural Earth Browser from Thematic Mapping

Monday, January 4th, 2010

[Editor's note: Bjorn over at his Thematic Mapping Blog has done up a Natural Earth tile set using open source tools. How have you been using Natural Earth?]

Excerpted from Thematic Mapping Blog.

My holiday project, apart from skiing, was to play with the new Natural Earth dataset. By combing raster and vector data you can make a variety of visually pleasing maps. You can use my Natural Earth Browser to study the great linework of Natural Earth.
Natural Earth Browser was created with a variety of open source tools. Map tiles from raster data was created with MapTiler and optimised with pngng. Map tiles from vector data was styled with Mapnik and pre-genereated with TileCache. The map interface is based on OpenLayers, Ext JS and GeoExt.
Continue reading at Thematic Mapping Blog . . .

Affordable Housing Mashup (Envisioning Development)

Friday, December 11th, 2009

wholiveshere

[Editor's note: Google mashup with fun charting trying to make sense out of simple yet complicated subject.]

Republished from EnvisioningDevelopment.net.

“Affordable Housing.” The phrase seems plain enough, but it doesn’t always mean what people think it does! It actually has a technical government definition that can determine what gets built and who lives there. Use these tools to answer the all-important question: “Affordable to whom?

What Is Affordable Housing? from the Center for Urban Pedagogy on Vimeo.

A stop-action animation on the technical definitions of affordable housing — by Rosten Woo and John Mangin of CUP, animator/designer Jeff Lai, and Glen Cummings of MTWTF. Narrated by Lisa Burriss. Sound by Rosten Woo.

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.

Online Maps: Everyman Offers New Directions (NY Times)

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

zooatlantabeforeatlantazooopenstreetmap[Editor's note: As my music prof was want to remind, the only difference between amateur and professional is one gets paid and the other doesn't. My hope is Google Maps starts offering user-generated geodata back to the community, like OpenStreetMap.org now does. Left image is before community edits, right is after. Thanks Nora!]

Republished from the New York Times.

SAN FRANCISCO — They don’t know it, but people who use Google’s online maps may be getting directions from Richard Hintz.

Mr. Hintz, a 62-year-old engineer who lives in Berkeley, Calif., has tweaked the locations of more than 200 business listings and points of interest in cities across the state, sliding an on-screen place marker down the block here, moving another one across the street there. Farther afield, he has mapped parts of Cambodia and Laos, where he likes to go on motorcycle trips.

Mr. Hintz said these acts of geo-volunteerism were motivated in part by self-interest: he wants to know where he’s going. But “it has this added attraction that it helps others,” he said.

Mr. Hintz is a foot soldier in an army of volunteer cartographers who are logging every detail of neighborhoods near and far into online atlases. From Petaluma to Peshawar, these amateurs are arming themselves with GPS devices and easy-to-use software to create digital maps where none were available before, or fixing mistakes and adding information to existing ones.

Like contributors to Wikipedia before them, they are democratizing a field that used to be the exclusive domain of professionals and specialists. And the information they gather is becoming increasingly valuable commercially.

Google, for example, sees maps playing a growing strategic role in its business, especially as people use cellphones to find places to visit, shop and eat. It needs reliable data about the locations of businesses and other destinations.

“The way you get that data is having users precisely locate things,” said John Hanke, a vice president of product management who oversees Google’s mapping efforts.

People have been contributing information to digital maps for some time, building displays of crime statistics or apartment rentals. Now they are creating and editing the underlying maps of streets, highways, rivers and coastlines.

“It is a huge shift,” said Michael F. Goodchild, a professor of geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This is putting mapping where it should be, which is the hands of local people who know an area well.”

That is changing the dynamics of an industry that has been dominated by a handful of digital mapping companies like Tele Atlas and Navteq.

Google is increasingly bypassing those traditional map providers. It has relied on volunteers to create digital maps of 140 countries, including India, Pakistan and the Philippines, that are more complete than many maps created professionally.

Last month Google dropped Tele Atlas data from its United States maps, choosing to rely instead on government data and other sources, including updates from users.

“They have coverage in areas that the big mapping guys don’t have,” said Mike Dobson, a mapping industry consultant who once worked at Rand McNally. “It has the opportunity to cause a lot of disruption in these industries.”

Continue reading at New York Times . . .

read-write mapping: NACIS Conference Keynote by Michal Migurski of Stamen Design

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

[Editor's note: I'm just getting back from the annual NACIS conference and decompressing from backpacking, family and friends in the Golden State. Our great keynote speaker this year was Michal Migurski of Stamen Design who talked up the OpenStreetMap project. Mike has also been kind enough to help out with the Natural Earth Data site which will go live in another couple weeks once Tom and I have polished the data. Without further ado, the keynote...]

Republished from tecznotes.

[clip] I used the opportunity to talk about the fascinating OpenStreetMap project, specifically the ways in which it’s useful to a cartography audience and how that audience could benefit the project. This last thing in particular is what I closed with: I think the online face of OSM’s rendered tiles could use serious input from the NACIS community, particularly at the kinds of medium scales where the highly-detailed data blurs into “features”. Much of this happens by-hand in tools like Adobe Illustrator from what I can tell, a very different workflow from the industrial automation offered by my favorite stand-by, Mapnik.

This is a talk about a new awareness of maps and geography, and a change in attitudes toward maps.

I’m going start with a small detour here to tell you about an online phenomenon that’s going on four or so years now, called Unboxing. Unboxing is a kind of geek striptease, described in one site’s tagline as a “vicarious thrill from opening new gear”.

Unboxing is a response to the meticulous packaging of modern electronics gear, most notably Apple’s range of iPods, iPhones, and Mac computers – careful design is invested in the packaging, and careful appreciation is invested in its removal.

Why unboxing? Two aspects of the trend seem relevant here.

First, it’s a new kind of visibility into the fan club culture around popular electronics, allowing users to elevate their own appreciation of a mass-market good into a social experience. I remember bicycling past the Apple Store and the Cingular store on San Francisco’s Market St. on the day the iPhone was released. There were enormous lines in front of each, and as customers picked up their new iPhones they’d walk out the door, break into a jog, and high-five the remainder of the line. The division between fan and star here evaporates.

Second, the delivery mechanism for this fan-produced culture tends to be online sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube. Both are examples of the phenomenon of the “Read Write Web”, the now-familiar pattern of web-based communities formed around the creation and sharing of social objects like photos and videos.

One effect of these online communities is a new and durable awareness of the process behind creative production. Pages on Flickr or YouTube follow a pattern you’re probably familiar with: title in the upper-left, main “thing” just below that, and to the right at the same level of importance, the person who made it for you. Responsibility and provenance along with all the messiness and point-of-view are built-in assumptions.

In the world of text, we see this same pattern on Wikipedia.

This is the History Flow project from Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas at IBM, which shows edits to a single Wikipedia article over time as threads and contributions from a group of editors.

Like this one, each article has been beaten into shape over time by a group of people following loose rules of cooperation, so each page has an associated “Talk” page where you can peek into the arguments and negotiations connected to the particular set of facts represented there. You can see the sausage being made. You can also cause the sausage to be made, as we saw with Stephen Colbert’s parody of consensual reality he called “wikiality” and used to make occasional, abusive, hilarious forays into Wikipedia.

This is where we segue into geography.

Around 2004 or so, UK developer Steve Coast started a project called OpenStreetMap, the Wiki world map. Steve was connecting a few emerging threads: the falling cost of GPS hardware since it was made available for civilian use in 1996, the dismal copyright layer wrapped around Ordnance Survey maps, and the lack of a viable crappy-but-free alternative in the UK. It’s hard to overstate how crazy this idea was at the time; everyone knows that collecting worldwide geographic data at the street level is a massive undertaking, out of reach of an enthusiast community like the OSM of the time.

What was the state of online mapping at the time? Not terrible, but not great.

Continue reading at tecznotes  . . .