Archive for the ‘Promote’ Category

The Accuracy and Precision Revolution: What’s ahead for GIS? (Nighbert via ArcUser)

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

acc_precis_5-lg

[Editor’s note: “As we try to integrate highly resolved data into existing GIS, the errors in legacy data will become more apparent.” Jeff outlines the problem through his experience at the BLM in Oregon. Jeff is also responsible for early “bump mapping” of digital terrain models (DEMs).]

Republished from the ESRI ArcUser Winter 2010.
By Jeffery S. Nighbert, U.S. Bureau of Land Management

The ability to obtain precise information is nothing new. With great patience and skill, mapmakers and land surveyors have long been able to create information with an impressive level of accuracy. However, today the ability to determine and view locations with submeter accuracy is now in the hands of millions of people. Commonly available high-resolution digital terrain and aerial imagery, coupled with GPS-enabled handheld devices, powerful computers, and Web technology, is changing the quality, utility, and expectations of GIS to serve society on a grand scale. This accuracy and precision revolution has raised the bar for GIS quite high. This pervasive capability will be the driver for the next iteration of GIS and the professionals who operate them.

When I say there is a “revolution” going on in GIS, I am referring to the change in the fundamental accuracy and precision kernel of commonly used geographic data brought about by new technologies previously mentioned. For many ArcGIS users, this kernel used to be about 10 meters or 40 feet at a scale of 1:24,000. With today’s technologies (and those in the future), GIS will be using data with 1-meter and submeter accuracy and precision. There are probably GIS departments—in a large city or metro area—where this standard is already in place. However, this level of detail is far from the case in natural resource management agencies such as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the United States Forest Service. But as lidar, GPS, and high-resolution imagery begin to proliferate standard sources for “ground” locations, GIS professionals will begin to feel the consequences in three areas: data quality, analytic methods, and hardware and software.

Continue reading at ArcUser . . .

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 . . .

Wordalizer tag cloud script for InDesign | A Tribute to Wordle (Indiscripts)

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

_en_01

[Editor's note: Looks like my earlier post on Wordle helped Marc Atret implement tag clouds (word clouds) in InDesign.]

Republished from Indiscripts.

Wordalizer is a word cloud builder for InDesign CS4. Try now the beta version of this experimental script —inpired by the magnificent Wordle web tool created by Jonathan Feinberg.

I began to work on Wordalizer for InDesign in September 2008! Jonathan Feinberg had just launched its brilliant Wordle Java applet and I was highly impressed by the typographical perfection that Wordle could reach in word clouding. I was naively dreaming to operate the same way from the InDesign DOM! Too much confident in my scripting abilities, I still hadn’t realized how powerful the Feinberg’s core algorithm was, until I found this post on “Kelso’s Corner” blog. Feinberg says: “It’s not quite ‘simple bounding box,’ which wouldn’t permit words inside words, or nestling up to ascenders and descenders. It’s full glyph intersection testing, but with a sprinkle of CS applied to make it work at interactive speeds.”

Yes indeed! The hardest part of the whole challenge is in speeding up hit-tests, and you can’t imagine what this Java performance problem looks like when translated into the InDesign JS context! After remaining at a standstill for a long time, I decided to start my script from the beginning again.

Continue reading at Indiscripts . . .

‘One of the worst graphics the New York Times have published – ever!’ (Alberto Cairo via Visual Journalism)

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

boxoffice

[Editor’s note: Are increasingly complex graphics (visual confections / data visualizations), aka chart porn & eye/brain candy, necessarily good at conveying essential information to readers? Alberto Cairo says no, see below. I have to wonder if he means just for daily minute-read journalism or for publications that have a tradition of offering readers, say, tear-out map supplements and posters they like to admire and reexamine. This might have been raised by the 2008 box office graphic from the NY Times, implementing a steamgraph, but the general question applies to all infographic professionals. We have awesome new tools and datasets, but we still need to focus on fundamentals, beyond interesting and visually appealing, to consider what as Lee Byron calls the “interplay between considerations of aesthetics and legibility.”

From Edward Tufte (p121 in Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative):

A confection is an assembly of many visual events, selected … from various Streams of Story, then brought together and juxtaposed on the still flatland of paper. By means of a multiplicity of image-events, confections illustrate an argument, present and enforce visual comparisons, combine the real and the imagined, and tell us yet another story.

Tufte actually shows a similar chart to the NYT box office example  in the same work from the cover of “Rock ‘N’ Roll is Here to Pay: The History and Politics of the Music Industry”. He says of the Rock and Roll example: “The multiple, parallel flows locate music-makers in two dimensions – linking musical parents and offspring from 1955 to 1974, and listing contemporaries for each year.”

But what fundamentals and what audience? A later NY Times graphic on How Different Groups Spend Their Day resolves part of the box office problem with an ability to focus (isolate) parts of the stream into a standard axis chart and thus read and compare quantitatively. Much less complicated, but also on a standard axis: Jackson’s Billboard Rankings Over Time. I don’t entirely buy the similar axis baseline argument as I’m a fan of graduated circle maps, but reading them is certainly not for the average reader and must be augmented with summary charting and text.

But the box office chart is more approachable (read fun and inviting) then simple charting per Why Is Her Paycheck Smaller. But I think simple axis presentation of Taking apart the federal budget is easier to read at first glance then the multi-axis Obama’s 2011 Budget Proposal: How It’s Spent, even if I use the same approach in the Washington Post’s Potus Tracker to analyze Obama’s schedule. At the core is trying to make increasingly complex datasets (2) grockable visually. Have fun figuring it out and in the meantime enjoy this XKCD comic ;)]

Republished from .

Alberto Cairo is a former professor at Chapel Hill, where he taught online graphics. Before that he was the succesful graphics director at El Mundo Online. In short: This guy knows what he is talking about, when it comes to both printed and online graphics …

Today Alberto took a critical look at the current data-visualization-trend, which got a huge boost last year, when New York Times took home a gold medal and even the ‘Best of Show’-award for a certain Box Office graphic. Regular readers of this site will remember the discussion we had last year after the awards. Click here to read it again.

Emperor’s new clothes
What Alberto is saying out in the open now, has been floating around for a while. But apparently only a few dare to say that graphics are getting too complicated – for fear of being looked upon as stupid, if they dare challenge such abstract wonders. I can’t help to think of the Emperor’s new clothes, whenever such a situation takes place.

Continue reading and view video of Alberto at

Flash and Standards: The Cold War of the Web (A List Apart)

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

flashstandards

[Editor's note: A sane approach to the HTML versus Flash "war": ceasefire. Get on with designing great site around great content for your readers.]

Republished from A List Apart.
By Dan Mall.

You’ve probably heard that Apple recently announced the iPad. The absence of Flash Player on the device seems to have awakened the HTML5 vs. Flash debate. Apparently, it’s the final nail in the coffin for Flash.

The arguments run wide, strong, and legitimate on both sides. Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls Flash Player buggy. John Gruber of Daring Fireball says that Apple wants to maintain their own ecosystem—a formula Adobe’s software doesn’t easily fit into. On the other end, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch argues that Flash is a great content delivery vehicle. Mike Chambers, Principal Product Manager for Flash platform developer relations at Adobe, expresses his concerns over closed platforms. Interactive developer Grant Skinner reflects on the advantages of Flash.

However, the issue is larger than which one is better. It’s about preference and politics. It’s an arms race. This is the Cold War of the Web.

Ceasefire

Both the standards community and the Flash community are extremely good at sharing knowledge and supporting the people within their respective groups. The relationship across communities, however, isn’t nearly as cordial. Two things are happening: either the people within each camp stay to themselves, or one ignorantly hurls insults at the other.

As new technologies emerge, their following naturally starts small. An effective rallying cry is to find—or create—a common enemy. Huge strides such as Doug Bowman’s Wired redesign, Dave Shea’s CSS Zen Garden, and Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards had a significant influence, not only on the standards community, but on the entire web design industry. They positioned standards as an alternative to Flash and table-based sites, not in conflict with them. However, less enlightened followers wrongly interpreted these champions’ examples as the first assault. As Adobe Photoshop Principal Product Manager John Nack says, “people want a certain ‘killer’ narrative.”

Continue reading at A List Apart . . .

Save Darfur Map Poster

Monday, March 15th, 2010

save_darfur_poster

[Editor’s note: Plays off catch phrase: “Thought About Saving Darfur?” Saw this paper flier posted at a sandwich place near work in DC last week.]

Republished from SaveDarfur.org.

Map Art in NY Times: My Way – Abstract City (Niemann)

Friday, March 12th, 2010

[Editor’s note: This series of imaginative geographies from Christoph Niemann’s is playful and builds on the new Google Map symbolization conventions. Niemann’s work previously featured here with Coffee Art and I Lego N.Y. Thanks Trevor!]

Republished from New York Times.
March 10, 2010, 8:30 pm

See them all at New York Times . . .

by Christoph Niemann

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 . . .

On Locational Privacy, and How to Avoid Losing it Forever (EFF)

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

[Editor’s note: It’s possible to enjoy pervasive GPS and enjoy privacy, too. A congressional subcommittee held a joint hearing titled, “The Collection and Use of Location Information for Commercial Purposes” on Wednesday. Learn more in this white paper from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Thanks GIS User!]

Republished from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
By Andrew J. Blumberg and Peter Eckersley, August 2009

PDF file

Also available as a PDF
in English and Bulgarian.

Over the next decade, systems which create and store digital records of people’s movements through public space will be woven inextricably into the fabric of everyday life. We are already starting to see such systems now, and there will be many more in the near future.

Here are some examples you might already have used or read about:

  • Monthly transit swipe-cards
  • Electronic tolling devices (FastTrak, EZpass, congestion pricing)
  • Cellphones
  • Services telling you when your friends are nearby
  • Searches on your PDA for services and businesses near your current location
  • Free Wi-Fi with ads for businesses near the network access point you’re using
  • Electronic swipe cards for doors
  • Parking meters you can call to add money to, and which send you a text message when your time is running out

These systems are marvellously innovative, and they promise benefits ranging from increased convenience to transformative new kinds of social interaction.

Unfortunately, these systems pose a dramatic threat to locational privacy.

What is “locational privacy”?

Locational privacy (also known as “location privacy”) is the ability of an individual to move in public space with the expectation that under normal circumstances their location will not be systematically and secretly recorded for later use. The systems discusssed above have the potential to strip away locational privacy from individuals, making it possible for others to ask (and answer) the following sorts of questions by consulting the location databases:

  • Did you go to an anti-war rally on Tuesday?
  • A small meeting to plan the rally the week before?
  • At the house of one “Bob Jackson”?
  • Did you walk into an abortion clinic?
  • Did you see an AIDS counselor?
  • Have you been checking into a motel at lunchtimes?
  • Why was your secretary with you?
  • Did you skip lunch to pitch a new invention to a VC? Which one?
  • Were you the person who anonymously tipped off safety regulators about the rusty machines?
  • Did you and your VP for sales meet with ACME Ltd on Monday?
  • Which church do you attend? Which mosque? Which gay bars?
  • Who is my ex-girlfriend going to dinner with?

Of course, when you leave your home you sacrifice some privacy. Someone might see you enter the clinic on Market Street, or notice that you and your secretary left the Hilton Gardens Inn together. Furthermore, in the world of ten years ago, all of this information could be obtained by people who didn’t like you or didn’t trust you.

But obtaining this information used to be expensive. Your enemies could hire a guy in a trench coat to follow you around,but they had to pay him. Moreover, it was hard to keep the surveillance secret — you had a good chance of noticing your tail ducking into an alley.

In the world of today and tomorrow, this information is quietly collected by ubiquitous devices and applications, and available for analysis to many parties who can query, buy or subpeona it. Or pay a hacker to steal a copy of everyone’s location history.

It is this transformation to a regime in which information about your location is collected pervasively, silently, and cheaply that we’re worried about.

Continue reading at Electronic Frontier Foundation . . .

NodeXL: Network Visualizations in Excel (Visual Business Intelligence)

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

[Editor's note: Visualizing complex connection topologies is made easier with a new plugin for Microsoft Excel. Now someone needs to port it to Flash ActionScript 3!]

Republished from Visual Business Intelligence.

This blog entry was written by Bryan Pierce of Perceptual Edge.

The chances are good that you’ve seen network visualizations before, such as the one below in which the circles and octagons represent large U.S. companies and each connecting line represents a person who sits on the board of both companies.

(This image was created by Toby Segaran: http://blog.kiwitobes.com/?p=57)

While these types of graphs have become more common in recent years, there’s still a good chance that you’ve never created one yourself. This is because, traditionally, to create network visualizations, you’ve either needed specialized (and often unwieldy) network visualization software or a full-featured (and usually expensive) visualization suite. That’s no longer the case. A team of contributors from several universities and research groups, including the University of Maryland and Microsoft Research, recently released NodeXL, a free add-in for Excel that allows you to create and analyze network visualizations.

Using NodeXL you can import data from a variety of file formats and it will automatically lay out the visualization for you, using one of twelve built-in layout algorithms.

Continue reading at Visual Business Intelligence . . .