Archive for the ‘Best practices’ Category

MAP: Campaign 2010 – Congressional Races, a closer look at the 435 House races (WaPo)

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

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[Editor’s note: Just in time for the midterms, The Washington Post has relaunched our online politics section, including a nifty interactive map by Kat Downs (lead), Dan Keating, Karen Yourish and Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso. The map starts off on House races but also tracks Senate and Governor races. It’s zoomable, panable, has a time slider for past election results. The original linework was generalized using MapShaper.org with manual adjustments to blend in detailed urban districts with more generalized rural districts, resulting in smaller file size, quicker load time, and less ambiguity on which district is which. Please email us with questions or suggestions.]

Republished from The Washington Post.

Will Republicans take control of the house in 2010? Use this map to track all 435 House races, analyse past election results, and drill down to district level data. Post reporters Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza will weigh in regularly on the 25 races you need to know about. SOURCES: Federal Election Commission, U.S. Census Bureau.

Interact with the original at The Washington Post . . .

Two more screenshots, showing generalized urban area linework in the Washington, DC, metro area with thematic attribute “details” panel open and then the advanced filtering options, in this case to pull out swing districts that have rate more than 21% uninsured.

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Maps of Henri Cartier Bresson’s Travels by Adrian Kitzinger @ MoMa

Monday, April 26th, 2010

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[Editor’s note: Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) helped to define photographic modernism starting in the 1930s when he began working for Life and other news “picture” magazines (exhibit at MoMa in New York thru June 28, 2010). He snatched beguiling images from fleeting moments of everyday life. He traveled the whole world over, as this series of maps from Adrian Kitzinger shows. Because he visited some cities more than once, the cartographer employs a clever technique of showing overall trips with colored route lines and visited cities in normal black type. If subsequent visits were made, the city name is underlined in the route color of the 2ndary, tertiary, etc trip. Some indication is also made for the mode of transport. Photo below is from after WWII as a women denounces another for ratting on her to the Nazi secret police during the war.]

Republished from the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

These maps, by Adrian Kitzinger, have been adapted from the maps he made for the detailed chronology of Cartier-Bresson’s travels in the book that accompanies the exhibition. The principal itineraries are named by year and distinguished by color, and are keyed to a descriptive list on each map. Please note that some quite similar colors designate entirely distinct itineraries.

Cartier-Bresson’s travel is rendered as lines (solid by land or sea, dashes by air) following the most probable routes; when a route cannot be reasonably surmised or clearly shown, locales that belong to a single trip share a color code: underscores or colored type. Some more far-flung connections are indicated with dotted arrows. Places Cartier-Bresson visited independently of a recorded itinerary are represented as circles with gray rather than white centers.

View more maps at MoMa . . .

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

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

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[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 . . .

Colorado Road Conditions Mashup (CDOT)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

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[Editor’s note: Check out the snowy road conditions in Colorado with this mashup that includes current road open/close as well as surface status (icy, blowing snow, etc). One of the best I’ve seen. Traffic cameras are overlayed with auto clustering of nearby markers. Includes a searchable list and good legend below the map. Hard to scroll wheal up and down on the page due to the map and list view. And resizing makes it hard to get the legend on the same viewable window area as the map. Thanks Curt!]

Continue onto Colorado Road Conditions . . .

More Multi-touch Links (Random Etc.)

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

[Editor’s note: See earlier posts on Google Maps multitouch and AS3 in Flash, Flex, and Air, and 3rd. From Tom Carden, a San Francisco-based programmer and designer at Stamen Design.]

Republished from Random Etc.

Here’s a nice overview of how touch events are modelled in mobile Safari on the iphone. Here’s a student paper detailing some multi-touch code architectures and actual code too.

Here’s a nice article on single point gesture recognition for games, here are lovely simple single stroke and multi-stroke gesture recognisers in javascript. Here’s the corresponding paper. Here’s a paper about modelling gestures using Markov chains.

And here’s a gesture recognition discussion thread featuring some of the above links and many more.

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

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

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[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

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[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 . . .

ColorBrewer in ArcMap, updated to version 2.0 (via Weary Ramblings)

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Struggling to pick colors in ArcMap or need to ensure your design meets federal accessibility standards for vision impairment? ColorBrewer.org has been updated to version 2.0 and now a ArcMap plugin brings some functionality right into your GIS. It's not clear to me if the "Terrain overlay" option for previewing the colors takes into account the muted nature / secondary HSV mixing of the colors, I don't recommend using that part just yet.]

Republished from National Cancer Institute.
Seen at Weary Ramblings.

ColorTool is a plugin for ArcMap™ (part of the ESRI ArcGIS Desktop suite) that helps users create choropleth maps using ColorBrewer color ramps.

The program runs from a button in the toolbar and opens a form that guides the user in choosing a classification scheme. For more information on the color options, visit ColorBrewer.org. ColorTool supports Quantile, Equal Interval, Natural Breaks (Jenks), and Unique Value classification types.

Download the ColorTool plugin . . .

Along with the plugin, the main ColorBrewer site has been upgraded to version 2.0

Republished from Free Geography Tools.

ColorBrewer is an online Flash app designed to help select appropriate data coloring schemes for maps, including sequential (choropleths), diverging (data with break points), and qualitative (discrete categorical data). I’ve covered version 1.0 before, and now ColorBrewer 2.0 is out. Not a huge number of functional differences, but some useful additions (and one disappointing subtraction):

  • More parameters are selected by drop-down boxes instead of buttons; bit faster this way
  • All controls are on the left side, making them easier to find
  • You can now choose between a colored background and a terrain background
  • Color transparency can now be set between 0 and 100%
  • More choices for background, road, city and border colors
  • You can now screen color schemes by appropriateness for color blindness, photocopying and print. In version 1.0, you only had icons showing which uses were appropriate, and these are still available in the “Score Card” tab at lower right
  • More options for color scheme export directly from the program, including an Excel file of all available color schemes, export in Adobe Swatch Exchange format (ASE), and in-program text hex color codes for copying and pasting into graphics programs.
  • No more map zoom; I miss this option.

What is GeoDesign and why is it important (ESRI + GeoInformatics)

Monday, March 15th, 2010

[Editor’s note: Like mashups, but in ArcGIS and analytical without programming skills. Sounds like CommunityViz but is more generally the “pairing of design and GIS. It unites the art and creativity of design (planning) with the power and science of geospatial technology. As one, GeoDesign can produce more informed, data-based design options and decisions.” This drive will introduce modeling, sketching, and feedback capabilities in ESRI’s ArcGIS Desktop 10, set for release in the second quarter of 2010. Looks like it will rely more on GIS services (web apps and 2) and more validating of resulting feature topology by GIS techs. Recently concluded mini-conference on GeoDesign has streaming video clips. This article is also good. Thanks @geoparadigm and @gisuser.]

Republished from ESRI and GEO Informatics.

What is GeoDesign?
GeoDesign is a set of techniques and enabling technologies for planning built and natural environments in an integrated process, including project conceptualization, analysis, design specification, stakeholder participation and collaboration, design creation, simulation, and evaluation (among other stages). “GeoDesign is a design and planning method which tightly couples the creation of design proposals with impact simulations informed by geographic contexts.” [1] Nascent geodesign technology extends geographic information systems so that in addition to analyzing existing environments and geodata, users can synthesize new environments and modify geodata. Learn more about GeoDesign on Wikipedia.

Read more at ESRI ArcWatch . . .

Jack Dangermond on GeoDesign:
“In January [ESRI hosted] the first GeoDesign Summit. It will bring people from both the GIS and design fields together and have them share their work and get a conversation going. I’m not totally sure what the outcome is going to be, but I’m hoping a new profession or direction will emerge. I think we need this kind of mixing at this point to bring these two fields together; people who design the world with people who design the future. Today, geography lives very well in its world and designers live very well in their world, but there’s not this cross-mixing. I believe the outcome will be much enlightened ways to do development; ways that bring science into how we design things: cities, the environment, highways, everything that we do. Today we certainly see the need for this all the way from global warming to designing more livable and sustainable cities. We need more geographic thinking in the way we make decisions. GeoDesign is an attempt to try to do something about that.”

Read more at GEO Informatics . . .

What does it mean for GIS discipline:
“It is not so much that geodesign is new, but rather that technology has reached a point that allows artists to participate in the geodesign process – without becoming technologists.” (Kirk at GeoThought) It still requires good (accurate, precise) base maps and themes in GIS to enable smart decision making (geodesign) on the desktop and in the cloud (web apps). Instead GIS techs being puck jockeys, the planning folks will be able to use the GIS directly, or it’ll seem that way to them ;) I used to work somewhere where the boss had desktop design apps installed and he could comp out designs, but they still had to be rebuilt to production specs. My guess is the same will be true with GeoDesign for a good bit yet. Meanwhile, focus on core competencies.

Learn more at the ESRI Developers User Conference later this month . . .

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 . . .