Archive for the ‘Best practices’ Category

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 . . .

A tutorial for creating good layer packages (ESRI)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

[Editor's note: The 9.3.1 release of ArcGIS adds the ability to embed GIS data in layer packages for easy sharing. This blog post from ESRI steps thru how to create and leverage layer packages. Natural Earth will soon be available as a layer package!]

Republished from ESRI ArcExplorer blog.

With the release of ArcGIS Desktop 9.3.1 the ability to create layer packages was introduced. Layer packages encapsulate the data, cartography, and other properties of the layer as it’s authored in ArcMap (or ArcGlobe) into one easily shareable package.

Layer packages can be shared with other ArcGIS Desktop users, shared on ArcGIS Online (public beta soon), and are also supported in ArcGIS Explorer 900 along with layer files. What’s significant for Explorer users is that now the cartographic capabilities of ArcGIS Desktop can be seen using Explorer. In the past only simple rendering options were available in Explorer for local data sources, now these are expanded to include ArcGIS Desktop cartography via layer files and layer packages.

ArcGIS 9.3.1 was released not long ago, and ArcGIS Explorer 900 is currently in Beta. But since you may want to begin to create layer packages now for use in Explorer 900 when it becomes available we thought we’d cover a few basic pointers on how to create good layer packages.

We began by downloading some data and an ArcMap document (.mxd file) from the USGS. The data we downloaded was from an open file report with data from the Engineering aspects of karst map.

We downloaded the data, started ArcMap, opened the provided map document, and this is where we started. Our goal for this post was to take the karst_polys_polygon layer in the map and share it as a layer package with ArcGIS Explorer 900 users.

You can see the data (from a personal geodatabase) is already symbolized so we have a good start. But there’s a few things we want to do during the process of authoring the layer package that will ensure those we share the layer package with have the best possible experience and that we present the data in the best possible way. We think authoring is a good way to think about this process, and we’ll step you through the basics of what to consider.

Continue reading at ESRI ArcGIS Explorer Blog . . .

Services, Resources and Tools for Mapping Data (Sunlight Foundation)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

[Editor's note: Listing of several dozen free web apps and tutorials, including GeoCommons Maker!, Modest Maps, Color Brewer, Open Layers, and Batch GeoCoder.]

Republished from the Sunlight Foundation.
By Kerry Mitchell on 02/19/10

Services, Resources and Tools for Mapping DataLong ago, putting together a map of data points would be the sole domain of a skilled GIS practitioner employing an application like ArcView. These days, particularly with the advent of Google Maps, Yahoo Maps and OpenStreetMap, et al., there are a multitude of options for an individual to employ in displaying data geographically. Of course, there are, and will always be, technical options that require some level of programming chops. Fortunately, the pool of drop dead easy implementations that anyone can throw together with ease has grown a lot over the last few years. Then, there is the growing middle ground, lying somewhere between easy but rigid and difficult but flexible. Personally, I tend to hover in this netherworld, leveraging existing code, services or tutorials when possible but occasionally finding myself diving into the more technical areas when necessary and learning a lot in the process.

For those of you out there who might be interested in mapping data, I’ve put together a collection of links to a variety of services, code samples, resources and tutorials I’ve found useful in the past. These links range from new services that barely require anything more than a spreadsheet to complicated frameworks that require a great deal of technical knowledge. This is by no means all encompassing and if you happen to have additional links you’d like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Continue reading at the Sunlight Foundation . . .

Going Native: Using the Google Maps API v3 in Smartphone applications (Killingsworth via Google)

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

[Editor's note: Cut down on development time using the new Google Maps API v3 but creating a single mobile version of your map that can also be wrapped inside a native application for the iPhone or Android.]

Republished from Google Geo Developers Blog.
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Over the last couple of years, my office has been working on using the Google Maps API to display the Missouri State University campus map. The map is used by campus faculty, staff, students, and visitors and includes buildings, parking and transit system information. Beginning this summer, we started work on incorporating live GPS tracking of our campus buses into the map. Both the idea and GPS application on the buses came from one of our computer science students who wanted more information on the campus transit system.

Using the Google Maps API v3, I was able to create a mobile version of our map for use on smartphones. After showing it to my users, one of the first responses I got was, “Are you going to make this available as an application?”. After spending many hours developing a feature-rich mobile web version, the thought of investing a large amount of time to code the same experience on multiple platforms was overwhelming. Then I began thinking of the maintenance headaches; even simple changes, such as adding a new sets of icons for custom markers, would be time consuming. All of a sudden the idea sounded much less appealing. I’d spent all this time on the mobile web version of my map, why couldn’t I just use that?

All Wrapped Up

So instead of writing the maps application using the SDK of each phone platform, I wrapped my v3 Maps API site into a WebView inside a stub application. Now all the work spent on the web version automatically applies to the “native” application and my users never even know the difference. The Google Maps API team have even provided some great reference articles for Android and iPhone which help get the process started.

Continue reading at Google Geo Developers Blog. . . .

State of Salmon Interactive Data Graphic (Periscopic)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

[Editor’s note: This Flash-based info graphic / report from Periscopic is a delight. They are based in Portland, Oregon and have an impressive client list. The company tag line of “Living in a world of data – and offering  a better view” is evident thru the project’s sophisticated quantitative analysis tools, accessed thru the Hydrography, Clusters, Historical, and List tabs. Thanks Wilson!]

Republished from Periscopic.

Salmon are a cultural and biological keystone of life around the Pacific Rim, uniquely linking freshwater and marine ecosystems. They form an irreplaceable mosaic of populations across land and water. This assessment, the first in a series on Pacific salmon, focuses on loss of biodiversity in one species – sockeye salmon.

Interact with the original at Periscopic . . .

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Cartography Design Annual #2 is Now Available

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

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[Editor’s note: Looking for map design inspiration? This second volume, now available from Lulu for $39.95 is brought to us by Nick Springer and a forward by Tom Patterson. Look for two Washington Post maps, one by yours truly.]

Republished from CartographyDesignAnnual.com.
By Nick Springer on December 11th, 2009

Showcasing the Art of Map Making

The Cartography Design Annual is a collection of maps from some of the top cartographers in the world capturing the beauty of mapping. Compiled and edited by Nick Springer, the Cartography Design Annual collects a select group of maps published in the calendar year 2008. The maps cover a broad spectrum of cartographic styles: 3D birds-eye views, travel maps, historic-style maps, mountain maps, and many more. The Annual is published by Springer Cartographics LLC, with support from NACIS (the North American Cartographic Information Society). The book, in beautiful full-color with an overview and detail view of each map, is both a showcase for cartographers and a interesting collection for anyone who loves maps.

The first Cartography Design Annual was received with great praise and excitement from the cartographic community and so the series continues with this second edition. With a foreword by Tom Patterson of the U.S. National Park Service in the second edition, the release Cartography Design Annual series is becoming an anticipated event for cartographers.

The book contains 30 maps from cartographers in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, and Poland. This is book #2 in what will be an annual series.

The editor, Nick Springer is also the founder of Cartotalk.com, the most popular online community for cartographers worldwide. “The first edition of the Cartography Design Annual was a bit of an experiment, but all of the great feedback I received form cartographers proved that there is a need for this kind of showcase.” said Mr. Springer. “I hope this year’s edition will gain even broader exposure outside the world of cartographers.”

Mr. Springer is the Founder and President of Springer Cartographics LLC in Crosswicks, NJ and has worked for Microsoft Corporation as a Product Designer creating mapping applications and also designs software for GPS navigation systems. He studied Geography and Cartography at Syracuse University.

Buy the book from Lulu . . .

Meet Map Practical, a new carto blog

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Kevin McManigal (also of Adventure Cycling) is teaching intro to cartography in Montana and has a new blog focused on getting into mapping. First posts focus on Google My Maps, Vector versus Raster, and Purpose and Audience.

Welcome to Map Practical, where the cartography gets done. These are the cartographic trenches, the domain of greasy hands, busted knuckles, and sore mouse fingers. This is the home of techniques, tutorials, and tricks of all things map. Here’s how we do it; your job is to make it look good!

Are you a cartographer or studying to be one? How many tricks have you found that slipped your memory and had to be re-learned? How many hours have you spent on Google looking for that long lost tutorial? Thinking back on my first mapping class, there were so many things that I figured out by trial and error, blindly groping for the right keywords in “Help.” There has to be a better way!

So, here I am teaching cartography now and thought, “What if all those tips could be in one convenient place?” Well here it is, Map Practical! This will be an ongoing process; a tip a week, a link here, a comment there, and a video tutorial when I find the time. After a semester or two it should be a good resource.

Please contribute, and it will only get better.

Thanks, Kevin

Check out Map Practical . . .

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 . . .

Map of big snow storm in DC (Kelso via Wash Post)

Monday, February 8th, 2010

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I’m still digging out from the big storm this weekend in Washington, DC. I received 24″ at my house, ranged from 14″ to over 30″ in the metro area with heaviest around Columbia, Maryland. I worked during the storm and Laris and I tallied the NWS weather spotter reports of snowfall and used the GIS to krig the a map of average depth from about 50 points (which had to be filtered to remove expired values). Then used Illustrator’s Live Trace functionality to vectorize. Preview above (for the local home page promo which didn’t have room for legend, so directly labeled the contours), full graphic below with explainer of how the storm happened (with Laura and Larry).

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