Archive for September, 2008

DC Metro: ISO Cartographer?

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Do you know of a cartographic, GIS, mapping, visualization, graphic design, presentation graphics type job in the Washington DC metro area? A friend of mine whom I can vouch for is looking for new opportunities. Full-time staff position preferred, government okay. Please, drop me an email.

What Your Global Neighbors Are Buying (NY Times)

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

[Editor’s note: Interactive cartogram visualization that animates between 5 categories. Consistent thematic scale throughout (color and sizing) allows quick comparison of one category to another, country to country. Very slick. Thanks Christina!]

Republished from the New York Times, September 4, 2008.

How people spend their discretionary income – the cash that goes to clothing, electronics, recreation, household goods, alcohol – depends a lot on where they live. People in Greece spend almost 13 times more money on clothing as they do on electronics. People living in Japan spend more on recreation than they do on clothing, electronics and household goods combined. Americans spend a lot of money on everything. Related Article

Shrunk down version below. View full size.

By Hannah Fairfield, Elaine He and Kevin Quealy/The New York Times.

Monopoly: The World Edition – Results In

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

monopoly global

Back in February I published a post on how Hasbro, the makers of board game Monopoly has embarked upon an exercise to find the world’s most popular cities for the new “Here and Now: The World Edition” to be released in Autumn 2008. Much to my supervisor’s ethnic pride, Riga was one of two wild card cities to make it onto the new Monopoly edition. The other, Montréal, gets top billing in the blue docket on the new board. Full list below (highest rent first). Thanks Laris!

Reprinted press release from Monopoly site (August 20, 2008):

More than 5.6 million votes were cast for 70 world-class cities, which determined 20 of the 22 cities featured in the game. The 20 cities with the most write-in votes faced off in a bonus vote and the two with the most votes, Taipei and Gdynia, earned the brown property spaces on the game board.

“We hope that fans of the world’s most popular board game will enjoy buying, selling and trading real estate from around the globe in the new MONOPOLY game that they created with their votes,” said Helen Martin, Vice President of Global Marketing for toy and game-maker Hasbro, Inc.’s MONOPOLY brand.  “We are thrilled that the first-ever global game board includes an interesting mix of cities that showcases the dynamic cultures, sights and history of the planet.”

Clueless in Cleveland? Use Your Thumb [iPhone] (NY Times)

Monday, September 8th, 2008

SURE, you can turn your iPhone into a Star Wars-like light saber, a virtual pet or an interactive mug of beer. But did you know that those newfangled applications can also tell you the nearest sushi bar in London, the wait time at La Guardia’s security checkpoints or how to say “Where’s the toilet?” in Cantonese?

As Apple’s iTunes App Store continues to grow with hundreds of titles, the iPhone is proving to be a useful travel tool — and not just for when you’re bored on that 18-hour flight to Singapore. The best programs take advantage of the iPhone’s location-aware feature, tailoring the information to your whereabouts. Say you land in Baltimore and you have a sudden craving for crab cakes. With a few taps, iPhone apps with names like Yelp, Urbanspoon and iWant can quickly guide you to Faidley Seafood or Obrycki’s Crab House. Other apps can point you to the cheapest gas station, book a hotel and even call a cab.

Below are some of the handiest apps for travel. Many are free, though some cost from 99 cents to $24.99. Warning: Some apps require data downloads that may incur roaming fees if you’re overseas. To avoid such fees, turn off “Data Roaming” and look for Wi-Fi hot spots.

Getting There A number of airlines are creating mobile-friendly versions of their Web sites, allowing iPhone users to shop for flights, buy tickets, check in, select seats and modify reservations. Now, at least one, British Airways, has a free downloadable iPhone app that makes finding the next red eye to London as easy as flicking your thumb.

Frequent fliers might want to download Flight Status ($3.99). It gives the status of thousands of flights, as well as the arrival gates and baggage carousels. Another app that can be useful for today’s delay-plagued skies is AirportStatus (free). It displays a list of airports in North America with delays or closings.

Travelocity (free) takes an all-in-one approach, letting you check flight schedules, gate numbers, security wait times and — if you booked through Travelocity — your itinerary. The app also lets you search for “Hotels Nearby Me” — a feature that could come in handy in travel emergencies (or, perhaps, for some other purpose).

Where to Eat Looking for a place to nosh on the road? Urbanspoon (free) recommends restaurants in more than 50 cities using the iPhone’s location-aware capability and offers reviews from newspapers, blogs and fellow users. While suggestions (and prices) can be out of date, the fun and easy-to-use app looks like a slot machine and is activated by shaking the phone.

Foodies, however, might prefer Local Eats (99 cents), an iPhone version of the guidebook series “Where the Locals Eat,” which ranks what it considers the top 100 restaurants in 50 American cities. Tapping “Near Me” finds places nearby from that list, along with reservation numbers and directions.
What to Do Need an A.T.M.? Thirsty for a sakitini? Shopping for a Marni purse? Several location-aware apps are vying to be your mobile concierge. Among the best are Yelp (free), which has a fanatical base of reviewers who weigh in on everything from dry cleaners to karaoke bars. Where (free) lets you scroll through different services (like Starbucks, gas stations and restaurants) and plots them on a Google Map, along with your location. And iWant (free) offers a similar service, but in a streamlined interface with clean black-and-white icons: a martini for bars, a projector for movies, a hanger for clothing stores, and so on.

Traditional travel guides are getting into the action, with mixed results. Frommer’s has turned several of its guides, including New York, Paris and London, into iPhone apps ($9.99 each). The e-guides offer many of the same maps, reviews and suggested itineraries as the bulky book. But unlike Yelp, Frommer’s doesn’t take advantage of location-aware technology; you still must look up the suggestions manually, as with a’s City Guide app (free) is smarter; it lets users easily navigate through 2,000 bars and restaurants, many with well-written reviews. Unfortunately, it is limited to the Washington area.

How to say it A handful of apps seek to lower the language barrier. Lonely Planet ($9.99) offers phrasebook apps in 10 languages including Czech, Italian and Vietnamese. In addition to translating phrases like “I’ll buy you a drink,” in written text, the app also translates it verbally (“Te invito a una copa,” it says in Spanish, in a suave male voice).

A different approach is taken by Babelingo ($5.99), which may appeal to those afraid of mangling pronunciations. After choosing a phrase like “Please take me to the airport,” it displays the translation in big bold type, making it easier to show to someone, like a taxi driver. Babelingo offers 300 phrases in seven languages, including Italian, German and Japanese.

How to Get Around Numerous subway and mass-transit apps are available for major cities, with the best offering clean design, location-based station finders and service advisories. Worthwhile apps include CityTransit (for New York City, $2.99), Tube London City ($9.99) and iBart (for the San Francisco area, free).

Taxi! (free) has a yellow cab-inspired design and finds taxi services throughout the United States based on your location. Just tap one of the companies, and the iPhone dials it for you. It also offers user ratings, whether the company accepts credit cards and, according to the App Store’s description, a prescreened list based on hotel referrals.

Cool Tools Until Skype creates an iPhone app, Truphone may be the closest thing. It allows you to make cheap international phone calls over Wi-Fi (about 6 cents a minute to landlines and 30 cents to mobile phones), especially when compared with roaming rates. Some kinks need to be worked out — voice quality can be poor and calls didn’t always go through.

How much is that Chinese wardrobe in dollars? Currency (free) is a frequently updated converter for more than 50 currencies. Easier to use is MOMPF Currency Converter (free), which has a funny-looking cartoon for a mascot, and allows you to easily switch among currencies and to store favorites.

The Vanishing Republican Voter (NY Times)

Monday, September 8th, 2008
[Editor’s note: Following the general election? This NY Times Magazine article by David Frum, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again”, is an informative read with a geographical focus. Thanks Jo!]

[Related content: I published two maps (here and here) in the Washington Post last year showing voter trends and election results in Northern Virginia where the author, David Frum, takes examples. One of the maps uses a hybrid choropleth and point symbolization to solve the problem of small but dense and large but sparse enumeration units found in maps with both urban and rural areas. This technique helps prevent geography from overpowering overall trends in the data.]

I LIVE IN WASHINGTON, in a neighborhood that is home to lawyers, political consultants, television personalities and the chief executive of the TIAA-CREF pension fund. Not exactly an abode of the superrich, but the kind of neighborhood where almost nobody does her own yardwork or vacuums his own floor. Children’s birthday parties feature rented moon bounces or hired magicians. The local grocery stores offer elegant precooked dinners of salmon, duck and artichoke ravioli.

Sophia Martineck

Four miles to the southeast there stretches a different Washington. More than one-third of the people live in poverty. Close to half the young children are overweight. Fewer than half the adults work. The rate of violent crime is more than 10 times that of the leafy streets of my neighborhood.

Measured by money income, Washington qualifies as one the most unequal cities in the United States. Yet these two very different halves of a single city do share at least one thing. They vote the same way: Democratic. And in this, we are not alone. As a general rule, the more unequal a place is, the more Democratic; the more equal, the more Republican. The gap between rich and poor in Washington is nearly twice as great as in strongly Republican Charlotte, N.C.; and more than twice as great as in Republican-leaning Phoenix, Fort Worth, Indianapolis and Anaheim.

My fellow conservatives and Republicans have tended not to worry very much about the widening of income inequalities. As long as there exists equality of opportunity — as long as everybody’s income is rising — who cares if some people get rich faster than others? Societies that try too hard to enforce equality deny important freedoms and inhibit wealth-creating enterprise. Individuals who worry overmuch about inequality can succumb to life-distorting envy and resentment.

All true! But something else is true, too: As America becomes more unequal, it also becomes less Republican. The trends we have dismissed are ending by devouring us.

THE TREND TO INEQUALITY is not new, and it is not confined to the United States. It has manifested itself just about everywhere in the developed world since the late 1970s, and for the same two reasons.

The first reason is the revolution in family life. Not so long ago, most households were home to two adults, one who worked and one who did not. Today fewer than half of America’s households are headed by married couples, and married women usually work. So America and other advanced countries have become increasingly divided between families earning two incomes and those getting by on one at most.

The family revolution coincided with another: a great shift from a national to a planetary division of labor. Inequality within nations is rising in large part because inequality is declining among nations. A generation ago, even a poor American was still better off than most people in China. Today the lifestyles of middle-class Chinese increasingly approximate those of middle-class Americans, while the lifestyles of upper and lower America increasingly diverge. Less-skilled Americans now face hundreds of millions of new wage competitors, while highly skilled Americans can sell their services in a worldwide market.

As long as all Americans were becoming better off, few cared that some Americans were becoming better off than others. But since 2000, something has changed. Incomes at the middle have ceased to rise. The mood of the country has soured. Conservatives who disregard the mood of unease may forfeit their power to defend the more open and productive American economy they did so much to build.

STEP ACROSS THE COUNTY line between Washington and suburban Fairfax County, Va., and you see the forfeiting process at work.

A third of a century ago, Fairfax had only recently evolved from farm country to bedroom community. Some rich families clustered in the village of McLean, where Robert Kennedy had his Hickory Hill estate. Otherwise, Fairfax housed middle-class families looking for inexpensive housing and excellent schools. These middle-class families voted Republican, leading the Old Dominion’s political transition away from its reactionary segregationist past to a modern business-oriented conservatism.

Continue reading at NY Times . . .

SpatialKey: insanely good geovisualization (indiemaps)

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

[Editor’s note: More on commercial Spatial Key visualization system for Flash from Zach Johson via Universal Mind.]

Reprinted from indiemaps blog on 13 Aug. 2008.

I’m [ed-Zach Johnson] a little late on this, so I hope it’s old news to most readers that Universal Mind, where I’ve worked for the past 2 months, just launched a technology preview of theSpatialKey visualization system.  This is a big deal.

Andrew Powell, Doug McCune, and Brandon Purcell have already posted great introductions to SpatialKey, so I won’t go through all that here. But just so’s you know: SpatialKey is a visualization system for geotemporal (location + time) data, developed primarily in Flex, that lets you filter and render thousands of points very quickly, all client-side in your browser.

This is not a formal release. We’re in a technology preview for now, which means you just get to see some sweet examples, but soon we’ll release a version, SpatialKey Personal, into which you can load and visualize your own data. Here are links to three of my favorite examples (for more, check out our Gallery page, or this post on the SpatialKey blog).

As I said, other better introductions have been written on SpatialKey; I just want to focus on a few of my favorite features or attributes.

not a single, do-it-all application

SpatialKey is based around a collection of visualization templates. Each offers a unique view of the data, with specialized visualizations, filters, and UI controls. Since the templates are specialized, each one is pretty easy to learn and begin using.

The examples linked above demonstrate the animation, map comparison, and drill down templates. The fourth template we’re showing off now is the temporal heat index template (here’s an example of that: Sacramento residential burglaries).

chorodot symbolization

You don’t see these much, but I think they’re really effective. The “heat grid” symbolization in SpatialKey is a modern implementation of a technique put forth by Alan MacEachren and David DiBiase in 1991.

Aggregating points to arbitrary but regularly-shaped polygons, or binning, was an extant graphical practice at the time, but the geographic application and their particular methods created an effective cartographic symbology. Other than SpatialKey, I haven’t seen this symbolization in a geographic visualization context, but I think it’s very effective at presenting large datasets that require aggregation. The heat grid symbolization in SpatialKey extends the approach by allowing grid renderings of attributes of the data (like house prices or temperature) in addition to aggregation of the count of points.

chorodot of AIDS cases in Pennsylvania

MacEachran and DiBiase’s example chorodot map of AIDS in Pennsylvania (image from J.B. Krygier’s lecture notes)

grid symbology in SpatialKey, implementation of the chorodot cartographic symbology

SpatialKey grid symbolization showing a data attribute (average home prices) in Sacramento county

small multiples / map comparison

I’ve always been a fan of the small multiples depiction of change, illustrated so well by Edward Tufte in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Envisioning Information. Though the SpatialKey Map Comparison template shows two multiples, it qualifies (and we can easily plug in more maps for specialized templates).

D.C. construction in the SpatialKey Map Comparison template

Both the maps and the time charts are live-linked. Mousing over an area on one of the maps or a bar on one of the time charts reveals the tooltip for both displays, allowing you to easily retrieve specifics for different time periods or areas.

complex temporal filtering and focusing via the heat index chart

The time chart, shown in the first screenshot above, is great for revealing linear temporal trends in a dataset, and for enabling linear filtering. But some datasets evince more complex temporal trends — for example, some crimes may be more common on a certain day of the week and at a certain time of day. Such trends are lost when data is aggregated in a linear fashion to, say, days or weeks.

sex crime arrests in Sacramento

The temporal heat index chart reveals such complex trends and allows filtering by multiple temporal aspects simultaneously (for example, showing only prostitution arrests on Tuesdays between 3 and 4 am).

in closing

I was late to the game on this one, joining Universal Mind in June. SpatialKey was developed by the brilliant team of Doug McCune, Ben Stucki, and Andrew Powell, led by Brandon Purcell and Tom Link, with product manager Mike Connor. It’s a privilege working with such a talented crew.

Our goals for this technology preview are modest (blowing minds, getting feedback), but we’re excited to continue developing SpatialKey and SpatialKey Law Enforcement. And we’ll be releasing updates, new examples, and SpatialKey Personal in the near future. So stay tuned to the SpatialKey blog, and please contact us if you have any feedback on our technology preview.

GBIF data heat maps – Heat maps over Google Maps for Flash (Biodivertido)

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

[Editor’s note: Fascinating proof-of-concept for how to create and display heat-maps in Google Maps for Flash/Flex AS3 using PHP back-end for calculation and Flash for front-end. More information for using Google Maps in Flash CS3 download and reference and tutorial. Similar to some nifty work Zach Johnson is working up at Universal Mind for]

Reprinted from Biodivertido.

Maps like everything else seems to be trendy. And nowadays the sexy thing in mapping is the creation of Heat Maps. The best way to understand what they are is to see them:

You can also take a look at this post from one of my favorite blogs on what is and what is not a heat map.
Well for long time I wanted to give it a try and yesterday I had the time to experiment a bit. The idea was to display GBIF available data as a Heat Map over Google Maps. Here you have an screenshot for Quercus ilex:
And if you want to try for yourself here it is (some usability issue, the search box is on the bottom right corner):
So how does it work? It was actually easier than I expected:
1) Get the data: I am using the so called “Density tables” from GBIF. You can access them through GBIF web services API at . For example in a query like this one for Quercus ilex (of course you need to get the taxonconceptkey from a previous request to the services): 
This works fine but has some problems. The first one is that GBIF goes down almost every evening. Tim can maybe explain why. Thats why I am using the spanish mirror (look at the url) and I recommend you to do the same.
Second problem is the verbosity of the XML schema being used. For downloading the Animalia, well thats the biggest concept you can get probably, the result is 14.1 MB of XML. And thats just to get a list of cellIds (if anybody is interested we can post details about CellIds) with counts on them, exactly an array of 34,871 numbers. Even worst is handling them on a web client like this one, parsing such a huge xml output kills the browser. The GBIF webservices API deserve its own blog post I would say together with Tim.
But what is new is that I have supercow powers on GBIF 😀 I am working for GBIF right now and have access to a test database. In a testing environment I developed a little server app that publish the same density service but using theAMF protocol. I used AMFPHP for this if anybody is interested. There are two good things about using AMF: The output now is around 150 KB for the same thing and AMF is natively supported by Flash so there is no need to be parsed it goes straight into memory as AS3 Objects.
2) Create a Het Map from the data: Once the data is on the client I make use of a Class from Jordi Boggiano called that creates Sprites as the result. In my case I decided to create a Spring, think like an Image, of 1 pixel per cellId creating a 360×180 pixel image (cellId is equivalent to a 1 degree box).
3) Overlay the image on Google Maps: When you have the Sprite, or even earlier but thats too many details, what you do is overlaying in Google Maps for Flash using a GroundOverlay object that takes care of the reprojection and adapting it to the map. The GroundOverlay is explained in the doc as a way to overlay images but it accepts actually any Sprite.
Done! (almost)
4) Ok, there are some problems: Yes, it is not perfect, these are the pending issues:
  • The GroundOverlay seems to not be reprojecting correctly the Sprite I generate and in the very north and south everything is not correctly overlayed.
  • The resolution of the Heat Map is a little bit poor, bu actually represent the quality of the data we have. Some interpolation could be done to make it look nicer.
  • The colours of the Heat Map do not fit well with the actual Google Maps layers. When there is small data then you can not see it almost.
I still dont feel confident with the code to release it yet. I hope I can work a little bit more on it so that i can be proud, but if you desperately need it let me know.
Just another notice. Yesterday Universal Mind released a preview of a new product: Spatial Key. I am always impressed with what this people does and follow the blogs from their developers (like this one and this one). They are kind of my RIA and web GIS heroes. The new product they have released actually look very much like what I wanted to do in Biodiversity Atlas for data anlysis. It lets people explore geographically and temporally huge datasets. Tim suggested me to contact them and I will do. Nevertheless it is great to have such a great tool available to get ideas on interaction design. Good job Universal Mind, you really rock.
We want to see your comments!
Some people asked for different quality settings on the heat map. I have modified the application so that you get now a set of controls to define different quality and drawing options. By default the app tries to figure out depending on the number of occurrences, but maybe thats not the best, depends on how the data is dsitributed. In a final product I think I would NOT provide this functionality to the user, too much for my taste. You know, less is more.

Using Google Maps to Visualize ArcGIS Data & Services (Google Geo Dev. Blog)

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

[Editor’s note: This blog joint blog post from ESRI and Google has examples on how to integrate the new 9.4 features with Google Maps Mashups. This includes all the power of GIS geo-processing leveraged into the Mashup environment. I hope this trend continues with the promised release of a Flash/Flex API for ArcGIS.]

Reprinted from Google Geo Developers Blog. Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hi, I’m Sterling Quinn and I work on the development team for server-based GIS technologies at ESRI in Redlands, California. We’re happy to report that ESRI software users can now expose their GIS in Google Maps through the recently-released ArcGIS JavaScript Extension for the Google Maps API. The extension is built on the Google Maps API and is designed to communicate with ArcGIS Server, ESRI’s product for serving GIS functionality on the Web.

The ArcGIS JavaScript Extension for the Google Maps API allows you to maintain the user-friendly front end of Google Maps while tapping into an advanced GIS on the back end. You can use the extension to display your own maps on top of Google’s, query features in your database and display them on the map, or expose tasks that run GIS analysis models on the server. You can display your results using the Google Maps API’s native graphics engine and info windows.

To learn how to use the ArcGIS JavaScript Extension for the Google Maps API, use the online SDK, which contains basic concepts, an API reference, and examples of how to create custom maps and Mapplets. The examples contain detailed descriptions on how to do things like adding an ArcGIS Server map type button,displaying query results as KML, or running a task on the server to return a route and elevation profile.

Following are some quick links to example Mapplets built with the ArcGIS JavaScript Extension for the Google Maps API. For those of you who don’t know, Mapplets are mini applications that you can add to Google Maps in the “My Maps” tab and are nifty because a user can enable multiple Mapplets at a time.

Cached Map ServiceDisplays an ArcGIS tiled map service over the Google base map.

Census Block QueryRetrieves US Census data from an ArcGIS map service at a point you click and displays it in a series of charts created with the Google Chart API.

Message in a BottleUses an ArcGIS geoprocessing service to tell you where a bottle would drift if you dropped it in the ocean.

Service Area AnalysisUses an ArcGIS geoprocessing service to display drive time polygons from a point you click.

Online maps ‘wiping out history’ (BBC)

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

[Editor’s note: Perhaps a bit alarmist but does point to the changing role of maps from conveyances of static sets of edited knowledge into a digital tabla rasa that displays the “where” of an individual user’s search results. Cultural landmarks that used to be included on maps for spatial orientation and perhaps a bit of boosterism are being left off the initial view. Users now have to know a feature exists before it is shown to them or ask for a certain overlay layer. But perhaps this is a reflection, too, on a society where the mainstream has been turned into 1000 separate channels? Or a jaded appreciation of information overload instead leaves us with a dirth of map information. Perhaps cartographic editors are good, after all. Thanks Curt!]

Reprinted from the BBC.

Internet mapping is wiping the rich geography and history of Britain off the map, the president of the British Cartographic Society has said.

Mary Spence said internet maps such as Google and Multimap were good for driving but left out crucial data people need to understand a landscape.

Mrs Spence was speaking at the Institute of British Geographers conference in London.

Google said traditional landmarks were still mapped but must be searched for.

Ms Spence said landmarks such as churches, ancient woodlands and stately homes were in danger of being forgotten because many internet maps fail to include them.

Ordnance Survey map of central London. BBC licence number 100019855, 2008.

Traditional maps feature landmarks such as museums and art galleries

She said: “Corporate cartographers are demolishing thousands of years of history – not to mention Britain’s remarkable geography – at a stroke by not including them on maps which millions of us now use every day.

“We’re in real danger of losing what makes maps so unique, giving us a feel for a place even if we’ve never been there.”

Projects such as Open Street Map, through which thousands of Britons have contributed their local knowledge to map pubs, landmarks and even post boxes online, are the first step in the fight back against “corporate blankwash”, she added.

Missing landmarks

By way of example, Ms Spence said that if someone walked around the South Kensington area of London, they would encounter landmarks such as the Science Museum, Royal Albert Hall and the Natural History Museum, which could not be found on Google Maps.

Elsewhere, Worcester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey are not on their respective Google Maps.

Mary Spence and Adrian Miles discuss internet mapping

“But it’s not just Google – it’s Nokia, Microsoft, maps on satellite navigation tools. It’s diluting the quality of the graphic image that we call a map.”

Ms Spence believes that the consequence will be long-term damage to future generations of map readers, because this skill is not being taught in schools and people are simply handling “geographical data”.

But Ed Parsons, geospatial technologist at Google, said the way in which people used maps was changing.

He said: “Internet maps can now be personalised, allowing people to include landmarks and information that is of interest to them.

“Anyone can create their own maps or use experiences to collaborate with others in charting their local knowledge.

“These traditional landmarks are still on the map but people need to search for them. Interactive maps will display precisely the information people want, when they want it.

“You couldn’t possibly have everything already pinpointed.”