A recap of Where 2.0: The conference for all things location-aware

April 29th, 2011

[Editor's note: Expanded version of my post for The Washington Post's @innovations blog.]

We use maps to show readers the “where” in our stories. But beyond simply locating the places mentioned in text, maps can create a larger narrative by adding context and showing trends (or animating the path of Friday’s royal wedding parade).

Krissy Clark, a reporter for KQED Public Radio in Los Angeles, summed up the “where” from the journalist’s perspective in her plenary talk at the Where 2.0 Conference last week in Santa Clara, Calif., “Stories Everywhere”:

The Where 2.0 Conference bills itself as a source for all things location-aware, or geo. Sessions explored the intersection of location technologies and trends in software development, business strategies and marketing.

The buzzword this year was “serendipity” — using customers’ locations, especially with mobile apps, to create experiences that delight them by providing them with relevant, unexpected information based on their locations (to paraphrase Jeff Jarvis).

More nerdy details after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Natural Earth version 1.3 released

January 31st, 2011

When Natural Earth relaunched in December 2009 with updated raster and new vector data our aim was two fold: First, to give cartographers an off-the-shelf solution for creating small-scale world, regional and country maps from scratch. Second, we included a wealth of features both large and small in hopes of improving the overall geographic literacy of map readers. Since then, we’ve taken Natural Earth on an around-the-world road show and January 2011 saw our 150,000th direct download and 500,000th pageview. We even made it into Wikipedia, were featured in PrettyMaps, and power some of the goodness behind Google Fusion Tables. With today’s 1.3 release, we add a couple newly independent countries, better delineate the world’s states and provinces, and make a whole host of corrections and additions to the original dataset, detailed below. Please continue to use these fine map ingredients to make great web and print geo mashups. Bon appetit.

Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Tom Patterson

Continue reading and download the updated files at NaturalEarthData.com »

    New Flickr shapefile public dataset 2.0 (find the esri type .shp here)

    January 18th, 2011

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    An updated version of the Flickr shapefile public dataset (2.0) was released last week. From nils official post:

    … We haven’t completely forgotten about shapefiles and have finally gotten around to generating a new batch (read about Alpha Shapes to find out how it’s done). When Aaron did the first run we had somewhere around ninety million (90M) geotagged photos. Today we have over one hundred and ninety million (190M) and that number is growing rapidly. Of course lots of those will fall within the boundaries of the existing shapes and won’t give us any new information, but some of them will improve the boundaries of old shapes, and others will help create new shapes where there weren’t any before. Version 1 of the dataset had shapes for around one hundred and eighty thousand (180K) WOE IDs, and now we have shapes for roughly two hundred and seventy thousand (270K) WOE IDs. Woo. The dataset is available for download today, available for use under the Creative Commons Zero Waiver.

    True to it’s claim, the version 2.0 release brings added fidelity on existing shapes (they are becoming more conformal to the features’ true geographic shape as more human sensors perambulate) and surveys some more cities and significantly more neighborhoods. From a data analytics perspective, I wish the new version had the summary photo count and centroid XY per feature of the 1.0 version. But very excited to see a new version released! Image above by Aaron Straup CopeMore coverage of things Flickr on Kelso’s Corner »

    While the dataset is distributed in GeoJSON format, that isn’t accessible to everyone so I’ve mirrored an ESRI Shapefile version of the Flickr Shapefile Public Dataset 2.0 with this blog post (~60 mb). Details on how I did the conversion after the jump.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Historical Metropolitan Populations of the United States (Peakbagger)

    January 13th, 2011

    [Editor's note: Chart shows US populations since 1790. I especially enjoy the appendix table: Peak Years for Cities that have Declined in Rank.]

    Republished from Peakbagger.com

    The graph and tables on this page attempt to show how the urban hierarchy of the United States has developed over time. The statistic used here is the population of the metropolitan area (contiguous urbanized area surrounding a central city), not the population of an individual city. Metropolitan area population is much more useful than city population as an indicator of the size and importance of a city, since the official boundaries of a city are usually arbitrary and often do not include vast suburban areas. For example, in 2000 San Antonio was the 10th largest city in the U.S., larger than Boston or San Francisco, but its Metro Area was only ranked about 30th. The same thing was happening even back in 1790: New York was the biggest single city, but Philadelphia plus its suburbs of Northern Liberties and Southwark made it the biggest metro area.

    Continue reading at Peakbagger . . .

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    7 Billion People in Kinetic Typography

    January 4th, 2011

    Very cool motion graphic promo for National Geographic’s new year-long series, via Kat and seen at BrainPickings.

    Ascension Island: Like Easter Island, Ascension Island has lessons for the planet—cheerful ones (Economist)

    January 3rd, 2011

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    [Editor's note: Fun geo writeup of that spot of rock in the Atlantic near St. Helena. Thanks Derek!]

    AT THE top of Green Mountain, the central peak of Ascension Island, there is a small pond, dotted with lilies, shadowed to one side by the fronds of a pandan tree. It is the only open body of fresh water on the island—and for a thousand kilometres in any direction. Around Dew Pond grows a grove of towering bamboo, beyond which the trade winds blow incessantly from the south-east. Within the grove the air is still and damp.

    Along the trailing ridge of the summit are fig trees, Cape yews and a garland of remarkably vigorous ginger. Below, on the mountain’s lee side, trees and shrubs from all parts of the world spread down the hillside to a landscape of casuarina trees—ironwood, or she-oak—and thorny chaparral around its base. Even on the bleaker windward slope, grasses and sedges are dotted with Bermuda cedar and guava bushes. Above, the bamboo scratching at their bellies, are the clouds the trade winds bring; some days they cover the mountain top.

    Once seen as too dry to be worth inhabiting, Ascension Island is becoming greener at an increasing rate. People are responsible. In part, their contribution was unwitting: the thorny mesquite that anchors a lot of the island’s scrub was introduced for a landscaping project just 50 years ago. But the forest on the peak of Green Mountain represents a deliberate attempt to change the island’s climate to make it more habitable. It is the centrepiece of a small but startling ecological transformation which is part experiment and part accident, part metaphor and part inspiration.

    Ascension was discovered by the Portuguese in 1501. Just to the west of the mid-ocean ridge that separates South America’s tectonic plate from Africa’s, it is the top of a volcano which rises steeply from abyssal plains more than four kilometres below the surface of the ocean. The volcano made it above that surface only a million or so years ago, since when the island has grown to about 100 square kilometres. Before people arrived it was home to just a flightless bird, a land crab and no more than 30 species of plant, none as big as a bush. It was so barren and isolated that during the following three centuries of assiduous empire-building neither the Portuguese nor any other nation bothered to claim it. When Captain Cook passed by in 1775, Georg Forster—later to become renowned for his accounts of exploration—wrote it off as a “ruinous heap of rocks”, drearier even than Tierra del Fuego and Easter Island. But Forster’s naturalist father Johann saw something more promising:

    Continue reading at The Economist . . .

    “Joy of Stats” from BBC4 featuring Hans Rosling

    January 3rd, 2011

    Now on YouTube! This hour long documentary “takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power they have to change our understanding of the world, presented by superstar boffin Professor Hans Rosling, whose eye-opening, mind-expanding and funny online lectures have made him an international internet legend.” BBC4

    What if the largest countries had the biggest populations?

    November 22nd, 2010

    Created by Reddit user JPalmz, this cartogram-like graphic uses the country shapes from a normal world map but relabels them according to population ranking. Click on image for larger version.

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    Live election results map from The Washington Post

    November 2nd, 2010

    Looking for live results and post-election wrap up? Look no further than The Washington Post »

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