Clever political mapping from the Brits
Jan 26th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

From Poynter's E-media Tidbits

Posted by Paul Bradshaw 10:48:59 AM
Flash, Database, Mapping: Telegraph Does It with Politics

The Telegraph's U.K. election map: Not just pretty, but potentially very useful.

The Telegraph is making a habit of combining Flash and databases to impressive effect. Their latest project also includes mapping to produce a political map of the U.K. with real depth behind its Flashy appearance.

The Telegraph achieves this with some nifty database connectivity. A click on a particular constituency brings up info about the last election results — not in itself very impressive. However, a tab to the right (see detail below: surely this should be the default?) offers a “public services profile” of how health, education and crime have changed — along with (currently empty) spaces for related articles and links.

If and when this works, it promises the sort of connectivity that has been lacking from so much online journalism. But will they be brave enough to link to reports on other sites?

Other features include the Swingometer (see how different swings affect the results), previous results, and lists of vulnerable seats — all of which are now expected, having been done before by the BBC among others (as I reported in the mists of 2005) — while the links to the latest polls add something extra.

Meanwhile, usability is smooth with postcode search, drop-down, and zoom feature, plus the ability to “mark” an area. editor Marcus Warren says the tool was prepared for last autumn's “'General Election that wasn't.' It would have been ready for the closing weeks of the campaign, but in the end the Prime Minister thought better of going to the country. So we pursued the project at a slightly less breakneck speed and launched in the political 'new year'.

“It's also part of a more general drive, both by us and elsewhere, to drill down to the local level and exploit data relevant to our audience's lives. We also wanted to the tool to be fun. (Originally, for example, the images of the party leaders were caricatures.)”

While acknowledging the influence of the likes of Start Swinging with Peter Snow, Warren says there has been no one model “that made us exclaim: 'We want one of them too.' Like everyone else, we've been keeping an eye on the digital election campaigns in Australia and the U.S., both Google's approach and that of others. World Archipelago has done a great job in building the thing, as have the people here who worked on it.”

The most frustrating thing at the moment about the map is simply the fact that there is no election on yet, which gives the Telegraph team plenty of time to respond to feedback, iron out problems, try new ideas, find out about others through the blogosphere (Warren admits to not being aware of Electoral Calculus until Simon Dickson's post), and be all mysterious about their plans.

As Warren says: “There are lots of clues in there which hint at what else we plan to do with it. And we have other surprises up our sleeve as well.”

For my part I'd like to see some individual RSS feeds and mobile alerts for constituencies, and some tapping into the power of tagging — perhaps automated grabs of delicious bookmarks with clusters of key words in them (or indeed which key words become popular), or getting Telegraph journalists to tag their sources with a particular phrase that is picked up by the engine.

But I'm being fussy. What do you think?


The type of service newspapers should be supplying, but are not.
Jan 24th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

This from O'Reilly Radar.  (Yes, whoever wrote the hed surely meant “travel-time maps”.) 

Dynamic Time-Travel Maps From MySociety and Stamen

london dynamic commute map

UK-based non-profit MySociety teamed up with Stamen Design to develop some innovative time-travel maps. The snapshot of the map that you see above shows where you can live in London with a commute between 30 to 60 minutes where the median house price is over £230, 000. As you adjust the sliders, the map changes in realtime letting you adjust the commute times from 0 up to 90 minutes and the housing price from 0 to £990,00. The Department of Transportation, who requested the work, is the map's center (and basis for the commute times).

You can try out the map after the jump. They also made dynamic maps with the Olympic Stadium and the BBC as the center.

london commute map

These maps are an update of Chris Lightfoot's 2006 Time Travel project. The focus of that project was how to present commute time data (see a static commute map of London with contour lines at half-hour intervals to the right). This version (2007) they focused on making them interactive. The mapping data comes from Open Street Map (converted from the Ordinance Survey data used in 2006) .

MySociety is a tech-centric non-profit that focuses on making websites for the civic good and teaching others about the internet. Some of their previous projects have had a more political bent to them. TheyWorkForYou was their first project. It's a searchable site that provides British citizens a way to find out what is happening in the parliament. Their most recent site, FixMyStreet, provides neighborhoods with tools to discuss local problems.

To generate the maps MySociety screen scraped the Transport Direct website. At first they would query for the routes at each public transport stop. With this method Cardiff took 4 hours and 15 minutes to generate. Next they tried parallel screen scraping and got the time to generate Cardiff down to 45 minutes. They estimate that with a better algorithm they can get it down to 15 minutes. 15 minutes is a long time to wait for a map.

In the future they want to make these maps generated on the fly for users. This would require direct access to the data (Google Maps, MySociety estimates, with their lightning fast routing servers and direct access to the data would only take 2 minutes to generate Cardiff). To achieve this MySociety is considering building a client app or getting dedicated servers from Transport Direct (as this was a government-sponsored project anything is possible).

Time is a difficult thing to represent on maps, but will become more common in the future. Should it be a loop? (Like the Stamen project Trulia Hindsight, where 20th century housing data is shown (Radar post)) Or should it be sliders? (Like this project) Or more like a video? (Google Earth lets you “play” your GPS tracks.) We'll explore this more at Where 2.0.


So just how much are those guys making, anyway?
Jan 4th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

The editorial team at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker tipped us off to a potentially valuable link from the SEC.  While we find that the site is still short on data, we assume it will be filling up as various corporate reports are filed.  Check out:

New from the SEC: Internet Tool With Instant Comparisons of Executive Pay

Chairman Cox Unveils New Internet Tool With Instant Comparisons of Executive Pay

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox today launched the first-ever online tool that enables investors to easily and instantly compare what 500 of the largest American companies are paying their top executives. The new database highlights the power of interactive data to transform financial disclosure.

The Executive Compensation Reader – available today on the SEC’s Web site at – builds on the Commission’s new requirements that went into effect earlier this year to dramatically enhance clarity and completeness of executive compensation disclosure.

By tagging the executive compensation figures in XBRL, the computer language of interactive data, the SEC has created a new online tool to help investors more efficiently view Summary Compensation Tables and certain other data in the proxy statements of large companies. Investors can quickly glimpse the total annual pay as well as dollar amounts for salary, bonus, stock, options and company perks. They can instantly compare those executive compensation figures with other companies by sorting according to industry or size.

The SEC’s new Web tool includes information in XBRL for 500 large companies that have filed proxy statements with the Commission. The new tool includes direct links to companies’ proxy statements, including footnotes and the companies’ explanation of their compensation decisions.

Direct to Executive Pay Finder

Source: U.S. Security and Exchange Commission


The Dataweb and the DataFeret
Jan 3rd, 2008 by Tom Johnson

Marylaine Block's always informative “Neat New Stuff” [Neat New Stuff I Found This Week at] tipped us to the DataWeb site and its interesting tool, the Data Feret (or “dataferet”).

“TheDataWeb is a network of online data libraries that the DataFerrett application accesses the data through. Data topics include, census data, economic data, health data, income and unemployment data, population data, labor data, cancer data, crime and transportation data, family dynamics, vital statistics data, . . . As a user, you have an easy access to all these kinds of data. As a participant in TheDataWeb, you can publish your data to TheDataWeb and, in turn, benefit as a provider to the consumer of data.”

What is the DataFerrett?
DataFerrett is a unique data mining and extraction tool. DataFerrett allows you to select a databasket full of variables and then recode those variables as you need. You can then develop and customize tables. Selecting your results in your table you can create a chart or graph for a visual presentation into an html page. Save your data in the databasket and save your table for continued reuse. DataFerrett helps you locate and retrieve the data you need across the Internet to your desktop or system, regardless of where the data resides. DataFerrett:
* lets you receive data in the form in which you need it (whether it be extracted to an ascii, SAS, SPSS, Excel/Access file); or
* lets you move seamlessly between query, analysis, and visualization of data in one package;
* lets data providers share their data easier, and manage their own online data.
DataFerrett Desktop IconDataFerrett runs from the application icon installed on your desktop.

Check it out at


JAGIS at The University of Hong Kong
Dec 16th, 2007 by Tom Johnson

What have we here? Cooperation between two academic departments in the same university? Largely unheard of in most schools, but it has happened with positive results in Hong Kong.

23 Nov 2007

Power Distribution of the Four Political Camps, Seeing the 2007 District Council Election Results with Maps

The Department of Geography and the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of The University of Hong Kong (HKU) announced today (November 23) an analysis of results of the 2007 District Council Election of four political camps from the spatial perspective.

Dr. P.C. Lai, Associate Professor of the Department of Geography, and her team applied the Geographic Information System (GIS) to analyze results of the District Council Election. The GIS technology was used to explore the power re-distribution of the four political camps or affiliations – pro-government, pro-democrat, moderate (Liberal Party) and independent candidates – of the said election. [more]

Radio does mapping. Mapping????
Dec 16th, 2007 by Tom Johnson

Who says radio can't do stories on something as image-rich as maps. 

See this from NPR: 

'Cartographia' Showcases Maps as History, Art

Listen Now [16 min 56 sec] add to playlist

   “A map is a dream, an idea, an action, an emblem of human endeavor. It instigates adventures… Careful perceptions of our surroundings have always been matters of life and death.”

From Vincent Virga's 'Cartographia'


Talk of the Nation, December 12, 2007 · Vincent Virga's Cartographia is a rare collection of 250 color maps and illustrations drawn from the world's largest cartographic collection at the Library of Congress. The collection spans everything from maps of ancient Mesopotamia, to maps of Columbus' discoveries, to contemporary satellite images and maps of the human genome.

Virga says that maps are like time machines — they reveal as much about the society that created them as they do about the geography of the places they describe.

Virga discusses the collection, which he culled from the Library of Congress' millions of maps and tens of thousands of atlases.

“Maps always have and always will help us communicate our physical, mental, and spiritual journeys,” Virga says.



Good U.S. population data and mapping GUI
Dec 13th, 2007 by Tom Johnson

A good tip comes our way from the Librarians' Internet Index, which is something of a venerable digital resource these days.  Social Explorer has put a good front end on census data and generates dynamic maps.  There is a fair amount of free material, but a subscription fee is necessary to slice and dice data to meet your specific needs.  Still, the price isn't too high for what you get if you're in an organization kicking out a lot of maps.  (Wow, where was this tool when, 40+ years ago, we were trying to figure out the best location for Volkswagen dealerships?)

Social Explorer
View item detail

Comment to LII

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This site “provides easy access to demographic information about the United States, from 1940 to 2000,” by featuring “thousands of maps and hundreds of reports with thousands of variables.” Includes interactive census maps (showing population, age, race, occupation, and other factors) and related reports. Additional features are available for a fee.


LII Item:


Crime Mapping Conference – Call for Papers
Dec 10th, 2007 by Tom Johnson

The 9th Crime Mapping Research Conference has issued its Call for Papers for the 2008 conference. The deadline is January 18, 2008. Feel free to pass the information along to your colleagues.
All of the important information is on NIJ's Crime Mapping website–
Call for Presentations–
Call for Workshops–

And even if you're not inclined to give a presentation, it's a great conference.

If you're really serious about searching….
Dec 5th, 2007 by Tom Johnson

Deep Web Research 2008

Bots, Blogs and News Aggregators is a keynote presentation that I have been delivering over the last several years, and much of my information comes from the extensive research that I have completed over the years into the “invisible” or what I like to call the “deep” web. The Deep Web covers somewhere in the vicinity of 900 billion pages of information located through the world wide web in various files and formats that the current search engines on the Internet either cannot find or have difficulty accessing. Search engines currently locate approximately 20 billion pages.

In the last several years, some of the more comprehensive search engines have written algorithms to search the deeper portions of the world wide web by attempting to find files such as .pdf, .doc, .xls, ppt, .ps. and others. These files are predominately used by businesses to communicate their information within their organization or to disseminate information to the external world from their organization. Searching for this information using deeper search techniques and the latest algorithms allows researchers to obtain a vast amount of corporate information that was previously unavailable or inaccessible. Research has also shown that even deeper information can be obtained from these files by searching and accessing the “properties” information on these files.

This article and guide is designed to give you the resources you need to better understand the history of the deep web research, as well as various classified resources that allow you to search through the currently available web to find those key sources of information nuggets only found by understanding how to search the “deep web”.

This Deep Web Research 2008 article is divided into the following sections:



A rich learning opportunity
Nov 14th, 2007 by Tom Johnson

We're big fans of the breakthroughs in applied GIS being done by crime analysists and the legal system broadly defined.  In fact, I would say that the conferences of these professionals are second only to the ESRI International Users Conference for new ideas and take-it-to-the-street learning.  So if you live near New Orleans — no matter what your profession — check this out.

The call for presentations and workshops for the 2008 Crime Mapping Research Conference is now posted.  The conference will take place September 17-20, 2008 at the Sheraton New Orleans.

Submission forms are available on the MAPS website:

Forms are also available in MS Word format. 

Please send completed forms back to , no later than January 18, 2008 (7pm EST).  We will inform you of final decisions no later than April 1, 2008.


Katie Filbert

Research Associate (contractor)

National Institute of Justice, MAPS Program

810 7th St, NW, Washington DC 20531

Tel: 202-305-7530

Fax: 202-616-0275



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