Teaching Spatial Thinking
Jun 22nd, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Discovered a new, online resource for teaching spatial thinking today while attending the UCGIS Summer Assembly here in Santa Fe. Take a lookat

About TeachSpatial implements suggestions from a multi-disciplinary Symposium on a Curriculum for Spatial Thinking. The symposium, organized by Diana Sinton, Mike Goodchild, and Don Janelle, was hosted by the University of Redlands in June 2008. Its purpose was to discuss the merits and content of a general curriculum course on spatial thinking. One of its recommendations was to establish a wiki site to promote the discussion and sharing of resources among instructors.

Participants in the Redlands meeting were Kate Beard-Tisdale (Spatial Information Science Engineering, Maine), Marcia Castro (Global Health and Population, Harvard), Jeremy Crampton (Geosciences, Georgia State), Phil Gersmehl, Geography, CUNY Hunter), Mike Goodchild and Don Janelle (spatial@ucsb), John Kantner (School of Advanced Field Studies, Santa Fe), Steve Marshak (Geology, Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Jo-Beth Mertens (Economics, Hobart and William Smith), and Diana Sinton (Spatial Curriculum, Redlands).

What you can do here

    • Create an account and contribute. Account setup is automated and fast and your email address is kept private.
    • Once logged in, you can subscribe to content types (blogs, links, discussions, etc.) to get emails announcing new postings — do this from your My Account page
    • From the “Create Content” page you can post:
      • schemas (e.g., models and representations) to help link concepts into broader frameworks of spatial reasoning
      • teaching resources (syllabi, lesson plans, exercises, examples of student work, etc.)
      • links of interest to this community



New levels of data aggregation
Jun 2nd, 2009 by analyticjournalism

We've been noticing since the first of the year the results of some very creative and sometime brilliant aggregation sites. (Do we need a new phrase for this format?)  These sites are richer than Google mash-ups in that they allow far more control by the user.  Some, like or, also require various degrees of data entry by the user, sometimes with with a surprising degree of detail, both personal and specific.   Mapumental, below, pushes the limits of this evolution.

mySociety blog » Say hello to Mapumental

By Tom Steinberg on Monday, June 1st, 2009

We’ve been hinting for a while about a secret project that we’re working on, and today I’m pleased to be able to take the wraps off Mapumental. It’s currently in Private Beta but invites are starting to flow out.

Built with support from Channel 4’s 4IP programme, Mapumental is the culmination of an ambition mySociety has had for some time – to take the nation’s bus, train, tram, tube and boat timetables and turn them into a service that does vastly more than imagined by traditional journey planners.

In its first iteration it’s specially tuned to help you work out where else you might live if you want an easy commute to work.

Francis Irving, the genius who made it all work, will post on the immense technical challenge overcome, soon. My thanks go massively to him; to Stamen, for their lovely UI, and to Matthew, for being brilliant as always.

Words don’t really do Mapumental justice, so please just watch the video 🙂 Update: Now available here in HD too

Also new: We’ve just set up a TheyWorkForYou Patrons pledge to help support the growth and improvement of that site. I can neither confirm nor deny that pledgees might get invites more quickly than otherwise 😉

Amazon Hosts TIGER Mapping Data
May 30th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

 From O'Reilly Radar….

Amazon Hosts TIGER Mapping Data

Posted: 29 May 2009 09:18 AM PDT

Last week at Ignite Where Eric Gundersen of Development Seed made a significant announcement for geohackers looking for easy access to open geodata. Amazon will be hosting a copy of TIGER data on EC2 as an EBS (Elastic Block Storage). Eric stated that this happened during the Apps For America contest in 2008 when they need open geo data for their entry Stumble Safely (which maps crime against bars).

amazon hosts tiger data

Amazon is now hosting allUnited States TIGER Census data in its cloud. We just finished moving 140 gigs of shapefiles of U.S. states, counties, districts, parcels, military areas, and more over to Amazon. This means that you can now load all of this data directly onto one of Amazon’s virtual machines, use the power of the cloud to work with these large data sets, generate output that you can then save on Amazon’s storage, and even use Amazon’s cloud to distribute what you make.

Let me explain how this works. The TIGER data is available as an EBS storeEBS, or Elastic Block Storage, which is essentially a virtual hard drive. Unlike S3, there isn’t a separate API for EBS stores and there are no special limitations. Instead an EBS store appears just like an external hard drive when it’s mounted to an EC2 instance, which is a virtual machine at Amazon. You can hook up this public virtual disk to your virtual machine and work with the data as if it’s local to your virtual machine – it’s that fast.

The TIGER Data is one of the first Public Data Sets to be moved off of S3 and switched to an EBS. By running as an EBS users can mount the EC2 instance as a drive and easily run their processes (like rendering tiles with Mapnik) with the data remotely. If you're a geo-hacker this makes a rich set of Geo data readily available to you without consuming your own storage resources or dealing with the normally slow download process.

I love the idea of Amazon's Public Data Sets. It's an obvious win-win scenario. The public is able to get access to rich data stores at a relatively cheap price and Amazon is able to lure said public onto their service. Smart.


Where '09: Jack Dangermond, "Realizing Spatial Intelligence on the GeoWeb"
May 27th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

“Where 09” is a fine conference put on by O'Reilly Publishing. At this year's conference, Jack Dangermond, honcho at ESRI, talked about “Realizing Spatial Intelligence on the GeoWeb.” Take note of how he and a colleague use a command in Google Maps – “Greeley: mapservers”  — to call up a bunch of map servers and their files for, in this case, Greeley, Colo.

That's a neat search tool that may give you quite mixed results depending on how GIS hip your local governments are.  It seems to work for many non-U.S. cities, too.  For example, “Amsterdam: mapserver” returned good results, but nothing for Mexico City or Berlin.  Still,  we think the search tool. while young, has a lot of promise, especially if you can find the time to drill down into the metadata for individual maps.

For the Dangermond presentation (15 min) go to:  

Crime mapping conference in New Orleans
May 26th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Great opportunity for learning if one is in the New Orleans area.


The Tenth Crime Mapping Research Conference  

Solving Problems with Geography and Technology

Solutions to crime and public safety problems are necessarily about “where.” Those solutions are a combination of research, practice, technology and policy that provides a full perspective of the breadth and depth of a problem and the results of its solution. The application of geographic principles to these problems has come into the mainstream as the reemergence of geography has become a primary component in solving problems.


Advancements in geographic-based technologies have brought a better understanding of crime, more efficient deployment of public safety resources and more critical examination of criminal justice policies. This is due to the reciprocation that occurs between research and practice, often resulting in better technology. Research provides a foundation of theories. Practice operationalizes the theories through technology. Policy decisions are then enacted with a more precise focus based on research and practical demonstration. Geography has been the constant in the expansion of each of these areas, and technology has been the facilitator.


The Crime Mapping Research Conference is not just about presenting where crime is. The conference is about understanding crime and public safety and their effect on community. It represents a range of research findings, practical applications, technology demonstrations and policy results.


Indieprojector Makes it Easy to Map Your Geographical Data
May 21st, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Clipped from FlowingData…. 

Indieprojector Makes it Easy to Map Your Geographical Data

Posted: 21 May 2009 12:37 AM PDT

Axis Maps recently released indieprojector, a new component to indiemapper, their in-development mapping project to “bring traditional cartography into the 21st century.” Indieprojector lets you import KML and shapefiles and easily reproject your data into a selection of popular map projections. No longer do you have to live within the bounds of a map that makes Greenland look the same size as Africa.

Indieprojector was built by Axis Maps as the smarter, easier, more elegant way to reproject geographical data. It's platform independent, location independent and huge-software-budget independent. Indiemapper closes the gap between data and map by taking a visual approach to projections. See your data. Make your map. For the first time ever, it's just that simple.

Not only can you map your data; more importantly, you can also export your map in SVG format, which you can in turn edit in Adobe Illustrator or some other tool.

For those who frequently deal with geographical data and want something simpler than the big GIS packages, Axis Maps' indiemapper is a project to keep an eye on.

Google Launches Maps Data API
May 21st, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Google Launches Maps Data API

Posted by O'Reilly Radar : 20 May 2009 11:27 AM PDT

The crowd at Where 2.0 was expecting an API announcement and Google delivered one. Lior Ron and Steve Lee announced their Maps Data API, a service for hosting geodata. As they describe it on the site:

What is it?

The Google Maps Data API allows client applications to view, store and update map data in the form of Google Data API feeds using a data model of features (placemarks, lines and shapes) and maps (collections of features).

Why Use the Google Maps Data API?

  • Storage scales simply with usage. You shouldn't have to worry about maintaining a data store to build a cool Google Maps mashup. Focus on building the client, and we'll provide hosting and bandwidth for free.
  • Geodata is accessible across platforms and devices. With many client libraries and clients, accessing stored geodata is possible from anywhere, whether it's on the web, a mobile phone, a 3D application, or even a command line.
  • Realtime geodata requires realtime indexing. For a lot of geographic content, freshness is important. Geodata from the Google Maps Data API can be instantly indexed and made searchable in Google Maps.
  • Rendering geodata is better and faster with the right tools. Through JavaScript, Flash, 3D, static images and more, we'll continue to provide better ways to render your content to meet platform and latency demands.

Google is launching with some sample apps:

  • My Maps Editor for Android allows users to create and edit personalized maps from an Android mobile phone. Integration with the phone's location and camera makes it easy to document a trip with photos and text on a map.
  • ConnectorLocal is a service that informs users about the places where they live, work and visit by gathering trusted hyperlocal information from many sources. Using the Google Maps Data API, ConnectorLocal makes it easy for users to import and export geodata in and out of Google Maps, and also improves their ability to have data indexed in Google Maps for searching.
  • My Tracksenables Android mobile phone users to record GPS tracks and view live statistics while jogging, biking, or participating in other outdoor activities. Stored with Google Maps Data API, these tracks can be accessed, edited and shared using the My Maps feature in Google Maps.
  • Platial, a social mapping service for people and places, uses the Google Maps API to host geodata for community maps on both Platial and Frappr.

Geo data can get very large very quickly. Serving it can get expensive. This Data API will help NGOs, non-profits and developers make their data available without breaking the bank. Google's goals for doing this are obvious. If the data is on their servers they can index it easier and make it readily available to their users. There will be concern that Google will have too much of their data, but as long as Google does not block other search engines and allows developers to remove their data I think that this will be a non-issue.

The crowd was hoping for a formal Latitude API to be announced (knowing that they launched the hint of one at the beginning of May). When I asked Lior and Steve about it we got some smiles. I think we'll see some more movement in this area, but not *just* yet.

Swine flu alert! News/Death ratio: 8176
May 13th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Here is another example of why journos need some training in basic math and statistics.

Thanks to Chris Feola for tipping us to this:

 Swine flu alert! News/Death ratio: 8176

About this Video

During the last 13 days, up to May 6, WHO has confirmed that 25 countries are affected by the Swine flu and 31 persons have died from Swine flu. WHO data indicates that about 60 000 persons died from TB during the same period. By a rough comparison with the number of news reports found by Google news search, Hans Rosling calculates a News/Death ratio and issue an alert for a media hype on Swine flu and a neglect of tuberculosis.


WHO TB data available at

WHO Swine Flu data available at

OK, it's just fun (but still something that will draw readers)
May 12th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

From… “Geographers from Kansas State University map the spatial distribution of the seven deadly sins in the United States. These types of maps are always kind of iffy as they draw from data from various sources gathered with different methods and usually use some kind of researcher-defined metric. Still interesting though… right? ”

Maps of the Seven Deadly Sins



Doig pegs inaugural crowd at 800k
Jan 21st, 2009 by analyticjournalism

 As a follo on his MSNBC story related to crowd counting, IAJ co-director Steve Doig crunched the numbers using some essentially real-time images.

Professor estimates crowds with satellite image

01-21-09 Obama

President Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, January 20, 2009. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An ASU journalism professor using satellite images calculated that 800,000 people attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony.

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor Stephen Doig calculated the official inauguration crowd estimate after analyzing a GeoEye-1 satellite image shot at 11:19 a.m. from a height of 423 miles. GeoEye-1 is a military-controlled satellite.

Doig said the image was taken 40 minutes before Obama’s swearing-in, but adjusted his estimation to include people who were still coming in before the swearing-in.

“The space-based image is fascinating because all the low-level shots make you think the crowd is much larger,” Doig said. “You see the very dense clots of people in front of the Jumbotrons but then the wide open spaces elsewhere.”

Doig originally tried to calculate the crowd size through a camera hanging from a balloon 700 feet off the ground.

The balloon was operated from the ground by a company called Digital Design & Imaging Service. The Virginia-based company specializes in taking scenic pictures for planning projects of architects and developers.

Company president Curt Westergard asked Doig to calculate the amount of people at the inauguration from an image the camera took.

The camera initially went up at 4:50 a.m. and took its last photo at 7:30 a.m. MST.

Westergard said the camera was intended to take a picture two hours before the inauguration began, but because of George Bush’s early arrival and temporary flight restrictions, officials had the balloon come down earlier than expected.

Doig said one of the issues with the camera was the clarity of the vantage point. He said that is the reason why he was unable to calculate the crowd size.

“It was a beautiful photo but useless for crowd counting because it was not a clear photo,” Doig said.

Jody Brannon, national director of the Carnegie-Knight News21 Journalism Initiative, said technology has become a tool to help journalists report fairly and responsibly.

“For this historic event, not only is technology now available to help with accuracy, but Steve is a specialist experienced in reporting on crowds,” Brannon said in an e-mail. “So it’s a double-win to help chronicle history with great precision.”

Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, said Doig’s involvement in measuring the crowd size is significant.

“Steve is one of the real stars in understanding how data and journalism fit together,” Gillmor said in an e-mail. “So it makes perfect sense for him to be involved with this.”

Gillmor said aerial imagery has become a useful tool when making crowd estimates.

“In the past, we’ve had deliberate over- and under estimating of crowds to fit political agendas,” Gillmor said. “If technology can help us be more accurate, all the better.”


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