CNN uses satpics to show inaugural crowd in mall
Jan 20th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Satellite shows mall crowd 2:44 A Geo-Eye image for CNN shows ant-like people crowding the Mall in Washington. CNN's John King reports.

But wait! There's more, thanks to Gary Price:

“Satellite company GeoEye is now live with a satellite image (half-meter) of the National Mall taken this morning. You can also download/save a hi-res version of the image. Image here with publishing guidelines: Hi-Res image here:

Google's investment in mapping technologies
Dec 17th, 2008 by analyticjournalism

From O'Reilly's Radar:

GeoData Explorations: Google's Ever-Expanding Geo Investment

Posted: 16 Dec 2008 02:40 PM CST

Google has been investing lots of money in geodata acquisition. Some of the money is being spent externally: they've inked an exclusive satellite imagery deal with GeoEye (Radar post) and a data sharing deal Tele Atlas (Radar post). And some is being spent internally with Mapmaker, Street View and the web. Over the past week Google has been sharing visualizations of their internally gathered geodata. Here's a round-up of them.

google street view

The image above was released on December 9th. It shows how much of the US is available via Street View. According to the post Street View imagery increased 22 fold around the world in 2008.

google mapmaker viz

The dark image above was released on December 11th. It highlights the parts of the world that are being mapped on Google's Mapmaker by users (Radar post). Mapmaker is now live in 164 countries. According to the map it has gained the most traction in Africa and the Indian sub-continent. The Google Mapmaker team has released timelapse videos of Mapmaker building cities on the Mapmaker YouTube Channel. I've embedded one after the jump.

google georss kml

This final image shows all the points described by GeoRSS and KML all over the world. It was shown at Where 2.0 2007 by Michael Jones (video). Unsurprisingly, this image and the Mapmaker image show opposite data density concentrations.

In some more GeoData Explorations posts this week I will look at OSM vs Google and some surprising trends in KML.

This timelapse video of Da Lat, Vietnam being created is one of the most impressive. It shows a town and lake emerge from a blank slate.


GPS, mapping and Economic Development in your town
Dec 17th, 2008 by analyticjournalism

 Colleague Owen Densmore points us to this page with these comments:

This use of gps may play a role in understanding economic development in any city by watching the flows within the city:

This gets me to an aspect of ED I'm interested: MicroED.  It comes from the observation that all cities' ED is unique.  Think about every city you've lived in and you'll notice that each was unique.  For me, Rochester NY: Kodak/Xerox company towns; Silicon Valley: A network of startups and established companies with a highly mobile social/skill network.  Here in Santa Fe, we are similarly unique.

I think this is core: discover your unique environment and capitalize on improving it through managing it.  Data farming your city.  Graph its flows.

   — Owen


GPS City Tracks: 1 Year in 24 Hours via Google Earth

GPS tracks can show the 'life' of a city, which parts of the city are working, areas that are no go zones and sections dedicated to shopping, work, entertainment etc. The possibilities for using GPS data to examine our cities 'health' are intriguing which turns us to the work by Fabian over at

The movie below illustrates Fabian's paths around the city of Plymouth over 365 days, compressed and visualised in Google Earth:

plymouth365_24H_duration from urbanTick on Vimeo.

Google Earth is an excellent tool for displaying GPS data, especially over time, we are just starting to look into other options, perhaps After Effects – any thoughts or ideas for visualising GPS tracks over time would be great…

See for more movies and examples on visualising GPS tracks in the city.


Explore and Analyze Geographic Data with UUorld
Dec 8th, 2008 by analyticjournalism

Another good pointer from Nathan at Flowing Data:

Explore and Analyze Geographic Data with UUorld

Posted by Nathan / Dec 8, 2008 to Mapping / Add your comment

Explore and Analyze Geographic Data with UUorld

UUorld (pronounced “world”) is a 4-dimensional mapping tool that lets you explore geographic data – the fourth dimension being time. The interface will remind you a bit of Google Earth with the map, pan, zoom, etc, however, UUorld isn't trying to replace Google Earth. In fact, it'll probably be better if you use it with Google Earth. Think of it as another tool to add to your box of mapping toys.

UUorld's focus is on finding trends over space and time. Load your own data or import data from UUorld's data portal, and then play it out over time. Spatial boundaries undulate up and down as land masses look a bit like skyscrapers. Color and boundary lines are customizable. When you're satisfied with the results, record it as video or export as KML, and then import into Google Earth or whatever else you want.

How effective is this method of visualization though? There's the usual argument of area perception, but does color-coding and vertical dimension make up for that? Discuss amongst yourselves.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's ROI on using GIS
Nov 15th, 2008 by analyticjournalism

Yes, yes. We know it's a promo piece for ESRI and the utility of GIS. But the article below from ESRI's ArcNews also highlights the company-wide utility of GIS for journalists, at least those who understand that what we do requires a wider vision than just writing well. Additionally, the article illustrates in-house expertise that folks in the newsroom could consider tapping


ArcLogistics Payback Period Is 2.5 Months for Newspaper Company

chart of savingsThe Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, is using ArcLogistics GIS software to route its delivery drops. It is projected to save the newspaper more than a half million dollars in the next five years. By employing ArcLogistics in its efforts to serve the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan region, greater Minnesota, and surrounding states, the Star Tribune has found that using GIS technology for intelligent routing has delivered an economic advantage to the company.


Using ArcLogistics, Star Tribune staff found that the existing newspaper delivery routes could be more efficient because some delivery trucks were unnecessary.

Given current economic trends, the company began looking for new areas where the newspaper could save money. Traditionally, the newspaper used wall maps with pushpins to determine delivery routes for single-copy papers. Rerouting was a time- and labor-intensive activity that required three employees from multiple departments to sit in the map room for four hours a day over the course of a month. Determining new routes is a necessity each time one of the seven advertisement zone boundaries is shifted or when a threshold amount of new or removed newspaper drop locations is reached. After reviewing several options to increase the efficiency of delivery routes, the Star Tribune partnered with Truck Dispatching Innovations, an ESRI Business Partner from Chicago, Illinois, to implement ArcLogistics. After a two-week startup period geocoding more than 3,700 delivery drop points and the routes of 39 trucks, employees used GIS to create new routes. These outcomes had many benefits. Using this new methodology, one staff member inputs a list of delivery route changes into ArcLogistics and, in half the time of the traditional method, creates and shares maps displaying new routes. The staff perform what-if scenarios, such as including different ad-zoned papers on the same truck. These reveal route options that could further increase the efficiency of delivery routes.

The Benefits of ArcLogistics


With the analytical tools of ArcLogistics, staff are able to decrease the number of delivery trucks on each route.

The Star Tribune expects a payback on its investment in 2.5 months and a five-year net savings of $672,740. This positive return on investment provides evidence showing the success of the venture to the company's financial director. The Star Tribune analyzed the benefits of its investment in ArcLogistics by measuring fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs include the lease price and maintenance expenses for delivery trucks, as well as the initial cost and yearly maintenance of the software. One variable cost is the number of miles driven, which determines gas costs per route. Another variable cost is the number of hours driven, which determines the wage cost per driver per route. Fixed costs are added to variable costs to determine route costs. Combining cost savings in these four areas shows a more accurate cost savings, rather than just looking at the savings as stand-alone figures. The Star Tribune found significant savings of route costs, including the number of trucks needed, miles driven, and time spent delivering newspapers.

More Information

For more information, contact Al Olson, fleet logistics manager, Star Tribune (e-mail:, or John Handler, principal, Truck Dispatching Innovations (e-mail: To learn more about ArcLogistics, visit


O'Reilly Radar has a fine round-up of election mapping.
Nov 5th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

Mapping The Scenarios: Geo Resources For The Election

by Brady Forrest

nyt proportinal states map

If you're like me you'll be looking at maps and polls and news sites all day long on November 4th. As the polls close and some states go red vs. blue you'll be updating your mental map of the country. Below are some tools and data sources for simulating scenarios online.

New York Times – The Grey Lady has invested in a lot of great visualization tools. The map above shows the electoral importance of each state and their leanings. Their maps also let you create your own scenarios. So if you believe that Missouri will go Red change it and see how that effects the totals. If you want to reminisce check out their debate visualizations.

GeoCommons – An online geo-database and mapping tool has many pertinent data sets available including Early Voting Data and Active Registered Virginia Voters.

FiveThirtyEight – Nate Silver and his fellow bloggers have been doing a great job of reading the polls. They've called it for Obama, but this is based on their math not their affiliation. As states are tallied I am sure they'll be updating their simulations.

Electoral-Vote – Very similar to FiveThirtyEight, this site also aggregates polls, but applies a different algorithm. They even have a Data Galore section with CSV's of all data used on the site.

Twitter Vote Report – As mentioned yesterday this site will be collecting vote reports from people on the ground.

Google – If you want to see recent voting patterns, Google has made the US election since 1980 available. They've also released a number of other maps and an election portal. And of course don't forget Google Hot Trends.

Video Galore – If you want to watch the election news online Silicon Alley Insider and LifeHacker have collected the available streams.

Flickr's Burning Man Map Uses Open Street Map
Aug 28th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

Brady Forrest, at O'Reilly's Radar, tips us to an interesting mash-up of Flickr, Open Street Map and the  Burning Man festival.  Why not use this idea for local festivals — fairs, classic car rallies, an introduction to a new shopping center?

Flickr's Burning Man Map Uses Open Street Map

Posted: 26 Aug 2008 07:38 PM CDT

flickr osm brc map

Flickr is best known for its photo-sharing, but increasingly its most innovative work is coming from its geo-developers (Radar post). Yesterday they announced the addition of a street-level map of Black Rock City so that we can view geotagged Burning Man photos. Flickr got the mapping data via Open Street Map's collaboration with Burning Man.

yahoo brc map

Flickr uses Yahoo! Maps for most of their mapping (and fine maps they are). The underlying data for them is primarily provided by NAVTEQ.
NAVTEQ's process can take months to update their customers' mapping
data servers. For a city like Burning Man that only exists for a week
every year that process won't work. However, an open data project like
Open Street Map can map that type of city. To the right you can see
what Yahoo's map currently looks like.

This isn't the first time Flickr has used OSM's data. They also used it to supplement their maps in time for the Beijing Olympics. I wonder if Yahoo! Maps will consider using OSM data so that their sister site doesn't continue to outshine them (view Beijing on Yahoo Maps vs. Flickr's Map to see what I mean). OSM's data is Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

In other geo-Flickr news they have added
KML and GeoRSS to their API. This means that you can subscribe to
Flickr API calls in your feed reader or Google Earth. (Thanks for the
tip on this Niall)

If you want to get more insight into Flickr's geo-thinking watch their talk from the Where 2.0 2008
conference after the jump.

Time to buy more storage capacity
Aug 4th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

Joe Francica and the other good folks at Directions Magazine and their “All Points Blog” just moved an interesting story headlined below.  No doubt this will call for some tweaking of projections and a ton of storage space, depending on your area of interest, but it also bodes well for those arguing about who should have access to the data taxpayers have already paid for.

Sunday, August 3. 2008

Kempthorne Announces that 35 Years of Landsat Data Free to Public 

“Speaking at the ESRI UC Senior Executive Summit in San Diego, U.S.
Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, announced that the 35 years
of archived Landsat data will be made available over the web free to
the public by the end of the year. The EROS Data Center (EDC) of the
USGS will be the lead center to implement this initiative. Though not
mentioned specifically, it's likely that some of the data may be
released through EDC's EarthExplorer portal that was a pilot project begun last year for Landsat 7 data.

Listen to my interview with Secretary Kempthorne and USGS Director Mark
Myers regarding the announcement of the Landsat data and a follow up
questions I asked regarding the USGS's roll in providing policy-makers
information about the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and
offshore drilling.”

Are you riding on Google Map's back?
Apr 24th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

Nathan, at, passed along this interesting posting from the guys at Everyblock We think it hints at an interesting point of maturity in the evolution of JAGIS (i.e. Jounalism and GIS). That is, publications will want to start differentiating themselves from online and print competitors by design and look-and-feel attributes. That means NO just using Google Map mash-ups.

Rolling Out Your Own Online Maps and Graphs with HTML/CSS

Wilson Miner and Paul Smith, two co-founders of Everyblock, post tutorials and a little bit of their own experiences rolling out their own maps and creating graphs with web standards.

Why Not Go With Google Maps?

Paul gets into the mechanics of how you can use your own maps discussing the map stack – browser UI, tile cache, map server, and finally, the data. My favorite part though was his reasons for going with their own maps:

Ask yourself this question: why would you, as a website developer who controls all aspects of your site, from typography to layout, to color palette to photography, to UI functionality, allow a big, alien blob to be plopped down in the middle of your otherwise meticulously designed application? Think about it. You accept whatever colors, fonts, and map layers Google chooses for their map tiles. Sure, you try to rein it back in with custom markers and overlays, but at the root, the core component—the map itself—is out of your hands.

Because it's so easy to put in Google Maps instead of make your own (although it is getting a little easier), everything starts to look and feel the same and we get stuck in this Google Maps-confined interaction funk. Don't get me wrong. Google Maps does have its uses and it is a great application. I look up directions with it all the time, but we should also keep in mind that there's more to mapping than bubble markers all in the color of the Google flag.

Remember: a little bit of design goes a long way.

Data Visualization with Web Standards

Wilson provides a tutorial for horizontal bar charts and sparklines with nothing but HTML and CSS. Why would you want to do this when you could use some fancy graphing API? Using Everyblock as an example, data visualization can serve as part of a navigation system as opposed to a standalone graphic:

Everyblock Graphs

Sometimes the visualization isn't at the center of attention.

Make sure you check out Everyblock, a site that is all about the data in your very own neighborhood, to see these maps and graphs in action.



Do those maps really matter?
Apr 23rd, 2008 by Tom Johnson

An interesting blurb today in Directions Magazine. It had asked readers:

Final results of the current poll (85 respondents) show that even mapophiles prefer a text front page for news. The poll asked, “How often do you use mapping interfaces to the news, such as Google Earth's new layer of New York Times stories or MetaCarta's GeoSearch News?” 

Significance?  We're not sure, but it might help comprehension if there were more thumbnail maps “printed” with many stories.

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