100 Things To Do with Google Maps Mashups
Feb 7th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

Marylaine Block again tips us to an interesting site:
• 100 Things To Do with Google Maps Mashups – gmapsmania
I believe that the future of reference service lies not in finding
information, but in helping people understand it through visualization.
These Google Maps mashups demonstrate things like finding wi-fi hotspots,
a public toilet, world hostels, webcams, etc., and tracking packages or
US or Canadian flights in real time.

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.


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

email this

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.

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



Journalism's unmet applications: Mapping Philly
Nov 12th, 2007 by Tom Johnson

Last week, O'Reilly's Radar posted an interesting account of a project to scan historic photos of Philadelphia and link them to Google Maps.  Hence, the reader can see the pic and then relate it to the photo's original location.  Most newspapers have photo archives.  Many of these shots are not just of people, but events which have a geographic location.  It might be difficult to tie a picture with a specific location, but  some might be possible.  So why don't newspapers start scanning those photos and put them on the paper's web site, a la “Mapping Philly”?  Doing so builds a reporter's sense of place in the community's timeline, the photos will attract a certain audience to the web site (and that could then reflect specific advertisers) and the photos would be preserved by the scanning. 

Yes, it would require an investment in time and money, but hey, instead of just cutting expenses by laying off staff, how 'bout a little investment in the future of the enterprise?


Mapping Philly

Posted: 08 Nov 2007 06:12 PM CST

By Peter Brantley

One of the most engaging sessions at the Digital Library Federation Fall Forum meeting in Philadelphia this week was a panel discussing a georeference-supportive project from the City of Philadelphia itself. We were thrilled to have representatives from Philadelphia's Department of Records, who have been gradually developing a project called with several technology partners including Avencia, a firm in Philadelphia; it is Avencia's presentation [pdf] that I highlight in this entry.

The Department of Records in Philadelphia has one of the best historical image archives in the country, with over two million photographs. To date, some 47,000 pictures have been digitized, with descriptive metadata; the Department is digitizing photos at a rate of approximately 2000 each month. The most critical information associated with the images are locational data that facilitate mapping and georeference services.

An image search can be delimited by time period and location, and relevant results are returned as thumbnails with brief descriptions. Advanced search operations on many other metadata fields are also available. Location based searches are mapped, and presented as a tile on a nearest-to-furtherest scale. Clicking on an image's descriptive information will provide a screen of detailed metadata, and clicking the image itself produces a higher resolution version of the picture.

The most attractive features of the site are social; images can be shared with others (via email, right now, although theoretically it would be possible to export out to other social environments or provide internal community social site features, such as neighborhood blogs). Images can also be collected in a Favorites list.

PhillyHistory also has a mobile interface, so one of the things that I've most wanted to see in a metropolitan image archive application — standing on a street corner, and being able to retrieve both historical and contemporary information about the location — is within reach of this project. PhillyHistory is not integrated into the mobile stack, and so a location must be manually entered, but it is still pretty cool.

PhillyHistory also has a blog, where interesting archival images are discussed, as well as general application updates and news. The site also provides advanced sections where it provides detailed information on how to construct url query strings against specific metadata fields, such as location or time period. Searches can be named (“bookmarked” in the site's nomenclature) and then made available as an RSS. Using GeoRSS, a set of images can be easily displayed within Google Maps.

In a terrifically cool new feature just added this November, the first 100 image search results from any query can be mapped into Google Earth. Clicking on any of the result markers pops open a window with the original archival image. This is fantastic.

PhillyHistory's sustainability model is straightforward, financed in part by taxes, and through the sale of quality image prints (e.g., $20.00 for an 8 x 10 color print).

The app has generated a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in Philly. The locally based Editor of the City Paper, Duane Swierczynski, said in a post, “I've become a junkie … This is the best use of taxpayer money I've heard of in a long time. I'd even be willing pay more taxes … “

We don't normally think of city governments as maintaining currency in software application design, but it happens more often than we realize. At the meeting, someone from NYC was nearly jumping up and down with excitement, at the hope that it would be possible to migrate the application north.

Perhaps west, as well.


Ricoh's GPS camera introduces a new data-gathering and presentation tool
Nov 8th, 2007 by Tom Johnson

 We knew this was coming, but missed the announcement in July of Ricoh's GPS WiFi camera.  This strikes us as something that can become a high-impact journalism tool.  Imagine how it could be applied for covering mass demonstrations or even sporting events.  It could also be great for travel stories — everything from walking tours through Scotland to pub crawling in New Orleans — when linked to Google Maps.

 The opening day price is about $1,100.  Not too much, we think, as an investment for a newroom's digital R&D person/team.  (Those do exist, don't they?)

 Anyway, check out the link below.

Ricoh 500SE GPS-Enabled Digital Camera

Posted Jul 16th, 2007 by Chief Gadgeteer


The continuing growing popularity of mapping (particularly Google Maps, Google Earth and their street views) and GPSRicoh 500SE Digital Camera that is GPS enabled. Take a photo with the 500SE and it automatically embeds the position info into the photo. In a year or so, this will probably become a pretty standard feature on digital cameras and camcorders, or at least highly coveted. solutions means that consumers will want more products that automatically tie those things together. Enter the

The Ricoh 500SE is no slouch in the camera department either. It is an 8 megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom, large 2.5″ TFT LCDWiFiBluetooth 2.0 connectivity.

Now back to the GPS stuff. Just imagine how cool it would be to embed your photos automatically in the right spot on a map by adding them as layers to existing maps that have GIS capabilities. Well, nevermind the last part if you don’t get that. Think about how cool it would be if you could pull up your pics in Flikr, Gallery or whatever, and then display a map alongside it that shows where the pic was taken. monitor screen, SD card slot, camera shake blur reduction and a 28mm wide-angle zoom lens. It also comes with 802.11b/g and


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