Spatial analysis of news sources
Jan 1st, 2007 by JTJ

Some researchers in the Computer Science department (nary a journalists to be found) are doing some interesting work trying to determine the degree to which people in different regions talk about different things.  The assumption is, obviously, that newspapers are a good proxy for what people are talking about.  Still, some smart people are wrestling with interesting ways to understand journalism.  Be sure to check out the published paper at

spatial analysis of news sources

21 December 2006

a large-scale news paper analysis system that is able to create “entity
datamaps”, a spatial visualization of the interest in a given named
entity. the aim of this system is to identify entities which display
regional biases, by estimating the frequency of reference of an entity
in any given city.

entities likely to be geographically-biased include United States
cities & local sports teams. entities likely to have little bias
include foreign cities, country names, & national political
figures. The text is acquired from about 800 US online newspaper

see also mood news & what's up & news attention & vanishing point & newsquakes.

[link: (pdf)]

Imaging the City: Call for Papers
Dec 15th, 2006 by Tom Johnson

We're not wild about using “image” as a verb, but the conference looks promising and certainly appropriate for those journalists who understand that we have to learn to tell stories with more than just words and pictures.  Yup, “HCI” is where it's at, or where it's going to be at.

Imaging the City:

Call for Participation:

technological developments mark the city as a central and perhaps
special space for human-computer interaction research and practice.
Visions of ubiquitous computing, the resonance of the ‘urban probe’,
and the proliferation of interactive mapping services speak to the
significance of the urban landscape to studies of Human-Computer
Interaction. But such visions and technologies require, produce and
reproduce images of urban space that influence what these systems, and
our interactions with them, are and might be. Developing and employing
technologies for the urban environment requires visualization
techniques that both reflect and challenge how we image, and
consequently imagine, the city.

This one-day workshop will explore the practices and and technologies of imaging the urban environment, bringing together
an interdisciplinary array of designers, HCI experts, urban planners
and technologists to investigate such issues as:
  • How do we represent the city in HCI, and how do these representations inform HCI research and practice?
  • What
    kinds of technological devices, services, and platforms support imaging
    the city now and might be created in the near future?
  • How are and might these new representations of the city and urban imaging technologies be used for social and political ends?
  • What new methods are required for developing technologies that image the city in new ways?
  • What can we learn from the urban experience to design stronger representations and interfaces within HCI research and practice?

Put your community on the map
Dec 7th, 2006 by JTJ

The Rrove blog — no, no, not THAT Rove (different spelling) — delivers a round-up review of nine sites related to community mapping tools.  See

December 4th, 2006

plays in the community mapping space. This post aims to highlight the
innovations and the usefulness that others have made in this game. We
haven’t added ourselves to this list – if you want to know more about
Rrove, click here.

community mapping website, in our definition, is a service that gets
its members to map and define places. Through crowd-sourcing, these
sites are building a database/directory of local and nearby locations
that their users can discover and visit. Why is this important? We all
know that search advertising is the fastest growing industry in the
Internet. Within that market, local search is the up-and-comer. In the
next few years, it will be the largest segment within search!

refreshing to see how others have approached community mapping. Some
have focused on map creation while others do it through mobile apps.
More than that, some players have mapped the community of users to map
the physical community (i.e. neighborhoods). Here’s how nine websites
(all free) are doing it, what makes them awesome and how you can use
their services in your Internet life.

Ninth Crime Mapping Research Conference coming the end of March
Dec 5th, 2006 by JTJ

It was the second year of the national crime mapping conference when we realized that, hey, there's a lot of not-just-good-but-great analytic work going in the then-young profession of crime analysis.  Seven years later, it's just getting more impressive. 

If you can only get to one national conference a year (we assume you're already going to the NICAR meetings), do this one every other year and the Special Libraries Association convention on the off year.  NOTE: NO NO NO registration fee!

Registration for the Ninth Crime Mapping Research Conference has openedThis year, there will be no conference
registration fees but registration is still required.
  Preliminary conference details available on the
MAPS website:

Ninth Crime Mapping Research Conference will take place March 28-31, 2007 at the
Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


The conference will include a full
compliment of
workshops, panels and plenary sessions. The main plenary session is entitled GPS in a Crime Analysis Context-
Practitioner Consideration, Research Needs.”
session topics will include uses of spatial data analysis and GIS in
corrections, parole, and probation, geography and crime, geographic profiling,
offender travel behavior, NIBRS/incident-based data and mapping, international
programs, impact of Hurricane Katrina on crime, crime analysis, spatial data
analysis, policing issues, managing sex offenders, travel demand modeling, and
more.  The conference also includes a map competition, and provides an
excellent opportunity for researches and practitioners to network with each

More mapping tools for journalists
Nov 30th, 2006 by JTJ

The folks at Faneuil Media, a company that “helps site owners publish maps and data, just announced a promising tool, “Atlas.”  Check it out because they say….

Meet Atlas

When I first switched from the newsroom to the web newsroom, I was surprised by all the technical constraints.

As a reporter and editor I had all the tools I
needed – it was up to me to create something fit for the front page. As
a web editor, content management systems and development priorities
became constraints on my ability to publish the news.

With the hope of helping publishers chip away at these constraint, we’re releasing a new mapping tool today. Meet Atlas:

Atlas is a simple web application that allows you to put Google Maps into your stories in a few seconds.

Certainly there are already mapping tools out there. Atlas distinguishes itself in two ways:

First, it is simple: Point. Click. Map. No messy code, no unnecessary hoops to jump through.

Second, Atlas is designed for news sites. We’re
building it so that reporters, editors, producers and local bloggers
have an easy way to add maps to their stories.

This first release of Atlas has a very basic list of features. You can:

  • Create a simple Google map in a few seconds
  • Embed a map on your page in any size or format
  • Use a CSV format to upload batches of points
  • Add Wikipedia content to major cities

There’s lots more we want to add, but before going any further, we want to get your feedback. So, try it out, let us know what works, what doesn’t and what we should add.

Google Earth has some competition
Nov 17th, 2006 by JTJ

Thanks to Gary Price at ResourceShelf Newsletter <> for this:

+ Virtually Fly Around the Globe in 3D With SkylineGlobe (Beta); Developers API Also Available

A small plug-in allows you to virtually fly around the world. However,
this early beta release only contains mapping for the U.S. Lots more
come. Nevertheless, plenty of cool “extras” in this early beta
including an option to add-in live traffic cameras for the D.C. metro
region right on to the aerial images. Btw, the cameras are aggregated
by <> for many cities, so expect to see more in future releases of SkylineGlobe.

Direct link to post: <>

Mapping for dollars
Nov 11th, 2006 by JTJ

Think we might be able to rent the roof of our homes or offices as virtual ad space?  From the All-points Blog:

Virtual Earth 3D Futures

Forbes looks at the Microsoft/Google race and offers this tidbit about VE3D's future:

Fifteen cities already are searchable online. Microsoft
will drop ads into the maps on computer-generated billboards. You'll be
able to type “Starbucks (nasdaq: SBUX – news – people )” on your mobile
while standing in San Francisco's Union Square and get a 3-D map
guiding you to the nearest one. Microsoft acquired some of this
technology in May when it bought videogame ad-broker Massive

While we keep looking at the mapping, we need to remember that the money comes from the advertising, not the mapping per se.

It ain't just Mister Roger's neighborhood any longer.
Nov 9th, 2006 by JTJ

Friend and mega-librarian Marylain Block's “Neat New Stuff” column ( points us to another example of a great community-building tool.  She writes:

Steven Johnson aims to “collectively build the geographic Web, neighborhood by neighborhood.” So far it's added various kinds of data for over 2500 neighborhoods. Entries may range from neighborhood restaurants, shops, and museums, to descriptions of historic architecture or local celebrations. If your city or neighborhood isn't here yet, you can upload data to begin a file for it (librarians might add their own libraries to the database). This has the potential to be extremely valuable.

Science and simulation for the greater good
Nov 5th, 2006 by JTJ

A former student of colleague Steve Ross sends this interesting report on how simulation models can/are being used in the real world:

I’m the communications officer for the International Research
Institute for Climate and Society
at Columbia University. The IRI specializes
in making forecasts of climate for every part of the world by using data from
satellites, meteorological stations and proxy records (tree rings, corals, etc)
to run models. The models tell us, with varying degrees of certainty, how much
off the “norm” rainfall, temperature and humidity will be for a given place in
the world.  We’re not so much interested
in long-term climate change (global warming, sea level rise, etc) as we are in
season-to-season changes (e.g. monsoonal patterns, drought, flooding, etc.).
And the IRI isn’t a purely academic institution — its main objective is to use
the forecasts and climate monitoring to develop and undertake projects that
mitigate the effects of climate change in developing countries. We never do
this alone: all of our efforts are in collaboration with scientists, policymakers
and NGOs in these countries.

Here’s a brief description of some projects we’re currently working

*Climate and malaria:*
The IRI collects an enormous amount
of temperature, rainfall and humidity data for southern Africa. As it it turns
out, the presence or absence of malaria in a given region depends strongly on
these three climate factors, so scientists here developed a mapping tool that
shows the risk of a malaria epidemic for every month of the year in every part
of sub-Saharan Africa. We train health workers from countries in this area on
how to use the information to adequately prepare for epidemics. (see /

*Climate and fire-management*
Fires in Indonesia damage unique
and delicate ecosystems, increase carbon dioxide emissions, and produce noxious
smoke and haze that leads to thousands of hospitalizations every year. Since
the intensity and duration of these fires depend on the amount of rainfall the region
receives every season, the IRI is using its rainfall forecasts to develop an early-warning
system that policymakers and NGOs can use for planning purposes. For example, if
our models tell us there is a strong chance of drought conditions in the next 3-month
period there, our Indonesian partners can take specific actions, such as conserving irrigation water so that the fields where these fires
occur aren’t drained completely and therefore aren’t as susceptible to burning.
(see /

*Index-based weather insurance for farmers*
The IRI and the Commodity Risk Management Group at the World
Bank are involved in a project to develop insurance contracts that protect Malawi
farmers against periodic, crop-destroying droughts. Traditionally, farmers would
take out loans to buy seeds at the start of every season. If a drought occurred,
the farmers’ crops would die, and they wouldn’t be able to pay back the banks. But
under this new program the farmers can purchase an insurance (a very small percentage
of the price of the seeds) against crop loss when they buy seeds. If a drought occurs,
the farmers get a full or partial payout and can use the money to repay their loans.
IRI’s role in this is to use its weather monitoring data for the region to help
the local insurance companies develop reliable contracts. The fascinating aspect
of this program is that it is completely subsidized by the farmers.  (no link
available yet)

My role in all this is to make these and other projects known
to the public at large.  Many of you receiving this email are journalists of
one species or another. If you are developing stories or graphics that have to do
with climate or earth science, think of me. I’ll put you in touch with experts or
send you bucketfuls of GIS and other data.

Francesco Fiondella
Communications Officer
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
61 Route 9W
Palisades, NY 10964
francesco [at]

English translation of Minard's classic chart of Napoleon's March
Nov 4th, 2006 by JTJ

Mike Stucka  today provided a rich set of links during a discussion of mapping on NICAR-L.  If you're interested in Minard's map/chart/info graphic of Napeoleon's march to Russia — and especially if you use it as a teaching tool — check out the links below.

Click here to see the SAS code (zoomed-in view)

Charles Minard is a famous map-creator from the late 1800's.
Perhaps his most famous map is the following showing
Napoleon's March on Moscow in 1812.

I looked at several other people's version of Minard's map
on the following webpage and devised an idea for my own
version, using SAS/Graph's "proc gmap".

I used longitude/latitude, troop number, and city data from the following webpage
in combination with the temperature data from the following translation of Minard's Map.

I'm somewhat "geographically challenged" when it comes to europe, especially
with the city names on the Minard map (and I'm probalby not alone?)
Therefore I decided to plot Napoleon's path on *modern* maps, with the
country names labeled. Also, I wanted to give a "50,000-mile" view of
the map, so people could see where this area was in relation to other
areas of europe (such as France).

* Here's my 50,000-mile map.
* Which drills-down to this Zoomed-in map.
* Here is the SAS code used to generate the maps.

Here are some details about how I created my map(s) in SAS/Graph...

For both of these maps, I used a combination of the sas maps.europe
and as the base map. I created custom/subsetted/clipped
versions of these maps using SAS' "proc gproject", and specifying
the latmax/latmin/longmax/longmin for the area I wanted in my map.

To get the blue ocean/sea water to appear only in the map area I use
an annotated rectangular polygon with corners at the exact same
long/lat coordinates as the corners of my map, and annotate it
'behind' the map. (If I had used "goptions cback=blue" that would
have filled the entire background of the page with blue, not just
the wanter area in the map.)

In the 50,000-mile map, I annotate country names at long/lat
positions of my choosing, and I annotate a dashed-line box around
the area that will be shown for the drilldown. In this dashed-box
area, I use annotate's "html" variable to encode a drilldown, so
that when you click inside this rectangle it drills-down to the
zoomed-in map. I also annotate a dot at the city locations (and
I annotate city labels in the zoomed-in map).

I use the same technique in both maps to show Napoleon's path.
I take the long/lat values, and use them as vertices for a line,
and connect the dots with line segments (using annotate move/draw
functions). The size/width of the line is calculated based on the
number of troops (ie, men) still alive during that leg of the trip.
One problem with this technique was that it produced big/jagged
gaps/transitions at the line vertices (especially where the lines
changed directions sharply). To smoothe this out, I annotated a
'pie' (filled circle) at each vertex, with the diameter of the
pie being the same as the width of the line. With this annotation
(as with most all of the lat/long-based annotation in this map)
I combine the annotation with the map, use "proc gproject" to do
the map projection, and then separate the annotate from the map
(this guarantees that things line up in the correct position).

On the zoomed-in map, notice that when you hover your mouse over the
city names, you see the city name (and additional info, if available)
for that city. If you click on the city names, that launches a
google search for information about that city (including the words
'Napoleon' and '1812' in the search).

When you hover your mouse over the vertex points of Napoleon's path,
you'll get a html charttip/flyover-text showing the number of troops
at that point during the march. At first I made these hotspots the
exact same size as the visual vertex dots, but the small ones were
too small -- therfore I annotate a larger dot 'behind' the map for
each vertex, and the charttip is based on the size of those 'invisible'
vertex points :)

Surprisingly the toughest part of the map was the temperature plot.
After trying a few different approaches, I decided to base the position
of the temperature dots and the axes & gridlines & labels all using
long/lat coordinates. The distance from the minimum gridline to the
maximum gridline is 1 degree of latitude (not to be confused with
degrees celcius or degrees farenheit! ;). And for the horizontal
positions, I use he position of the cities/battles corresponding to
the temperatures. I color the temperature dots an 'ice cold' light
blue, since they represent cold temperatures.

/* Written by Robert Allison ( */

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