Attention London tube map freaks: Oskar Karlin, whom we’ve met before, designed a new map of the London Underground as a design project. “I knew couldn’t just do a normal re-design; something had to be added. I started thinking what’s different in the world now from when the map was designed and one thing that are different today is time. … Today you never tell anyone how far away in miles you live, but in minutes or perhaps hours if you’re unlucky. So I decided to create a re-design based on time instead of distance (normal maps) or simplicity (tube maps).”
The thing that annoyed me most about that AP article was that it was picked up by clueless news organizations who ran it under headlines to the effect that MapQuest was leading the hot online mapping sector, when the truth — after years of dominance, MapQuest’s rivals are innovating their way to challenge its hegemony — is neither complicated nor difficult to express succinctly.
Ben Elgin’s review of Google Maps on Business Week’s site is nothing like that, though: it’s a knowledgeable review that compares Google to its competition and points out both advantages and faults. I particularly liked his point about how slow Google is on dialup (which I touched on briefly in May); he also argues that the integration with local search puts Google ahead of its rivals, noting that other companies offer similar mapping features, but fall short on search. Thanks to Tony for the link.
Jack Rosenthal, a Wyoming TV executive, has donated his collection of old maps of the state to a local museum. More about Rosenthal and his map jones in this quasi-coherent article from the Caspar Star-Tribune. Via GeoCarta.
Speaking of bias, my overwhelming interest in Mac software reveals itself when I point out that version 6.1 of MacGPS Pro was announced yesterday. It adds support for some USB Garmin GPS receivers (serial-port support via an adapter only prior to this I suppose), as well as support for stitching together USGS digital topo maps and a few other things besides. Via GPS Review, MacMinute and MacNN.
This AP story about MapQuest (alternate link) more or less states the obvious: that despite its market leading position, MapQuest is under threat from its mapping rivals whose innovations make MapQuest look like it’s standing still. Exhibits in evidence include the lack of an API or satellite imagery — once actually offered by MapQuest but since discontinued “after executives deemed them fun but not that useful.” The article really doesn’t delve into this question, but, you know, it’s a wire story.
At the Toronto Free Gallery until December 17, “Here Be Dragons: The Cartography of Globalization,” an exhibition of “counter-cartography”. From the gallery’s flash-based web site: “Recently, activists, artists and researchers have used the form of the map to visually represent the distribution of power, the circulation of information, and the organization of control in the age of capitalist globalization. These critical cartographers make visible the vast network of national governments, transnational corporations, and international institutions, which channel massive flows of people, labour, interests, dollars, and meaning.” Via Cartography. Update, 3:30 PM: A review of the exhibit on Cartography.
The Quivira Collection of Pacific Coast maps (see previous entry) appears to be on tour; it’s at the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania until January 9. Details here and from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Thanks to Glenn for the tip.
According to a post on MapHist by the journal’s editor, Coordinates, the journal of the ALA’s Map and Geography Round Table, is now indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (about which I posted on MetaFilter a couple of years back). It was open-access to begin with, but now it’s in the DOAJ database. Speaking of which, here’s a list of the geography journals on the DOAJ.
See previous entry: Coordinates.
Publishers frequently use “copyright traps” to prove that someone plagiarized their work. Without evidence of the actual act of plagiarism, it’s difficult to prove that someone publishing a rival phone book, dictionary or encyclopedia didn’t just copy material wholesale from yours, so they insert bits of wholly fictitious information that, if it turns up in the competition’s pages, can be used as proof. Because we’re talking about reference works, these false entries are usually pretty innocuous: you have to look these things up in order to find them, and chances are you’re not looking up something that doesn’t exist.
Copyright traps came into the public eye again earlier this year in a New Yorker article about a fake entry in the New Oxford American Dictionary — namely, “esquivalence.” But copyright traps are apparently a frequent enough occurence in maps as well. It’s not just a matter of creating fake streets, rivers, buildings or even towns, although that does happen; it could be a river shown bending one way rather than the other, or a non-existent cul de sac, that proves the copyright holder’s case.
There have been a number of reports and anecdotes about copyright traps in maps: see this collection of messages from the alt.folklore.urban newsgroup and this page from the Straight Dope; as well, the comments on Languagehat’s entry on “esquivalence” have a few map-related examples. Two trends emerge from these links: many people think that copyright traps are urban legends; and map publishers themselves “officially” deny that copyright traps exist in their maps.
Except when they don’t. OpenStreetMap’s wiki has a Copyright Easter Eggs entry that includes a scan of a 1999 Daily Telegraph article, the subject of which was that the Automobile Association had been caught plagiarizing the Ordnance Survey’s maps through the use of such copyright traps (via Things Magazine).
I’d be very interested in seeing links to other material about copyright traps in maps. Apparently there’s some material on this subject in Mark Monmonier’s book, How to Lie with Maps; must investigate.
- Buy How to Lie with Maps on Amazon.com
Google Maps may no longer work in older versions of Safari, Apple’s web browser. Joel Riggs wrote yesterday: “For the past 24 hours it appears that maps.google.com (aka Google Local) is not loading in Safari browsers … is this an ‘upgrade’ that fails the test of backwards compatability?” He’s using Safari 1.3.1 on Panther (OS X 10.3.9); I’m running the most recent version of each (Safari 2.0.2, OS X “Tiger” 10.4.3) and have encountered no new problems with Google Maps. I’ve done a quick check of the relevant Google Groups, but I’ve come up with nothing. Can anyone shed any light on this? Can anyone else reproduce Joel’s issue?
Tony Campbell pointed out this little gem in an article about waste reduction during the holidays: “Reuse holiday wrapping, or use old maps or comic pages from the Sunday paper for wrapping gifts” (my emphasis).
The sound you just heard was a thousand map dealers, sobbing.
Thomas Klöti passes on links to the home pages of the Swiss-based Cartographica Helvetica, a German-language journal about the history of cartography, and the forthcoming International Conference on the History of Cartography, which takes place in Berne in July 2007.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union compiled topographic maps of virtually every corner of the world, to the extent that they are the only topo maps available for certain countries. The maps were both standardized and accurate; they were made for military purposes, so the same, specific information was needed regardless of which area was being mapped. John Davies has been studying these maps, in particular on how the Soviet Union mapped the United Kingdom. His site includes scans of a few of the maps as well as a two-part paper that, in part, deals with how the Soviets compiled their information (and whether they violated Ordnance Survey Crown Copyright in the process). Tremendously interesting stuff. Via Cartography.
See previous entry: Soviet Topo Maps; Old Russian Maps.
The WordPress Geo plugin allows bloggers using WordPress to specify a default location for their blog and assign geographic coordinates to specific posts. Dylan Kuhn takes this one step further with his Geo Mashup plugin, which takes that geographic data and plots posts on a map using Google Maps. Dylan says, “I’m still calling it Beta, but I think once people know about it we’ll get a real release out quickly.”
See previous entry: Google Maps Plugin for Movable Type.
VanMap is a GIS viewer for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia; it’s got a surprising number of layers, more of which were added last September. (Use “VanMapLite” if you’re having browser difficulties with the main interface.) Via Vector One, where Jeff Thurston notes, “Of note is the inclusion of property values. … By comparison, in Europe, it is difficult to obtain information like this related to the neighbourhood.”
Some background, in case you haven’t been following tech news lately: it was recently discovered that certain recent compact discs from Sony BMG contained a rootkit that secretly installed hidden files when you tried to play it on your PC. Among other things, the rootkit installer creates serious security vulnerabilities that can threaten computer networks. It also “phones home” to Sony, a fact which allowed Dan Kaminsky, after querying DNS caches and running the IP addresses through a geocoder, to map the spread of the rootkit across the world. Via Boing Boing.
Our friend Tony Campbell has added a Latest News page to his awe-inspiring Map History/History of Cartography site, where he plans to bring news items to our attention. (Let the duel of Google Alerts commence!)
Anyway, he’s just started, but amongst the stories he’s linked to so far is this one, in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, about the purchase by well-known map dealer Graham Arader of a 221-year-old original map of Pittsburgh at the “bargain” price of $55,000. From the article: “The heavily creased parchment map was made in 1784 by Col. George Woods, and was known as Penn’s Charter of Pittsburgh. It’s one of three hand-drawn maps made at the behest of Tench Francis, an agent for the William Penn family.” Arader, who hopes that the map will stay in Pennsylvania after it’s sold, will keep it in his Philadelphia gallery.
(Arader’s come to my attention before as a commentator in map theft cases, both as a featured interviewee in Miles Harvey’s Island of Lost Maps and in news coverage of the Forbes Smiley case — here and here — but in addition to stirring the pot with his blunt talk about the business, he’s also got galleries in four cities and does $30 million in sales each year, according to the article.)
Karen Ruby reviews Mapping Hacks: “The book is a good resource to increase your geospatial knowledge by doing, not simply reading. The hacks range from very simple mapping hacks to more complex hacks that require specialized software and coding to reproduce.”
- Buy Mapping Hacks at Amazon.com
Paula Scher: The Maps is an exhibition of Scher’s paintings at the Maya Stendhal Gallery in New York; it runs until December 17. From the Gallery’s web site: “This show, consists of a series of twelve large-scale canvases — intricate, colorful and obsessively detailed maps of different regions of the world. THE MAPS is the culmination of over a decade of work, well-worth the effort for these timeless, striking canvases.” For a sampling of the paintings, click on the “Painting” link on this page. Via Gadling.
In today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph, an article about the oldest map in the western world: the Soleto Map, unearthed two years ago in southern Italy, which dates to 500 BC. The map, which is on a postage-stamp-sized fragment of glazed terracotta (an “ostrakon”), depicts the Salentine peninsula (the heel of Italy’s boot), is written in Greek script (though the language is mostly Messapian), and marks towns that still exist today.
This is, apparently, the first physical evidence that the Greeks were making maps before the Romans did. (The Chinese were making maps before this, according to the article; and there were earlier maps in the Meditteranean and Middle East, according to a post on MapHist. I think the point is that this is the first map in the so-called Western Civilization tradition.)
Tony Campbell notes (on MapHist) that the Soleto Map was the focus of a conference earlier this year.
The Map Room was unavailable for a couple of hours today (as were my other sites) due to a router problem at DreamHost, my hosting provider.
As part of a series on new web technologies, CNet has a long article about mashups that, like previous articles from other news organizations, serves as both an introduction to and summary of the whole Google Maps (and Yahoo! Maps, to a lesser extent) phenomenon, with a sampling of some of the hacks out there and a discussion of the implications for monetization and local search. But if you’ve been following this mashup thing seriously, there is very little that is new here.
Samuel John Klein’s Brief History of Rand McNally is up on Designorati today. Interesting to see that William Rand and Andrew McNally started with railroads (road travel was some decades away); their first map, in 1872, was the Railway Guide. Even more interesting was the following passage:
A problem that began to emerge was how to represent these routes, typically given awkwardly-long names, on maps. Company lore holds that, after an in-house contest, the idea of a drafter named John Brink was put into play, identifying intercity routes by keying them to symbols. A further refinement of the system introduced numbers instead of geometric symbols, and this, debuted with the publication of an 1917 map of Peoria, Illinois, is considered a seminal event enroute to the creation of the modern system of numbering US and Interstate highways of which every motoring American is acquainted.
Rand McNally invented the highway number? Via the excellent Cartography.
Google has launched a Google Maps API blog to keep developers better informed about changes to the API, plus, they say (because there’s only one post so far), tips and so forth. Via Google Maps Mania.
But if the API is too much for you, you could always try a third-party service like Wayfaring (via Cartography and Google Maps Mania). There are other services out there that simplify building a map with the Google Maps API, aren’t there? (They may be lost in my notes somewhere for all I know.)
The 19th edition of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s “Walk Book” was generated by volunteers with GPS receivers; it took them three years to cover approximately 1,200 km of trails. With 40 per cent of the trails on private land, accuracy was critical. Via GeoCarta. (By the way, have I mentioned how impressed I am by GeoCarta lately? Roger’s doing a bangup job over there.)
Cartography looks at the maps generated by news organizations covering the riots in France (which began in the suburbs of Paris and have since spread), and finds them generally wanting. Frankly, as someone who’s spent time in Paris and am reasonably familiar with the area (though my total experience in the banlieue is no more than a single day trip to Nanterre), I’m disappointed that apparently no one could produce a map with some neighbourhood detail, particularly in comparison with what was produced in fairly short order after the London bombings. Would it be asking too much to at least have the municipal boundaries?
Mind you, the sources cited were all English-language; I imagine the French media has done a better job.
Topo Employees is an insiders’ blog by and for employees of the USGS national mapping program; presumably recent controversies about outsourcing maps and relocating their headquarters are fuelling a certain amount of disgruntlement above and beyound what is normal for government bureaucracies. Via All Points Blog.
Here’s another big, expensive atlas to tell you about: Cyrus Alai’s General Maps of Persia, 1477-1925. According to Tony Campbell, who wrote the introduction and brought it to our attention on MapHist, Alai spent 15 years examining 1,200 maps to prepare this book; no one, he adds, has tackled this subject before.
Alai will talk about this book at the Washington Map Society’s March 16, 2006 meeting.
- Buy General Maps of Persia, 1477-1925 at Amazon.com
GIS Monitor reviews Cynthia Brewer’s Designing Better Maps: “Brewer’s advice is authoritative, practical, and useful to novice and experienced mapmakers alike. She focuses on just a few key questions — how to design a map so that its layout matches its purpose … and how to effectively use type, colors, symbols, and marginal elements to support that purpose — and drills down.” See previous entry. Via SlashGISRS.
- Buy Designing Better Maps at Amazon.com
Last month I mentioned that MapQuest was moving into mobile devices and even paper; I said it was a good idea, because maps are more useful when they’re portable. Online map services are fine and good in front of the computer, but you can’t take them with you; despite a few early hacks, Google has been definitely lacking in that area. I’m always a little peeved that I have to check a map before I go somewhere, and can’t do so on the fly unless I have a paper copy (or some expensive hardware).
But today Google has gone and launched a beta (naturally) of something called Local for Mobile — essentially, Google Local/Maps on a mobile phone. With all the bells and whistles, including zooming and satellite imagery. Not just any mobile phone, mind: it has to support J2EE. Quite a few recent phones are compatible, though (there’s a chart). Even if you have a phone that supports it, though, the data is U.S.-only for now.
A few years ago, iSync compatibility determined my choice of mobile phone: I wanted very badly to be able to sync my data with the phone. I think support for Google Local for Mobile — or, to be fair, another, comparable map service — might well influence my next mobile phone purchase, and I suspect I’m not alone.
See previous entry: Virtual Earth Mobile.
The author takes a while to get to the point, but today’s Indianapolis Star takes a look at the Odyssey Map Store, which apparently is the only dedicated map store in Indiana. No web site that I’ve been able to find, though.
A feature of many U.S. electoral maps has been the gerrymander: electoral districts drawn, sometimes ludicrously, to favour one party over another. In order to try to prevent that from happening, two upcoming ballot initiatives — one in California, one in Ohio — would, if approved, change the procedure by which electoral boundaries are redrawn: California’s would take it out of the hands of the state legislature; Ohio’s would not only depoliticize the panel already in place, but it would give that panel a mandate to draw districts in a way that would make them as competitive as possible, setting up the potential for a “reverse gerrymander” that would create districts that are just as convoluted as they were before. Expect interesting maps.
Smiley was one of the elite in the antiquarian trade. With his absurdly patrician name and presumed pedigree, he’d been extended freedom to roam among the finest collections of old books and maps in the country. In short, he was given courtesies and deference that any of the rest of us, though we may be pure as the driven snow, would not be given in 10 lifetimes. That’s because, as one print and map dealer told Finnegan, the wealthy buyers of stolen goods “want to associate with old money. They’re not comfortable spending $30,000 dealing with some anonymous person. They want you to be someone.” …
Smiley was thought to be an honorable person simply because he “came from money.” But Smiley is also a common thief, a liar, a fraud. He is, in short, a scumbag, as low and common as a crack dealer.
I guess the point is that if he went as Ed Smiley rather than E. Forbes Smiley III, he would not have been nearly as successful nor as credible.
See the Map Thefts archive for previous entries on the Forbes Smiley case.
CNet’s Elinor Mills profiles TeleAtlas, one of several mapping data companies that provide the online map services with their data (along with NAVTEQ, for example, they provide data for both Google and Yahoo!). The article looks at data collection and how long it takes for the company’s updated data to disseminate to its customers and their end-users.
The tinkering with the site design I mentioned Sunday got a bit more involved this evening — or rather it got carried away, since I didn’t expect to be finished already. Still a few details to work on over the weekend, but otherwise it seems to work, both in Safari and IE. I was aiming at a less cluttered design, and I think I’m happy with the results. That won’t stop me from tinkering even more, though.
If you’re a blogger using Movable Type — which reminds me that I need to upgrade to version 3.2 at some point — you might be interested in the MTGoogleMaps plugin. It requires a Google Maps API key, naturally, but it’ll allow you to embed a map into a blog entry through a Movable Type tag, which means that if you can hack Movable Type, you can throw up a map in no time at all. Via Movable Type News.
Scoble says both Yahoo! Maps and Virtual Earth are doomed: “it’s not about maps, it’s about the advertising platform that Google has built. It’s not about prettiness, it’s about who has the most user generated content (I still hate that term)” (his emphasis). He argues that advertising opportunities and licencing restrictions will, regardless of the relative quality of each mapping platform, keep mashup-makers on the Google side of the fence. It’s a plausible explanation of why so few user-generated maps have been made with Virtual Earth or Yahoo! APIs.
Breaking news: Yahoo! has upgraded its mapping service with a new, Flash-based beta version with substantial interface improvements. In the 15 seconds or so I’ve had to play with it, it works very well — the inset for zooming is a nice UI touch.
Update, 8:48 AM: Cartography: “In short, it looks like Yahoo! Maps is trying to look like Google Maps — perhaps a bit too much.”
Update, 10:15 AM: O’Reilly Radar’s take is positive. Key points: “You can do more with the Yahoo! APIs than you can with Google’s. … I didn’t think their first maps API was anything to write home about, but they haven’t just played catch-up to Google with their second maps API. They’ve overtaken Google in functionality and in elegance” (his emphasis).
This interactive map of Narnia, a tie-in with the upcoming movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is actually quite good: it’s a compilation of material from several Narnia books (specifically, Prince Caspian and The Silver Chair) and adds locations from the first volume, which to my surprise does not come with a map — at least not in my edition. Via Things Magazine.