As was widely reported, Google Maps is now exclusively using Tele Atlas as its digital mapping data provider, dropping Navteq, which provided data for Google Maps proper but not for the Mobile or API products (All Points Blog, James Fee, Mike Blumenthal, Google Maps Mania). This is presumably the result of Google’s five-year deal with Tele Atlas.
But there’s a problem: Chad complains that the change has added a heavy dose of wrong to Google Maps. Based on my experience, I agree with him; since the changeover, I’ve noticed a number of changes that actually introduced error in a place where the mapping data was previously correct. (Presumably this was well known among users of the mobile and API products, but now it’s on the main site.)
Now it may be that the Ottawa area is particularly error prone, but I’ve noticed plenty of major errors in my neck of the woods. Highways follow the wrong roads; parks have the wrong boundaries. And there seems to be a problem with how the data distinguishes between major and minor thoroughfares: secondary highway markers have disappeared from the map, replaced by street names (i.e. “Provincial Road 241”); in Quebec there is no distinction between autoroutes and regular highways, as there used to be; and major thoroughfares that aren’t numbered highways look scarcely different from residential streets.
After the jump, a few screenshots of the errors I’ve found in the course of regular use (as opposed to a systematic search for error).
What’s frustrating about this is that Google’s response to inaccurate map data is to file a report with Tele Atlas (see previous entry). This works well enough when the errors are occasional; it’s far more problematic when there is apparently something wrong with the quality of the data on a fairly fundamental level, as appears to be the case where I live. There are just too many things that need fixing.
These are the kind of errors that make a mapping service very, very hard to use.
I should have mentioned MapTube long ago; Andrew Hudson-Smith wrote to me about it in May:
MapTube, the new mapping site from the guys at Digital Urban and CASA at University College London to view, overlay, mix and match choropleth maps, now includes a free creation tool.
Google Map Creator provides a quick and free way to convert .shp or formated .csv for viewing in Google Maps and MapTube — allowing datasets to be quickly and easily shared and visually compared against any other data on MapTube. In short it is perfect for local councils, government organizations, academics and general users who want to view and share their data in the easiest way possible.
Getting choropleth maps onto Google Maps has been a longstanding challenge; anything that makes it easier for people or organizations to get such data online is by definition good. So far, 134 maps have been added to MapTube (you have to host your own map tiles and data); more than a third of them deal with London. There is a dedicated MapTube London page; its launch in June was covered by the Nature Network, which also talked about MapTube in general (thanks to Richard for that link).
Maps and satellite images from UNOSAT showing the damage caused by the conflict between Russian and Georgian forces over South Ossetia and Abkhazia last month. Via Catholicgauze.
Frans Blok has been imagining maps of a future, terraformed Mars. He writes, “Almost ten years ago I made this map of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars. Recently I created a more sophisticated visualisation of a terraformed Mars, although no longer directly linked to Robinson’s novels. This map has the additional option to be viewed in Google Earth.” (He’s referring to Robinson’s excellent Mars trilogy, by the way.)
The Independent’s “I Want Your Job” feature features a cartographer — namely, Iain MacDonald of Collins Geo. Swoon at the exciting life of a cartographer: tedious painstaking research! No, seriously: after reading this I want to be a cartographer; keep in mind, I’m an historian who pulls down a paycheque correcting other people’s writing. Tedious painstaking research is not only my line of work, it’d be an upgrade, like accountancy to
lion taming banking.
Erm. Where did that come from?
Previously: Working Cartographers.
Also on MapHist, Tony Campbell points to this scorching blog entry by Travis McDade (a library administration professor and author of The Book Thief; see previous entry). Dade is writing about two thefts of rare books from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library; while not about maps, this is an unbelievable look into how libraries can enable thefts even when the thieves follow their security procedures. Key graf:
In all of my years of covering these thefts, I don’t think I’ve quite heard of anything like this. And just so the folks at the Hayes Presidential Library know, they’ve made it into my class. They’re on the flippin’ syllabus from this point on. Starting this semester. I’m shoe-horning them in. I’ll make room. And Soon. Destruction of Nineveh. Destruction of Alexandria. Looting of Poland, 1939-1950. Rutherford B. Hayes Library. Before I get to Transylvania, before I get to Breithaupt and Harner and Smiley and Blumberg and Spiegelman. My students have got to hear this and hear it immediately.
74-year-old map thief James Brubaker was sentenced to 30 months in prison yesterday, the Calgary Herald reports; he had pleaded guilty to two counts in June. (Why the Calgary Herald? Because the Montana-based Brubaker apparently hit both the Universities of Calgary and Lethbridge.) Via MapHist.
It’s not on their website (unless I’ve missed it); I have to find out from this item in a newspaper from the United Arab Emirates (!) that the cartograms from the fantastic Worldmapper team are soon going to be available in book form; The Atlas of the Real World goes on sale next month.
Previously: Cartograms from Worldmapper.
- Buy The Atlas of the Real World at Amazon.com
It seems as though every other map blogger has offered their opinion on Sean’s list of top
25 37 blogs in GIS and cartography, so here is my two cents’ worth:
- Instruments like Alexa and Technorati are blunt, and measure specific things; extrapolate them into a statement about quality or popularity at your own risk.
- This is comparing apples and oranges. Really, someone mainly interested in the geospatial industry is going to be much more interested in All Points Blog than Strange Maps, whereas Strange Maps’s popularity transcends the field, and gets readers who wouldn’t be the slightest bit interested in the geospatial industry’s inside baseball. Rinse and repeat with your own favourite blogs, and your own favourite niches.
- The list is English-only, and in this field, that’s a mistake. One of the best map blogs, period, is La Cartoteca, and I can say that with confidence even though I don’t speak (or read) Spanish. There are lots of blogs about maps in French, German, Spanish and other languages, and some of them are fantastic.
- There are plenty of general-interest blogs that talk about maps from time to time; add their Technorati rankings to the mix, and like O’Reilly Radar, which really shouldn’t be number one, they’ll displace the rest of us mapheads.
- Ranking blogs sucks. QED.
Cartography Design Annual #1
Nick Springer, editor
Springer Cartographics, 2008. Softcover, 78 pp. ISBN-13 978-0-6152-2116-8
Based on submissions from the Cartotalk community, this ambitious first iteration of the Cartographic Design Annual, edited by Nick Springer, is intended as a showcase of cartographic talent. A total of 36 maps, submitted by 29 contributors, are included in this volume.
The reproductions are beautiful, a testament to just how good a self-published book produced via print-on-demand (this time at Lulu.com). But don’t expect an anthology of usable maps. The Annual only provides a sampling: one page shows the map in full, and usually considerably reduced; the facing page provides a readable excerpt. Don’t, in other words, plan on using this as an atlas.
The maps themselves are something of a mixed bag; some are better than the others. But comparing them to one another is very much an apple-and-oranges exercise: these are real maps designed for real purposes. Tom Patterson’s relief map of the U.S. is here, as is a map for National Geographic. But there are also park maps, city maps, tourist maps, and maps for specific purposes: energy in India, snowfall in Colorado, golf, wine. The selection is eclectic. Some are basic, some are functional, some are works of art; all, however, are maps made by working cartographers in the course of their jobs. (And I want to know where I can buy Hans van der Maarel’s globe chair.)
Of the 36 maps in this collection, 20 are maps of the U.S. or constituent part (a park, a city), and nearly three-quarters of the maps depict some part of North America. Compare this with three world maps and two maps from Europe. Hopefully, the focus in future volumes won’t be quite so lopsided.
Each map is accompanied by a list of the software used to make it and the data source; it’s revealing that more than two-thirds of the maps were made with Adobe Illustrator, more than half with Photoshop, more than a quarter with Avenza MAPublisher and ESRI ArcGIS, and more than a fifth with Manifold. (Most maps were made with several applications.) It’s a useful barometer of the state of the art; I would, however, like to see more information provided, such as the projection used (at least for larger-scale maps) and, perhaps, a short note from the cartographer explaining what went into the map.
All in all, Nick has put together a revealing snapshot of what the field is producing; I can only look forward to subsequent volumes, for which I hope he ends up having to turn down too many good maps. The more cartographers hear about this project, the more submissions Nick gets, the better this series will be. A bit pricey at $40 for a 78-page paperback, but that’s the economics of POD for you, especially in full colour.
I received a review copy of this book.
Previously: Cartography Design Annual.
Another profile of the GIS going on in a city planning office, this time from the Missoulian, which looks at the City and County of Missoula’s combined Office of Planning and Grants and its senior GIS specialist and mapmaker, Casey Wilson. (The OPG’s maps are available here.)
Previously: Ed the Map Maker.
Via MapHist, an announcement that the E. G. R. Taylor Collection of Historic Printed Maps has been catalogued and is now available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room of the University of London’s Senate House Library. The Taylor Collection comprises 900 map sheets from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
This is worth reading: Stefan debunks a number of recent reports alleging that Google caved to government requests to censor imagery; among the articles fact-checked is the well-circulated 51 Things You Aren’t Allowed to See on Google Maps, which we saw in July. Where imagery is blurred in Google Earth, it’s almost always because it’s blurred at the source; Google had no active part in it.
Ravi Vyas is after the Survey of India again; in a piece in the Telegraph of Calcutta, he documents a small change the Survey has made to speed up its approval process:
Under existing copyright laws, any map of India, and this includes historical maps dating back to Vedic times, has to be cleared by the Survey of India, failing which the publication can be confiscated. The Survey of India checks the “authenticity” of external boundaries vis-à-vis Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and the coastal boundaries that includes all the islands on the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. This is an expensive and time consuming process.
However, because of repeated requests from publishers to simplify the checking procedures, the survey has made a small change: you can reproduce maps of India if you use outline maps provided by the survey. But these maps cannot be traced or reproduced photographically because the survey thinks that some distortion of boundaries takes place while doing this. If these rules are not followed, then the publisher or distributor has to add a disclaimer stating that the maps does not represent the authentic boundaries of India.
Fulminating against the bureaucratic insanity of it all, Vyas concludes: “No wonder we don’t have a decent atlas of India after 60 years of Independence.”
Via All Points Blog.
I’ve started a new contract where Internet access is limited (especially for non-work purposes); posts will be sporadic over the next few weeks as a result. I’ll do my best to keep up.
A map of British obesity has been compiled from statistics collected by general practitioners, the BBC reports. Via Infonaut, which presents a similar obesity map for Ontario, Canada. Can’t be compared: the Canadian map starts at 40.9 percent, whereas the highest rate of obesity in the British study is 15.5 percent. Either my fellow Canadians are egregiously fat, or the cutoff point for “obese” is different in each case.
Previously: Health Maps Roundup.
It’s John McCain’s night, so let’s have a little map-related fun at his expense. The Senator had earlier raised eyebrows with some geography- and cartography-related gaffes — referring to Czechoslovakia in the present tense, talking about the Iraq-Pakistan border — which the New Yorker’s “Naked Campaign” feature plays around with. Via Cartophilia, which also has a roundup of that very serious Iraq-Pakistan border conflict.
And, all right, Sean found a map of all his damn houses.
The NFL TV Distribution Maps site, which we’ve seen before, has been publishing maps of TV coverage for each NFL season since 2005. This year, though, they’ve switched to a Google Maps interface, which is actually an improvement, cartographically speaking, from the MS Paint-style maps that were used in previous years. Via Kottke.
Previously: NFL TV Distribution Maps.
OnionMap’s isometric maps of various world cities are somewhat disappointing: they’re essentially tourist maps that depict major landmarks, subway routes and the like. Nice enough — we don’t see very many examples of isometric mapping — but not very interactive. The maps are zoomable static images that do not show more detail at higher resolution. And they’re too small, showing only the cities’ downtowns (if that); it’s too easy to scroll off the map. These are the sorts of maps you’d find in brochures. Via La Cartoteca.
Previously: Shanghai in 3D.
Google also says that new data has been added for Georgian and other countries — but which other countries, they’re not saying. (Argentina is still blank, I see.) For Georgia, it’s limited city and town labels. (Update: here’s a list of the countries; it’s mostly island nations.)
Israel, however, has apparently just gotten street maps, though, Google Maps Mania notes, the street names are either in Hebrew or invisible.
Previously: A Small Country Far Away of Which We Know Little.
Google LatLong points to NOAA aerial imagery taken after the passage of Hurricane Gustav; the imagery has also been processed into a KML file for use in Google Earth, which would allow for some useful before/after comparisons.
(The entry also points to a KML file of health facilities in the affected area.)
Previously: Mapping Hurricane Gustav.
Geotagging a photo means adding geographical coordinates to an image’s metadata. There are basically two ways to do it. One, add that data in real-time when the picture is being taken, using a camera’s built-in GPS or an attached GPS module. Or two, use a separate GPS logger that you carry with the camera; when you get back to your computer, the GPS logger’s software adds coordinates to each image based on the image’s timestamp. For this to work, the clocks on your GPS logger and your camera have to be synchronized.
ATP’s GPS PhotoFinder mini is closer to the second method, but there’s a twist: it uses a card reader, rather than software, to embed coordinates; it writes directly to the image file while it’s still on the card. This may well be more convenient than having to use a separate application before getting to work on your photos, but it’s still an extra step you have to take — it’s just another gadget instead of another application.
The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center’s repopulation map shows the extent to which New Orleans’s neighbourhoods have recovered post-Katrina, using the following indicators: mail pickups and Road Home grant recipients (“stay and rebuild” vs. “sell to the State”). Via James.
More reactions to British Cartographic Society president Mary Spence’s complaint about satellite navigation and Internet mapping.
Ed Parsons, who was quoted in the original coverage, calls this “the annual ‘shock horror — nobody can read maps’ story” and a “desperate cry for attention.” He argues that the principles of cartographic design need to adapt to screen-based rather than paper maps.
Most online maps contain more detail than any traditionally designed map could ever do, but that detail is hidden behind an interactive interface, features are displayed dependent upon the level of zoom (scale) or the purpose of the map itself. …
The criticism also fails to take into account the biggest impact of the online revolution as far a mapping is concerned, now anyone with a web browser can be the publisher of maps, you no longer need to be a government institution or a large commercial company to produce a map and publish it to a global audience.
Rich Treves: “[O]f course you shouldn’t have churches and museums on a SatNav, it cramps up the view and you want it to be relatively sparse of detail so you can turn on layers like churches and museums at will. … IMHO the BCS needs to think clearly about what it is saying, comments about the loss of churches on SatNavs is as silly as bemoaning the disappearance of chimney sweeps in an age of central heating” (his emphasis).
Most of the work in “Within Four Miles: The World of Josh Dorman” is based on old topographical maps that the artist has cut out and collaged onto panels or canvas, drawn into and painted over. Typically, maps offer certitude and a clear sense of positional relationships. Dorman’s versions shed the anchors of rational order. They trade scientific method for poetic instinct. In finding a new use for old materials, Dorman has also resuscitated an obsolete definition of the word “map”: “to bewilder.” …
Dorman’s works are all journey, no destination — or perhaps multiple destinations. He toys with place names on maps, adding or blocking out letters to spell puns or playful descriptions. From old books, he cuts out diagrams of machine parts, botanical specimens and microorganisms, charts of celestial schema and ancient languages, weaving them together into a fluid, fictive realm. Forms give way to other forms with free-associative ease. Planes tilt and warp; scale and perspective shift radically. Epic themes infiltrate raw sensation. The antiquated and schematic merge with the new and immediate.
David Adjaye’s Europolis is being exhibited in Bolzano for Manifesta 7. “In conceiving Europolis David Adjaye has extracted information from the capital cities of the European Union and condensed it into a single entity. Europolis is not a traditional city but the idea of the city as phenomenon. Its organic form contains all the information about those cities from which it is drawn: material texture, population, time, scale and occupation.” More at We Make Money Not Art; via Geobloggers. (Photo: Régine Debatty.)
GIS Lounge responds to Mary Spence’s complaint about computer mapping: “What she fails to recognize is that online mapping, particularly efforts such as Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps and other online mapping applications have opened up access to geographic data not previously accessible to many. … I would counter that the growth in popularity of online mapping has increased geographic awareness and the ability to read and decipher geographic data.” Via Slashgeo.
Previously: The Threat of Internet Mapping.