Server Upgrade

On Friday I finally upgraded The Map Room’s hosting plan, moving from shared hosting to a virtual private server.

There was a small hiccup: initially the VPS was housed at my web host’s Oregon data centre while the MySQL server was in Virginia: this led to pages hanging for about seven seconds before loading unless you loaded a cached version. But that got sorted out late Friday night (or early Saturday morning, depending), and now everything is snappy and fast and not at all likely to throw server errors. There’s tons of CPU, memory and disk space to spare on my VPS; The Map Room had been just slightly too much for shared hosting, but now it will have lots of room to grow before I have to upgrade again. Honestly, I should have done this years ago.

Reader contributions to my hosting bills are a big reason why this upgrade was able to happen. Thanks to all who sent money in that direction. Your support is very, very much appreciated.

Pledge Break

If you like what I do here and you have a couple of extra dollars, pounds, euros or kroner lying around, this would be an awfully good time to send them The Map Room’s way: sent directly to me via Ko-Fi or, if you don’t trust me to handle money, directly to my web hosting bill.

That bill, by the way, is about to go up. This blog has been on the edge of need-to-upgrade/don’t-need-to-upgrade since I restarted it nearly two years ago, but it looks like I’ve done all the optimizations I can under shared hosting. It’s time to get a VPS. Which will cost a little more.

Given the dreadful state of online advertising (my ad income is one-twentieth what it was a decade ago), blogs like The Map Room will increasingly have to rely on reader support. I’m not very comfortable with periodic pledge breaks like these, so I’m exploring the idea of setting up a membership system, which if I go for it would launch some time in early 2018. The trick with me using systems like Memberful or Patreon is that a blog like The Map Room isn’t really geared toward members-only content: I’m a link aggregator, not a content producer. But if I can make this project a bit more financially viable, I can spend time on it rather than other work.

Your support, as always, is not required, but it is deeply appreciated.

Map Books of 2017 Updated

I’ve finally updated the Map Books of 2017 page to account for all the books that were brought to my attention over the past few months.

Later this month it’ll be time for me to post the 2017 edition of The Map Room’s Holiday Gift Guide. Each year I put out a list of some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published over the previous year. This year’s guide will be a rather smaller selection of the above list, focused on gift-giving (academic monographs and GIS manuals make less-than-ideal gifts, I’m thinking); the Map Books of 2017 page is meant to be more comprehensive.

Importing Older Map Entries

During The Map Room’s hiatus (June 2011 to January 2016), any map blogging I did went on my personal blog. I wrote a total of 201 map-related blog posts during that period. At the moment I’m starting to remove older material on my personal website, so those posts have now gone dark over there. I’d like to keep them around, so I’ve started the process of importing those map posts over here. I did 2011 earlier today, and I learned that each post is going to need a lot of cleaning up, so it’ll be a slow process.

The Fantasy Maps section that once resided on my personal site is now more or less over here, too—though it’s as bare-bones and incomplete here as it was over there.

Pre-2016 Archives Offline

Blog posts prior to January 2016 are offline for the time being, the result of my changing this site to a new FTP user account on the same server without taking into account some of the hard links in the PHP code of my legacy pages. Sorry about that. I think I have some idea how to get them back up and running; I’ll let you know when I do.

Books Update

A lot of things accumulated in my inbox during the move, and the backlog is kind of overwhelming right now, but I’ve finally updated the Map Books of 2017 page to include all the books that came to my attention during that time.

Speaking of backlogs, I still have several books in my reviewing queue, which I hope to be able to tackle soon.

And speaking of reviews: publicists should note that while my mailing address has not changed, my street address has. If you’re sending me review copies by any means other than the postal service, please contact me to get my new street address. (See also my reviewing guidelines.)

A Programming Note

Just to let you know that I’ll be moving house throughout the month of May; as a result, posts to The Map Room may be a bit more erratic and sporadic than normal this month. (Not that posts aren’t already erratic and sporadic, but you get the idea.)

Here’s a List of Map Blogs

There are still plenty of other blogs about maps, cartography and geospatial out there (despite my comments about the future viability of blogging). I have long made a point of using this platform to draw attention to other map blogs; to that end, I’ve resurrected a list of them on the new Blogroll page. It’s based in part on this publicly editable list of map blogs started by Andy Woodruff last year. Additions and corrections always welcome.

Fourteen

Today marks The Map Room’s fourteenth anniversary: its first posts went live on 31 March 2003.

The general consensus is that the blog is finished as a medium, done in by the effective death of RSS (thanks to Google killing Reader), the collapse of online advertising (too many publishers chasing too few ads), and the shift in online attention from blogs to social media. Blogs aren’t as financially viable as they once were, if they ever were. Another portent: this week the blog advertising network The Deck announced it would be closing down.

In 2006, The Map Room was at what would turn out to be its peak in terms of attention and revenue, and I was looking forward to additional growth. Neither ended up occurring. Revenues stagnated, and I took a needed break in 2011. I returned in 2016, and over the past year this blog’s traffic has been stable at about a fifth of what it was at its peak. Google ad income is one-twentieth (Amazon income is more or less on par: you folks do like buying books).

(This is probably the point at which I ought to mention that you can support this blog by kicking a few dollars my way via Ko-Fi or towards my web hosting costs. Either way, appreciated.)

Looking back on it now, for all the bumph about the long tail and niche blogging, this was never going to be a bill-paying operation. I’d frankly have to work a lot harder and more consistently for that to happen, and I’m not capable of that: my poor health is one of the reasons why I’m available to do The Map Room in the first place. (For example, I spent most of the last two weeks flat on my back, which is why posts have been so sporadic this month.) I’m not comfortable soliciting sponsorships or setting up a Patreon page if I can’t guarantee that I’ll follow through.

But that’s not to say that I won’t keep at this. I’ll do what I can, when I can. Fourteen years after starting this project, I’m still not tired of it. I’m still learning new things about maps, and I’m still enjoying myself. That’s saying something.

Map Books, Map Books

With all the new books coming to my attention in recent weeks, it’s taken me a while to update the Map Books of 2016 page, but I’ve finally done so.

I’m also beginning to hear about books coming out in 2017, so it’s not too early for me to start working on the Map Books of 2017 page.

Some of you may have noticed the bestseller list on the sidebar of The Map Room’s home page (if you’re browsing on a mobile device, it’s at the bottom of the page). It’s based on Amazon and iBooks affiliate sales via this website over the previous three full months: right now it covers August through October; on December 1st I’ll drop August and add November, and so on.

Traffic from Social Media

A funny quirk of social media is that despite having more followers on Twitter than Facebook (4,100 vs. 2,400 at the moment), and even with Facebook algorithms that seem to reduce page views for any post with commercial intent (e.g. product links) so you can pay to boost it, The Map Room consistently gets twice as much traffic from Facebook as it does from Twitter. Go figure. (Google+ traffic is 10 percent Facebook’s; Tumblr’s is a rounding error.)

Map Books Update

More books have been added to the Map Books of 2016 page: have a look. Some are available right now; others you’ll have to preorder. As usual, buying via this website helps support The Map Room.

I thought about doing a similar page listing map colouring books for adults, but it seems redundant when you can just refer to the colouring books tag (or the coloring books tag, if you’re going to be insistently American).