Esri Makes Satellite Imagery Available to OpenStreetMap Editors

Esri is making its satellite imagery collection available to OpenStreetMap editors.

Today Esri is proud to announce that we are making our own global collection of satellite imagery available to the OSM community directly through our existing World Imagery Service. This regularly updated resource provides one meter or better satellite and aerial photography in many parts of the world, 15m TerraColor imagery at small and mid-scales (~1:591M down to ~1:72k), 2.5m SPOT Imagery (~1:288k to ~1:72k), 1 meter or better NAIP in the US and many other curated sources, so we know it will make a welcome addition to OSM’s growing catalog of reference layers.

OSM editors have been able to trace maps from satellite imagery for years; other sources of such imagery have included Bing and Yahoo (back when Yahoo Maps was a thing). Different sources have different strengths, so this can only help the project. (Esri’s imagery makes no difference where I am, but that’s not a surprise.)

Hedberg Maps Survives Through Niche and Custom Mapmaking

Another tale of a traditional map publisher surviving in the face of Google Maps, GPS and smartphones from the Star Tribune, which profiled Minneapolis mapmaker Tom Hedberg earlier this month. Hedberg Maps’s traditional map products sell a fraction of what they used to, and they have fewer employees than they used to, but the company survives, the article says, by focusing on niche publications, like college and sports maps, and custom mapmaking, though their online store still has plenty of street maps. [MAPS-L]

Observatory Books’s Stock Inventoried

If you were wondering what happened to Observatory Books’s inventory after it closed its doors last November, the Juneau Empire has the story: it took more than three months for historian Patti David to sift through “every map cabinet and stack of paper in every corner of the bookstore”; the store’s collection of Alaskana will be shipped to Seattle to make it easier for collectors to purchase. [WMS]

The Business of Making Maps for Self-Driving Cars

CNN on the big business involved in creating detailed maps—called HD maps—for self-driving cars. “If you believe self-driving cars will eventually operate everywhere, then every city and street will need to be mapped out in granular detail.” How granular? During one test, a single-pixel error on one map caused cars to avoid a patch of road as though it was raised 10 inches. [Osher]

Previously: Human-Annotated Maps for Self-Driving Cars.

How Many Fake Business Listings Are There on Google Maps?

Bogus business listings on Google Maps have been a thing for a while; a new research paper, authored by researchers at Google and the University of San Diego, tries to quantify the scale and scope of the problem. The New Scientist reports:

To analyse the scope of this abuse, the group looked at over 100,000 listings that the Google Maps team had identified as abusive between June 2014 and September 2015. The fraudulent listings most often belonged to services like locksmiths, plumbers and electricians.

Overall, less than one per cent of Google Maps listings were fraudulent, but pockets of fake listings emerged. In West Harrison, New York, for example, more than 80 per cent of locksmiths listed were scams. The U.S. was home to over half of the fraudulent listings, followed by India with 17.5 per cent.

[Cartophilia]

Whither the BCS?

If you’re going to rant, do it at length. Kenneth Field takes 16,000 words to lay out his concerns about the British Cartographic Society.

BCS is failing. Let’s ask the hard questions that need asking and make the Society actually mean and offer something going forward for UK cartography … or reconsider the very purpose of the society and seek an alternative. I’d like to see profound change in what is offered; a society that makes me want to belong and which is the place I go to for my daily cartographic shot. I want to go beyond the scant reward of a re-branded society who think newly monogrammed pencils, pens and rulers will keep me interested. At the moment I see an error-strewn and content-less web site, a late Journal which is getting thinner, a conference that is costly and not particularly interesting and a rhetoric that says everything is rosy and dynamic. It really isn’t.

My fundamental pitch is that I’m convinced BCS is on its last legs. We (as in the community of cartographers and map-makers) should look towards forming a new society. The best approach in my mind is one that merges BCS with the other cartography society—the Society of Cartographers. BCS and SoC need to get round the table, cast aside personality and work towards a solution for the betterment of cartography as a whole. Form a brand new society that brings everyone together and starts afresh with a blank piece of paper rather than everyone’s well-worn prejudices. Deal pragmatically with the contested issues. Cartography has changed so much that the question has to be asked why shouldn’t the professional organisations that are clinging to some desire for relevance just disband, reform and go again?

It’s a mix of institutional critique and airing of personal grievances. I’m not a BCS member, nor can I assess the veracity of Field’s claims (the BCS itself has a rather formal rebuttal here). But what he describes—too many committees (especially for society with only around 700 members), too much dysfunctional ossification (the Iron Law of Institutions may also be applicable here)—is rather common, even endemic, in organizations. But I’ve also seen organizations reinvent themselves and be the stronger for it.

(Field’s work has been featured here previously: Kenneth Field’s Map of MarsGreen MarsEnd of the Line: A Tube Map of Tube Maps.)

Milwaukee’s Map Store Closing

The Map Store, a Milwaukee institution that has been in business since 1937, will be going out of business on April 1st. The Map Store’s owner cited “the combination of falling revenue and his age” (he’s 78) as reasons to close shop. [Cartophilia]

Always sad to see a map store close, but these are not unfamiliar reasons: the age and ill health of the proprietor felled Alaska’s Observatory Books; and Seattle’s Wide World Books and Maps fell victim to online shopping.

Bellerby Seeks Apprentice Globemaker

Bellerby & Co.

Want to make globes for a living? Bellerby & Co., maker of expensive, hand-made globes, is looking to hire an apprentice globemaker. They emphasize it’s a long-term job, not an internship:

It takes between 6 months to a year to learn how to make just the smallest sized globe … it is a further few years to make the larger sized globes.

Since it is unlikely we will find a former Globemaker.. all applicants will have to have a trial period… you have to try it before you both know you can do it … and to know you like doing it!

All jobs in our company require a patient and passionate person who will commit to the learning process and wants to stay in the company for at least 3 years afterwards.

The job posting was up for at least two months before Atlas Obscura blogged about it yesterday, but I presume, given Bellerby’s rather precise requirements—not so much about the candidate’s qualifications but their characteristics—that the position is still open. Have at it.

Google Roundup for January 2017

Google Maps has updated its ride services mode in its iOS and Android app, allowing you to book an Uber ride from within the app, and may offer parking availability in an upcoming Android release. [Engadget]

Meanwhile, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, seems to be scaling back its satellite imaging ambitions: it’s apparently in talks to sell its Terra Bella division, which it acquired as Skybox Imaging for $500 million in 2014, to competitor Planet. [Engadget]

Globemaking Films

This short film on globemaking from 1955 has been making the social media rounds:

Compare it to this short film from 1949:

It’s nearly identical in its turns of phrase and factoids, though there are slightly different emphases. Though the firm is unnamed, it’s clearly the same one: it’s even the same guy doing the varnishing.

These films fascinate me because they describe a kind of globemaking—layers of plaster, paper globe gores, and varnish—that I don’t think happens any more. There are some similarities to Bellerby’s globemaking methods, but Bellerby’s underlying globe isn’t a plaster shell. And most of us don’t have the money for a Bellerby globe: if we have a globe, it’s almost certainly a Replogle. As this short video from the Chicago History Museum reveals, Replogle’s globes are a combination of paper, cardboard and glue:

A Paper Maps Roundup

Suddenly I’ve got several links in the queue about paper maps and the use and making thereof:

The Daily Telegraph links a record year for rescues of climbers and walkers in the Lake District with a lack of preparedness and an inability to use a paper map and compass. [The Meek Family]

BBC Autos looks at something that ought to be obsolete in the age of onboard navigation and mobile phones: the AAA’s TripTik. “And yet? July 2016 was the most popular TripTik month in AAA’s history, issuing 2 million TripTiks to members in a single month.” Go figure. [Osher]

The BBC also has a short video on mapmaker Dave Imus, who describes himself as a “geographic illustrator” and describes mapmaking as an art rather than a science. [WMS]

I hadn’t know about Wunnenberg’s street guides, because I’m not from St. Louis, but I’ve seen other products of the sort: locally produced, hyper-detailed maps of a specific area. (Think the A-Z Maps and London, or Sherlock Maps and Winnipeg.) The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a look at Wunnenberg’s in the context of GPS, mobile phones and declining paper map sales. [WMS]

Streetwise Maps Is Apparently Closing

streetwise

Streetwise Maps, which has been publishing laminated maps of city centres around the world, is apparently closing up shop. In a statement posted to their website over the weekend (according to the Wayback Machine), Michael and Andrika Brown say as much:

Frankly, we’re pooped.

So now, after all the miles, all the notes, all the sketches and the reams of research material, it’s finally time to set aside the tools and retire (cue the band, release the confetti!!). It’s time for a new adventure.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this and to all of you who came along on the journey, this fiesta of a life. We are forever grateful.

No other details or word on how the business will be wound up. Streetwise Maps products are still available in stores (Amazon link), at least for the time being. [MAPS-L]