Mapping Bristol

A wide-ranging article at Bristol 24/7 explores at the different ways that Bristol has been mapped throughout history. It begins with a look at Jeff Bishop’s 2016 book, Bristol Through Maps (Redcliffe), which includes 24 maps of the city from 1480 to today. Then it goes on to Bristol City Council’s Know Your Place, which layers historic maps on top of a web mapping interface, and finishes with a roundup of the work of local artists and graphic designers. Quite the microcosm: so many kinds of mapping activity, all focused on one British city. [Tony Campbell]

New Google Earth Launches

A new version of Google Earth launched today. Unlike previous versions, the desktop version runs in a web browser rather than a standalone app. Also unlike previous versions, it’s no longer cross-platform: for now at least, the desktop version only runs in Chrome, and the mobile app is Android-only.

Frank Taylor has been covering the new release at the venerable Google Earth Blog and has a first review.

For my part, I’ve poked around in it in Chrome a bit and I found it fairly responsive and easy to use. If it runs this well in the browser I can see how a standalone app would be redundant; this is a better delivery method. I would much prefer it, though, if it also ran on platforms that didn’t belong to Google.

Update, 21 April: Coverage from AFP and Geoawesomeness focuses on the features, which I gave short shrift to above.

When Users Don’t Interact with Interactive Maps

Brian Timoney responds to the argument that few users actually interact with interactive infographics with some thoughts on how that might apply to online maps, with their sometimes-complicated, GIS-derived user interfaces. His suggestions? Static maps, small multiples, animated GIFs, text-based search—simpler, more user-friendly, more familiar UIs and ways to present mapped data.

Drawing in Windows Maps

“Windows 10’s stock Maps app has a drawing tool that’s quite useful, especially if you have a Windows 10 touchscreen PC,” writes Matt Elliott at CNet. In addition to scribbling notes, you can draw a line between two points to get directions and measure the distance of a drawn route. My household is all-Apple so I miss out on things like this on other platforms. [Gretchen Peterson]

Travel Times in Helsinki

Lauri Vanhala wanted to figure out the best place to buy an apartment in Helsinki, so he built an interactive sort-of-isochrone map of the city. He explains: “I calculated the travel time from every address to every other address in Helsinki around 7:30-8:00am (about 30 billion searches total!). Then I calculated the (weighted) average travel time to anywhere in the city, using amount of jobs in the target area as weight.” [OSM]

Amsterdam’s Interactive Maps

Many cities’ websites have a map section that contains a few interesting maps, but the City of Amsterdam’s interactive maps are something else in their number (more than 80 right now) and breadth and detail. They use discrete map pages powered by Google Maps (though not necessarily Google Maps tiles), rather than layers in a web-based GIS viewer, and that makes them pretty damn responsive in comparison, too. Or if you must have layers, there’s the Map of Maps. [CityLab]

Google Map Maker Is Now Closed

Google Map Maker, Google’s tool to allow users to edit its maps, has been shut down, Ars Technica reports. “A support page went up over the weekend declaring that Map Maker is closed but that ‘many of its features are being integrated into Google Maps.’” You may recall that Map Maker was temporarily suspended in 2015 after a series of embarrassing edits came to light; its editing tools have been increasingly limited to a smaller circle of editors.

OSM Then and Now

OSM Then and Now (screenshot)

Martijn van Exel’s OSM Then and Now compares OpenStreetMap as it was in October 2007 with how it is today, with a slider to change how much you see of one or the other. Amazing how little was mapped back then, especially outside: my own town didn’t appear at all, and even Ottawa was rudimentary.

Mapping Safe Washrooms

In response to measures like North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which restricts access to public washrooms by transgender people, crowdsourced online maps of safe washrooms—places with unisex or gender-neutral washrooms, or that let transgender people use the washroom that matches their gender identity—have been created: Refuge Restrooms has both a list and a map view; Safe Bathrooms uses Google My Maps. These maps seem like the modern-day equivalent of The Negro Motorist Green Book for trans people. [WMS]

Ottawa and Gatineau’s Growing Suburbs

Meanwhile, the Ottawa-Gatineau urban agglomeration (which is, as urban areas go, the closest to where I currently live) has, according to the census, grown by 5.5 percent since 2011, to a total population of 1.3 million. Much of that growth has occurred in suburbs that barely existed even when I moved to the region in 1999. This CBC Ottawa feature uses the Google Earth engine’s timelapse video function to chart the growth of seven of those suburbs. (Above: the Gatineau suburb of Aylmer.)

Mapping Canadian Census Data

Statistics Canada released population and dwelling data from the 2016 Census yesterday. MountainMath’s CensusMapper project already has interactive maps based on that data: population change since 2011 (absolute and percentage), population density, and unoccupied dwellings—with presumably more to come, since the interface allows you to make your own census-derived maps.

Dirty Reprojectors

Maps online invariably use the Web Mercator projection. The Dirty Reprojectors project aims to change that, at least in Mapbox. Anand Thakker explains.

Almost all web mapping libraries render maps using Web Mercator, making an assumption that you generally can’t change out-of-the-box. This has advantages, but it posed a real challenge for us when we set out to build the Washington Post’s live election results map, where using the Albers USA projection was an important requirement. To meet that requirement, we built a pipeline to pre-process geometries.

It’s a bit of a kludge, a way of fooling Mapbox into showing a different projection—latitude/longitude coordinates aren’t accurate any more—but it’s an impressive stab at a real problem. The Dirty Reprojectors web app demonstrates the possibilities, with all the projections available through the d3-geo and d3-geo-projection libraries. [James Fee]

NPR Profiles Crisis Mapper

Here’s an NPR profile of crisis mapper Patrick Meier, who was spurred into action by the 2010 Haitian earthquake and later went on to co-found the Digital Humanitarian Network.

With the Haiti earthquake, he had a chance to put everything he’d been thinking about into practice. He and some friends and colleagues began pulling information from social media—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube videos—and added it to a base map to start to get a picture of the damage in Haiti. They plotted points on the map in red dots, indicating pharmacies that were open, which ones did and didn’t have medicines, which roads were blocked, where people were trapped under rubble and needed help.

As the days went on, the effort attracted thousands of volunteers from 40 countries around the world, all wrangling tweets, text messages, videos, emails, Facebook posts and other messages. A special toll-free number was set up for people in Haiti to send text messages about their conditions and whereabouts. Meanwhile, Meier and his team in the U.S., including members of Haitian diaspora, worked around the clock, funneling a flood of information into a constantly evolving map.

[Caitlin Dempsey]

Mapping Gentrification Risk in New York City


The Displacement Alert Project Map is a tool built by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development that maps, building by building, the risk of gentrification in New York City—i.e., where the rent is about to get too damn high. Intended for use by housing advocates, tenant organizers, community groups and others, the map calculates the risk of displacement—being pushed out of affordable housing—based on several factors. “Access to this data equips communities with information necessary to fight back against the displacement of residents who are being priced out and pushed out of their neighborhoods, to stop the harassment of tenants by bad landlords, and to prevent the expiration and loss and affordable housing units.” [Gothamist/Maps Mania]