Urban Scratchoff

Using an interactive interface to compare present-day and historical maps and aerial imagery is done all the time—on this website I use a slider plugin—but Chris Whong’s Urban Scratchoff uses a familiar metaphor to compare present-day aerial images of New York City with imagery from 1924. Give it a try. More on how Chris did it. [via]

Beware of Fake Snowfall Maps

Meterologist Dan Satterfield warns about fake snowfall maps appearing on social media. “[R]esponsible meteorologists do not post raw model data more than 3 days away from an event. It’s just not likely to be correct, and could actually give someone a false sense that the storm will not impact them. […] If you see a map showing snowfall totals, it almost certainly did not come from NOAA, or an AMS Certified meteorologist. There are even hoax maps floating around from storms in the past” (emphasis his).

Google Maps Updates

Recent Google Maps updates include driving mode, an Android-only navigation mode that, as Android Police describes it, “uses your location history and web searches to make assumptions about where you’re going and give traffic updates and ETAs as you travel” [via]. Also this week, the world’s largest model railway, Hamburg’s Minatur Wunderland, was added to Street View. Quite engrossing if you’re into model trains.

Mapping the Refugee Crisis

lucify-refugees

Here are two interactive maps that show the scale of recent refugee migrations. Lucify’s interactive map (screenshot above) shows the flow of asylum seekers to European countries since 2012. And this interactive map, compiled by The Conversation from UNHCR data, shows the size of refugee populations originating from or residing within each country from 1975 to 2010. In each case, the numbers grow with each passing year. More from Scientific American’s SA Visual blog. [via]

Mapping Aid Worker Attacks

An interactive map of attacks on aid workers since 2000. IRIN: “This map, a joint product between IRIN and Humanitarian Outcomes, is the first time ever the full scope of aid worker security events has been presented in visual form, which can be searched and filtered and browsed. It shows events from the beginning of 2000 until the end of May 2015. It’s a sobering testament to the dangerous work of saving lives.” [via]

And in Google Maps News …

Google’s Map Maker is in the process of reopening, with six countries reopening on August 10 and another 45 countries last Monday. Map Maker, Google’s tool allowing users to make changes to Google Maps, was suspended last May after some embarrassing edits came to light. Regional leads are now in place to review user edits before they go live on the map.

If mapcodes and other geographical shortcodes aren’t Googly enough for you, take a look at Open Location Codes, a Google-developed, open-sourced project. Generated algorithmically rather than with data tables. Announced for developers last April, they can now be used in Google Maps searches.

RIP Yahoo Maps

Citing changing priorities, Yahoo announced today that Yahoo Maps is among the products that it will be shutting down; it’ll go dark at the end of this month. “However,” says Yahoo chief architect Amotz Maimon, “in the context of Yahoo search and on several other Yahoo properties including Flickr, we will continue to support maps.” Business Insider, TechCrunch, VentureBeat.

For a few years Yahoo Maps got frequent upgrades and improvements. The current map platform launched in May 2007; it replaced a Flash-based map engine that first debuted as a beta in November 2005 and became the default map a year later, replacing an even older map service that, if my memory serves, was like the pre-Google Maps MapQuest. Since then Yahoo Maps has stagnated—but for a while there, before Google Maps became the dominant juggernaut it is today, it could have been a contender.

Map Anniversaries

Apollo 14: Mitchell Studies Map

Google Maps turned 10 years old on Sunday—a milestone observed by Samuel Gibbs in the Guardian. See also Liz Gannes’s retrospective at Re/Code. My reaction on launch day was pretty effusive—I was blown away mainly by the user interface. But it wasn’t immediately dominant: it took roughly four years for Google to surpass MapQuest in traffic.

Meanwhile, the Pro version of Google Earth, which used to cost $400/year, is now free. Google Earth itself launched in June 2005, so is approaching its own 10-year anniversary, but it began its existence a few years earlier as Keyhole EarthViewer 3D.

Speaking of map anniversaries, National Geographic Maps is marking its centennial.

The photo above marks another anniversary: It shows Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell consulting a map during his second lunar EVA on February 6, 1971. Apollo 14 returned to Earth 44 years ago yesterday.

Importing CanVec Data into OpenStreetMap

Last February I imported CanVec data into OpenStreetMap for the first time.

CanVec is a dataset produced by the federal Department of Natural Resources. It’s been made available to use in OpenStreetMap: users have to download the data for a given area and import it into the OSM database.

It’s a great resource, but I’ve been giving CanVec the side eye for years, largely because OSM users had been bungling the imports and not cleaning up the mess they made. To some extent it also encouraged a certain amount of laziness from Canadian OSM users: why go to the trouble of tracing imagery or going out with a GPS if you could just download the data from the Natural Resources FTP server?

That said, most of my complaints were from a few years ago; it’s been a while since I’ve seen a CanVec-induced mess in the database (for example, doubled or even tripled roads imported on top of one another). And between existing imports and the improved Bing aerial and satellite imagery coverage, there weren’t many places I was aware of that I could, you know, try a CanVec import for myself.

Except one.

Continue reading “Importing CanVec Data into OpenStreetMap”

Error Reporting in Apple Maps

A major feature of Apple’s forthcoming Maps application for OS X 10.9 Mavericks is enhanced error reporting. AppleInsider has the details. This was inevitable, not just because of the uneven quality of Apple’s maps and the reputational firebombing they’ve gotten since their launch last year, but because all online maps suck and need error reporting. Of course, reports are one thing; how quickly and effectively they’re acted on—that’s what’s important.

Previously: Apple Maps on the Mac.