Twenty Years

Today is The Map Room’s 20th anniversary.

The rule of thumb is that an item is vintage if it’s more than 40 years old, and antique if it’s more than 100 years old. (That tan-coloured Replogle globe with South Sudan on it? Not antique.) Time runs faster on the web, though: something 20 years old feels geologically ancient. Running a 20-year-old blog in 2023 feels like keeping a pet coelacanth: you’re keeping a living fossil alive.

As social media approaches what may well be its extinction event, there’s been a lot of talk about “bringing back blogs.” Um, blogs never went away: just marked its 25th anniversary, and there are still plenty of websites out there powered by WordPress or something similar that don’t call themselves blogs. What faded away, I think, was the idea of, and self-identification as, a blogger. Lots of people started blogs in the format’s early years but didn’t keep up with them; social media was a better fit for what they wanted to do. Not many people start a blog qua blog to be a blogger nowadays. But institutions still post updates in blog form, and experts share their insights on platforms that blur the lines between blog, social media and newsletter.

(Certainly the map blog never went away: we still have general-interest blogs like Maps Mania and Lat × Long; industry and academic figures like Matthew Edney, Kenneth Field and James Killick regularly post commentary and links; and plenty of working cartographers share their latest creations on blogging platforms as well.1)

The Map Room is not an institution, nor am I an expert. No really: I’m not. The idea that someone with an intense interest in a subject but not much knowledge could start a blog as a way to explore the subject—“an exercise in self-education” is what I called it—was something that made sense in 2003. It might be a bit more archaic now.2 I am also, twenty years on, rather more self-educated: I understand what I’m linking to more than I used to, and I’ve seen enough to know when to be skeptical. I’ve called bullshit on more than one occasion. I still can’t make a map of my own (there’s an alternate universe in which I’m making a perfectly happy living as a freelance cartographer), but my appreciation for them is all the richer for having spent two decades at this.

State of The Map Room

  1. Assume I’m no longer on Twitter. While my account is still there, and I check in very occasionally, it’s very much in read-only mode to catch things I might otherwise miss. The account is locked and I stopped posting to it in December. While I still cross-post to the Facebook page and Tumblr, the best place to follow me on social media is on Mastodon.
  2. Back to blogs. My blogroll page is always (a) out of date and (b) a mess, and needs keeping up to date (and cleaning up). If you have (or know of) a blog that should be listed, drop me a line.
  3. That goes for podcasts too. I’m only aware of a few of them. Podcasts: links: send them to me.
  4. Old posts going offline soon. To keep my hosting costs under control, I have to more or less break the old, Movable Type-based archives. These are posts made between January 2004 and June 2011. (They’re running on a different hosting plan, I unwisely coded them with hard server links, moving servers breaks those links, and I can’t edit the templates directly any more, not in Movable Type anyway.) These posts don’t get a lot of page views any more and I assume most have dead links; even so, a lot of them are worth keeping, so at some point I will be moving at least some of them into the current system. There are 4,004 posts involved so this will be a time-consuming task, and I’ll be doing it in chunks. In the meantime I’ll put up a placeholder page.
  5. I really need to find a better design template for this site.

A Mastodon Update

The Map Room’s Mastodon presence has moved to It just seemed more sensible to be on an instance that focused on the mapping and geospatial community. (By the way,’s admin has a Patreon to cover the hosting costs: running a Mastodon instance is rather more expensive than running a website.)

Previously: Mastodon for Mappers; The Map Room on Mastodon.

The Map Room on Mastodon

Given what’s been going on with Twitter recently, I figure that a Mastodon account for The Map Room might be useful, at least for those who feel the need to jump from Twitter to Mastodon. You can find it here: Update Nov. 20: I’ve moved it to

I have no plans to shut down any of The Map Room’s other social media presences (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter)—not at this time, anyway. And you can always subscribe via RSS or email—no intermediating platform required.


In other news, today is The Map Room’s 19th anniversary.

It hasn’t been a continuous run: it was on hiatus between June 2011 and January 2016 (the map content I posted to my personal blog during that time has since been brought over). But still, it’s been a lot: approaching something like 6,200 blog posts as of this writing. It’s kind of staggering, in hindsight.

If you’re moved to support The Map Room financially, you can do so via Ko-Fi or my hosting provider. It’s very much appreciated, and will help keep things going.

The Map Books of 2022 page is now live. At the moment only a few books are listed—it’s only February, after all—but this is where my worldly and erudite readers come in. If you know of a book coming out this year that ought to be on this page—basically, any and all books about cartography, maps and related subjects—please let me know. It’s best if the book has a publisher listing and publication date (though I’m well aware that dates can move around a lot); I’ll work with what I can get, though.

Subscribe to the New Email Digest

Last April I told you that with Feedburner’s announcement that it would be ending email subscriptions, I would have to come up with an alternative solution for the 500 or so of you who subscribe to The Map Room via its email digest. That alternative is now (more or less) up and running: You can subscribe to the new weekly digest by entering your email on the form on this page. You will receive an automated email asking you to verify that description. Click on that email’s link and you’ll be subscribed.

From now on, email subscriptions to The Map Room will involve a summary of the week’s posts written by me, rather than an auto-post of recent blog entries. If all goes to plan, it will mostly come out on Fridays (if I’ve posted that week), plus there may be occasional announcements at other times.

In the end I decided to go with my own internet service provider’s announcement list tool. It’s very old school and a bit less easy to use than a third-party email marketing service, but far better, I think, on the privacy front. I don’t even ask for your name. Your subscription is between you, me, and my mail server.

Current subscribers were emailed on Wednesday about this change and invited to subscribe. I got a lot of bounced addresses, so it may be that some of you reading this via email did not get Wednesday’s messages. Note that the Feedburner-powered digest will be shut down after this post goes out; if you want to continue (or start) receiving posts by email, visit this page to subscribe to the weekly digest.

(Let me know if you encounter any problems. I’ve gotten reports that people aren’t getting their confirmation messages, so do check your spam folder.)

About 500 of you subscribe to The Map Room via its email digest. That feature is powered by FeedBurner. Last week FeedBurner announced that it’s being moved to new infrastructure. Several features will as a result be discontinued—including email subscriptions. I’ve been investigating possible alternatives. The one that looms largest is Mailchimp; its free plan maxes out at 2,000 subscribers, which is four times what we need right now, so there’d be room to grow—but that limit is a hard limit (Mailchimp’s paid plans are way too expensive given this little website’s income). In any event I’ve got some time—until July, I think—to come up with a solution. Will keep you posted.

The Map Books of 2021 page is now live, but at the moment it has very few books listed. If there’s a book coming out in 2021 that should be on this page—basically, any and all books about cartography, maps and related subjects—please let me know. Ideally books should have a publication date (though I’m well aware that dates can move around a lot) and other details available, but I’ll work with what I can get.

Over the weekend I switched The Map Room over to a new site template. This is the first redesign of this site since I restarted it in January 2016. The old design was a stock template that over the years got modified and customized; I have yet to apply those modifications and customizations to the new design—right now it’s pretty much the stock Toujours template—so there are still a few things for me to do here and there. If things are wonky for a bit, that’s why.

The Map Books of 2020 page has been updated with new book listings, the latest cover art and updated publishing schedules (which have been just as much in flux as they’ve been in previous years, if not more so). It is as up to date and as complete as I can make it, but it’s a smaller list than usual. If I’ve missed something or something on this list is in error, please tell me.

Map Books of 2020

Most of The Map Room’s revenue comes from affiliate links (i.e., I get a cut when you buy something via a link on this website). That generally means the Usual Guys. But the Usual Guys aren’t for everyone, so I’ve signed up with Bookshop’s affiliate program. Bookshop is an online store that offers some support to independent bookstores: see InsideHook’s piece for details. It’s U.S.-only for now, and the selection is basically limited to what can be ordered through Ingram, but for something just getting off the ground it looks like a viable alternative. The Map Room’s Bookshop storefront is here, but direct links to book listings will appear where appropriate.