Tags: maps

11

sparkline

One week of Map Tales

It’s been just a week since Clearleft unveiled the Map Tales project that we built at Hackfarm and there have already been some great stories told with the site.

Paul documented his 2009 road trip to South by Southwest.

Alessio put together a photographic guide to his adopted home, showing the secrets of Barcelona.

Andy told two tales of two different trips: wine-tasting in California’s Dry Creek Valley and hanging with the hipsters in East London.

Fellow Brightonian Tom Prior has recreated the story of the famous Stirling Moss victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia, the legendary open-road endurance race in Northern Italy.

I love the simplicity of Oliver and Peter Walk to School that Peter Ruk has embedded on his site—beautifully simple .

I’ve made a map tale of the voyage of The Beagle with material fromAboutDarwin.com.

Meanwhile Anna is putting together the tale of the Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole because—get this—a relative of hers was part of Scott’s team!

There’s plenty of room for improvement with Map Tales. It would be nice to have customisation options at some point—colours, fonts, maybe even map tiles. Some narratives would probably work better with aerial imagery, for example. In fact, that’s something that Andy has been tirelessly tinkering with. To get a taste of how that looks, check out Britain From Above, the epic map tale of the 2008 BBC documentary series.

Wait. They don’t love you like I love you.

There’s been a lot of map-related activity on the BBC recently. The series of documentaries called The Beauty of Maps was all too short.

Meanwhile, Radio 4 ran a ten-part series entitled On The Map. They would have disappeared down the Beeb’s memory hole but Brian did a little bit of digital preservation and passed them on to me. I’ve put them on Huffduffer. You can subscribe to a podcast of all ten episodes or listen to them individually:

  1. The Map Makers
  2. Mapping the Metropolis
  3. Motoring Maps
  4. Social Mapping
  5. The Lie of the Land
  6. World View
  7. Off The Map
  8. Whose Map is it Anyway?
  9. Digital Maps
  10. Maps of the Mind

If you’re in London any time before September 19th, be sure to check out the Magnificent Maps exhibition at The British Library. It’s free and it’s excellent.

Sparkmaps

Last week, on Richard’s recommendation, Jessica and I went out to eat at relatively new Kemp Town establishment, The Ginger Dog—all in the name of research for Prinicipia Gastronomica of course.

Being relatively new to this neighbourhood, I wanted to make sure we didn’t go astray. I don’t have an iPhone but I do have an iPod Touch so, before leaving the house, I loaded up the map app with walking directions.

The way to The Ginger Dog

Even though I didn’t have 3G, or even WiFi, to help me on my perambulation, the iPod Touch does have triangulation. So every time I checked the map, a blue dot marked my spot. I just had to make sure that the blue dot didn’t stray off the purple line.

On the way back, I opened up the map app again to retrace my steps. This time, the map tiles didn’t load. But my route home was still marked in purple, and the blue dot still showed my position.

That’s when I realised that all the other information on the map—the streets and landmarks—were irrelevant to the task of navigating my way from A to B. All I needed to do was keep the blue dot on the purple line. It’s the minimum information density for wayfinding: the mapping equivalent of a sparkline.

Map sparkline

Wayfinders keepers

Cennydd has written a great article for Johnny Holland magazine called Wayfinding Through Technology—a preview of his EuroIA talk, The Future of Wayfinding. It dovetails nicely with some of the stuff that Adam Greenfield spoke about at dConstruct.

Meanwhile, over on OpenType, there’s an article on Wayfinding observations: Landmarks and cardinal directions. It uses the specific example of navigating Vienna:

The city center was also easy to find and I can easily place it on my cognive map. It’s across the river and Southwest of my hotel.

It’s interesting that the river is mentioned as being particular useful as an orientation point. The new iteration of the London tube map has ditched the Thames, to much dismay.

tube map

Closed open data

I arrived in San Francisco yesterday after a smooth flight (I bumped into Malarkey on the plane—how did I not spot him at the airport?). Now I’m on the ground, staying with Tantek for a couple of days—I’ll be moving into a hotel room once the conference starts.

I have a few days on either side of the conference to explore San Francisco. I’ll probably end up walking around a lot. It might be fun to make use of one of the newer features of Google Maps: put yourself on the map. If this feature had existed when I was in Chicago for An Event Apart, I would have plotted my explorations of that city.

If I do map my movements while I’m in San Francisco, you’ll be able to find them on my profile page. That page also has an hCard… sorta.

Alas, the hCard is contained within an embedded iframe. This means that most microformat parsers—bookmarklets, plugins, converters—won’t find the hCard because they parse at the URL level, reasonably enough. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for using an iframe. This is exactly the kind of embedding that’s normally done on the server before a page is served up to the browser.

The guys over at Google are smart so I’m sure they’ll get this sorted out but I can’t help but feel that it’s a perfect example of why it’s important to use markup before adding microformats. If you aren’t using the right elements to structure your content to begin with, it’s probably going to be more of a struggle to implement that extra sprinkling of microformats.

Map games

At last year’s FooCamp, Tom, Simon, Paul, Suw and others had fun creating giant pictures for the benefit of a Google fly-over. The results are now visible and they look pretty good.

I mention this because if you’re in Sydney tomorrow, you might want to arrange something similar for the Australia Day Google fly-over. No rude words or Firefox logos, please.

Virtual trainspotting

The second day of BarCamp London is going great — I’m amazed a the energy and enthusiasm after a night of very little sleep for everyone. The lack of sleep can be attributed to Simon and his damn Werewolf game.

I’ve just seen the most wonderful presentation from the excellent Matthew Somerville. He works on They Work For You… and I just found out that he’s the guy who did the renegade accessible Odeon site!

He’s built a fantastic mashup of maps and train times. Maybe I shouldn’t be drawing attention to it because he’s getting the data by screen-scraping — because there is no National Rail API — but damn, this is sweet! You can find out when they’re due to arrive at a station. You can see the trains moving along the map. Click the checkbox to speed up the movement by ten.

See how Brighton is in the drop-down list of stations? Matthew added that in the middle of the presentation in response to my request. After all, I need to get back down to Brighton later today.

Iteravely Upcoming

Upcoming.org has rolled out some changes. The visual design has been tweaked, particularly on the events pages.

The colours and typography are looking very good indeed. The change to the way attendees are listed inline doesn’t work quite as well. I’m not the only one who thinks so. But instead of just bitching about it like me, others have provided mockups as part of their constructive criticism.

While this latest update is one of the biggest changes that has been rolled out on the site, it certainly isn’t the first. In fact, Upcoming seems to be in a constant state of gradual change and improvement.

There’s a lot of talk these days about , but Upcoming is one of the few places where I’ve noticed it in action. The design has been improving gradually and almost imperceptibly. Did anyone notice when the top banner changed from being a solid colour to a gradient? I wish now that I had taken screenshots of Upcoming every few weeks. They would make for an interesting time-lapse movie.

The Yahooiness of Upcoming is beginning to make itself felt. You can now migrate your Flickr buddy icon over to Upcoming. Also, if you tag photos on Flickr with “upcoming:event={event id}”, they will show up on the corresponding event page. Then there’s the maps integration.

Both Upcoming and Flickr are now making use of Yahoo maps. The Flickr map exploration page is, like so many things on Flickr, a real time-sink. It’s fun browsing photos with the added context of location.

But — and it’s a big but — Yahoo’s mapping data for Europe is particularly poor. So don’t expect too much detail when you’re browsing holiday snapshots from Brighton. I blame crown copyright myself (though I do wonder how Google has managed to get such detailed data).

As part of this latest iteration, Flickr are moving away from using tags for geocoding:

As a bonus there will be no more need for the unsightly “geotagged/geo:lat/geo:long” tags cluttering up your photos - we’ll offer an automated way to remove them all once the development community has had a chance to make the necessary changes to their code.

I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. There’s nothing wrong with using visible geographical co-ordinates. I’d prefer to keep my meta-data visible, thank you very much.

Mashing up with microformats

Back in March, during South by Southwest, Tantek asked me if I’d like to sit in on his microformats panel alongside Chris Messina and Norm! The audio recording of the panel is now available through the conference podcast.

I’ve taken the liberty of having the recording transcribed (using castingWords.com) and I’ve posted a tidied up version of the transcript to the articles section: Microformats: Evolving the Web. You can listen along through the articles RSS feed which doubles up as a podcast.

I’ve also posted the transcript on the microformats wiki so that others can edit it if they catch any glaring mistakes in the transcription.

During the panel I talked about Adactio Austin, a fairly trivial use of microformats but one that I’ve been building upon. I’d like to provide some cut’n’paste JavaScript that would allow people to get some added value from using microformats. Supposing you have a bunch of locations marked up in hCard with geotags, you could drop in a script and have a map appear showing those locations.

Perhaps the geotagging won’t even be necessary. Google added a geocoder to their mapping API two weeks ago. The UK, alas, is not yet supported (probably because the Post Office won’t let go of its monopoly that easily… Postman Pat, your money-grabbing days are numbered).

Unfortunately, Google Maps isn’t very suited to the cut’n’paste idea: you have to register a different API key for each domain where you want to use the mapping API.

The Yahoo maps API is less draconian about registration but its lack of detailed UK maps makes it a non-starter for me.

Maybe I should step away from maps and concentrate on events instead. It probably wouldn’t be too hard too write a script to create a calendar based on any hCalendar data found in a document. Perhaps I’ll investigate the calendar widget from Yahoo.

Ultimately I’d like to create something like Chris’s Mapendar idea. If only there were enough hours in the day.

When mashups attack

In all the many mashups out there, Google Maps is probably the most used API (version 2 is out now).

One of the latest in the long line of map mixes is Galker Stalker. It takes user-submitted celebrity sightings and displays them on a map of Manhattan.

Has Nick Denton gone too far this time? George Clooney certainly thinks so. Of course, for a site like Gawker, any publicity is good publicity. Jessica and Jesse are just so excited that George Clooney has noticed their existence.

Adactio Austin

In less than a week, I — along with the rest of the Brit Pack — will be flying out to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest 2006.

I will be speaking with Aaron. If you fancy learning how to bluff your way in DOM Scripting, swing on by.

The standard of panels looks really good this year. As usual, it’s going to be difficult to choose which ones to attend and which ones to pass up. I remember at last year’s conference, I had the constant feeling that there was probably something really good happening somewhere at every moment and I was missing it… but I was missing it for something equally good. That’s a nice, if somewhat frustrating feeling.

But the panels and presentations are just one part of Southby. The real value of Geekstock is the pressing of the flesh and the meeting of the minds. I met so many wonderful people last year, it was astounding. I mean, by the sheer law of averages, I should have come across at least a few assholes, right? Nope. Salt of the earth, those webby geeks.

I am so looking forward to once again being surrounded by fellow nerds, imbibing Shiner Bock and consuming Texas barbecue. This year is going to be all the more fun for the presence of Jessica.

Instead of posting a list of panels I’m thinking of attending, I thought I’d put together a page of much more useful information: parties I plan on going to. To use the term du jour, I’ve “mashed up” hCalendar with Google Maps and here’s the result:

Adactio Austin

If you’re going to be in Austin, and just in case you’re wondering where I’m going to be on any given evening, just make use of Austin’s ubiquitous WiFi to pull up that page. I want to make it easy as possible for you to join me for a beer.

Update: After some inspiring banter with Tantek, I’ve added some more microformat goodness to Adactio Austin. The list of parties is now outlined in xoxo and the venues are marked up as hCards.