An Event Apart: Mapping A Web Of Data

by Luke Wroblewski December 9, 2009

At An Event Apart in San Francisco, Mike Migurski discussed the elements needed to design high quality geographic experiences and visualizations on the Web in his talk: Mapping A Web Of Data.

  • Excel spreadsheet visualizations: display information on a map from a set of data usually formatted as name/value pairs.
  • Now starting to display geographical information that is shared as shapefiles (.shp). These files can contain geographical information including layers, areas, and more.
  • Natural Earth data: release a data set (of shapefiles) that people can use to make maps of regions and countries. Can be used without licenses.
  • OpenStreetMap: handles the opposite end of Natural Earth data. Extremely hyperlocal content assembled through “wikipedia model”. This is an evolving resource for higher scales.
  • Shapefiles at the top are coming together with OpenStreetMap from below to create a geographic set of data that is quite complete. This provides quality data to work from.
  • Some data sets do not change very much. Useful as stable reference tools/visualizations. Others are quite dynamic.
  • Put a slider on a map and you get instant interactivity.
  • Mapnik is high quality open source map rendering. Takes XML based location information and allows you to style it. Uses OpenStreetMap data.
  • The cartography on Google focuses on the map. In other examples, the map is meant to be very subdominant. EveryBlock puts the focus on local information and allows the map to recede.
  • TileCache –serves up the images you need to render maps.
  • Protovis: how do you put data on your map. A Javascript library for rendering data marks: markers, size markers, colors, sparklines, charts, and more.
  • You can design with Mapnik –to draw maps. Serve maps with TileCache. Make better markers with Prototvis. This combination gives you control over the design of geographic experiences online.