Lions, Tigers + Bears – Oh My!

My unofficial Lions, Tigers and Bears (oh my!) – aka Maptime, Github and Twitter – list based on an e-mail sent to a colleague interested in the GIS development and open source communities. Enjoy, all! 😛

  1. Lions (Maptime – MSP Chapter) –

Meetings are generally once a month on weeknights for two hours. I usually grab some #geobeers with good folk before and after. Good stuff; ranging from introductory to advanced topics throughout the event. Your spouse and/or kids could definitely come, too if they have interest in cool maps/cartography/geogeek stuff. 🙂


  1. Tigers (Github) –

For now just sign up and you can follow me if you want to see the ridiculousness that I do (forewarning – it’ll probably be obnoxious). Don’t worry about logistics on this yet, the biggest thing is to get on here and watch what people are doing, check out some cool things and other ridiculously fun things. Don’t worry about posting code if you aren’t comfortable, we’ll get there together.

  1. Bears (Twitter)

Sign up!!! And follow some cool and knowledgeable people/groups such as:

  1. Mapbox @mapbox,
  2. NACIS @nacis (Cartography-based conference in Mpls this Oct),
  3. Gretchen Peterson @petersonGIS (Cartography genius),
  4. Visual Idiot @idiot (this one is for fun more than anything),
  5. LeafletJS @leafletJS,
  6. CodeNewbies @codenewbies (they also have a Twitter chat every Wed. night – HIGHLY recommended),
  7. Lyzi Diamond @lyzidiamond (a cool geo-dev/geogeek),
  8. Maptime MSP @maptimeMSP, and
  9. MN GIS/LIS @mngislis

Also, this week in particular is HUGE – two amazing conferences are happening the Esri Developer Summit and FOSS4GNA. So follow the following hashtags (I’ve been keeping these browser windows open all day and refresh when a few come in) – #foss4gna and #DevSummit.


Directional Passions

I recently finished reading the book From Here To There by Kris Harzinksi (Amazon). As a cartographer, looking at hand drawn maps has always been a fascination of mine and the collection compiled by Harzinski is no exception. His book has: direction maps, found maps, fictional maps, artful maps, maps of unusual places and explanatory maps. Some of my favorites are: Fellow Passenger Becomes Friend (34), Quastolia (96-7), and Shared Notepad (114-5).

From Here To There Cover

Each of these maps, different in their own way, are based on the cartographer’s intent and knowledge of an area. Each shows the individuality of its cartographer and their thought process on a piece of paper. Some maps are incredibly detailed while others very simplistic. When looking through the maps compiled by Harzinski I see more than a map and try and think in the cartographer’s shoes. “Why was this map drawn this way? What was s/he thinking? Feeling? Intending?

For me it goes back to one of the first maps I ever drew – before MapQuest or any web mapping tool was available to the public. It was a map with detailed directions from my school to my house to anyone who would be visiting from my school. This project is one of my earliest memories that sticks in my mind – ten years before I knew I would have a career in Geography – a sixth grade geography assignment that changed my life. To this day, those directions are the same directions I give to anyone visiting my parents house.

What is your directional passion?

Campaign Maps

Maps that Tell a Story

One of the newest ideas in the cartographic world are maps that tell a story. Sometimes viewers cannot get the full perspective of a map that looks “normal” or contains information we see everyday. Instead, cartographers are trying to tell a story using either dynamic information through social media, photos and/or videos or distorting maps to show you what your eye misses at first glace – conveying a story. Below are some distorted maps that tell a story of the upcoming election.

Electoral Votes

In most nationwide maps we see which candidate has won over its respective state with a number of electoral votes won by that candidate. But what the map does not normally tell us is the weight of the state with its electoral votes. In the map displayed below you can see the weight each state has based on their electoral votes and the state’s popular vote from the 2008 election. This weight is key as the electoral votes by state, not the popular vote in the nation depict the final winner – as we saw in the 2000 election when George W. Bush had a lower popular vote but won the electoral vote over his opponent, Al Gore.

The United States with state sized based on the number of electoral votes. Map Source: Adam Cole/NPR.

Election Advertising Spending

As we focus on the importance of the electoral votes we understand the weight of the United States but we do not get an understanding of the states that the candidates consider the most important for the 2012 election. Advertisement spending is only conducted in states where opponents think need the most attention, or may sway the electoral votes. The following two maps show advertisement spending by state in millions of dollars and spending by state voter in dollars respectively.

The United States with state size based on advertisement spending by outside groups in the 2012 presidential race. Map Source: Adam Cole/NPR.
The United States with state size based on political advertisement spending by outside groups on the 2012 presidential race per voting age adult. Map Source: Adam Cole/NPR.

Paper Maps

Day after day GIS staff are known for making maps. Many times we are asked to make a paper map, even during a time when electronic maps can change dynamically daily. Why? Why do we still print e-mails, PDF’s, Word documents, or Excel spreadsheets? Sometimes a paper copy is the best way to disseminate the information at stake. Most days, we stare at our computer screens more than we interact with each other.

I know when I attend the ESRI User Conference one of the main events I look forward to most is the map gallery. I can see artistry at work – and yes, critique the thousands of maps freely available to me. But each has its story and the cartographer gets to tell that story to their best ability with a piece of parchment. While the automation process of maps is efficient most days, sometimes a paper map tells a story electronics cannot.

From Data to Story

GIS is all about data. When someone requests a map they are requesting a snapshot or dynamic view of the data. In some circumstances they also want to know where the data is from and when it was last updated. But realistically, they want a map that tells a story. As part of their responsibilities, a geospatial staff member organizes and coordinates the necessary materials together in any way they can and present their story on a map, or through a viewer.

While many of these steps seem obvious they are not as obvious to those who do not have geospatial responsibilities. Those outside of the geospatial realm forget it can take days, weeks, or even months to assemble the proper information into a story if it is not freely available.

During an incident, any time given for a map is unacceptable. So how do GIS staff accomplish the same goals during an event when data is unavailable? While a geospatial staff member cannot gather all of the data that is needed for an incident they can gather as much as they can and ensure each dataset is updated in a timely manner. Otherwise what good is outdated data? This also goes back to my post on Relationships where GIS staff can coordinate multiple datasets as it is needed before, during and after an incident.

During normal operations data can be difficult to receive from other agencies and many times it is duplicated by agencies that cannot coordinate their efforts. However, during an event agencies are more willing to share since everyone has a piece in the puzzle and they do not want to be known as the non-cooperative agency. During this time, it is imperative GIS staff maintain contact with each other so after the event. After the event, data maintenance can then be maintained during normal operations.

First post

This is my first post – with more to come. I hope to write about GIS, emergency management and social media in particular but nothing is off the table. More to come, and soon. Stay tuned!