Posts Tagged ‘chicago’

Three Days. Three Cities. Three Continents

There’s a saying that travel broadens the mind. It’s a cliche but cliches generally come about because they’re true. This week my mind has been considerably broadened, visting the Tandale slum on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam and attending and judging the Sanitation Hackathon, but more about that in a later post.

The week started in Chicago, the Windy City, which lived up to its name, being cold, windy and with crystal clear skies. It’s a classic example of the American style of high rise architecture and the view from one of the meeting rooms in Nokia’s offices were spectacular.

Then I was at home for just under a day. Cold, clear skies and a typical suburban London street scene, surrounded by Victorian era terraced cottages.

Then I was under a blazing sun in the capital of Tanzania. The contrast between an American city, a British city and a Tanzanian one couldn’t have been more marked.

Three days, three cities, three continents and a well and truly broadened mind.

Written and posted from the Sanitation Hackathon, COSTECH, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.77457, 39.24125)

The Case Of Sandy Island; Mapping Error Or Copyright Trap?

There’s a phrase in Latin that goes errare humanum est which roughly translates as everyone makes mistakes. This is true of so many things and maps are no exception. However much we try to make today’s maps as authentic, up to date and accurate as we can, the occasional mistake slips in; it’s more a case of when rather than if.

But if you find a mistake in a map, is it really a mistake or it is a deliberate error, placed there as a copyright trap to provide evidence of the origin of a copied map? This is a vague area at best. Some map makers are up front about this.

Take the iconic Geographers’ A-Z maps in the UK. Just off of Canynge Square in Bristol there’s a small side street called Lye Close. Or is there? The map says there is but if you go to that location you’ll just find an unbroken row of houses and Lye Close is nowhere to be found.

The Geographers’ company has freely admitted that its maps contain trap streets and Lye Close looks to be one of them. The company mentioned about 100 trap streets in London alone in the BBC program Map Man, broadcast in October of 2005.

But other mapping mistakes are somewhat more mysterious.

In 2009 a phantom town called Argleton appeared on Google Maps. Argleton was in the middle of empty fields close to the M58 motorway in Lancashire. But if you go there now, it’s nowhere to be seen. Mapping error or copyright trap? No-one has yet confessed to Argleton although you’d be forgiven for verging into conspiracy theory territory as Argleton is an anagram of Not Real G.

Then there’s the case of Sandy Island, which apparently lives in the South Pacific, somewhere between Australia and New Caledonia. Go to Google Maps and Nokia Maps and there’s definitely an island shaped blob in the ocean. Yet when scientists from the University of Sydney went to find Sandy Island they found unbroken ocean, over four and a half thousand feet deep.

Mapping error or copyright trap? I suspect the former in this case. There’s a significant difference in putting a copyright trap into a map in a rural area or a small side street in a major city and putting an island on a map that just doesn’t exist. A land based copyright trap probably won’t cause harm, but an ocean based one could, especially given the reliance on marine charts that boats and ships have.

Trap streets and other copyright traps are the mapping equivalent of a Googlewhack. As soon as you know they’re there they usually disappear and are replaced by something else that is as yet unpublicised.


Thanks to Steve Chilton, Elliot Hartley and Tom Hughes it looks like Sandy Island may well have been an error for over 100 years. The Auckland Museum has maps from 1908 which show Sandy Island.

Pacific Ocean. G9230-1908. Sandy Island.

Written and posted from the Amalfi Hotel, 20 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL (41.88939, -87.62893)

Paleo vs. Neo – A Final Word (Plus A Helpful Venn Diagram)

When you’re on the inside of an industry looking in, you take a lot of things for granted. You fling terminology, acronyms and slang around, safe and secure in the knowledge that your audience knows exactly what you’re talking about. But when you’re on the edges of an industry, or even on the outside, looking in, all of a sudden that terminology becomes opaque, those acronyms obscure and that slang becomes misleading. When you’re on the inside, looking in, you forget all of this and sometimes all it takes is a simple question to ground you and remind you of this.

And so it was with my post on neogeography being removed from wikipedia; a flurry of email conversations with friends and colleagues resulted which can be paraphrased succinctly as “neo? paleo? WTF?“. I tried to write down the background to all of this geographic storm in a teacup, but that only served to confuse matters. So, with the caveat that this may end up fanning the flames rather than putting them out, in the end I came up with the following venn diagram to explain.

Paleo vs. Neo - A Helpful Venn Diagram

It goes something like this.

Paleotard and neotard are both pejorative terms. Paleotards are what neotards call practitioners of paleogeography; not the study of ancient geographies but users of traditional GIS techniques who look down their noses at the upstart Web 2.0, mashup and LBMS communities. Neotards are what paleotards call practitioners of neogeography; those same Web 2.0, maps, data and LBMS combinants.

Both look down their respective noses at each other mudslinging neotard and paleotard around disparagingly. But in reality neotards and paleotards are a minority. Both neogeographers and GIS users both intersect with the wider web mapping discipline and with the use of geographic data. It’s all just “geo” really.

So there we go; paleotards vs. neotards explained. Now hopefully we can all move on and forget about this.

Written and posted from the Intercontinental Hotel, Chicago IL (41.891017, -87.62403)

Through The (Magnificent Mile) Window

By my reckoning, this is the eighth “through the window” post I’ve written. Mostly the view through the window is the same, day in, day out, but sometimes it gets interesting. Like this night-time view of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

Through The Window; The Freezing Cold Chicago Edition

Taken from the window of my room on the 17th. floor of Chicago’s Intercontinental Hotel, this is high rise, downtown America at its best. America is always a culture clash to me and no more so than my room in the Historic Tower of the Intercontinental. This wing of the hotel is a 42 story rework of the Medinah Athletic Club, built in 1929 just before the Stock Market crash later that year. When the building was converted into a hotel, most of the original floor plans had been lost, resulting in over 175 different room layouts and sizes over the 42 floors of the building.

Of course, a building built in 1929 wouldn’t really class as historic by European standards, but walking through the hotel is like stepping back in time and given the building’s checkered history, I think for once the “historic” appellation is well and truly merited.

Photo Credits: Gary Gale on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Intercontinental Hotel, Chicago IL (41.891017, -87.62403)