Where’s The Map? … Here’s The Map

I’m currently at the Location Business Summit USA in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Jose, California where yesterday I gave a talk on “Of Data Silos, Geo-Babel and Other Geo Malaises“. More about that in a later post, but one of the points I raised seemed to strike a chord with the audience … in 2010, where’s the map?

In spite of today’s joyous rush to location based services and location based mobile services, the map seems to take a back seat, if it’s even present at all. This point was taken up again on one of the opening panels with one of the panelists commenting that “many services don’t use maps as an interface“.

But there are times when the map is precisely the interface you want to use, especially when you’re trying to visualize the impact of a data set on a location and serendipitously my morning trawl of my RSS feeds provided two examples of where the map is and just how effective it can be.

Firstly there’s Vacant NYC, a crowd-sourced data set of vacant buildings, lots and condominiums in New York. The underlying data set is rich and complex but a simple, map based visualization, provides an immediate view onto the data, as can be seen from the screen-shot below.

Vacant NYC

Closer to home, there’s the London Murder Map, which whilst potentially ghoulish, again effectively shows how, and more importantly where, people have lost their lives in the UK’s capital. As with the New York example, the data set is rich, as shown by the colour coded key above the map, but the map takes centre stage and yields an immediate overview of London, with the option to dig down deeper into the data and into the map.

London Murder Map

In 2010, the map may be strangely absent from a lot of today’s location based and themed services but it’s good to see that the map is very much alive, well and serving a purpose.

Written and posted from the Crowne Plaza Hotel, San Jose, California (37.330123, -121.891079)

Written by Gary

Husband, Father, geotechnologist, map geek, coffee addict, Sci-fi fan, UNIX and Mac user.


steven feldman

Sometimes less is more (with maps that is)

Perhaps the question is does a map actually help you to interpret/understand the information?

Prescient post as a lead in to my W3G presentation “Just because you can map something …”


It depends. Sometimes a map can cloud the information but sometimes it’s just what you need.

Over the last few years we seem to have gone through a 180 degree swing, from maps being everywhere, regardless of whether it was useful, to maps being almost absent from a lot of today’s location based apps and services.

The ideal point is to be somewhere in between those two polar opposites, where a map is used because it’s valid.

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