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Crowdsourcing Cartography Critiquing

Even if you're not a cartographer, when you first see a map there's almost always a gut feel for whether you like a map or whether you don't. Critiquing a map is a deeply subjective thing. You may not know why you like a map but you can tell whether the map's cartography works or it doesn't work, for you at least.

The image at the top of this post is a great example of what I mean by this. It's a map of Berlin on the inside of an umbrella. Which is a great idea and this map is one I'm very fond of, both because of the time I spent in Berlin and because it was a present from one of my old HERE Maps team. But as a map, it's far from pleasing to me; I love what's being mapped, I just think it needs a better cartographer.

So much of what appears on today's digital maps is crowdsourced. Whether it's a totally crowdsourced map such as OpenStreetMaps' or a more focused effort such as HERE's Map Creator or Google's Map Maker, the so called wisdom of the crowd is an integral part of so many maps. But what would happen if you tried to crowdsource the critiquing of maps rather than the map itself?

Next week at the the British Cartographic Society's and Society of Cartographers' Mapping Together conference crowdsourcing a set of maps to critique is exactly what's going to happen.

The idea is hopefully a simple one. We're asking people to suggest a map. It can be a good map, it can be a howlingly bad map or it can just be a favourite map. All the submissions will then be put together and shown to an unsuspecting panel of cartographers who will then critique them on the fly, there and then, with no preparation whatsoever.

I'll be chairing the whole process and unleashing the map submissions on both Ken Field and Steve Chilton to see what they make of them.

You can take part too but submitting a map, but don't do it publicly. Send me a mail with the details of your map to

Each year, the Society of Cartographers announces the Wallis Award for excellence in cartography. This year, with tongues firmly in cheek, we'll be announcing the Gromit Award for the best of the worst cartography we can get our hands on.

It should be a lot of fun and with your help it probably will be. No prizes will be given to anyone who works out the connection between the Gromit award and the Wallis Award.

Gary Gale

I'm Gary ... a Husband, Father, CTO at Kamma, geotechnologist, map geek, coffee addict, Sci-fi fan, UNIX and Mac user