Posts categorised as "blog"

The Ubiquitous Digital Map (Abridged)

A lot of great conferences in the UK happen in London. But not all great conferences. For some, you have to travel a little further afield. Maybe to East Anglia. Or more specifically to Norwich, the county town of Norfolk. If you were in Norwich last week, you might have noticed that SyncConf was taking place and I'd been asked by ex-MultiMapper and co-founder of SyncConf, John Fagan to do a talk on something related to maps. How could I refuse?


SyncConf isn't a maps conference or a geo conference; it's a tech conference for the city's tech and startup community. So it seemed to make sense not to go full-on maps nerd for the conference audience but instead look at how we got to the current state of play where the digital map has become ubiquitous. It also allowed me to the opportunity to put a little bit of map porn into a slide deck.

This is how it turned out .. my slide deck and notes follow after the break.

There's More Underneath London Than Just Trains

Oh yes, look. Gary's written yet another post about a map of the London Tube system that he likes. Yawn. Time to move on. But wait ... this may look like a map of the London Underground but it's not.

Now I may have been guilty of wearing my heart on my sleeve slightly too much where variations on a theme of the London Underground map have been concerned; there's at least seven posts on this topic already posted.

Granted, there's the Northern Line on the map; but this is more for a sense of geographical perspective than anything else.

A Country Size Jigsaw; Mapping How Big Africa Really Is

By the time we leave school, most of us have a elementary knowledge of our planet's geography. We know where the continents are and we know that they're big. I touched on this in a previous post about the Greenland Problem where, despite Greenland having a size of 0.2 million square miles and Africa having a size of 11.6 million square miles, Africa and Greenland appear roughly the same size on most of today's maps.

So we know that Africa is big; 11.6 million square miles of big. But that sort of bigness is difficult to get our heads around. As Douglas Adams once said

Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, real 'wow, that's big', time ... just so big that by comparison, bigness itself looks really titchy. Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we're trying to get across here.

The Internet Seems To Like The Combination Of Maps And Innuendo

Oh people of the interwebs; you are indeed a wondrous thing. If you build something and put it up on the internet, you've no expectation that anyone will see it, let alone look at it. But it appears that the combination of innuendo and some vaguely sounding rude place names (actually with some very rude place names) seems to be something that the citizens of the internet actually like.

The map hit the internet at around lunchtime on the 6th. of February; since then, several things have happened.

Firstly, Eric Rodenbeck, the CEO of Stamen Design, whose map tiles I used on the Rude Map, dropped me an email to say he liked it. I'm a massive fan of the cartography that Stamen produces and this would, alone, be enough to make the making of the map worthwhile.

But then, the URL of the site started proliferating over Twitter ... including Jonathan Crowe, author of the late and utterly lamented Map Room blog.

GeoPlanet Data Resurfaces For Download; On The Internet Archive

Although I can't find the originator of the saying that there's no delete button for the internet, it's a saying that's very true. If you put something up on a web site, be it a photo, some text or perhaps a file of geographic data there's a very good chance that someone else has a copy, even if you subsequently take the original down. It's a sort of digital whack-a-mole.

This is all too apparent in the story of Yahoo's GeoPlanet Data download. When I was part of the Yahoo! Geo Technologies team, we released a public download of the Yahoo! WOEID data set, under the CC BY 3.0 license, in 2009 at Where 2.0. More about that license in a moment.

As Yahoo! continues to undergo change under the leadership of Marissa Meyer, the current data file and all earlier versions were taken offline. Visit the GeoPlanet Data page on Yahoo's Developer Network site and instead of a set of download links, you see "We are currently making the data non-downloadable while we determine a better way to surface the data as a part of the service.".

Lodged Donor Nun Run; The Anagram Map Of The London Underground

If you think you know the map of the London Underground network think again. You probably think the Metropolitan Line runs between Amersham and Aldgate; but on this map it doesnt. Instead, it runs between Ram Shame and Data Gel. The southwest termini for the District Line are Richmond and Wimbledon. Maybe not. According to this map, Inch Dorm and Bowel Mind are the end of the line. It's good to know I used to live near Foldaway Rhumba rather than Fulham Broadway, that Nokia's central London office is just by Apt Nodding and I feel sorry for someone who lives near Lancaster Gate, sorry, I mean Castrate Angel.


It's amazing what you get when you make anagrams out of each and every station on the Tube network.

Ooh That Sounds Rude; Mapping British Innuendo

No-one can really define what being British is, though many have tried. One thing that lots of people do seem to agree on is that part of being British is a love for and an appreciation of the British sense of humour. This can be roughly and with a sweeping generalisation said to consist of equal parts of finding fun in everyday situations Peep Show), satire and parody (Have I Got News For You), social awkwardness (The Office), surrealism and nonsense (Monty Python) and innuendo (the Carry On films).

Focus on that trait of innuendo for a moment. Could you possibly combine the British fondness for innuendo with geography and put it on a map? It turns out you can. So I did. It may be vaguely NSFW but there's real geographical data behind this.

I Was A Map Nerd As A Child

In October of 2012, whilst sorting through my father's personal effects, I was proud to find that I wasn't the first map nerd in the family and that maps seemed to mean as much to my Dad as they do to me.

Lumped in with my father's posessions were also some things from my childhood which my parents had kept, either for sentimental reasons or in the hope that one day, I might have children who might want some of my toys, books and games.

The Problem With Location Based Mobile Services

There's a problem with today's crop of location based mobile services, commonly referred to as LBMS; those little apps which sit on our smartphones and allow us to geotag status updates or photos, find relevant local place information or check-in at a place.

The problem isn't one of privacy or tracking. Nor is the problem one of an LBMS dying and going away. The problem isn't whether I can get a good location fix or whether the results I get are accurate or not. The problem isn't even of the value of the data we, the customer, put into a service and whether we can get it back again.