Statlas: beta release

Posted: June 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Statlas | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

It’s been some time in the making but today we are proud to do a very early beta release of Statlas, the project we have been working on these past months. The Dutch Press Innovation fund funded this project and we collaborated with Fluxility and Alexander Zeh on this version. So please do check out: Statlas

There are several similar tools out there that help you create your own map but we feel that they are not as easy as they should be and most all of them are created in Flash. Statlas is built on Polymaps and therefore fully compatible with the open web. Creating a map is a simple as painting by numbers.

Our initial explorations set us on our way to create the easiest and most generative atlas tool we could imagine. Statlas is setup to allow you to choose a group of regions and for each of those regions enter a value (numerical, color or other) to create a map coloring. That map can then be shared, printed, embeded wherever you want . But anybody can also take a public map and edit it to improve upon existing data or to express their differences with them. It is also possible to export data to CSV, use other tools to collect statistics and re-import them back into Statlas.

http://statlas.nl/

Feedback

This initial release is geared towards the Dutch context as we have been developing it with the Netherlands in mind first. We are going to quickly add more regions and we are solliciting requests for regions you may want to add. If you have ideas, requests and or Shapefiles, please send them our way so we may add them.

This is a most preliminary beta release of a functional piece of software. We are envisioning much more data heavy and live updating views in the near future, but a project of this scope can balloon too easily. We’ve heard no end of people who wanted to use it for one cause or another and we wanted to show something first. After this release we’ll see which direction is most in demand of pursuing.


Minor updates

Posted: February 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Statlas, Talks | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Some minor updates from the studio.

Statlas is going into full production.

The past weeks Alper has been giving lectures at the Willem de Kooning design academy on the subject of data visualization. The students should be busy creating their projects these coming weeks and we eagerly anticipate their results.

Hack de Overheid which we are co-organizing is going into full swing with the annual developer event on March 12th in Amsterdam (more on which in a separate post).

We will be represented at the Cognitive Cities conference in Berlin this weekend to talk about city data visualization. And next week we’ll be at the Infographics conference trying to talk some sense into those that think print is the end all of data.


Personal Mapping Platforms

Posted: January 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Research, Statlas | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

For the project Statlas we are looking into making a personal mapping platform for journalists. We submitted the grant proposal for this almost half a year ago and the idea had been alive for far longer (we started about this time last year).

It’s good to sea that there is a wider trend in consumer mapping platforms right when we are underway with ours. Here’s a brief survey of the ones we found during a cursory examination. There are bound to be more. If you know them, please let us know in the comments.

ArcGIS

ArcGIS has a mapping platform based probably on the ArcGIS server, a paid for cloud mapping platform.

ArcGIS - My Map

Looks nice, like a web based version of Google Maps combined with Google Earth with all the different overlays you can put on there. I tried to create a map and share it on Facebook which oddly enough did not work. The sharing, embedding and standalone map versions do look well thought out but if they don’t work they’re probably not tested well.


View Larger Map

ESRI

ESRI the company behind ArcGIS has another ‘Make a map’ tool which is a lot more restricted but because of that provides a clearer experience.

Make a Map | Free Embeddable Maps | Embed Map Web Page | Embedded Maps

This doesn’t offer a ridiculous amount of options, but it is very clear and nicely done and the sharing options are also very straight forward. An embed of that map is below:

Dotspotting

Dotspotting is Stamen‘s platform for putting dots on a map currently in its ‘SUPER ALPHA-BETA-DISCO-BALL VERSION’. As they describe it, it’s intended to make the process of visualizing city data easier, more open and more robust.

That is pretty much the same reasons we started on this road in the first place. Mapping and data literacy are necessary in web development as well as the other way around: web literacy is necessary for those that make the heavy-duty maps. The two need to meet to create the applications and ease of use we are looking for.

Dotspotting - "My Flickr Photos (Sept 2010)", a sheet of dots by straup

A script to export my Foursquare checkins in an easy way and create a sheet with those is forthcoming. Anyway, Statlas is best described as that: a way to project values onto regions and enable people to play with that dynamic.

Weet meer

Weet Meer got launched very recently in a beta release and is limitedly available up until next month. It does a decent job in displaying the statistics offered by the CBS and offers some statistical relations and tools to compare things with.

Weetmeer.nl - Aantal inwoners

That is a brief overview of what is already out there. We’re glad that we have hit a nice timing to be able to develop ours and fulfill an actual need out there: to be easily able to make maps of a set of values to a group of regions.


Statlas: Week 0

Posted: December 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Statlas | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The technology demo of Dutchstats as presented during Hack de Overheid last year has been a nice trigger for further development along that axis. For now the project under codename Dutchstats2 —a new name and identity is forthcoming— will be underway.

nl.alper.processing.map.DrawWKT

We got the announcement a couple of weeks ago that our proposal for subsidy had been accepted. We spent December gauging interest, taking in the project and building a team that can execute this in Q1 2011. Team introductions forthcoming after we’ve kicked it off.

The Brief

The assignment is still the same one that prompted the original Dutchstats:

Given a set of values for a set of geographical regions visualize the mapping from the values to the regions in a way that is interesting, useful and pleasant.

Simple enough to be doable. Broad enough to be generally applicable.

The original Dutchstats was mainly concerned with Dutch municipalities as geographical regions and election results as values and we will be continuing along that line, but we will be looking into opening up both the values and also the geographical regions for anybody who has something to contribute to either. The idea is to create a generative atlas.

Atlas

A generative atlas mostly to see if we can give the concept of an atlas new currency in the online world.

In the Netherlands there is an atlas called the Grote Bosatlas which still is the standard atlas for everybody in and out of school. But asking people around the question: when is the last time you have even thought of an atlas, let alone got and leaved through a Bosatlas, everybody draws a complete blank. Google Maps has supplanted most of the topographical and wayfinding functionality of paper maps and atlases to the extent that it has wiped out the original concept out of people’s heads.

Multi-Map

The social geographical function of the atlas has been replaced by a ton of projects working either with or on Google Maps/Earth using GIS or placing points on the map (using location or geocoded data), Stamen’s Dotspotting is a good example of that. Besides those web centric approach there’s also a slew of closed/semi-closed mapping tools from statistical offices, government bodies etc. that are built on poor and closed technology and are limited to the task at hand (which they usually do poorly at that).

BLIK

Technology

We’re going to determine as we go the technology that we’re going to use, but the project needs to be webcentric and is allowed to be bleeding edge (though perhaps not as bleeding as the original prototype) so I hope we can avoid using Flash completely.

Depending on how much of the base components are already available (data stores, tile servers, rendering engines), we will be focusing more on the application part. But if such components are not yet available or up to par, we will be investing in building them ourselves.

Process

In our practice we believe in standing on the shoulders of giants, sharing alike and giving credit where credit is due. We will be doing this project completely in the open not because we don’t have a customer for it but because everybody is a potential customer and they should be able to see and participate from the earliest stages on.

Any software that we produce will be released under a very liberal open source license. So that anybody can use our stuff and we hope to advance the state of mapping online in our own modest amount. Also all our design research and progress will be posted to this blog in chunks of a week or a bit more (depending on our sprints).

Fully open is the only way we can imagine doing this. We hope you will join us.