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Thoughts

Using Fiona with WeoGeoAPI

Over on the WeoGeo, Dan Dye has a new post about using Fiona with the WeoGeoAPI.

Since “JSON objects and Python dictionaries are semantically and syntactically similar”, working with JSON is a pleasure in Python and it is trivial to turn the geographic features returned from the WeoGeo API into GeoJSON. But sometimes you just want a Shapefile. You don’t have to be ashamed. I do too and I’m going to share with you the fastest, most intuitive, and most Pythonic method that exists to turn those geographic features into a Shapefile: enter Fiona.

Using one of the free datasets (TIGER) on WeoGeo Market, Dan was able to convert the JSON to a Shapefile that he could use with other projects. If you’ve been looking at a quick and easy way to get started with the awesome that is Fiona, check out Dan’s tutorial.

http://market.weogeo.com/datasets/tiger-tiger-conus-coverage/widget.html?zoom=0&lat=36.614452&lon=-95.6242725
TIGER CONUS Coverage

Dan's Python Script

Just a couple lines of python code and you’ve got Shapefiles!

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Thoughts

New York Times – Bypassing Google Maps

Yesterday I was quoted in the New York Times:

“If you are a site just looking to put a pizzeria on a map, it’s no big deal, but if you are trying to put a brand around your mapping, it’s a big deal,” said James Fee, chief evangelist at WeoGeo, which provides location data. “Google says it will affect a very small number of users, but I have heard it will touch 30 or 40 percent of people who really depend on maps for their business. It could cost you tens of thousands of dollars a month.”

Now I assure you that I didn’t use the word “pizzeria”. I’m 110% sure that word isn’t used west of the Hudson. My point here is not just that people are going to have to pay for using Google Maps in the next year but enforcing how you can use the APIs themselves is going to be a problem. The fact that I’d have to use Google Maps tiles to display Google Geocoding results just kills that service for me. No matter how awesome Google’s geocoding is, I (WeoGeo) just can’t use their tiles.

You should read the Times article though. Quentin did a great job outlining the business case for using Google or going a different route.

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Thoughts

Spatial Has Never Been Special

Look, spatial has never been special. Realizing that will actually make you a better person in the new world economy. Look around you, people are using location without the need of Solaris, ArcInfo and a neck beard. Don’t be niche, think bigger.

Flat Earth

Spatial is bigger than ever, yet laymen don’t fall of the edge of the earth.

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Thoughts

Lots and Lots of WeoGeo

Bill Dollins caught something we changed when we released our new UI.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

When you’ve got thousands and thousands of datasets, does it really matter that you know there are possibly millions of choices? Take Google for example:

Google Search for Big Dat

90 million records? What’s the point of showing a user that many results? The reality of the situation is that you want to get your result in the first two pages of any result. Anything more and a user gives up. So yea, we’ve got lots of data in WeoGeo, but I sure as heck don’t want you to scroll through every single one looking for your data. That’s why we give you a map to refine your search.

http://market.weogeo.com/widget?lat=0&lon=-70&zoom=1&layers=BT
WeoGeo Market

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Thoughts

File Geodatabase API1 1.2 Rolls Out

Over the weekend Esri pushed out an update to the File Geodatabase API. Esri’s “new” (new in the sense that Esri merged their blogs into one) blog has the details:

The updated File Geodatabase API version 1.2 is HERE!

There is now support for Intel-based Mac!

The minimum supported OS is Snow Leopard 10.6.

The supported compiler is gcc 4.2.1.

So this means that Esri’s File Geodatabase API works on the 3 largest computer platforms used by GIS people. Remember you can use Esri’s File Geodatabase API in tools such as Safe FME or GDAL/OGR.

FGDB

Convert File Geodatabases like a champion!

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Thoughts

Refining WeoGeo

One nice thing about having such a stable and robust infrastructure is that you can start focusing on the little things that make using WeoGeo just so wonderful.

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Thoughts

Who Said Google Maps was the Standard?

Geoff Duncan writes:

Google Maps is starting to see some high-profile defections. The first was Foursquare, which revealed last week it was dropping Google Maps from its Web-based offering. This week, Foursquare was joined by Apple, which has abandoned Google Maps in iPhoto for iOS (specifically the new Journals and slideshow features).

Why are high-profile companies defecting from Google Maps?

Airplane

Everyone is leaving Google Maps!

Geoff did a pretty good job lining out why people are choosing to leave Google Maps. I talked a bit about it a couple weeks ago as well. Geoff says the price of Google was the key reason why companies picked Google. I’d like to disagree with him there. Free is nice, but there are other services out there that are free and have been free. I think companies use Google Maps because the API is great, the speed of the service is very fast and people expect to see Google tiles on your website or app. In fact I’m reading a bit of blowback on Apple for even thinking of replacing Google’s tiles because people are comfortable with them.

So really it comes down to this myth that Google Maps is the standard and if you don’t use Google, you run the risk of people complaining. I’m just not sure that is the case though. As I said earlier, companies picked Google over Bing and other because the API was so easy to implement. While many can create their own tile sets, they don’t want to bother maintaining them. How to you handle updates to the map and tweaks to the symbology while you are trying to actually maintain your existing business? You don’t, that’s why you outsource it to Google.

Google Perfume

Most of the web smells like Google doesn’t it?

Cloudmade was a bit early on the trend starting to appear. Companies creating APIs around OpenStreetMap data and giving users the ability to easily change between mapping APIs. When Google was basically free, nobody was interested in changing their code to point to a new mapping API. But now, even though Google Maps is still dirt cheap, the “pain” of moving from Google to another service isn’t an issue. These new APIs are just as easy to use as Google and give the users of them more freedom to customize the maps the way they want. So now we are seeing some companies (high profile ones, though as competitors to Google they may have business reasons to leave) migrating.

So back to the Google Maps as a standard. I wouldn’t consider Google Maps a standard any more than I’d consider Internet Explorer a browser standard. People and companies choose both for various business reasons. And they switch between them at will because it is easy to do so. It is only a matter of time before we see some company eventually move back to Google for some business reason. This shouldn’t be surprising, there is not much difficulty changing web mapping APIs anymore.

What we are seeing is people looking at web mapping again and taking an interest in how it looks, what its capabilities are and how it runs on mobile devices. That’s a huge win for all of us as competition is only going to drive Google Maps, Bing Maps, OpenStreetMap, MapBox and even Esri to give developers a better choice to integrate with their applications.

My friends, we are now in the golden age of web mapping. Enjoy it!

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Thoughts

Don’t Use GDAL Virtual Formats? Read Up!

A couple weeks ago I was working with Dan Dye on a project using GDAL. Dan wondered why I wasn’t working with virtual formats rather than at the time GeoTIFF. With Dan’s prodding, I quickly got up to speed on using VRT and fell in love.

If VRT with GDAL/OGR is news to you, head on over to Paolo Corti’s blog and read up on the power of GDAL virtual formats.

Peter Using GDAL

Freaking Sweet!

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Thoughts

If Apple’s Map Tiles Use OpenStreetMap, Where is the Attribution?

While I was focused on Apple using TIGER in Phoenix, others noticed that Apple was using OpenStreetMap data. But as Martin Daly points out, where is the attribution?

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

OpenStreetMap needs attribution if used. I looked yesterday to see if there was any credit to the map and didn’t find anything. Nobody has added the Apple maps to the “Lacking Attribution” page on the OSM wiki yet.

So what will happen? If this was Esri or some other large company “stealing” data, the OSM community might be up in arms over the lack of credit. But since it is Apple, will they let it slide?

Inconceivable

Is it inconceivable that Apple might not attribute?

UPDATE 1: Alistair Aitchison dives much deeper into the issue. He has a great observation though:

It seems that whoever rendered these tiles lacks any real understanding of how OSM data is structured.

That is clear, this is a hack job at using OSM and TIGER.

UPDATE 2: OSM Foundation welcomes Apple in a blog post. The whole thing is very passive aggressive. Guys, if you feel Apple is doing you wrong, just say so. It isn’t like they are going to donate new iPads to every Foundation member.

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Thoughts

Apple’s Map Data is Missing Large Features

Taking a deeper look at Apple’s map tiles reveals much about their source. Here in Tempe, large sections of freeways built in the late 90s are missing.

Take a look at Loop 101 which has been around for over a decade. On Apple’s new maps it is missing:

Apple Tempe Map

Clearly Google has the road:

Google Tempe Map

I’m guessing that Apple used older free map data in many places, this might be something like TIGER 1990 I suppose. It isn’t just this freeway, most of the Phoenix area is missing large sections of development. For showing the location of photos these map errors aren’t an issue at all, but if we are ever going to navigate, Apple has a ton of work cut out for them.

I’ve you’d like to browse the Apple Map tiles yourself, give this website a try:

http://www.refnum.com/tmp/apple.html

and here’s an even better resource. Compare OSM and Apple at the same time!

http://ivan.sanchezortega.es/leaflet-apple.html

In looking at the data closer, at least here in the Phoenix area, I’m sure this is TIGER data. Compare the Apple tiles with OSM.

Open Street Map Data

OSM

Apple Map Data

Apple