Don’t Be Hating on Mercator

The hipsters are hating on Mercator all over twitter and the blogs. I don’t know about you but I’m grateful for Mercator every time I travel. I seem to move left and right from Phoenix on a map. Plus who cares about Greenland? Let them have their big map, you don’t want to live there anyway.


Look, if you’d rather live in a world of the Bonne projection I won’t stop you. I’ll just come find you on my practical Mercator map.

Map CC-By-SA: Strebe


GIS for those who hate GIS

I’ve been helping a couple people out the past week or two with some GIS projects, since I have some time…

Anyway, it is a good reminder as to why I’ve been trying to change how I do GIS. It all feels like trying to use a screw driver to hammer a nail. So much of what we do is one compromise over another. I picked up a project and I swear the PM put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry”. What a miserable life we all lead.

Nail-Screw illustration//


This Week’s Hangout:: They Tell Me Ian White Needs to be on Your Hangout

Well it’s time to start things back up, Friday, February 1st at 10am MST. Hangouts With James Fee: Attitudes Across Latitudes will have our first guest since “the break”. Ian White of Urban Mapping joins me to talk about why he was the last host of This Week in Maps (i can’t even find a link to it) podcast to join my hangout. WeoGeo was kind enough to give me all the code for the webpages, but I’ve been too busy to get that all back up. In the meantime I’m doing this old-school on Google+ Events. Just go to the event page and it will take care of everything else.


As always we’ll be talking on IRC. Join #hwjf on or online.


New NACIS Award for Imaginative Cartography

Looks like the NACIS has a new award that recognizes “imaginative cartography” aptly named the Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography.

Cartography is often seen by the public as work opposed to imagination, grounded entirely in established fact. While this devotion to reflecting what is forms the heart of cartographic thinking, cartographers and artists who use maps as a basis for their work can (and do) take that grounding in fact and use it to venture into the world of the possible. Some explore real places from perspectives that allow us to see it fresh and full of possibility, and some take our established traditions of mapmaking, and indeed take fully-constructed maps themselves, and turn them on their heads to make us see ourselves anew. This award is to recognize this work and the perspective it brings to the field of cartography, and the contributions it makes to the world as a whole.

Sounds quite interesting, doesn’t it? All nominations should be submitted by email to The deadline for nominations is March 15, 2013. More details on what needs to be submitted is on the webpage. I wasn’t aware of who Corlis Benefideo was but this old blog post should fill you in.


Get 50% off PostGIS in Action

Well happy Friday to all of us, I have a 50% off code for PostGIS in Action, Second Edition!

Between now and January 22nd, use pgislaunchau and get 50% off the price of the book. It also includes a free ebook of the first edition to tide you over. Let’s face it, PostGIS is the defacto choice for most GIS people and this is the bible to make you proficient. Don’t hesitate, the 22nd is right around the corner.


Status of Hangouts With James Fee

I wanted to update everyone on the status of Hangouts with James Fee. WeoGeo and I have come to the agreement to let me take the show with me. They’ve also be gracious enough to give me the videos and code that makes up the show. I’ve enjoyed doing the hangouts and I know a lot of you enjoy watching them. I’m out all next week but when I get back I’ll get these integrated into my blog and start back up. I appreciate everyone’s support and we’ll have a great time continuing the show.

The following is based on actual events. Only the names, locations and events have been changed.



CartoDB and MapBox Fight On

The web mapping and visualization world is one of many choices. Google, Esri, and many other solutions give users the ability to visualize spatial data in so many ways. Two that I’m quite fond of are CartoDB and MapBox (none of which should surprise regular readers). This week good things are happening around both projects.

CartoDB is an O’Reilly Media Publishing Startup Showcase finalist.

…O’Reilly Media announced the finalists for its Publishing Startup Showcase, and we’re very excited to say that we’ve been selected as one of ten startups.

It’s an honor to be included in a group of such progressive companies who are disrupting and impacting the publishing industry, and as a non-traditional company in the space, we are humbled.

That’s pretty awesome news for the CartoDB team. Google Fusion tables is pretty powerful, but it has almost no visualization tools built in. That’s where CartoDB steps in. It gives you all that great “fusion table” power, plus some really awsome visualization stuff. Esri users can leverage Arc2Earth Sync which can synchronize your local Esri data with CartoDB.

Tom MacWright of MapBox wrote and article on the MediaShift Idea Lab Blog about the new OpenStreetMap editor that the Knight Foundation has sponsored.

At MapBox, we believe that the collaborative approach of OpenStreetMap is the future of mapping. By adopting local knowledge and local management of data, it’s possible to build a complete, accurate, and freer map of the world. How OpenStreetMap gets its data is essential – the most trusted source is always on the ground, with GPS units and local knowledge. But for much of the world, this isn’t an immediate option because of distance and time. Instead, home users edit the map, referencing GPS tracks made by others and satellite data. So far, this has been a tricky process. OpenStreetMap’s editing tools are complex and do little to help users understand details like road classifications. We want tools for contributing map data to be accessible to anyone, in any language, with any level of computing skill.

I’ve always felt OSM was held back by it’s editing tools. They are designed by nerds for geeks. When you understand how they work, they are very powerful. Put my Mom in front of them and she’s quickly typing into the URL bar. If you haven’t seen the editor in action, the video below will give a good overview. The whole article is definitely worth a read for anyone who has developed or used a web mapping editor application.

Oh and in case you didn’t know, Arc2Earth Sync can also open your ArcGIS Mxd documents directly in TileMill. Mind = Blown

Mind Blown


Minecraft as a Geodesign Tool


The Geodesign Summit (when did they drop the CamelCase?) is happening next week and I’ll be elsewhere or I’d totally go. You all know I’ve had a soft spot for Geodesign and it’s always a good time. Plus Bran Ferren is keynoting so that’s worth the price right there.

Now those with kids know there is something that is bigger than any other game out there right now. Minecraft is played by my son and his friends more than any other game out there. On the Mac, Xbox, iPad, iPhone; it’s crazy to think about how such a simple game has taken over for today’s connected youth (did Qualcomm really try and call them “Generation M”?). I won’t spend my time explaining it here, but it breaks down the whole world into blocks. You can build, destroy, create and battle your environment by yourself or with friends. Sort of like SimCity, but not constrained by products. You get raw materials and build as you go.

So I was playing along with him last night and I got to thinking. The blocks in Minecraft are a great way to symbolize man’s impact on the world. Start mining for diamonds and pretty soon you’ve got either a huge hold in the ground or a mountain that looks like swiss cheese. It all came to me when Connor said he wished he hadn’t dug such a big hole because the sheep and pigs kept falling into it (that’s pretty funny out of context, but you’ll get over it). So while I was building my Fort out by the sea, he went back to restoring the hillside so it not only looked good, but could support trees, flowers and bushes. We talked about creating a rail line between our two forts and he wanted to make sure it was routed around area’s he wanted to protect.

Now I’m very proud of my son for those good choices and it seems like the speed at which you can work with the blocks in Minecraft would be a great tool for showcaseing what GeoDesign really is. My great friend Dale Lutz wrote a super post on this a couple months ago.

So imagine my surprise upon learning that Mojang and the United Nations were teaming together in the cleverly named initiative “Block By Block” to encourage the use of Minecraft in crowdsourcing urban planning, giving youth “the opportunity to show planners and decision makers how they would like to see their cities in the future”.

I know there will be awesome CityEngine, SketchUp and open source analytical tools presented. Those are needed of course, but I’ll tell you I sure wish I was there to give a lightning talk on Minecraft and Geodesign. Jack always says the key to good Geodesign is iterative evaluation. I can’t think of a quicker or easier tool than Minecraft. Let’s get that FME 2014 reader/writer out there Safe!


Day 1 at JS.Geo13

Day 1 has come and gone at JS.Geo13, but now you can see the slide decks as they get populated on the JS.Geo homepage. As of this morning, there are four slide decks posted for Leaflet, Ubisense, Vizzuality (CartoDB) and MapBox. Click over to view and enjoy each one. I bet you didn’t realize you could do so much with a text editor and a browser.

Oh really


Esri Press:: Python Scripting for ArcGIS

This week I noticed Esri Press released a new book titled Python Scripting for ArcGIS.

Python Scripting for ArcGIS is a guide for experienced users of ArcGIS Desktop to get started with Python scripting without needing previous programming experience. Experience with other scripting or programming languages (Perl, VBA, VB script, Java, C++) is helpful but not required. Readers are expected to have good general ArcGIS skills and a basic understanding of geoprocessing procedures. There are 14 chapters with corresponding exercises on an accompanying DVD. Also included is access to a 180-day trial of ArcGIS for Desktop 10.1

So my first reaction was one of bewilderment at the price:

I mean that’s a bit above the normal price for a professional GIS book (which runs about $60) and of course much more above general python books, which run about free. But let’s not get too tied down on the price. I mean if your career depends on using ArcGIS and you want to learn Python, $80 shouldn’t be an impediment to making yourself more desirable.

Ah, but don’t fear. Amazon has Python Scripting for ArcGIS at a much more reasonable $50. Plus Amazon has the first chapter available for review so you can see if it will work for you.

If you’re interested in the author, his University webpage gives a little bit of background. I don’t have the book so I can’t give a recommendation yet. It is still preorder so I guess we’re going to have to wait a bit, but to save $30, why not? If people get the book, let me know how it is and I’ll make sure to share it with everyone else.