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London 2012 SuperMap

Published in mapufacture

Today begins the 2012 Olympic Games held in London England. Five years ago in 2007 I was heavily involved in the initial project to build specifications and prototypes for the “SuperMap”, the mapping platform for the LOCOG (London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games). Mikel and I through Mapufacture and working with Nick Black and Steve Coast then at ZXV Consulting put together some innovative concepts on how to engage citizens, media, and government in the lead up to and during the Olympics.

The SuperMap, in essence, is building its own slice of the GeoWeb. Multiple data sources such as Olympic news, construction details, events, and schedules need to be brought together and updated rapidly, and made available to internal staff, partners, and the public. To accommodate the diverse needs of its users, data should be made easily available to global users and developers to enable them to add more information, spread knowledge, and personalise their interface to the Olympic SuperMap.


We proposed combining the realtime data aggregation and personalized capabilities of Mapufacture to enable anyone to build custom maps and itineraries that would be accessible via web, mobile, and paper interfaces. We proposed working closely with the OpenStreetMap community to map the current and evolving landscape of the London area as the Olympic venues were built to have up-to-date maps that also had consideration and buy-in from locals in the area.

Our suggestions also included a robust API (application programming interface) to allow developers and organizations to build specific and intriguing applications that would serve various types of users and interfaces.

There were a large number of interesting and unique opportunities for the London 2012 Olympics to improve community involvement with the games, raise environmental awareness, leverage new technology to improve the engagement and experience of visitors and global spectators.

It was a large and ambitious goal and one that still barely exists on the web now five years later. The hope in working with LOCOG was the potential focus, timeline and desire for engagement would jump-start these ideas. In the end, at least they have a slippy map and a few mobile apps.

I wish everyone the best in the games. In particular I’ll be rooting for a few amazing of the people I’ve worked with.

Platial and the Neogeography of the Web

Published in mapufacture, Neogeography

Over four years ago, as I experimented with the emerging broad tools for location, mobile, and the web, Platial arose to be the new place to easily share location information. Utilizing the increasingly popular GoogleMaps platform they made it clear that people were going to engage in new and comfortable ways with geospatial technology.

I remember being impressed by Platial and the goal of providing a way for anyone to easily annotate places that mattered to them.When I originally pitched the idea of a “Neogeography” book to O’Reilly it was with the inspiration of Di-Ann’s drive to citizen access to geospatial tools that I considered how people should be able to map their genealogy and share their trips.

As Mikel and I built Mapufacture, we partnered with Platial on several projects. Platial had attempted to make a local information aggregator that never really took off, and so we discussed how to utilize the geospatial data aggregation platform in Mapufacture to provide and aggregate content for Platial. I even helped build and test the Platial developer API using the first iterations of AtomPub and OpenSearch, the results of which can now be seen in Mapufacture’s and GeoCommons’ APIs.

In looking at specifically the GeoWeb landscape, Platial definitely provided a necessary capability of easily allowing people to annotate and share locations. It is the more explicit version of more recent location-sharing tools such as FourSquare, BrightKite, or Latitude that merely ask where you are, not what’s important to you. When Mapufacture was acquired by FortiusOne, the combination of the large head of geographic data in GeoCommons, combined with the very long-tail of aggregated sensor and streaming information provided for mixing disparate datasources and understanding of context and relevance. Users want to collaborate around all types of data, and share insights, find out relevant information, share this with friends, family, coworkers, and their government.

GeoWeb Landscape-1.jpg

Clearly geographic data is not merely limited to traditional map sources or cartographic outputs. Location is being integrated across all platforms and recognized as a primary component of any data. What differs is the means by which users will interact, create, and use this information depending on their needs, context, and capabilities.

As has been widely reported by the news, GeoCommons is archiving the Platial user data and maps. Users can find their data by visiting the GeoCommons Platial Source page and searching for their username or maps and freely download them or build new maps and widgets. Along the way, perhaps users will also realize the capability of combining their personal information with relevant geographic data – because for example, you should know great surfing spots combined with wave heights and approved recreation areas.

Where to Surf? View full map

Di-Ann, Chris, Jason, Jake, and the rest of the tremendous Platial team have provided an amazing lead in the future of user contributed mapping – and while Platial itself is currently on hiatus, we’re excited that GeoCommons can provide a role in continuing open access to Platial users’ data and easy to use tools for them to visualize, analyze, and share their experiences and insights.

FortiusOne is hiring – help build GeoCommons

Published in GeoRSS, KML, mapufacture

gc_logo.png Excited about the GeoWeb? Want to help build the next generation social mapping tools and work on some really awesome technology?

The GeoCommons team is expanding and we’re looking for some cutting-edge developers and designers to join us. We’re using a wide range of technologies to build an easy-to-use and incredibly powerful geodata sharing, visualization, and collaboration platform that is being used in organizations from the government, to enterprise, to international NGO’s, to local communities and groups.

gustav_maker_storm_surge.jpgWith GeoCommons, we’re integrating Neogeography with GIS to provide powerful tools to users: if you can make it fun on the web where users aren’t required to stay, then customers will love you. And by integrating with other tools that each user is comfortable with, whether it is Excel, Notepad, GoogleEarth, or ArcGIS Desktop and QGIS; we help bring GeoCommons to them rather than making them come to GeoCommons. We’re also pushing the next generation of GeoWeb standards: KML, GeoRSS, GeoJSON, and making them more powerful and supported. These are ideas we started with Mapufacture and are quickly integrating with Finder!, Maker! and the rest of the GeoCommons suite.

As a part of our team, you would investigate large-scale data sharing and linking, geospatial and data visualization mechanisms and tool development, web native API integration and community building. We’re working with many other groups in the open-source as well as GIS communities to help integrate data and tools to broadly disseminate all this quality data that has otherwise been inaccessible and make it easy to visualize and use in decision-making.

We’re looking for developers with real programming chops – you should be comfortable considering Mongrel and Nginx versus Passenger, know when to use unobtrusive Javascript or call ActionScript Flash hooks, have played with ActiveMQ and Stomp, beanstalkd, Starling or other queueing systems, read technology news and blogs and preferably have a site yourself where you share your experiences and code with the world. We’re looking for community members and developers that like working in teams, attending programming groups, and are comfortable sharing their ideas. We encourage you to have hobbies and side projects – we’ve built quite a few ‘lab’ tools ourselves such as context-free music and touchscreen whiteboards. And you don’t have to be an Apple user, but it helps.

Welcome to Washington, DC

Air Force MemorialFortiusOne is located in Arlington, VA – directly above the Courthouse Metro on the Orange line into DC, and a short walk into the district directly. The DC area is on an incredible spike of growing technology community. Where else can you live in a “metro area” that encompasses at least 3 states, all of which are metro accessible? The area is also renowned for it’s bike accessibility. The recent election has cast a spotlight on the future of technology in the government with President-Elect Obama’s initiative. The upcoming inauguration is sure to be an incredibly historic event and you could be here to help map it.

As for the community, there are at least three Rubyspecific groups, a NOVALang where learning new programming languages is the prime objective, RefreshDC, TwinTech, and one of the most open governments to geodata standards and sharing. We’re also quite big fans of the local beer selection and hard to beat the food variety.

Let us know

So if this sounds exciting to you, and you’re interested in joining the team – please let us know! You can also check out the formal listing.

VoteReport mapping and data feeds

Published in Community, GeoRSS, KML, OpenSearch, Project

twitter-report.pngOver the past two weeks I’ve been working with a great team of people helping to build VoteReport – an open public reporting system to be used during the 2008 US Election to track the situation as citizens cast their ballots. The simple goal is to make it easy for anyone to send in a report describing the wait time, overall rating and any complications that are impairing their ability to participate in the election. For more information check out

Dave Troy has put together a solid backend that is aggregating together Twitter, SMS, voice, iPhone and Android native applications, and even YouTube. Others have built the iPhone specific applications. I’ve been working on the mapping and data sharing side of the project. The first goal was to provide a number of mechanisms to share the data that we’re gathering with everyone. Additional mashups and visualizations are free to use the data streams to pull all the data that VoteReport itself has – so definitely go wild with your ideas. A quick breakdown of what’s available:

This is the OpenSearch description document that outlines all of the feeds and various filters that you can use when getting to the data. Always check this as we’ll update it with new parameters or data streams. In addition, the various responses discussed below include OpenSearch styling pagination so you can walk through the entire database of reports without having to drink right from the firehose. This also includes the OpenSearch-Time extension.
Getting the reports.kml will give a Network Link – this is useful for GoogleEarth and other KML clients to automatically update every 60 seconds with new reports. You can append live=1 to get the full KML document. I have included all the useful attributes in the ExtendedData element of all the Placemarks. Each Placemark also has an id for easy reference.
GeoRSS-Atom –
Just want to subscribe to the feed in your RSS reader, this feed is useful for getting updates.
JSON is super nice for doing client-side mashups and visualization. This is what the VoteReport Map itself is using. It includes a lot of information for each report, including reporter, icon, location.

All of these feeds even can take a dtstart= with an ISO-8601 date for getting reports after a certain time (and optionally dtend= for getting time-bounds of reports). A useful geographic filter is to use state= with the capitalized two-letter state code to just get reports within a state. So for example is a GeoRSS feed of reports in Virginia. As I mentioned, I did build a quick map that you can view at

We’re continuing to build it out with new features as more data comes in. You can easily embed the map in your site using (and optionally remove the state=):

<iframe src="" frameborder="0" class="stream" width="535" height="500" scrolling="no" ></iframe>

The difficulty with creating more visualizations is the lack of pre-election data. This system has been built to primarily capture a huge amount of valuable information for one day. We’re not sure before hand what this data will look like, coverage or attributes. Typically visualizations are made by exploring and playing with the data to see what emerges. In this case, we’re making estimates (and guiding via the tutorials) on what data we’d like. Therefore, the map itself has simple mechanisms for styling markers based on the user-supplied report. But the data is far to dispersed so far for something like a heatmap.

Fortunately, the team consists of a large number of public advocates that are spreading the word which should encourage more citizens to use the system and contribute both good and bad reports. Andy Carvin of NPR put together this NPR coverage, and we’ve also received coverage from Time, Huffington Post, New York Times, TechCrunch and even Craig Newmark. Check out the TVR press page for more coverage links.

And if you would like to help contribute to the project, check out the VoteReport Wiki. I imagine there will also be a number of post-election visualizations and analysis to come out of the reports.

Beijing Air Quality and Olympic Venues

Published in GeoRSS, mapufacture, Neogeography

Heavy Traffic, Heavy Haze - another day in China During our trip to China in December Corrie and I definitely felt the effects of the poor air quality. This has also been the discussion for over a year leading up to the Beijing Olympics that start tomorrow. China has been trying a variety of mechanisms to cut down on pollution including removing all cars from the roads for 2 weeks and seeding rain clouds to pull the particulates out of the air.

The Olympics are finally here and the question still remains about the air quality and it’s effect on the athletes. One even wonders what the availability of this data is on the ground there. So to help out, I built a Mapufacture map that pulls the daily data reports from the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. You can also get the GeoRSS and KML.

As part of the new partnership we’re looking at the combination of geospatial data with dynamic information and brought in the Olympic venues as additional map layer.

Thanks to Corrie for the environmental analysis.

View the Beijing Air Quality during the Olympics map.