GeoCommons Maker! launches

GeoCommons LogoI'm excited to finally post about the launch of GeoCommons newest application, Maker!. It has been awhile in the making and the team is proud of what we've created.

The goal of Maker is to push the boundaries of web mapping to provide easy to use and powerful cartographic design tools along with access to a huge amount of complex geospatial data. We've integrated Maker into Finder!, so any interesting or datasets can be immediately dropped into a map, customized and styled.

Geographic Visualization

There has been a lot of discussion on the differences in viewpoints of mapping from traditional geographers and cartographers when faced with Where2.0 tools. In general, map applications have done a lot of work creating digital versions of physical maps and also throwing hundreds of markers onto a slippy map. But that was just the beginning. We worked with AxisMaps to create an understandable and accurate cartographic design interface. Hopefully the result is a more versed public in the proper use of map design as well as push traditional experts into considering new possibilities.

GeoCommons Maker - South African Travel

Current map interface are quite limited in their ability to display large and interactive data sets. It is getting better with better Javascript engines, so there is a future - but current implementations cope by rendering static image overlays. The result are often non-interactive or explorable maps. This was the reason to use Flash as the map engine in Maker!. It's used solely for map rendering - and not overdone as can happen in many "Flash applications". The data and metadata is fully available as parsable, findable, open formats.

Pushing KML

Another key aspect of the openness of GeoCommons is the key feature to export your maps as styled KML. This means you can build up a rich cartographic visualization, export to KML and open in something like GoogleEarth or WorldWind and retain the styling. This was a goal of the OGC OWS-5 testbed that I wrote about quite extensively. The styling is actually sort of difficult due to the design of KML itself. In the future, it would be quite nice to have better handling of rules or cascading styling that also linked to attributes in ExtendedData.

Google Earth.jpg

A step in the right direction

Maker! is really meant to push what is possible in Where2.0 - but it's just the beginning. It is a great geographic visualization and interrogation tool, but we have much more planned. When Mapufacture joined with FortiusOne this summer, I talked about the potential of combining the whole range of data from complex and authoritative to dynamic and personalized. The maps and data should be accessible via a variety of interfaces, annotatable, analyzable, and more.

Please give Maker! a try - and let me know what you think. Even better, send me some of your maps - I'd love to feature some. I'll be sharing mine on my GeoCommons profile.

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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.