Beautiful Maps

April 4th, 2015

Beautiful Maps presents exactly what the name suggests. Well worth a look.

Beautiful Maps tumblr

[Via swissmiss]

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Census 2011

June 29th, 2014

DataShine: Census provides a simple, map-based view of the UK's 2011 census data. I could browse this thing for hours….

The DataShine mapping platform is an output from an ESRC Future Research Leaders Project entitled "Big Open Data: Mining and Synthesis". The overall project seeks promote and develop the use of large and open datasets amongst the social science community. A key part of this initiative is the visualisation of these data in new and informative ways to inspire new uses and generate insights. Phase one has been to create the mapping platform with data from the 2011 Census. The next phases will work on important issues such as representing the uncertainty inherent in many population datasets and also developing tools that will enable the synthesis of data across multiple sources.

[Via Flowing Data]

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Geography as a matter of opinion

June 24th, 2014

I was vaguely aware that occasionally Google Maps deals with disputes over sovereignty between nations by showing different search results according to the searcher's location, but I hadn't realised just how frequently, and how rapidly this sort of action is required:

Abroad, Google Maps has waded into raw, tender issues of national identity. For example, take its depiction of Crimea on, where a dashed line reflects the U.S. view that the area is an occupied territory. But in Russia, on, the boundary line is solid – Russia has officially annexed Crimea.

[Via Quartz, via Memex 1.1]

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Actual European 'Discoveries'

July 29th, 2013

Actual European Discoveries: land unknown by humans before the Age of Exploration

Discoveries map (excerpt)

Every Columbus Day, we're reminded of the difference between discovery and "discovery" – and rightly so. But let's not sell Europe short; after all, European explorers found plenty of diminutive islands that no human had ever seen before, along with extravagant amounts of ice and snow. Just the islands alone add up to more than 0.14% of the world's total land area, and today they're home to more people than live in all of Connecticut!

All sarcasm aside, it's worth remembering that almost everywhere Europeans went, they were met by existing inhabitants. […]

[Via radicalcartography]

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Upside up and upside down

January 19th, 2013

The World Is What You Make It:

This is a map that takes some time to get your head around; quite literally, because to appreciate it fully, you need to consider it both with its north side and its south side up.

Earth 'upside up'

[…] There is no right side up – or rather: there is no wrong side up. For this is a planisphere palindrome, a planet-chart that can be 'read' the same way 'upside up' and upside down.

That Slartibartfast was a sneaky old bugger.

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Monarchism, mapped

June 6th, 2012

The Yorkshire Ranter has plotted a map showing which local council areas authorised the most Jubilee street parties per head of population.

It turns out my home borough of North Tyneside is a little island of monarchism. Who knew?

[Via Blood & Treasure]

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Population Density

April 17th, 2012

This interactive map of Population Density presents a very different perspective on the world.

It's not surprising that as you ratchet up the population density filter Australia disappears from view early on, but it's pretty amazing to see how long Greater London stays on the map, and that it survives longer than any part of the United States. As always, knowing that London is a densely populated city is a very different thing from being able to see how few parts of the world are populated on that scale.

[Via Flowing Data]

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Maps With Me

April 14th, 2012

Maps With Me is a pretty good offline mapping program for iOS and Android. Using OpenStreetMap data, it lets you download maps for the countries of your choice and store them on your mobile device, so you can consult maps wherever you are regardless of whether you have a data connection.1

The Pro version is the one to go for IMHO, since it allows searching for place/street/business names as well as viewing maps.2 I'd been using the free Lite version for a bit now, but for my money the Pro version's search function promotes MapsWithMe from the category of useful toy to that of essential tool.

  1. The maps don't take up as much room as you'd expect: England takes up just 189MB, whilst Guernsey uses just 250KB.
  2. It doesn't do bookmarking or adding existing features to a favourites list or route planning, but now that they've added the search function I would expect it'll add the first two features before long.

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Old Maps Online

February 28th, 2012

I spent much more time than I'd intended this evening playing with Old Maps Online, which looks to be another project from the creators of the A Vision of Britain through Time site I linked to a couple of years ago.

The initial map and search interface are more powerful on the new site, but as viewing a particular map usually links out to the site actually holding the map1 the user experience from that point on can be confusing as different sites use somewhat different styles of navigation. However, the biggest and best feature of the new site is that it is global in scope.2

I know it's not the same tactile experience as leafing through an old atlas, but I'll take the convenience, flexibility and scope of the electronic version every time. Definitely a site I'll be exploring a lot.

[Via Flowing Data]

  1. In many of the cases I looked at, this turns out to be the Vision of Britain site.
  2. That said, as it turned out I spent most of my time exploring old maps in my area. I've always known that my corner of town was all fields not just in 1832, but only five years before I was born, but it's still fascinating to see graphical evidence of just how recently the town of North Shields expanded inland as it turned into a dormitory suburb of Newcastle.

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The Modern Atlas

January 10th, 2012

Google's Willem Van Lancker has posted a fascinating piece on the evolution of Google Maps, Google Maps: Designing the Modern Atlas:

As Google Maps has broadened in scope, we have also had to address fundamental differences in tasks as basic as navigation and driving directions. We have found that, generally speaking, people navigate primarily by street names in Western countries and by landmarks and points of interest in the East. This is due to a combination of factors including a lack of road names (e.g. in India where locals rely on landmarks) or just a more complex street addressing system (e.g. in Japan where street numbers are assigned by date of construction, not sequentially). […]

[In Japan…] schoolchildren are taught a set of unique icons for everyday things like post offices and hospitals. To ensure familiarity in that country, replacements were created specific to Japanese users. While we employ standardized icons for many modes of transportation (e.g. buses, trams, trains), subways lack an international sign. As subways are often used by both tourists and locals, the local branding systems for subway stations worked best – helping guide users both on maps and as they navigate outside in the real world. Additionally, a custom body of regional road shields has been maintained, ensuring consistency and familiarity with real-world roadside markers.

I suppose I was somewhat aware that Google Maps featured some degree of regional customisation, but I had no idea how far it went, nor of the sheer range of factors that make maps 'work' for users in (or simply visiting) a given locale.

[Via Flowing Data]

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What a long, strange journey

July 18th, 2011

A Doctor Who Tube Map. And why not?

[Via currybetdotnet]

1 Comment »

See something or say something

July 12th, 2011

See something or say something plots maps of major cities, showing locations from which people tweeted and locations where they posted photographs to Flickr.

Unfortunately I don't know any of the cities well enough to positively identify the locations revealed by the pictures, but a quick look at Google Maps seems to confirm that1 many of the concentrations of red dots in London mark the locations of the various royal or public parks.

I wonder what such a map would look like for Newcastle. I can guess where most of the photos would be taken (i.e. on and around the Quayside), but where would all the tweeters be hanging out?

[Via Flowing Data]

  1. As you'd expect.

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Languages of the World (Wide Web)

July 9th, 2011

Google's Daniel Ford and Josh Batson have been mapping the languages of the World (Wide Web):

Most web pages link to other pages on the same web site, and the few off-site links they have are almost always to other pages in the same language. It's as if each language has its own web which is loosely linked to the webs of other languages. However, there are a small but significant number of off-site links between languages. These give tantalizing hints of the world beyond the virtual. […]

[Via MetaFilter]

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United Diagrams of Europe

March 8th, 2011

The latest entry at Strange Maps isn't, technically speaking, a map. Hoewver, what it lacks in map-like qualities it more than makes up in strangeness.

It's a valiant attempt at illustrating what the term "Europe" means, in the form of a Venn diagram. It turns out that it's … complicated.12

  1. And fascinating. I'd forgotten that EFTA still existed.
  2. For the sake of educating clueless/cynical tabloid journalists and eurosceptic MPs it would have been nice if the diagram could have incorporated an indication of which countries are signed up to the European Court of Human Rights, just to make the point that the ECHR has nothing to do with the European Union. In practical terms the circle for the Council of Europe serves that purpose as all CoE members have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights which established the court, but a label to that effect would have been good.

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United States of Autocomplete

December 4th, 2010

Lessons learned from this map of the United States of Autocomplete:

  1. Universities and sports franchises are the most interesting thing about slightly more than half of the states.1
  2. Montana is probably wishing Laurence Fishburne had managed to steer his daughter's acting career in a more conventional, less sensationalist direction.
  3. Washington state is just plain out of luck.
  1. In fairness, it's probably more accurate to say that universities and sporting franchises are the most visible entities that tend to name themselves after their home state.

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Fighting immappancy

October 16th, 2010

The True Size of Africa.

[Via Information is Beautiful]

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The World According to…

October 16th, 2010

The World According to San Francisco.

(Which reminds me that I forgot to post about Mapping Stereotypes a couple of weeks ago.)

[Via iamcal and, respectively.]

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Everything you ever wanted to know about map pins, and then some

October 14th, 2010

Serving up your recommended daily allowance of vintage map porn: A Discourse on Map Pins and Pinnage

Pin maps have not much been much used in the past, chiefly because a map pin which would give satisfactory service has not been available for common use. Until recently the map markers obtainable have been little more than old-fashioned carpet tacks having chisel-shaped points which cut the surface of any map into which they were pushed. Tacks with rough steel shanks cannot be pushed far into a map if the tacks are to be pulled out again. Also, rough steel is likely to rust so as to cause the whole tack to deteriorate rapidly.

Thus begins a discourse on the map pin – and its brethren map beads, flags, and buttons – by Willard C. Brinton in his Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts (1919). […]

The epic Residence of the Men of the Class of 1907, Harvard University, Six Years After Graduation must be seen to be believed.1

[Via Kevan Davis]

  1. You could put your eye out on that thing.

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Middle-Earth Maps

September 12th, 2010

Middle-Earth Maps, or Google Maps for the Third Age. Beautiful work.

[Via MetaFilter]

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BBC Dimensions

August 19th, 2010

The BBC Dimensions site could easily have devoured my entire evening:

Dimensions takes important places, events and things, and overlays them onto a map of where you are.

Type in your postcode or a place name to get started.

Take, for example, the Apollo 11 lunar landing. I've posted before about a map illustrating how tiny an area Armstrong and Aldrin covered during their various walks across the lunar surface, but seeing the same details superimposed on my local town square or the pitch at St James' Park makes for an even better illustration of the concept.

I do have two small criticisms of the way the site works:

  1. The site doesn't remember locations between views.
    Once you pick an event, you're shown the chart of that event overlaid on the image of a randomly selected geographical area and are then invited to enter a post code or place name upon which to superimpose the map. That's fine first time round, but then when you pick another event the site forgets the place name/post code you entered first time round and picks another random location.

    I'd prefer that once you've entered a location the site would remember that location and use it as the default for the next event you selected. I would imagine that most users will want to use the same locale – be it their home, a local landmark or whatever – as the focal point for successive comparisons.1

  2. Sometimes close enough isn't good enough.
    Even when using post codes, sometimes the map that is produced won't be quite centered on the location you entered. Trouble is, there's no way I can find to 'grab' the superimposed chart and drag it to precisely where you wanted it.

    It so happened that the St James' Park image did sit squarely on the pitch. If the image had been centered on, say, the ground's main stand instead I'd have had no way to move the image so that the entire journey took place on the pitch.

That said, it's a sign of how well-done the site is that these comparatively trivial issues are the biggest gripes I can come up with. It's fine work by all concerned.


  1. The site's designers may well have evidence of actual usage patterns that proves me wrong, of course. I can only say that I found myself repeatedly having to enter the same location name.

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