Thursday, July 31, 2008

National Geographic's Map of the Day

You're a lover of maps, right? Then the only real source for the map-o-phile is the National Geographic. To get your fill of maps, check out the NG's Map of the Day (MOTD). Slight glitch however is that today's MOTD seems to have been repeated for the last 6 days! The 3D perspective view of K2, the second highest peak in the world, shows routes to the summit traced to camps typically used by climbers. However, this particular map has been the MOTD since July 25. Now, in my mind, that's just fine as it probably deserves a week of recognition. But I do have a complaint: this rendering doesn't have an inset map of its actual location. The text explains it as being on the border of Pakistan and China. Now, I've been near K2 but not close enough to see it. Mountains are just a bit high in that region of the world and as any map-maker will tell you, there's no true border that differentiates Pakistan/China/India. The accompanying maps shows you the approximate position of K2 as the "blue" pin. (My position relative to K2 when I was in the region in 1979 is the yellow pin)

Follow the Frugal Traveler - New York Times

The New York Times is seeing if you can travel through Europe on 100 euros ($156 US) a day by running a series called "The Frugal Traveler Does Europe on a Budget." A Flickr-type map accompanies the exploits of author Matt Gross. The map basically follows Gross' travels in photos and you can sequentially advance the route by advancing frames of the photographs. Nothing here out of the ordinary as far as interactive maps go but I would like to have been a fly on the wall when someone told Gross you're going to spend the summer in Europe and all you have to do is write a story about your travels. Not a bad gig if you ask me and you get 100 euros free. That may not take you too far at a 5-star hotel, but give me a bike and backpack and I'd be happy to travel through Europe!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Online Edition of Danish Newspaper Also Joining Ranks of Supplying Crime Maps

The Danish newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, is using an online crime map solution in their reporting and information gathering process. Due to a reorganization of the police force in Denmark, the newspaper decided to see just how successful it would be. As such, politicians were making promises that more police on the street would help to improve their ability to solve crimes. The paper took it into their own hands just to see keep the politicians honest.

--Source: journalism.co.uk

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

KTTV Fox LA Enlists Caltech for Animated Quake Dispersion

KTTV TV, Fox in LA, used an animated map supplied by Caltech to show the surface wave map (P-waves) dispersion by the 5.4 magnitude earthquake that shook southern California. It's not terribly useful at this scale but does give the readers some indication of the extents of the earthquake and who might have been at risk.

LA Times Covers Today's 5.4 Magnitude Earthquake But Don't Get Shook Up About Their Maps

The LA Times relied mostly on a Google Maps mashup and the USGS to provide maps for the immediate story and coverage of the 5.4 magnitude earthquake that shook southern California this afternoon. The embedded map of the epicenter was just fine but they had the opportunity to make the maps more informative and they had the information but just failed to make it more visible for readers. Just below the mashup were two links to USGS maps: one to the shake map and one to the aftershock forecast. Now, if I'm a resident in that region, I want to know the magnitude of shaking that occurred, especially if I have to justify an insurance claim, and I want to know the predictive aftershock potential. So, the links were there in the online story, but my perspective is that they were buried.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Daily Mail, The Times Online Fail UK Readers on Reporting MyNeighbourhood Crime Maps

Today, the UK Home Office released information that a new online crime mapping portal will be available for all of England and Wales by the end of the years. Both the Daily Mail and Times of London (Times Online) ran stories about the MyNeighbourhood.info, website. Both papers covered basically the same information and showed a map example of the website in their online editions but neither linked to the MyNeighbourhood.info website. Both papers are failing readers by not taking advantage of what the web offers online readers in providing simple links.

When You Do a Story about Mapping Technology, It's Always Good to...SHOW A MAP!

Two stories today caught my attention for their "lack" of maps. One in the Fiji Times and one from MyrtleBeachOnline.com reported the use of maps in applications of forestry and hurricane storm tracking. If you are going to do a story on mapping technology it helps to actually display a sample map. For online publications that are not limited by the column inch, it certainly enhances the story to provide links and graphics. The MyrtleBeachOnline.com story buried the link to the NOAA national Hurricane Center's website. That should have been up at the top of the article along with a live feed to the NOAA site which updates the map regularly.

Le Tour is Over but a Recap is Available with New York Times Interactive Map

I was a little frustrated with the New York Times' interactive map of the Tour de France. The pop up that appeared when you moused over the stage number "pin" had no particular locational purpose. At first I thought if you dragged the pin along the route of that stage that you would see the route itself in video or picture form, but that was not the case. Some of the pop ups displayed the topography in profile view which was a nice touch but not all did so. The pop ups served as a reference to the coverage of that particular day and included either links to articles, photos or audio news bites. The map which served as a back drop to the tour route was not particularly pleasing cartographically but I can see that the designers did not want to distract from the remainder of the map information. However, what would have made the map better would have been a Google-style perspective view to bring the viewer down to the surface level to truly see the terrain. You can also download the Tour routes from the Google Earth Blog or just use the StreetView feature in Google to view the route which was recently released.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Where Are those Nasty Jalapeños? Hyperlocal News Sites Miss Opportunity

Stories on the wire today (like this from ABCNews.com) are following the outbreak of salmonella associated with jalapeño peppers and how some stores are pulling them from their shelves...but only those grown in Mexico. If I were looking to buy jalapeños, but only those from the U.S., I'd like to know which local markets were selling which. A story at outside.in in Dallas yielded nothing nor did I see any articles on the EveryBlock, YourStreet.com or Topix websites that would provide any local knowledge. Now here is a perfect example of how all of those social net "news" sites could help to publicize hyperlocal information and where the mainstream media ought to be plugging in, if those sites had "community sourced" information about the shops where there were both good or bad jalapeños. Perhaps I'm demanding more than what should be expected but, right now, the social net sites have either news provided by the mainstream media or sometimes useless blogging or Tweeting contributions. Opportunity missed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Maps and Matters of Finance - The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal used a simple thematic map today in their front page story to display the declining tax revenues by state. Not exciting; just a simple thematic map. I really didn't think much of it and I knew readers would find it fairly banal as well. That was page A1. Page A3 shows a map of the path of Hurricane Dolly and the potential economic impact. Page A9 shows a USGS map of natural gas potential in the Arctic Circle region. Page B2 shows a map of ExxonMobile's drilling areas off the coast of Vietnam. Page B10, tucked away amidst the larger weather map, is a map of the soy bean moisture forecast for China. In the online WSJ there's yet another article about how artificial lights are obscuring the night sky (no surprise there either) and is accompanied by a satellite image of the intensity of such light over the U.S.

By now I'm observing that the WSJ is awash in maps, and I haven't even mentioned that maps are used in two large print ads (one for the WSJ itself and one for the NYSE Euronext).

The Journal is obviously focused on finance (though now in Rupert Murdoch's hands he is positioning the paper to compete with the New York Times) and yet in order to convey significant global news, maps are an essential part of the conversation; an essential means to show exactly if not regionally the impact of economic phenomenon.

It thought the map of the Arctic Circle natural gas reserves was particularly useful. It crystallized, in my mind, the geographic extents of the reserves in control by the U.S. and that by Russia. That was a fundamental element in conveying the salient news within that story. No map, no understanding of the urgency and impact of the situation.

Business Journals Go Front and Center with Near Real Time News Map

American City Business Journals has put a quasi-interactive map front and center on the website that serves all of their news markets. The map shows a balloon pop-up that rotates around the country showing recently posted news items collected from each of their markets, denoted by a Google-style pin. The balloon displays a live headline link that goes directly to the news feature. Clicking the link takes you directly to the local Business Journal in that city. The map backdrop is unfortunately static so while I like the feature of seeing the news, there is no way to drill down to locally. To their credit, they are posting only original news features to the map and not just regurgitating press releases.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Google's Election 2008 Map Gallery

Google offers a variety of online maps to the online media such as tracking each candidate's scheduled campaign stops, interact with the electoral vote total, or display YouTube videos captured at various locations where the candidate has spoken. There are about 14 different maps in Google's Election '08 Map Gallery that can be embedded into online media. I offer one here at the bottom of the Map Hawk blog page.

Headline: Which Bridge Street are you looking for? - Huntsville Times

In a front page story in my very own Huntsville Times, the headline glares with provocation! And in a subhead that further qualifies the situation we find that the newest and prettiest retail development in north Alabama is NOT plotted on Google Maps for directions.

First some context. The Bridge Street Town Centre (that's Center, y'all) opened during the Christmas season 2007 to much fanfare because it not only included some trendy restaurants and chic dress shops but was built with a Venetian-styled mote replete with gondolas! That's not something you see everyday in the deep South. So, certainly the real estate developer and the Chamber of Commerce would like to be sure that you find your way to this magnificently resplendent retail rendezvous.

But when someone tries to find one of the restaurants found within the Bridge Street Town Centre (BSTC) using Google Maps, you end up on Bridge Road. Alas, Bridge Road isn't anywhere near the BSTC and according to Google, BSTC has not yet been included in Google Maps. Pity. However, the article did go on to suggest that the business owners might want to head on over to Google's Local Business Center to update their address directly. Indeed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

USA Today Electoral Vote Tracker - Test Your Skill in Picking the Next President

I've reviewed many of the online maps established for covering and anticipating the U.S. presidential general and primary election. CNN, Fox News, and the New York Times all have credible interactive maps. But, USA Today's Electoral Vote Tracker map is just plain fun! Not only does it have the election results by candidate by state for the elections back to 1960, and their vote counts (by state), but if you are ready to test your predictive skill, you can assign electoral votes for 2008 by party and by state as well!

Just click on the map and watch the electoral vote count change. They already have a few states picked for each party but just keep clicking on the state until it is correctly assigned to the party of your choice...and watch the electoral total votes change...when you reach 270...you win. Now it will only assign electoral votes to either the Democrats or Republicans...so, sorry, the Green or Libertarian parties are not represented. Kudos to the mapping folks at USA Today.

Seattle Times Maps the News

It would be interesting to know if readers of the Seattle Times actually use their Google mashup of "mapping the news," which simply matches news items to a local level. Readers can navigate to news items by "news," "sports," "business," and "features." There's nothing fancy about the site but it's commendable that they do this on a daily basis. There are no "community sourced" news items like YourStreet.com but I could see them heading in that direction.

Houston Chronicle Is Watchdog for Gas Stations Short-changing Customers

The Houston Chronicle has published a brief story & map (see at right) that helps consumers determine if the gas station they are using has been accused of short changing their customers. What I like about what they have done here with this story is provided only a short description of the problem but cut to the chase with the map that gets people drilling down to the vicinity of interest to them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Historical Election Results & Battleground States - New York Times

The New York Times is taking a different approach to the general election campaign map. By looking at the 2004 election thematically by candidate and making the broad assumption that the same party will capture those state in 2008, the map depicts the electoral count by candidate. However, it leaves those states that it considers "battleground states" with a lighter shade. A mouse-over and click on each state shows electoral results back to the 1980 election. What I see as a fundamental advantage of this map is that it allows the reader to understand more fully how the editors came to identify the battleground states. You see how close the recent presidential races have been and so I would say they've done a good job in interpreting the data but still giving the user a quick way to assess the reason for the close races to come in each state.

BBC Triumphs with Beijing Olympic Interactive Map


The BBC just launched their Beijing Olympic venue map and they've done a superb job with Microsoft Virtual Earth as their back-end mapping support. It is an icon-driven interface that allows you to see a photo of the venue and the events taking place at that location. The map loads a little slow, however, and if they get a lot of traffic it will impact performance even more. What I like most is the simple layout and ability to find sports associated with the popup. However, it's a little annoying not to be able to remove the map graphic/cartoon they developed to show the venue thus hiding the satellite image of the area.

You can blog with the BBC or post Twitter comments on the map so they are obviously looking to hear from those onsite during the games.

Don't bother with the "official" Beijing Olympics Venue Map...its static.

FOX News Political Map - July '08 - No Thematics but Better Drill Down

The Fox News Primary and Caucus map is a bit to "steely gray" and "cartoonish" for my taste but it does allow you to drill down to the results for the primary season. There's no analysis like CNN's for the upcoming election, but at least you can get the tabular results from each state's primary election. Still, given that data there's no district by district comparison for any geography. Fox need sto step us and get into the general election season.

CNN Electoral Map - July '08 - Only 9 States are "toss ups"

CNN is putting only 9 states in play as "toss up" for the general election of the U.S. president, assuming the those states leaning toward one candidate or another actually go for that candidate. Their election map as of today, does not really put the West in play, as some political pundits have suggested as only Nevada and Colorado are considered in the group of toss ups. The source of the maps is CNN's Political Unit and was first published on June 17th. CNN states that it will be updated regularly. Technology her is basic; nothing flasher and pretty thin in terms of the ability to drill down...in fact there is no drill down; just a mouse rollover.

Here, at this stage, I'd like to see them "analyze" why one state is leaning one way or another...perhaps showing primary results would help the reader understand their analysis.

Pickens Plan - Wind is a boon for Boone


You've seen or heard the ads by T. Boone Pickens, ex-oil man turned wind energy junkie and how to solve the energy crisis. It's interesting to see Boone back in the news. Back in the 80's while I was still working for an oil company, Boone was hard to miss and was certainly a folk hero of sorts, depending on which side of the mahogany table you sat. But he's now pushing wind power but his website falls short of his use of maps. The US National Wind Map on his website does not allow you to drill down to anything much less to see how your region would be able to harness wind power. To drill down to a better map, you might try Batelle's Wind Energy Resource Atlas where you can get state by state wind power potential (see image above). I was not impressed with the NOAA website. A search on wind power yielded little information.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Republican Primary Map

The corresponding map by the New York Times for the GOP.

Democratic Primary Map

The New York Times provides a map of the democratic primaries. It's a bit dated but you get the picture.

Catholic Voters

The July 14 issue of Time Magazine discusses Catholic voters in the 2008 U.S. Election. The map is striking in one major way - the south looks devoid of any concentration of voters. As a Catholic living in Huntsville Alabama, I can tell you for a fact that we are in the minority. However, look at the map again and ask yourself that if you didn't know the title of the article whether you could indeed determine what the map was depicting. So, here's this huge void from Virginia to North Florida and from the east coast to middle Oklahoma. It looks more like a maps of some great flood in the southeast that had wiped out the population.

The distribution of voters is not obvious - a high concentration in the northeast and in the southwest but I'm not sure I would have guessed the map without the title. The bottom line as of this date is that it is a statistical "dead heat" between McCain and Obama.

Map Hawk Watches the Media

This blog will cover the use of maps, mapping technology and location-based information in the media as well as its use by others who are using maps to convey a message on the web, TV, blogs, or other visual medium. Especially during this election year in the U.S., maps have been used to depict the winners and losers of the primaries, and for the most part of done a good job of introducing maps as a mass media element. I'll look at the technology they use and if they are using maps effectively, lying with maps, or just haven't a clue what they are doing. It'll be a fun ride; I hope you'll join the discussion.