Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Maps Mania's Top Stories of 2014


This week I've been spending a bit of time going through the back catalog of Maps Mania hunting out my Best Maps of 2014. I thought it might be interesting to also have a quick look at the most popular stories on Maps Mania in 2014.

1. A Game of Thrones Mapped

This year only one subject could beat Pokemon and that was A Game of Thrones. The huge popularity of George Martin's series of fantasy novels and the HBO television series seems to be reflected in the popularity for Westeros maps. This little round-up of A Game of Thrones related maps got the most traffic on Maps Mania in 2014.

2. The Google Maps Pokemon Challenge

Google Map's annual April Fool joke never fails in driving huge traffic to Maps Mania. This year was no different. The fact that Google this year made their April Fool's map into a fun challenge probably ensured that this seemed to be Google's most popular April Fool's joke yet.

3. Where the World Runs

Strava, Runkeeper and Nike all created some great maps this year. This little round-up of jogging & cycling heat-maps seemed to prove popular with Maps Mania readers. It also contained some great looking maps.

4. The Slow Death of the Google Maps API

Over the last couple of years I've become increasingly frustrated by the very slow pace of development of the Google Maps API. In January I finally vented my spleen. It seems I'm not the only one getting frustrated at the Google Maps API Development team, at least judging by the traffic that this post generated.

5. Building the World Cup on Street View

Wow! One of my own maps made it to the top 5. I'm not really sure why. This post looked at how you can hack Google's historic Street View imagery. I guess it was the use of the World Cup in the title that generated most of the traffic.

Unfortunately it looks like my hack has run into some gremlins and some of the historic Street Views seem to have gone missing (my hack depends on using the PanoID for each Street View - which is always dangerous because Google often change the ID's).

6. The London Bike Video Map

Cylodeo's idea of providing cycling directions with video previews is pretty inspired. The launch of new coverage in London this year seemed to attract the attention of Maps Mania readers.

7. The 2014 Tour de France Live Tracking

Real-time maps always seem to be popular on Maps Mania. It looks like pairing a real-time map with the World's greatest cycle race is a guaranteed winner.

I'm stopping there! A list of seven seems a bit arbitrary (a listicle of 10 would probably get more traffic) however these seven posts got far more traffic than any other post on Maps Mania this year. The eight, nine and ten posts on my traffic list got less than 50% of The 2014 Tour de France Live Tracking post. So this seems like the natural cutting-off point.

I'm not sure I can draw any conclusions from the most popular stories on Maps Mania. Although it does seem that sports related maps (& cycling in particular) do generate a lot of traffic.

The History of Edinburgh Map


Edinburgh Library has created a wonderful map featuring historical stories, photos and maps about life in the Scottish capital.

Our Town Stories - Edinburgh is a great showcase for some of Edinburgh Library's collection of historical documents, photographs and maps. My favorite aspect of Our Town is that you can view historical photos of the city actually overlaid on your choice of historical maps of the city.

The map includes a handy time-line feature which allows you to search through the stories, photos and maps by date. Enter a date range on the time-line and all the documents for that period are shown on the map using categorized markers.


If you select a 'history map' marker you can view the map overlaid on top of the Google Map base layer. You can then select an 'image' marker to view the historical image and the location that it depicts.

If you select a 'story' marker a story map opens. The story map guides you through an historical event from Edinburgh's past highlighting all the relevant locations on a Google Map. For example, the 'Robert Louis Stevenson’s Edinburgh' story recounts the author's life in Edinburgh, featuring family portraits and historical photos, and a mapped guide to some of the Edinburgh locations important in his life.

Your Human Google Maps Assistant

Diane Rabreau is your personal Google Maps search assistant. If you ever come across anything strange on Google Maps or want to know more about a certain location - just ask Diane. She will visit the location in person and report back on what she finds.

Diane Goes for You - A Living Search Engine for Unknown Destinations reports back on the destinations which Diane has visited. For example, Gino wanted to know about these scratches on the water in a Norway fjord.


Diane visited the fjord and discovered that the scratches are actually tubes holding nets for catching mussels. Like all Diane's answers that isn't all Gino got. Diane also takes pictures and videos on her visits and interviews local people and, if necessary, contacts experts to explain what she finds.

So, if you ever find something strange on Google Map's satellite view, contact Diane and she just might visit the location and report back on what she saw and experienced.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 2014 Maps of the Year


It's that Maps of the Year time again. Each December I look back and celebrate some of my favorite interactive maps of the year. This year I've split my annual round-up into two parts. Maps of the Year - Part One covers the months of January through June, with the last six months of the year to come before the New Year.

This year you can filter my round-up by map provider. This is really handy for anyone who wants to find great examples of maps by specific mapping libraries. However, regrettably, it does mean I've had to leave out two or three maps which weren't made with one of the main mapping API's.

If you are a fan of great maps you should also check-out Cartonerd's Favorite Maps of the Year. As well as highlighting some of his favorite maps Kenneth Field has picked out some of the mapping trends and movements that he has spotted in cartography over the last year. With his usual honesty Kenneth is not afraid to highlight some of the mapping trends and map reporting which he finds not as useful or informative.

Some of the maps I've chosen would probably never make it into a Cartonerd round-up. However, whether you love them or hate them, I hope you have as much fun exploring them as I had in compiling this list of the Maps Mania's Maps of the Year (Part One).

Escape from Alcatraz - The Map


The Washington Post has published an interesting account of the escape of three detainees from Alcatraz in June 1962. No one knows if the three prisoners survived their escape attempt or died while trying to navigate the strong currents of the San Francisco Bay,

The Washington Post's report, The Alcatraz Escapees Could have Survived, is based on the work of Dutch researchers who have been working on a model which simulates the movement of particles and detritus in bays. Based on this model the Dutch researchers have concluded that the three Alcatraz prisoners may have survived, but only if they left the island at the right time.

The report includes two animated CartoDB maps, one showing the worst case scenario and one showing the best case scenario. Both maps use tidal records to model the water-flow in the San Francisco Bay on the evening of the escape.

As the animation plays out on both maps you can view the likely track of the escapees based on the different times during the evening when they could have left Alcatraz. The animated boats on the map are colored to show the time of escape. In the best case scenario, as long as the escapees left before 1 a.m. and paddled north, they may have made it to the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge and freedom.

Around & Around the Eiffel Tower


OSM Buildings is a JavaScript library for visualizing OpenStreetMaps building geometry on interactive maps. Thanks to a new demo map using Mapbox GL you can explore OSM Bulidings from a completely new perspective.

One of many great features in Mapbox GL is the Mapbox GL rotate event. Using the rotate event in Mapbox GL allows you to change the orientation of a map. In the new OSM Buildings GL Preview this means you can rotate the map and view the 3d buildings from all angles.


On this page you can view images of the Tate Modern in London with the map orientated to the south and to the north. When using the OSM Buildings GL Preview map you need to right-click on the map to start rotating the map and left-click to turn off rotation.

World Flight Paths on a 3d Globe


Yesterday ArGIS released 3d Scene Viewer. This new option in ArcGIS allows developers to add an interactive 3d WebGL globe view to maps created with ArcGIS Online. You can view a demo of the 3dWebGL globe in action in this 2010 World Population map.

You can also take the new 3d Scene Viewer for a spin on this  Airflow Globe. This map visualizes worldwide flight-paths and airports. The data for the map comes from OpenFlights.

When exploring the Airflow Globe you have a choice of map base layers. The screenshot above shows a satellite imagery view. To view the blue flight-paths more clearly you can use the default 'Light Gray Canvas' map layer instead.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Goodbye Google Earth, Hello 3d Scene Viewer


Any map developers still mourning the demise of the Google Earth API might be cheered a little by the news that maps in ArcGIS Online can now include a neat WebGL 3d globe view.

The ArcGIS 3d Scene Viewer allows ArcGIS Online users to add an interactive 3d WebGL globe view to their created maps. Now when you add a layer to an ArcGIS Online map you can view it as an interactive 2d map and as a 3d globe. For example, here is a 2010 World Population layer which you can explore as a 3d globe.

The 3d WebGL globe view includes the options for users to adjust the environment settings. This allows users to adjust the sunlight by date and by time of day.

Mapping Vancouver Property Prices


The Vancouver Land Prices Heat Map visualizes the price for Vancouver parcels of land based on the 2014 BC assessment data from tax reports. Land parcels on the map are colored to reflect the price per square foot of the property.

The map shows that many of Vancouver's most expensive properties are concentrated in the Downtown, West End and Fairview neighborhoods. The map also shows that land prices tend to get cheaper the further you move east in the city. If you select a building lot on the map you can view the exact price per square foot for the property.

Mapping Mass Extinction


The scientific journal Nature is reporting that 41% of amphibian species, 26% of mammal species and 13% of birds are facing the threat of extinction as a direct result of human activity. The Earth is therefore facing what is being called the 'Sixth Great Extinction' event and the only one to be caused by a single species.

The best map of this extinction event is probably from the What is Missing? Foundation. The Foundation's mission is to raise awareness about the threat of animal extinction through science-based artworks. The What is Missing? website features an interactive map of the world featuring species which have disappeared or are in danger of extinction.

The species highlighted on the map can be sorted chronologically or by category. If you click on the 'view in time' link the dots on the map automatically rearrange themselves to form a timeline of species extinctions. You can also filter the data shown on the map by species by selecting the 'sort by subject' link.