Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Meograph - Telling Stories with Maps

Maps are frequently used as storytelling devices.  However, relatively few tools exist to facilitate the transition from a map to a story.  Meograph, which is in its beta form, provides a platform to merge the 'where' of a story with media such as videos and photographs.

Time is also an important fourth dimension here.  Meograph makes it easy for authors to progress through their stories from one date and time to the next.  Watch the Meograph Demo of the Treyvon Martin Case for an example of how compelling such melding of media and geography can be.  Narration can also be added by anyone.

Meograph is very polished and easy to use.  I created a rough draft short story of the Derecho Storm here: http://www.meograph.com/jongross.  Spatially, there are a couple of stories that could be told. I need to create better locations for storytelling.  Most importantly, although a draft, what was created was done quickly and looks good. I will work on my Meograph and we will revisit it later.

Bottom line: Creating a smooth coherent spatial story with media in Meograph is far easier than with any desktop GIS program.  Hopefully, all that time saved from creating animations will help you tell a better story.  With a quick click, your meograph can be shared through social media or embedded.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Non-GIS Open Source, Worthy Companions

Do not look at the title twice!  Yes, this post is about non-GIS open source software.  However, these open-source programs make great companions to any analysis. 

For example, you may find the need for a traditional statistical software package. R Statistical Software can aid in importing, analyzing, and cleaning your data.  You can perform traditional statistical analyses.  There's even a spatial package, although you will better off sticking with open source GIS programs like GRASS or QGIS.  A good overview of its spatial package can be found here.

Want to examine social networks?  Then, Gephi's great!  I just analyzed my Facebook network in only a few minutes after following a tutorial.  In addition, Gephi has features and plugins to help you map geographic data
At some point you may also need Python.  Editing and organizing code, then give Notepad ++ a try.

A some point you will have to compress files, then 7-zip is a sure thing.  You may want to playback some videos or animations and VLC Player works great.

GIMP is a image maniupulation program similar to photoshop.  You can see an example of combining GIS with GIMP on a great GIS blog.

You will probably want to type up your results or make a few "PowerPoint" slides...so there's Open Office and the Libre Office implementation. If you need a standalone pdf creator, then there's PDF creator.

Lastly, if you ever want to venture away from Windows or other operating systems, there's Ubuntu--an easy installation of Linux.  Be sure the open-source or for-fee programs you want to run have a Linux version before making the switch.  Naturally, many open source programs have a Linux version but some do not.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Map Story: Organize Global Info Spatially

MapStory's website is a "compliment" to Wikipedia, according to the MapStory website.  Ultimately, its goal is "to enable any student, teacher or practitioner on Earth to tap the power of this new mode of conveying one’s stories, arrayed across geography and as they unfold over time. "  Sounds like a great open source GIS goal!

Let's take a closer look at how it is trying to achieve this noble goal. First, the site uses open source software called GeoNode.  Second, MapStory is well organized into discrete sections.  So, if you are only interested in certain topics you do not need to look at every map.  Thirdly, you need to get invited to publish your MapStory.  That's right, this is not a free for fall!  See the "How To" tab for the simple step(s).  Lastly, the site has a nice social feel, and you can search by Storyteller.

Note: MapStory although similar in name is different from ESRI's Story Maps site.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Spatial Analysis in QGIS

It is time to talk about spatial analysis.  Many open source GIS software have at least some analytic capability--more functionality is being added frequently.  Earlier, I showed a simple map of wifi locations in New York City using QGIS.  Let's take a look at the density or in this case area surrounding these points.  Since I have had trouble with kernel density, let's use Thiessen/Voronoi polygons.  Interestingly, these are only available with an ArcInfo license in ArcGIS, which is extremely expensive.  I am not going to compare results here, but let's see what the resulting map looks like.  The lighter/whiter the color the less area between wifi locations and the better the wifi availability.  (Of course I don't show whether the wifi locations are free or cost-based on this map).  Not bad for free data and free data analysis!  I used the nifty vector transparency plugin from QGIS so you can also see some of the land cover.

Click on the map and a larger version will appear.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Power Outages in Washington, DC Area

 Visit Power Outages in Washington, DC Area.  Then scroll down and click the "View Both Images" Button.  A slider will appear on the photo that shows you the lights in the northeast before and after by moving your mouse.  The massive power outages were followed a rare "derecho" (straight in Spanish).  Basically, a line of thunderstorms, severe, winds, etc.  Be sure to check out the composite radar of this fast moving storms!

NASA Earth Observatory image by Rob Simmon using data from the NASA/NOAA satellite S-NPP. Caption by Aries Keck.
Instrument: Suomi NPP - VIIRS

Monday, July 2, 2012

Open Layers - Web Publishing

I found some free time, and I am beginning to work with Open Layers, an open source javascript library that anyone can use and edit to publish maps on the web. A lot of documentation is online but I also bought the beginner's guide, which can be purchased for $20 from the publishers website and downloaded as a PDF.  I definitely recommend reading this book!

For $60, I also bought a website domain and 10GB of hosting space for one year.  Right now, I am using sample code to experiment and to publish maps to the web.  You can check out an early example from sample code here:  http://www.myopenmap.me/.  A visitor can zoom in and out and change which Google Map base map is displayed by clicking a tab on the right and toggling a radio button.

 Google and other map providers allow you to use their basemaps for free, just be sure to follow the terms of service.  For Google, as long as your website is free and accessible to anyone, you are good to go.  Although there are limitations, for example on the size and resolution of their maps.