The other pin on the web..

When talking to people about Google Maps I always mention the unique ability of Street View to provide a sense of place, the final level of zoom of Google Maps takes you beyond the abstract world of Cartography to “standing on the street corner”. Images are incredibility powerful often bringing back memories of places we may have visited.

This year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II,and to commemorate this Google has worked with Historypin to launch an interactive online gallery filled with memories of her time as Queen.

The Pinning The Queen’s History project will be made up of photographic images, videos and audio clips pinned directly onto a Google Map on the dedicated Historypin site.  There is a crowd-sourcing element to the site as users are invited  to submit photos, videos and other memories of the Queen during her many visits around the UK and the rest of the World..

Of course the most interesting images will be the ones local to your neighbourhood for me, my favourite so far is this one taken in Kew Gardens !

So go search under the bed for your shoebox of old photos and get scanning !

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

Universally.. If it’s good for Guildford





When talking about Google I often mention the mission statement that dates back to the earliest days of Google and has remained a constant despite all of the changes and innovation that have happened since 1998.

The statement is actually still fundamental to what happens at Google and is for me a rich source of material to talk about.. for example the meaning of “useful” or “accessible” is key to understanding many of Google’s Geo products and Services.

Along these lines “universally” I think has two key meaning, universal in terms of who and where the user looking for information is, and universal in respect to the very geographical concept of coverage.

Since 2005 Google Maps coverage has expanded to cover (with a few exceptions) every country with both imagery and street maps. For the last 5 years Street View coverage has also expanded and as of this week the team has begun collecting Street View imagery in the wonderful African nation of Botswana.

Capturing and processing Street View Imagery is a huge task far more complex that creating street maps, but you only need to ask anyone who has used Street View how useful it is.. so if is useful to a user in Guildford will it not be as useful to a user in Gaborone ?

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)


So you want to use Google Earth to…

One of the most common questions people ask me, is “Can we use Google Maps to do xxx” , or “Can I use Google Earth in..” in most cases the answer is usually a resounding “YES”, but there are usually some conditions on use and for some uses the answer I’m afraid is no. For the past few years I have pointed people to the Geo Permissions website, which has been updated to now include a Permission Tool , a wizard interface to take your step by step through the permissions process.

I was at the INSPIRE Conference last week discussing amongst others things the licensing of geospatial data for shared Spatial Data Infrastructure projects, I made the point that increasingly data would be made available via online services and perhaps an additional way of reducing complexity is look at similar tools to explain access via future online services – the key insight.. to be user rather than producer focused !

Written and submitted from the Novotel Hotel Vienna, Austria (48.213N, 16.383E)

Evening all, what going on with these crime maps then…

So initially the  moral of this story seems to be, if you are launching a Government website across the mass media, make sure you do the load testing with 100x what you expect.

The real issue is that despite having best intentions and a commitment to transparency, it’s very easy to confuse, mislead and lose credibility with poor crime mapping.

One of the  key positives of UK police website is the availability of the data behind the site which can been downloaded or accessed via a REST based API, secondly and something which few commentators have mentioned a link to local police teams who are ultimately responsible for reducing crime at the local level. Of course one years aggregated data is of little value here, allowing only relative comparisons between locations to be made, the real value will come in the future years when trends are identifiable and hopefully may be linked to local policing initiatives.

Many have commented however on issues with the mapping where the site designers have tried to offer more detail than the previous ward level statistics by moving to reporting the actual location of crimes, as commonly found in American crime maps.

While this is something I personally think should be made available, the map is not actually shown the real locations.

Many crimes are not accurately located in the first place, and because of privacy concerns expressed by the Information Commissioners’ Office some locations have been modified, moved or aggregated so that the points displayed on the map do not actually represent the actual location of the crimes but are indicative of the location.  I think it’s clear that perhaps an American style crime map was intended but what have ended up with is an uncomfortable and misleading compromise.

The fact that the points don’t actually represent the locations of crimes is at one level understandable, but to most people a point on the map represents the location of something, so much of the uproar in the press calling into question the accuracy of the maps can be understood.

However because the underlying data is available, budding data visualisation experts and cartographers can get to work and attempt to produce maps and other visualisations that perhaps better represent the data, already Jonathan Raper’s team at placr have come up with this different visualisation, using a multiresolution grid rather than the less obvious neighbour/street locations.

I hope the Home Office is not put off by the criticism of this first attempt, if Government is really to be more open and make use of the web in tackling complex issues such a crime and the local perception of crime, they must follow the web philosophy of constant iteration and development.

So they must dust themselves down, listen to the criticism, and make the next version better; and the following version even better… but quickly !

Written and submitted from the Google Offices, London (51.495N, 0.146W)

Google Maps gets the measles ?

Google Maps : Dear Dr. Ed, I seem to have developed a rash or well at least I’m completely covered in spots.

Dr Ed : Don’t worry Maps, it just a new way of finding geocoded images contributed by the photographers of the web.

If you have looked at Streetview ( by dragging the pegman) recently outside of the existing areas of coverage you may have noted spots of streetview coverage, this is not the result of a very disorganised group of streetview car drivers, but is a way of exposing other geocoded imagery where it is available.

Although the Google Streetview cars are once again driving the world bringing Street View images to many new countries in the meantime you can find suitably moderated and attributed user contributed images from Panoramio.

The example below is from Karon, the beach resort in Phuket, Thailand which brought back happy memories of my honeymoon, which was contributed by panoramio user bareman

The interesting point to ponder is as more and more geocoded images are published and indexed on the web, at what point if ever in the future will it be possible to replicate the complete coverage of Streetview with user contributed images ?

Written and submitted from the Google Offices, London (51.495N, 0.146W)