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Sponsor the MapAction Runners at this Sunday's London Marathon! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Thursday, 19 April 2012 21:04

I'm about to put my money where my mouth is (!) and sponsor the runners for MapAction at this Sunday's London marathon. You can sponsor the runners too by clicking on their names below.......



Some more news on the MapAction runners here. And, if you want to turn up on Sunday and cheer on the MapAction runners (and all the other runners obviously!) you can - find out more about how you can help give some support here

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 April 2012 21:32
ShareMap - a new tool to create maps PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Wednesday, 01 February 2012 22:14
A guest post by Jakub Kaniewski of the team.......
ShareMap is a new online mapping tool. It's aim is to provide a free application that will allow anyone to create a map and then export it in various formats using the Creative Commons licence.

ShareMap can be used to create educational materials (historical maps), thematic maps  (e.g. a map of a streetcar system in New Orleans) that can be used on Wikipedia or in printed materials.

One possible use of ShareMap is for education. A teacher can prepare a map before a lecture, present it in class and send pupils a direct link via email to allow them to study map at home. Pupils can themselves also create maps to share with the world.

One of key feature of ShareMap is the ability to import spatial data from various sources - OpenStreetMap, Natural Earth and user GPX files (GPX is a GPS data exchange format). Every type of imported data can be simplified during import to fit the requirements of the designed map.

In future authors plan to introduce map animation - this feature will be especially useful for education – for example a teacher will be able to create an animated map of the history of the American Civil War.

ShareMap might be an interesting choice for anyone interested in creating maps for reports etc. but who has no experience in professional cartographic packages or GIS.

ShareMap is also available as a application for mobile devices (currently in alpha stage, available for Android devices)

For more info on ShareMap see the following links:

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2012 11:56
OSM vs Google Map Maker - The same but different PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Friday, 20 January 2012 13:04
I read with some interest over the past week two pieces of news about Google Map Maker and Open Street Map.

The first news was a bit of a shock. Google Map Maker is an editable online map of the world where users can log in and edit roads, buildings etc. Normally (for personal and commercial use) the data cannot be downloaded, and so for most people they can enter data into Google Map Maker but never get data back out of it*. They do get to see a pretty map of their data and for businesses it's useful to add their name and local landmarks to the map. But that's all they see - a map. Also there are strict licensing terms for using the map image etc. etc. Anyway the point is that GMM was a useful resource for the humanitarian world. But will this continue to be the case? By having World Bank as the gatekeeper surely this will make it less likely that a small NGO in a developing country will be able to access this data. 

So OpenStreetMap (OSM)** offers something different. Everyone can edit the map and download the data behind the map in a format which can then be imported into GIS or CAD or cartographic packages, or uploaded onto a GPS, or used in a Sat Nav etc. etc. The possibilities are endless and the data is free! All this is great but with something which everyone can edit there is always the chance of OSM being vandalised by a few. Perhaps those who vandalise OSM are hoping that in the words of Ralph Wando Emerson, 'Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it' (I shoe-horned that quote in!...perhaps weeds rather than flowers would be more apt too!). It was a shock to see news#2 and the statement that some contractors in Google had been allegedly 'mis-editing' OpenStreetMap. I have to say that the press release was perhaps a heavy-handed approach from OSM/OSMF on this front - did they need to go public with this? (however, the post has since been updated with some clarification and examples of the mis-editing). It's certainly sparked debate from around the web with some key articles at Register and CNET sites. Or is the Google IP OSM vandalism it something more? A conspiracy theory perhaps?! Was the OSM hacking story aimed to come out on the same day (16th Jan) as the GMM World Bank story to steal some thunder? The story continues!
The differences between OSM and GMM 
If you want to know more about the differences between OSM and GMM see this OSM wiki page. For me OSM is always the winner, it's easily editable and can be easily downloaded and used too. It sounds like GMM will become even more difficult to get the raw data behind the maps.

*For humanitarian use (which is often in countries where little geographic data exists) the GMM data can be downloaded (as ESRI shapefiles) and used in anger. This has been useful for us in MapAction - also see my post here
**Also OSM has been very useful too for many many people, including MapAction. For a given country OSM and GMM often provide slightly different detail. Mostly GMM can provide better points of interest and OSM better road information. 


Last Updated on Friday, 20 January 2012 16:24
Linked Data - An Overview PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Tuesday, 20 December 2011 10:15
I gave this presentation at the AGI Technical SIG Linked Data workshop on 22nd November 2011 (also you can get the Technical Workshop slides from Mike S here). I'm new to Linked Data - hopefully this presentation covers all/some of the basics! There's also a few slides on how Linked Data fits into INSPIRE. Special thanks to UK Location Programme, Ordnance Survey and websites for information on the subject. Also I've just been made aware of this LinkedData for Newbies site - thanks Jo! 
View more presentations from chris_ewing

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2011 10:28
Using smartphones in humanitarian mapping PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Monday, 19 December 2011 17:08
Here's the presentation I gave about using smartphones in humanitarian mapping at the RGS Humanitarian Mapping Course in October 2011.....Thank you to Chris P for some slides and advice on this subject.
View more presentations from chris_ewing.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2011 10:14
Some words on AGI GeoCommunity 2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Thursday, 27 October 2011 15:50

Better late than never (!), here is my run-down of what happened at AGI GeoCommunity 2011……

It all started the day before at w3gconf (which is a free event before the main AGI GeoCommunity event). See my thoughts on w3gconf here. The paid conference itself started off with an introduction from the AGI Conference Chair, Jeremy Morley. He gave us a run through of Nottingham Uni and info on the Centre for Geospatial Science (CGS) formed in 2005 (the year after I completed my MSc in GIS at Nottingham – I just missed out!). The CGS have some very interesting partnerships, one example of which is a recently started project involving CGS and 1Spatial to create a quality assured version of OpenStreetMap for the UK. Also some news is that the CGS and IESSG (they do the traditional surveying stuff) are merging to form the NGI (Nottingham Geospatial Institute) – watch this space I guess!

Then we had some keynotes from Cheryl Miller CBE on the Public Sector Mapping agreement, Jamie Justham from Dotted Eyes on proposed electoral boundaries changes in the UK, and Amanda Baker from ESRI UK on how geography has influenced her life. These were a very diverse set of talks with Jamie’s in particular providing much food for thought on the processes and checks needed to make sure each proposed constituency aligns with the rulebook. You can download the proposed boundaries in various GIS formats from the Dotted Eyes website

So after the plenary the event began proper. I started off in the session on Cloud Computing by Informed Solutions (paper here). This was a good presentation showing the highlights and lowlights of hosting and serving geospatial data in the cloud. Disadvantages include the physical loading of very large amounts of data – an example given of having to send a USB Drive by courier (!) to the data host to load the data manually. Some advantages though including less down-time, lower costs and better security. Then it was break/lunch time; except it wasn’t really as I went to help out Roger on the MapAction stand. MapAction were exhibiting in the refreshment hall, along with a number of other organisations including Oce, ESRI, Cadcorp, Pitney Bowes, amongst others. MapAction were there to promote what we do and also look for potential fundraising opportunities. I’d given a presentation on MapAction the day before (you can view it here). After the break I went to watch a very engaging talk on Open Source Software and Standards by Anthony Tuffour of London Borough of Hackney. He gave some great examples of the application of Open-Source GIS technology in a Local Authority. By going open-source the council have saved quite a large amount of money (always a good thing in the current economic climate). You can see more of Map Hackney 2.0. (the application developed by Anthony and his team) here . I then went to look at a presentation on the 2011 Census and output geographies. This wasn’t quite what it said on the tin being more of an overview of the UK Census data collection and collation process (which was interesting in itself). The big news was that Census workplace zones will be available from July 2012. This could be quite useful information I think for transport planners/modellers amongst others. Another break followed and I was back to the MapAction stand where I met many people interested in what we do.

After the break I went to the first half of James Cutler’s presentation on the new economy and then sat in Steven Feldman’s presentation on the crowd which is always an entertaining affair - you can get his paper here. After this was a great session by Mark Iliffe on the use of OpenStreetMap (amongst other things) to help map Kibera slum in Kenya. This was a really great presentation and shows how mapping was used to engage the local community. It also made the audience think a little. Arguments about open data and access to digital data pale in significance when compared to the basic services which Kibera inhabitants don’t have (water, sanitation, healthcare etc.). You can see Mark’s presentation here. Next it was onto an entertaining soapbox. You can read more about this on Steven Feldman’s blog (and see a video – watch out for the swears!). After soapbox it was time for the AGI Party which was fantastic. I then took an early night to prepare for my presentation on Day 2.

Day 2 started with a great plenary from Danny Dorling on the geographies of inequality and some lovely cartograms. BTW according to Wikipedia (the source of everything?!) a cartogram is “A cartogram is a map in which some thematic mapping variable – such as travel time or Gross National Product – is substituted for land area or distance. The geometry or space of the map is distorted in order to convey the information of this alternate variable”

Following the UK riots back in the summer this was a good time for him to revisit some of his previous work, one example is where the parts of a face represent different variables. This image gives an example of what I’m talking about.

(image source:

You can read more about the process here. Danny is planning to update the faces to study social inequality in London and the UK, especially interesting given the events of the summer. The whole presentation was visually spectacular and some of the cartograms produced by Danny and his research colleagues were mind-blowing. You can see some of the cartograms here. See the especially amazing world population cartogram below.

(image source:

Next up was the first lady of Geospatial, Vanessa Lawrence of the Ordnance Survey. This was a good talk on how far the UK Geospatial industry is when compared to other countries. Vanessa talked about how she has recently helped the Australian government to plan the setting up of a national centre for geographic information. The current situation has many regional bodies taking care of geographic information. Later on in the presentation, Vanessa mentioned the growth sectors of insurance and financial services for geographic information. This was very interesting for me, given my day job working for Aon Benfield. The power of up-to-date mapping and located based situation information is huge and many people in insurance do not yet see the benefit.

After a short break, it was time for my presentation on Spatial Uncertainty in Catastrophe Modelling. You can see my presentation here. Also the paper I wrote here which gives a good introduction to reinsurance, catastrophe models and spatial uncertainty. My talk was attended by about 30 people and there were some great questions at the end – thanks to those that came along! I then saw Charlie Poate from Iracambi give an inspiring presentation on the benefit of GIS to the conservation charity. They are starting to use ESRI to host spatial data and make it available to their stakeholders. One thought though – could they donate their data to Open Street Map? I think yes. Some of the data is very useful topographical data in a region where very few maps exist. Next up was lunch at the MapAction stand and then a presentation on Linked Data by Richard Duffield. This was a good talk about (for some at least) a dry subject. Really I think Linked Data to the Ordnance Survey and other government bodies in the UK is essentially the DNF (Digital National Framework) re-incarnated. Actually there's a post on linked data the DNF website "Bringing together DNF and Linked Data". The opportunities for linked data are huge but it’s getting a ground-swell of people using linked data which could be the problem. There’s an upcoming AGI Technical Special Interest Group (SIG) on the subject on the 22nd November 2011. Then I caught up with the OpenData debate. This wasn’t as good as I expected but did cover many important issues free vs. paid, quality, usage etc. The debate sometimes wandered into issues of data privacy. I can’t quite remember much else – it had been long but fruitful day!

Finally was the closing plenary session. This was like chalk and cheese but in a good way! The first session was from Kimberley Kowal, Lead Curator, of the British Library. Kimberley took us all on a cartographic journey through the ages with many beautiful maps from history. I would really love to see the presentation again. Here’s some news from the British Library’s Magnificent Maps blog which contains some of the map images that were shown. The final presentation was by Gary Gale of Nokia Ovi Places. This was an interesting talk on modern geo and the need of making things simple to use. Gary gave an impassioned critique of the clunkiness of some mobile applications and a view of how it could be better (with location added!). There were some funny stories like the statue of Yoda. You can see Gary’s presentation here.

All in all, a very useful few days of networking, listening (and presenting!). I’ll be going next year and hope it’s still at the EMCC, at the University of Nottingham – a really great venue.

All presentations (and papers where submitted) from the 2 days of GeoCom are available on the AGI website at


Last Updated on Friday, 28 October 2011 08:52
my thoughts on w3gconf 2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Wednesday, 12 October 2011 10:31


I’ve been planning to write this for a while but didn’t have the chance. This was my first w3gconf/GeoCommunity (I had been to some AGI exhibition/conferences back in 2003/04/05 but that was many moons ago!). So first my comments/thoughts on w3gconf. You’ll be able to read my thoughts on GeoCommunity 2011 in another post coming soon.

w3g (Tuesday 20th September 2011) was unlike any geospatial event I’ve been to previously. I arrived a bit late and unfortunately missed Jonathan Raper’s (@madprof) plenary on OpenData (a theme which pervaded throughout the following days of GeoCommunity). By all accounts Prof Raper’s was a lively and enjoyable session. I managed to make the last of the morning sessions and saw Rich Rombouts from SnowflakeSoftware give an interesting presentation on the many different data standards present in the aviation industry. This included a shot of some raw XML data (I will not sully these pages with how this was described by some!). Snowflake are helping to design some common data standards to help with the sharing of flight and plane information and are trying to reduce the paper trail which currently exists. You can see Rich’s presentation here.

Next up was Brian Norman (@gingemonster) who gave a great overview of designing cross-platform map applications for mobile phones. A very pretty presentation it was – you can see more of it here. In terms of mobile applications XML is generally bad as it’s too data heavy. Brian suggests compressing data or using JSON to transfer data as it is less verbose (but very difficult to understand!). Other topics included the use (or abuse) of pop-up windows in mobile map apps. Lots of thought required and some UX testing (now that’s User eXperience for those that don’t know and I guess similar to UAT (User Acceptance Testing) but probably less formalised).

Next was Ed Boiling (I think!) and his presentation on dinosaurs and the wedge of geo! This was a presentation about the difference between complex dinosaur GIS (mentioning no names!) and newer mapping applications. The key thing from Ed’s presentation was the phrase “Simplicity does not mean fewer features”. I guess that can be true and his argument went along the lines of why do something the same way it’s always been done (e.g. “the new application needs to have button x,y,z”, “why?”, “because all our mapping applications have button x,y,z!”). The alternative is to design something which is as functional but isn’t such a headache to use…that term UX came up again!

After a short lunch (where I met some geo-friends and geo-colleagues both old and new) it was time for the afternoon session. This was from Stephen Feldman and was on the history of web mapping. This was the first time I’d seen this presentation live and very good it was too! It’s amazing to think how long web mapping has been going and the number of applications and software houses that have been and gone. We were treated to a screenshot from the original Multimap website – very 90’s! You can see Stephen’s presentation here.  

After this I gave a presentation on MapAction which was briefly interrupted by a fire alarm! After the fire alarm (fortunately a false one) there seemed to be more people in the room – so maybe it was a good thing! I gave an overview of what we do in MapAction and promoted our Humanitarian Mapping Field Guide (available for FREE from the MapAction website). Incidentally 50% of advertising revenues from go to MapAction – so please click those links!). You can see the presentation I gave here.

The final session was a geo-debate on whether geo itself is a business or a feature of a business featuring Matt Toon from Google, Stephen Feldman from KnowWhere and Ed Boiling from ESRI UK. I think perhaps the topic was a wee bit too general but some good geo-debating ensued. Then the day was over and it was time for the Ice-Breaker event! All in all a great day and really amazing that it manages to be free (thanks to the sponsors for that!).

Also see other blogs on the w3gConf event at:
Stephen Feldman -
w3gConf -
Gary Gale -





Last Updated on Thursday, 13 October 2011 14:51
Introduction to MapAction PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 08:53
Here's the presentation I gave on MapAction at w3gConf....
View more presentations from chris_ewing.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 October 2011 08:58
AGI GeoCommunity and w3gConf Wordles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Friday, 23 September 2011 00:00

I just attended w3gconf and AGI GeoCommunity 2011 (from Tuesday 20th to Thursday 22nd September) in Nottingham at the East Midlands Conference Centre.

Here are some Wordles from the Tweets at the event (#w3g for w3gConf and #geocom for GeoCommunity). I used to create these. You can make your own too!

The #w3g 2011 wordle - much tweets of @madprof plenary talk on opendata! Get it as a PDF.


The #geocom 2011 wordle (last 500 tweets only!) - it's all about maps! Also a mention for INSPIRE too. Get it as a PDF.

Thanks to @stevenfeldman and @vicchi for creating the Tweet Docs which I based these wordles on.
- w3g -
- GeoCom -

Note - a more detailed post/report will follow on the 2 events but time is lacking right now.




Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 October 2011 08:58
Geospatial events in the UK this fortnight! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Monday, 12 September 2011 00:00

There are a number of Geospatial events taking place this fortnight in the UK.

1. Google EMEA Geospatial Summit - Tuesday 13th Sep 2011, London
As the event website says, "In this event we will share our Geospatial strategy, and showcase our innovative new product, Google Earth Builder. We have gathered some of the most compelling and visionary speakers from Google's global GEO team. You will also be able to enjoy live demos of the latest products announced by Google Enterprise."
I'll be there and hope that you are too!

2. GeoMob London - Thursday 15th Sep 2011, London
The next GeoMob event will include speakers from Social Ties and GISCloud. I can't be there but it sounds great! Sign up for the event on Lanyrd. If you are going please tell us more about how it is/was.

3.  Ushahidi Meet-up - Friday 16th Sep 2011, London
Ushahidi, StandbyTaskForce and Crisismappers are meeting at the Star of Kings, for a "casual night of talking mapping over some pints"! Again I can't make this one - let me know if you are going!

4. w3gconf and AGI GeoCommunity 2011 - Tuesday 20th to Thursday 22nd September, Nottingham

These should be very interesting. w3gconf is the (un)conference which "is targeted firmly at the geographic community at large, from the geographic professional, be they GIS or Web 2.0 to the latent geographer who's heard about this thing called "location" and wants to know more." I'll be there and it'll be my first time at an unconference - sounds fun! The main event, AGI GeoCommunity '11 "will open on the 21 September and offer two full days of thought leadership, practical education, knowledge transfer and real world best practice and case studies". I'm presenting on the Thursday about "Spatial Uncertainty in Catastrophe Modelling" - I hope to see you there! If you can't be there I'll be writing up a report of the event on this site shortly afterwards.

Happy geo-eventing!





Last Updated on Monday, 12 September 2011 10:54
Some examples of Google Maps API v3...and Fusion Tables! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris   
Sunday, 14 August 2011 00:00

I used to dabble in Google Maps API (application programming interface) quite a bit (but I haven't used it in anger for about 3-4 years). Recently, I was having a look at the Google Maps API v3 and there are a few things I didn't realise you could do with it. I've put together some examples of a customised map background, the cycling layer and adding a KML feed. Pretty useful and very easy to code in JavaScript. I've also given you links to the Google Maps API v3 documenation. Follow the links below to the examples I created:
1 - styled map
2 - cycling layer
3 - KML layer

....I'll add more as time goes on. Let me know what you think.

And here is my first 'proper' experiment with a Google Fusion Table. This map showing showing population density for most countries across Europe (sources Wikipedia and another Fusion Table of Country Boundaries). The Guardian newspaper in the UK love Google Fusion Tables! Check out their data blog for more Google Fusion Tables.





Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 21:59
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