#geowebchat transcript, 1 October 2013: Techniques and conventions for geoweb cartography

12:01 PM – 1 Oct 13 Starting now: about techniques and conventions for web cartography. More info here:

12:02 PM – 1 Oct 13 Try as a way to follow along w/ the conversation. Make sure you always include the hashtag in your tweet!

12:03 PM – 1 Oct 13 And if you’d rather ignore the conversation, see if your twitter client lets you mute the hashtag.

12:04 PM – 1 Oct 13 Today our big question is: does web cartography follow the same rules as traditional paper cartography?

12:06 PM – 1 Oct 13 Bad cartography knows no bounds – general rules of thumb hold true for digital and paper

12:08 PM – 1 Oct 13 Are we talking neocartography vs. traditional cartography? Professional vs. non-professional?

12:09 PM – 1 Oct 13 Yes, bad cartography is everywhere. We could argue whether the geoweb makes bad carto easier or harder, but…

12:10 PM – 1 Oct 13 I’d agree – web cartography give a huge toolbox that is not always used carefully. Wind map is a good example

12:11 PM – 1 Oct 13 Is the wind map an example of the “huge toolbox” or the “not always used carefully”?

12:11 PM – 1 Oct 13 We could talk about both axes. But can we talk about non-professional mappers (on or offline) having “conventions”?

12:11 PM – 1 Oct 13 there are print v web conventions, e.g. you are forgiven for no scale bar on a slippy map, right?

12:13 PM – 1 Oct 13 both. I found the wind map to be (beautiful) eye candy, nothing else. It was an animated texture choropleth.

12:13 PM – 1 Oct 13 wind map violated the ‘leather pants principle’. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

12:13 PM – 1 Oct 13 some conventions are instilled by tech choices up early on: see the over-use of web Mercator

12:13 PM – 1 Oct 13 I think being forgiven for lacking a scale bar should depend on the use of the map. Some slippy maps probably need them.

12:14 PM – 1 Oct 13 I’m inclined to agree. Scale on screens, much less web maps is tricky territory.

12:15 PM – 1 Oct 13 I’m guilty of teaching the mantra of always-include-a-scale-bar to print carto students, but it isn’t always needed.

12:16 PM – 1 Oct 13 Scale bar on something you really don’t measure?

12:16 PM – 1 Oct 13 scale bar is a skeumorph

12:17 PM – 1 Oct 13 I think we can say that web maps should never have a representative fraction scale, but a bar could be meaningful

12:17 PM – 1 Oct 13 I tell my students it’s like Miles Davis on Jazz: you got to learn the rules before you can break’m

12:17 PM – 1 Oct 13 (Who knew we’d have a all about scale bars!)

12:18 PM – 1 Oct 13 Scale bar only makes sense in a equidistant projection

12:19 PM – 1 Oct 13 Yes, in all cases you should be free to break rules when needed, but should we teach different rules for the web?

12:19 PM – 1 Oct 13 I hate when js heat map libraries use zoom level to control kernel size, but not sure how else to do it optimally

12:25 PM – 1 Oct 13 So true Go to Zoom in an go up and down to see scale ajust to the map center

12:26 PM – 1 Oct 13 A comment from the audience at : Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers never learned to read music… who needs “rules”?

12:28 PM – 1 Oct 13 – Fairly certain that’s not true – he just never learned to read music for bass (he learned for trumpet)

12:30 PM – 1 Oct 13 Do we want to drop the word “rules” & use “conventions” instead? Is that less loaded? And this learning can take place anywhere.

12:30 PM – 1 Oct 13 – but to spin that out, some web designers are great cartographers (same field, diff. instrument)

12:31 PM – 1 Oct 13 “Mussolini had rules” -another comment from the audience

12:32 PM – 1 Oct 13 Very good point about design. If you’re a good designer can you figure out what makes good maps work?

12:31 PM – 1 Oct 13 Let me ask. what are the carto conventions by which you judge web maps?

12:32 PM – 1 Oct 13 So what conventions hold true across print and web cartography?

12:32 PM – 1 Oct 13 Most carto guidelines hold for both digital and paper: color, font, layout balance. Unique to digital = zoom level design!

12:33 PM – 1 Oct 13 !!! Sorry I’m late to the party. Did anyone respond to this point. It’s one of my pet peeves too.

12:33 PM – 1 Oct 13 I've been thinking a lot about interactivity. What features do I expect to be clickable, identifiable

12:34 PM – 1 Oct 13 …and can good design be taught? How much of our “cartographic conventions” are just prescriptions to prevent bad design?

12:34 PM – 1 Oct 13 There aren’t rules. Just “what worked well before that might work well now.” Sometimes newbies make the coolest stuff though.

12:34 PM – 1 Oct 13 I agree that interactivity is one of the key differences. Static maps have to explain a lot more up front.

12:36 PM – 1 Oct 13 phew glad I’m not the only one… searching for a heat map library w good parameters… so far nil

12:37 PM – 1 Oct 13 Conventions are also about what the map reader expects. Web maps are new enough that we haven’t developed clear expectations

12:37 PM – 1 Oct 13 Yeah, all forms of ‘design’ have overlap. Figure-ground is key to maps and often ignored/difficult to apply

12:38 PM – 1 Oct 13 For ex: Eric R at hates scroll-to-zoom on embedded maps because behavior is unexpected to someone scrolling the page…

12:40 PM – 1 Oct 13 RT : One convention should be not having a hundred page disclaimer to agree to before being allowed to see the map.

12:40 PM – 1 Oct 13 . heat maps are the perfect "in between" problem that no one works on…

12:41 PM – 1 Oct 13 Partially agree. A web map that doesn't zoom is really a print map on the web, or a d3 thing…

12:42 PM – 1 Oct 13 Agree that D3 is opening up a whole new set of web maps. We can’t assume that “web map” = “slippy map” anymore.

12:42 PM – 1 Oct 13 . Even though stats, cartos, pub. health, journos, etc. use them a lot, no one field has done work on toolbox.

12:43 PM – 1 Oct 13 Where the movement starts is also a mean to show what's is important

12:43 PM – 1 Oct 13 but then must ask if D3 has any special design considerations independent of the usual colors, fonts, layout…

12:45 PM – 1 Oct 13 What’s the best paper out there on dot density maps? Seeing them a lot for demographic things these days.

12:45 PM – 1 Oct 13 I correct people who say heatmap, by saying, "you mean kernel density map"? and they look at me strangely

12:46 PM – 1 Oct 13 Good point! Brings up ?s on how we disseminate our conventions, what fields might use them?

12:46 PM – 1 Oct 13 You mean specifically the “census dot maps” that have been coming out lately?

12:46 PM – 1 Oct 13 :) But, but, but….140 character limit.

12:47 PM – 1 Oct 13 . right. This one is probably the best?

12:47 PM – 1 Oct 13 good cartography is good cartography ..bad cartography can be just iterated out more quickly online

12:47 PM – 1 Oct 13 . Although, a web map that only pans & zooms is basically a print map that can pan & zoom. Interactivity w/ data is key.

12:48 PM – 1 Oct 13 Thoughts on handling clustering of data points & how user zooming can easily going from region view to overview w/o confusion?

12:49 PM – 1 Oct 13 The census dot maps are cool because they leverage some of the strengths of the geoweb: zoomability + lots of data & processing

12:49 PM – 1 Oct 13 So even though those census maps are really the same as a massive print map you can zoom/pan, it still /feels/ different

12:50 PM – 1 Oct 13 . I’m forgetting: Is there anything in MacEachren about dot density visualization rules?

12:51 PM – 1 Oct 13 Yeah, clustering (and declustering) points interactively based on zoom is a new problem on the geoweb.

12:52 PM – 1 Oct 13 we had a stakeholder get mad when his town disappeared on the map upon zooming out – hard to answer

12:52 PM – 1 Oct 13 …and I haven’t seen any satisfying solutions. Don’t like google’s radioactive-looking red and yellow clusters.

12:54 PM – 1 Oct 13 Been thinking a lot about web cartography “rules” lately. Most seem to be print rules modified for web, not truly new.

12:54 PM – 1 Oct 13 Yikes. Is it ‘better design’ to make town visible on all zooms?

12:54 PM – 1 Oct 13 Not sure we’ve clearly understood map readers yet (thinking of user studies). Or do you mean something else?

12:54 PM – 1 Oct 13 ah I think the recent race/pop dot map that went around rescaled people per dot with each zoom

12:55 PM – 1 Oct 13 By the way, a couple of us are very interested in discussing these very topics at NACIS next week if anyone’s going!

12:56 PM – 1 Oct 13 Yes, more user studies are needed. Always surprised to see people still use the pan controls on a slippy map…

12:56 PM – 1 Oct 13 No way, they do?

12:56 PM – 1 Oct 13 good point(s)!

12:56 PM – 1 Oct 13 And when there are few conventions about how interaction works on the web, of course users will be confused!

12:56 PM – 1 Oct 13 And for folks coming from the GIS/dev side, both interaction and carto design are often afterthoughts to functionality

12:56 PM – 1 Oct 13 . even web maps already have their (burden of) traditions

12:57 PM – 1 Oct 13 I signed up for at the last minute. I’ll see you there! Anyone planning a ?

12:58 PM – 1 Oct 13 But bad design leads to nobody using it, thereby not functioning. Lesson is to consider design from A1.

12:59 PM – 1 Oct 13 We’re coming to the end of this , and we still haven’t talked about label placement, sorry ! (see: )

12:59 PM – 1 Oct 13 I have lots to say about spatial interpolation & many Qs about how to rep point/clusters responsibly

12:59 PM – 1 Oct 13 there is historical precedence for this- the business incentive to put towns on wax-cut maps c1880s

1:00 PM – 1 Oct 13 cosign

1:00 PM – 1 Oct 13 Agree more with : zoom is only one of the interaction. Most popular due to web mapping evolution: slippy map > dynamic map

1:00 PM – 1 Oct 13 We’re waiting for you to write the definitive essay about when not to use heat maps. Why isn’t that your thesis topic?

1:01 PM – 1 Oct 13 !Yay a research agenda!

1:01 PM – 1 Oct 13 Dark/black map design is a current web trend. Not used so much in print due to Ink/paper restrictions

1:01 PM – 1 Oct 13 I hope to see some of you at NACIS next week & the rest of you can follow vicariously through the and hashtags

1:02 PM – 1 Oct 13 The next will be in two weeks, on October 15, at the same time. Topic suggestions welcome. Guest hosts welcome too!

1:03 PM – 1 Oct 13 Agreed. I think our conventions for traditional cartography are also designer’s best guess, typically.

1:04 PM – 1 Oct 13 oh but cool now maybe it will ;)

1:04 PM – 1 Oct 13 b/c if it were my thesis it would never get done…. wah waaaaa

1:04 PM – 1 Oct 13 & those conventions have been reinforced by generations of readers who learned to read maps using those conventions…

1:04 PM – 1 Oct 13 I didn’t see this one coming : landsat8

1:05 PM – 1 Oct 13 I’ll post the chat transcript here: Talk to you all next time! Thanks to all the new ppl this week!

1:09 PM – 1 Oct 13 Yes this is a good point (as all traditions, I guess). Reminds me of this scene:

1:11 PM – 1 Oct 13 RT : Label position is a topic, also proximity for placement is important. Want to get labels when near in geolocation

1:11 PM – 1 Oct 13 RT : Label placement in dynamic maps is another topic that can be informed by print conventions, but research needed.

1:54 PM – 1 Oct 13 there is a limit to how many data points can fit on screen at once and be useful.

1:52 PM – 1 Oct 13 indeed!

2:07 PM – 1 Oct 13 They said they used ‘s code that scales brightness, not number of dots, by zoom level.

3:22 PM – 1 Oct 13 thanks for the correction! ;)

3:24 PM – 1 Oct 13 Sorry, I hope that wasn’t obnoxious. I am having a lot of trouble with tone today.

3:27 PM – 1 Oct 13 no way, genuinely appreciate & should’ve fact-checked myself before tweeting ;).

3:58 PM – 1 Oct 13 The windmaps proliferate! RT : Live and beautiful windmap of Tokyo

3:59 PM – 1 Oct 13 Honestly surprised that nobody at stood up in defense of the hint.fm wind map Do cartographers revile it?

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