Head's up on future posts: Lots of interesting things in the pipeline: material from my AGU talk, yesterday I was involved in a conference call with the creators of the International Polar Year (IPY) project and I could do with following up on my dafur post from last year.
Today I want to discuss a talk by Richard Fairhurst from the Open Street Map (OSM) project meeting in July (sound file and slides). I came across it because of the title; 'Why mash-ups suck and cartography matters'.(definition of mash up). IMHO the talk can be summarized into;
1 - Google map type mash-ups are useful in lots of situations (example given: Slide 4 adding speed cameras to a road map in the UK)
2 - Because google map mash-ups rely on adding layers onto a base layer you can only add so many layers before you soon reach a limit to their use
3 - In complex map situations you need to revert to cartographic techniques, mash-ups are no longer effective. (example given: Slide 8 and 9, London Tube map which is true to tube connections rather than map scale, which makes for a more useful map)
4 - Building a map with OSM is the best way to present complex data because you can access the base data, this enables you to customize the map, this cannot be done with google maps and other mapping systems.
I think Richard is right in a lot of ways, it is true that google map mash-ups are ineffective in many situations. I also think that bringing in knowledge and techniques from traditional cartography is vital to increase the quality of the online maps that are rapidly appearing throughout the web. Slides 10 and 11 from his talk are all great examples of how cartography can be used to improve web based maps.
However, Richard only refers to google maps, he doesn't mention Google Earth in his discussion. Google Earth can be used to build complex, interactive maps without the need to use complex mash-ups and so is much more accessible for public use. It can also be used as a holder so users can locate a small map within a larger area.
OSM is an important project but I think the average 'dabbler' with maps will be put off by the difficulty of using it compared with Google Earth, whatever the copyright advantages. If you download the .kmz
I produced you can also see I started producing an alternative to the above map using Google Earth tools, it wouldn't be as good for paper printing but it was very easy to do.