Thursday, October 16, 2008

GeoCommons: Map Creation Pleasure

The Evil of PowerPoint: There has been a ground swell of opinion in educational circles that PowerPoint gets in the way of effective presentation giving. If you're interested, John Naughton is a brilliant speaker and has written on the subject here (including linking to a lovely parody which tries to use PowerPoint to deliver the Gettysburg Address). The thrust of his argument is not that PowerPoint isn't useful, its that its wizards and templates tend to push people into giving a bullet ridden sales pitch. Often, they could do better using other types of presentation, e.g. simple multimedia graphics via PowerPoint, a topic which I explore in a paper here.

So I was delighted to find GeoCommons, a service to help people build maps. Unlike PowerPoint it guides people to produce good design with its wizards and templates, see the screenshot of its icon panel:

Screenshot of GeoCommons Icon Chooser Panel

Good for colors, icons and backgrounds: As you can see, you have to have a halo with your icon, a feature which I thoroughly approve of and about which I've blogged previously. And it's not just icons, when choosing fills for thematic maps you are presented with sensible color scales like the ones from ColorBrewer*. I also like the fact you can choose a blank background for your map, helpful if it is very full of symbols that are making the view cluttered.

KML Polygons?:
Unfortunately it seems not to be able to cope with uploading KML Polygons which is a shame, I've emailed them to ask if I'm right about this or if I've just come across a bug but no reply of yet.

In other areas it also scores highly but this has been well documented by Stefan so I'm just keeping to design aspects in this post.

*In fact the same people that brought you ColorBrewer were also involved in designing GeoCommons.


ajturner said...

Hi Rich - did you ever hear back from us about GeoCommons and KML polygons? It should definitely support all forms of KML, though doesn't currently handle storing any styling that comes across with the KML.

It's an interesting question about how one would combine imported styling with our brewer.

Rich Treves said...

Hi Andrew,

No I didn't. I tried to upload a simple polygon in KML to geocommons and it spat the dummy just as before. I just tried it without any styles, came back with the error:
"We could not detect any column headings in your file."