GeoCommons GeoJSON in OpenLayers

So, with GeoCommons you can export all the features from a dataset in GeoJSON format. This is very useful. Then can it be displayed in Openlayers? Why yes it can!

I use the following strategy, wrapping the response with a little bit extra so that the GeoJSON format can read it properly.

var url = "";

var p = new OpenLayers.Format.GeoJSON();

OpenLayers.loadURL(url, {}, null, function (response) {
 var gformat = new OpenLayers.Format.GeoJSON();
 gg = '{"type":"FeatureCollection", "features":' +
      response.responseText + '}';
 var feats =;


Have a look a the live demo of this example of loading points from a Geocommons dataset straight into an OpenLayers map
(Note that I am using an OpenLayers.ProxyHost proxy to make it work in FF)

It is of course very basic in terms of styling, but it’s a start!

Incidentally the points are from “CARMA, India Power Plant Emissions, India, 2000/ 2007/Future” (carbon monitoring)

Some stuff I’ve been working on with new GeoCommons 2.0

Last weekend, if you were at WhereCampEU in Berlin (blog post to follow) , you may have caught my sneak peak into the new GeoCommons 2.0, which has been revealed just the other day. Here are some of the highlights of the new GeoCommons

  • The flash map has been overhauled and re-written, mainly by Andrei – and it can handle hundreds of thousands numbers of points quite happily
  • Analytics library is completed, but not currently accessible to normal users of GeoCommons – hopefully it will be soon, if people want it.
  • Behind the scenes, the system uses a number of distributed workers and tasks to offload processing intensive or long processing tasks
  • Datasets and Maps get given nice overview images, and the attributes of datasets have histograms generated for them
  • Data can be edited in the system, and filtered, and saved either to replace itself or as a new dataset
  • Animation of temporal data is much nicer now
  • Polymaps for HTML5 non-flash map support
  • Filters can be applied to the map, so that attributes can be filtered out.
  • Thematic maps can be made with categories now
  • Acetate is used as standard
  • Custom markers can be added to a map, and even animated ones work too!
The GeoIQ developer blog has a developer orientated review of wha’ts new and there is a good overview of GeoCommons on the main GeoIQ blog too.
Keep your eyes peeled on the GeoIQ Developer Blog over the next few days as the team adds some more posts about some of the technology behind it.

AGI GeoCommunity – NYPL & Mapwarper

Yesterday I presented at the AGI Annual conference on the NYPL Map Rectifier. I was also able to launch – to showcase the user submitted version of the code base, which you can get on github, should you like! I’ll put the slides up to slideshare asasp

I also showed the video of the newest Stamen Design work on the redesign of the interface. This interface will be applied to the application, and will be featuring at the British Library Growing Knowledge exhibition in a couple of weeks

The whole conference was okay, well organised, and well attended by fellow AGI Northern Group members. The soapbox – an evening even over beers – short 20:20’s but with the emphasis on ranting and comedy proved very popular, and was very amusing – keep an eye out for the videos when they come out!

The free W3Geo unconference which was on the day before the main conference, and as Ed writes, had the more interesting talks and energy here. w3g had a number of fixed keynotes and speakers, which I think was a good idea – it allowed people to attend knowing that certain people would be speaking. Alas, I didn’t really believe it was promoted that well beforehand.

The main conference had a number of interesting talks. The guys from CASA really do seem to be enjoying themselves. Survey Mapper was highlighted – essentially it’s an onlne survey application, but with, yes geography! It would be great to be able to allow the export of the results from a survey, and use this as a data layer in GeoCommons – to compare against any number of other datasets. They also showcased their work with Twitter – exploratory – one thing with pretty much all twitter map experiements is that people are so overwhelmed with the dataset, that the analysis, the task of generating information from this data tends to be overlooked. Most of the mapping done tends to show that, for the very first time, that people tend to live and do things in urban areas.

ESRI were keynoting, but with a somewhat downbeat “why doesn’t anyone understand and use GIS” cry, with a call to promote the usefullness of GIS to decision makers. Nothing new here, but in these economic times, seemed to imply that GIS budgets were being hit hard.

Nigel Shadbolt’s closing talk convinced me of the importance of linked data. However, the talk was more about the benefits and importance of Open Data as a whole, and he was speaking at such a higher level than most of the other talks were operating at. They were talking about “how to share” data, whilst with open data at a national level operates at a much more fundamental level

The Ordnance Survey have now escaped much of the fights and shouting what with the OS Open Data, and today have announced better, clearer, more generous terms for Derivative data (see here and here for more info on that

Settle Mapping Party, Sat 15th May

Here follows a blog post that’s written like a press release, sorry.

A group of volunteers from around the North of England on Saturday 15th May 2010, will attempt to map the entire North Yorkshire town, from every street, bridge, footpath and chip shop – in order to create a free and open map of the town. All welcome, no experience or technology required!

The Association for Geographic Informations Northern Group and the OpenStreetMap Foundation are running a mapping party – a cross between an informal fieldtrip and a hands on workshop. OpenStreetMap is the wikipedia of maps – it’s open, free and anyone can edit and contribute.

Organiser Tim Waters said: “OSM aims to create free geographic data, like street maps, that can be used by anyone, anywhere, and over the Saturday we aim to have a complete map of the streets of Settle and many other features in the town.”

With the announcement of the Ordnance Survey releasing a lot of mid scale mapping data for free, the chances of having a top notch detailed map is greater than ever. By making a free and open map, anyone can edit and correct details, making sure the map stays up to date and relevant. It’s also free to copy and change and distribute, which is impossible to do with almost every other map.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend, families and children are also welcome! No previous experience needed, and no GPS units needed either. GPS units will be available for people to borrow, but people can contribute a lot by using a pen and paper. It’s an open organisation with no membership requirements.

People will start assembling at 10 – 10:30 a.m at Ye Olde Naked Man cafe in Settle’s central Market Place, and spend the morning mapping the area. Then they will come back and have some lunch, meeting at 1pm at Thirteen Cafe Bar and either head out again to fill in the gaps, or start editing their notes into the map system. The day comes to an end around half 3pm to 5pm, where volunteers recap on the days mapping, and have a natter over a pint of beer

More information to sign up:

OSM Slides At AGI North.

Yesterday for the AGI Northern Group I talked about OpenStreetMap, with a focus on how to use, contribute. About the tools, services and people that surround the project. There were two talks, an OSM talk and a MapAction talk. We had a good turn out.

It touched upon the new Ordnance Survey OpenData and it’s impact on OSM, and how we may change the way map in the UK, and then I talked about Haiti too – how what we did “changed disaster response forever” – but only briefly as Anne-Marie Frankland from MapAction gave a great presentation about her work in Haiti, she was one of the first to deploy to the area. Really astonishing and inspiring work they did over there. Hope to be able to see those slides later.

In case you were wondering, MapAction send volunteers out at the very early days of a crisis to provide mapping support and services to responders. During Haiti they produced maps, installed data on GPS devices, trained search and rescue teams how to use them, produced search and rescue sector maps, locational awareness maps, helped identify locations for camps, and a whole host of other things, with not much sleep.

My slides can be found here:

and also at and below

WhooMS – a tiny public geotiff WMS server

WhooMS is a tiny public WMS server for those people who have a GeoTIFF and need someplace to serve it as WMS. I wrote it a while ago, but now its running for all to use.

It’s written in Ruby, using the Sinatra Web Framework, which basically means it can all fit neatly on one file.  It uses Ruby Mapscript to read the uploaded GeoTiff and serve it out to the world.

Nice and simple and basic. Got a GeoTiff handy? (EPSG:4326) give it a go.

The code for it can be found on github:

Main caveat: when the disc space gets full, the older files will be deleted to fill up space.

Tracks in Time – Tithe Maps for Leeds

Popped along to the official launch of West Yorkshire Archive Service’s (WYAS) Tracks in Time website and their new online mapping application, held at the City Museum. Earlier the prototype was leaked onto Secret Leeds to an enthusiastic response. I’d always been interested in this project, having been made aware of it when I was asked for some advice about it in the very early days of the project, by me living in Leeds, and recently with our work with the New York Public Library georectifiying and digitizing their historical map collection – so it’s really good to see it out there and completed!

Its a nice application (even if it has a bit of an old fashioned/council GIS feel to it) and works well, that used the code from a similar Cheshire Project.  The project is the culmination of some Lottery funding and although the Archive service is for the whole of the county, the project was restricted to Leeds. Gardline Infotech were contracted to do the offline GIS portion, and the folks at WYAS, with Leeds City Council and Cheshire Shared Services who put together the online version.

The system has two map panes, on the left tithe maps and on the right some more modern reference maps.

leed tithe map application

There is also  layers for land use and who owns what. Users can search for people and get these selected on the map – it’s a great resource. Searches can be exported as CSV file, which gets marks from me. Unfortunately, both these exports and the maps miss out the land value data, which had been transcribed, apparently due to a technical limitation in the software, which is a great great shame. I’d love to be able to compare the price of land as it was then to house prices now.

I think it was Stephanie? from WYAS, who was describing how it was not only people that can be searched, but corporations or other owners. A search for “railway” for example gave results for all those portions of land taken for new railways. Railway companies such as Leeds & Bradford Railway Company and North & Midland Railway are recorded, with land also taken for railway stations. On the map we see that the present day lines of the railways, before the lines were built. Its a particularly good resource for that time of the industrial revolution, and is strong in the north of england where a lot of the industry was taking place.

leeds west yorkshire tithe map

The 58 hand drawn tithe maps were scanned, georeferenced and digitized. The digitized vectors were tied together with volunteer transcribed apportionment information – over 29,000 records!

The maps are hand drawn.
The maps were scanned by the Coal Authority in Nottinghamshire. They have the largest facility in its kind in Europe. Some of the maps took up the entire table – they were over 3m long!

Tithe maps were not meant to be definative maps of boundaries or for navigation, they were never meant to be a record of rights of ways and roads. As a consequence, these maps have parts where some areas are out by 60m or more. Its also important to remember that the maps are hand drawn. There were only ever 3 copies of each made – one sent to London, one to the Diocese and one to the Parish. The Archive Service had a copy of all of the maps but sometimes only one of the were found – and some were in poor shape.

We had a chat with the representative from Gardline Infotech whose name I didn’t catch and Peter Lythe, the project manager for WYAS – and discussed some of the challenges.

Georeferencing the maps proved troublesome – in particular where maps had folds and some where the original surveys were inaccurate. The side by side panes help to disguise some of the inaccuracies where they occur. They used the historical buildings data to help pin point some of the areas on the maps, and then used OS MasterMap to get the tie points. Yes, I can hear alarm bells ringing too – by using OS Master Map, the georectified maps are derivative works of Ordnance Survey, and so you’d need to have an OS license to use them.

Gardline used Cadcorp and FME mainly to vectorize the data, and they did a good job.  I don’t think the vectors can be downloaded either – if they were the digitized land parcels vector GIS files would also be under this same license. There was never a requirement to make available these files available to the public at large for free – so nothing wrong happened, just another missed opportunity. The good news is that the transcribed data is separate from the maps and can be accessed and downloaded (without the land values field) – and the scanned source imagery would be free of OS tie-in and it wouldn’t take too much to georectify the source maps (and even remaining ones for the whole county) and vectorize them in a collaborative and open manner, as we’ve seen.

Overall it’s a plus to the city and a marvelous resource of the past for the future.