When NOT to use maps

Recently, I’ve stumbled across Noah Iliinsky’s Where 2012 talk When To *Not* Use Maps. The title immediately intrigued me. As a geographer and data consultant I’m convinced, an important part of my work lies in the question what tools best fit a purpose or a goal I want to achieve. But this is only one side of … Continue reading When NOT to use maps

Minard’s march – a hallmark visualization, rightly so?

Some days ago, Martin Elmer (@maphugger) tweeted Numberphile’s video in which they highlight the famous Minard map. Martin and I exchanged a series of tweets on the topic: Martin had some substantial criticism of Minard’s graphic. Maybe, graphic is the crucial word here: A part of Martin’s and my discussion was about the (too?) subtle geographic … Continue reading Minard’s march – a hallmark visualization, rightly so?


The Future of GIS according to Esri I’ve been a bit busy recently with, for example, attending the Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit. If you are interested in the latest news from the GIS world, you can read a review by a colleague and me over on the Ernst Basler + Partners’ geo-blog. Attending the … Continue reading Catch-up

The Globemaker

Geohipster or old-school cartography buff, all of you will enjoy The Globemaker, a Cabnine mini-documentary on Peter Bellerby, artisan globemaker and founder of Bellerby and Co. Globemakers. Takes 6 minutes of your time: View Peter and Co.’s products at www.bellerbyandco.com. Continue reading The Globemaker

What Google Autocomplete tells us about countries

Together with my collaborators in the “Information Geographies” project at the Oxford Internet Institute, I have published a blogpost that analyses Google Autocomplete. This is seemingly a popular pastime these days, but unlike the maps I have seen so far, we don’t just map the most prominent term for each country but actually visualise multiple categories, often in one map.

Why does it matter?

Autocomplete is Google’s ‘type-ahead’ suggestion algorithm: As soon as you enter a word or two into the Google Search field, the algorithm will try to guess the completion of your query and offers you a list of likely queries. This functionality is baked into Google’s interface and cannot be turned off by the user.

It’s unclear if and how much such algorithms affect our perception of the subjects that we are querying for. But we can certainly say that they reduce serendipity and can help reinforcing filter bubbles.




Data acquisition and cartographic technique

The data that went into these maps Continue reading “What Google Autocomplete tells us about countries”

Happy 2014!

2013 has been a very interesting year for me: I rebuilt my website, started to self-host this blog and successfully applied for it to be included in the Planet Geospatial aggregator. I also revamped the Ernst Basler + Partner GIS blog. From March to May I had an unpaid leave from Ernst Basler + Partner (EBP) and worked in the … Continue reading Happy 2014!

On the Beyoncé tweet map

Kenneth Field, Senior Cartographic Product Engineer with Esri and controversial blogger (to some, at least), felt compelled to write a critique of Simon Rogers‘ Beyoncé twitter map (on occasion of an album release) that was hyped by Time Magazine (in a punny way) as being “flawless” (to be very clear: the “flawless” attribute does not originate from the map author and … Continue reading On the Beyoncé tweet map

Ubiquity of Python

I have written about the ubiquity of Python before and I’ve also given a talk in that direction at this year’s FOSSGIS conference (“Python as ‘glue’ in the GIS software domain: Sun glare analysis of road traffic accidents”). There is also a video of my talk here (but beware, it’s in German). So, this post by Tal … Continue reading Ubiquity of Python

The online perspective: Africa on Wikipedia

My friends and colleagues at the Oxford Internet Institute, Mark Graham and Stefano de Sabbata, are compiling a collection of maps and visualizations at geography.oii.ox.ac.uk that give insight into the contemporary geographies of knowledge:

  • Which places are connected with the online world? Which places are participants in the so-called participatory Web?
  • Which places are represented in online gazetteers, in online photo repositories, in social networks?
  • What places are reported on in traditional newspapers, in online events databases?
  • And, most importantly and in completion to all above questions: Which places aren’t?

Continue reading “The online perspective: Africa on Wikipedia”

Hexagons, quasi-maps and cartograms

Some months ago I mapped Switzerland’s administrative regions using a hexagonal cartogram. That idea was inspired by pioneering work of the Leicestershire County Council. After consulting with experts in the field – Leicestershire’s Alex Lea, Danny Dorling of Worldmapper (currently at the University of Oxford) and Adrian Herzog of MAPresso fame –  I came up with my own workflow for the creation of such a cartogram, documented here and here. (Though beware: Mike Bostock liked the results but found it relatively laborious when he made one).

Ever since I published that cartogram, I have the feeling to see hexagonal maps everywhere. Most recently, my friends and colleagues at Oxford Internet Institute, Stefano de Sabbata and Mark Graham, have published the following cartogram along with their now famous map “Ages of Internet Empires”:

Internet Empires by OII
Internet Empires by OII

Another nice example, though not a cartogram, is this visualization of New York transit times (let’s not talk of the rainbow colour scale for a moment): Continue reading “Hexagons, quasi-maps and cartograms”

Keynote about trends in GIS and visualization

People at Zurich electricity provider ewz have recently kindly invited me to give a keynote presentation at one of their telematics events.

The task was to sketch emerging trends in GIS and visualisation from three perspectives: as GIS consultant at Ernst Basler + Partner, as a researcher at Oxford Internet Institute and as an individual that sometimes undertakes GIS and geovisualisation projects. I ended up highlighting four big trends that I think will continue to control developments in GIS/visualisation (although I will concede that certain aspects of these trends are over-hyped here and there). The actual keynote consisted of significant interactive parts, but I embed the slides here in case you want to check out trends and examples: Continue reading “Keynote about trends in GIS and visualization”

Reworked versions of my hexagonal population cartogram

In March, I have published a linked view display with a population cartogram of Switzerland (in German, in French). The occasion was a federal poll that convinced the majority of the voting population but didn’t gain support in enough many cantons. The cartogram has sparked quite some interest and I have covered its conceptualisation as … Continue reading Reworked versions of my hexagonal population cartogram