TileMill 2.0 Wins Knight News Challenge Grant to Improve Hyper Local Mapping in Washington, DC


2 min read

The Knight Foundation just announced that MapBox’s TileMill, our toolkit for rendering beautiful map tiles, is a Knight News Challenge winner! This is key funding that will turn TileMill into TileMill 2.0, allowing us to incorporate feedback and what we have learned over the past nine months into the toolkit. Our main focus will be on making TileMill more usable — reducing the learning curve so that users without development or mapping experience can get started. We are ready to move fast with development. For full details on the improvements we’ll make, check out our plans in this blog post from Tom.

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For folks new to TillMill, it essentially takes your map style sheet (Cascadenik) and your data (ShapeFile or PostGIS database) and generates custom maps tiles quickly in Amazon’s cloud. Our interest in working with the Knight Foundation on the project is that TileMill can be a particularly useful tool for local media who want highly custom maps. For example, journalists here in Washington, DC who cover schools could use maps to provide better context of educational achievement across local school districts by making custom maps from TIGER data, or neighborhood bloggers could map crime incidents in their area and combine it with historical overlays of unemployment statistics to show correlations using DC’s great set of open data available in the city’s Data Catalog (data.octo.dc.gov). If you’re into local media and maps and want to test out the new version of TillMill, please drop us a line.

As part of this project, we’ll also be developing a new set of maps of Washington, DC similar to our DC Nightvision map, using DC’s Data Catalog, which again makes public all sorts of information like bike lanes, crime data, and bar locations, as well as other relevant data sets. These maps will serve as examples of what can be created with TileMill 2.0 and will also be released open source so anyone can use them.

Robert is up in Boston today accepting the award for us. Once he is back, we’ll kick off some exciting meetings with Tom, TileMill’s lead developer, and our cartographer AJ to get this work started. Congratulations to the other winners of the Knight News Challenge, and a big thanks to the Knight Foundation for supporting open source mapping projects like this!

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