Where 2.0: Proposed Sessions on Open Source Tools for Fast Custom Maps for Online and Off


5 min read

Yesterday we submitted our session proposals for next year’s Where 2.0 conference put on by O’Reilly. We’re looking forward to talking about some of the latest mapping tools we’re building, like our open source toolkits for making custom maps without extensive GIS experience and for rendering fast, interactive maps that run in the cloud, our thinking behind our custom map design, and our new iPad app.

In past years at Where 2.0, we’ve presented on how cloud services can improve data accessibility and on how open data can be used in real life scenarios. We’re excited to talk about the latest mapping tools we’re working on. Below are descriptions of the three sessions we submitted, and one that we worked on with Justin Miller who’s behind our recent mapping work for the iPad.

Advanced Cartography for the Web

Open source tools and free and open data power some of the most stunning maps in the world, and consistent advances in these tools are decreasing the barrier to entry for designers with a web background who want to start designing maps. This session will introduce attendees to concepts in designing beautiful, effective, and interactive map visualizations and outline the open source mapping stack from the perspective of a designer.

Taking a case-study approach, attendees will see real-world examples of challenges encountered when designing maps for the web. Topics covered will include interaction design, techniques for tight integration of your maps with your web application, and methods for increasing the signal-to-noise ratio in your designs. The tools and data discussion will center around the Mapnik renderer, the CSS-like Cascadenik styling language, and the OpenStreetMap database. Possible example maps will include pakistansurvey.org, haitiaidmap.org, and afghanistanelectiondata.org.

Presenter: AJ Ashton

Fast Map Interaction without Flash

Presenting fast, non-Flash interactive maps at scale and with support for older browsers is a challenge that has only truly been tackled by Google and a few serious competitors. TileLive, a dynamic tile rendering toolset that can run in Amazon’s cloud, is a fully open source stack that combines rasterized maps and dynamic data to provide interaction with both points and polygons without taxing older browsers. The approach also reduces page weight and makes complex rendering possible on the server side.

This presentation will demo this approach as well as analyze Google’s and other’s techniques, demonstrating the principles of lazy-loading and the algorithms behind the technology. Attendees will learn the concepts of map rendering on the server and browser side, as well as example use cases.

Presenter: Tom MacWright

TileMill 2.0: An Open Source Toolkit for Making Custom Map Tiles

TileMill 2.0 is an an open source map editor that makes it easy to design and generate beautiful custom map tiles. It turns making custom sets of map tiles into something that users without significant GIS software expertise (but with basic web HTML/CSS fluency) can quickly get started using to design their own maps. TileMill provides a toolset that leverages the growing open data movement and the market demand for location awareness to allow organizations and groups of all sizes to produce their own custom maps that can be used both online and off. This presentation will show users how to get setup with TileMill and start editing shape files, how to generate their first set of tiles, and how to integrate custom tiles with OpenLayers or Google Maps.

At TileMill’s core, maps are rendered by Mapnik and helped along by Cascadenik and TileLite. TileMill is effectively a glue layer that makes it easier to work with these powerful tools. The presentation will briefly cover the work done to bridge these tools together into a user friendly package. At the end of the presentation, attendees will have a solid understanding of how to get started using TileMill, as well as an understanding of opportunities for getting involved in the open source project and its growing community of users.

Presenter: Robert Soden

Open source, offline, custom mapping on the iPad

In recent months, the MapBox team has been creating offline and mobile map browsing experiences that make it possible for users to better take advantage of geo-visualizations when working in the field. This presentation will focus specifically on the development of the MapBox iPad application, looking at the use cases that drove its development and the open source software stack that made it possible.

The MapBox iPad application is a new, free app that brings custom, interactive, offline-capable maps and geo-visualizations to the iPad. Users can overlay and explore data from a number of sources — including custom tilesets, OpenStreetMap, KML, and GeoRSS. Point clustering, map view saving and loading, easy sharing of map snapshots, and collaboration with other apps on the system are also important features of this app.

In order to make this all possible, we made use of open source map rendering libraries and created some new code of our own. Simple KML is an open source, iOS-native Objective-C KML parsing library based on the also-open source TouchXML. In addition we created the open SQLite-based MBTiles offline tile exchange format to cleanly bundle full tilesets and open source code to support it for map rendering. Along the way, we learned what it takes to work without Apple’s closed mapping libraries on the iPad and in a more open environment.

Session attendees will learn about the decision making process that went into choosing high value features for offline and mobile map browsing that could be leveraged in their own mobile GIS app development, and they will also learn about some of the open source tools they could use in their own mobile app development work.

Presenter: Justin Miller

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