Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Don’t Oversimplify

September 23rd, 2014

There’s been a lot of talk about simplicity in the GIS world lately and so it seems like a good time to remember not to let the pendulum swing too much to the side of oversimplification. Read up on this in Don Norman’s Simplicity Is Not the Answer.

In the meantime I thought it prudent to add another poster in this blog’s series of motivational posters (other “gems” are found here and here) Plus, I happened to be testing out QGIS’s Simplify Geometries tool today.


Book Selling

September 16th, 2014

Last week I was asking around* about how to publicize Cartographer’s Toolkit more. The reason this came up was that I finally sat down and calculated total sales since publication for Cartographer’s Toolkit vs. total sales for GIS Cartography. Now, there are a few important differences between the books:

Cartographer’s Toolkit

  • published in paperback in 2012, published in electronic (pdf) form in 2011
  • not available on kindle due to kindle publishing not being good enough for such a graphic-intense book (there are about 30 individual graphics on some pages)
  • Aimed at providing an easy-to-flip-through experience for experienced cartographers seeking fresh typeface, color palette, and map design ideas
  • self-published and therefore self-marketed
  • marketed via messages on twitter (many), cartotalk (1), a small email group I belong to, and a few other small outlets. Also featured in GIS User and a few international cartography publications.
  • mentioned and reviewed on several blogs
  • almost 3 times cheaper than GIS Cartography

GIS Cartography

  • 1st edition published in 2009, 2nd edition published in 2014
  • available on kindle
  • provides a comprehensive textbook for undergrads, graduates, improving and experienced professionals
  • published by CRC Press
  • present at many conference venues via CRC Press
  • marketed to professors via CRC Press

Cartographer’s Toolkit is being under-marketed as shown by the fact that total sales have been at about 1/2 those of GIS Cartography. Even though GIS Cartography has been out much longer, it is also much more expensive. This makes me believe that Cartographer’s Toolkit has the potential to reach a much wider audience. All this is to say that I’m tossing around ideas to get the word out about the book more. I got some great advice via twitter, so I’ll start to implement some of those ideas in the future (including emailing groups that have people who may not read twitter). One of the nicest things about asking on twitter was all the positive feedback I got on the book from those who have actually used it in their own cartographic endeavors.

Brian Bancroft said, “Cartographer’s Toolkit has been a boon to me. Some of my private sample maps even scored me a job as a field cartographer in the resource center in a faraway province. I will have a lot more spare time on airplanes to do reading as a result [to read GIS Cartography]. Thanks again for doing what you do. You do it well.”

When, in other ages, have authors been able to get such direct and quick feedback from their readers? I think that’s part of the reason that books are still being created at a fierce pace these days: the interactive component with readership.

Onward to marketing. A writer’s job is never done.


*Asking around = asking on twitter

Friday Roundup

September 12th, 2014

The Tableau Conference 2014 (#DATA14) was held this week, featuring some outstanding speakers: Hans Rosling, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Michael Lewis, to name a few. Alberto Cairo, @albertocairo, also gave a talk but contributed a tremendous amount by live tweeting for those of us who couldn’t be there in person. In particular, his tweeted pictures of Rosling holding a giant arrow pointer, with an actual arrow at the end, were both amusing and informative. It’s nice to learn facts about the world while also learning how best to chart and display data.

That assertion applies equally well to a very common problem we have in both paper and digital mapping, one that has been with us for decades: the boss or client who wants 10 data layers on a single map when it would be best to separate the layers into individual maps.

The FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial) conference is still going on, finishing with a code sprint on Saturday and Sunday. You can view the live stream of the talks for the rest of today and the recordings will be available sometime in the near future according to @foss4g.

Ian Schneider, who has been at Boundless a lot longer than I have, gave a great introduction to MapStory. I liked his talk because it focused on how four power-users of MapStory use the product. This makes it personal, interesting, and at the same time introduces us to the concepts behind the site. It’s a good presentation technique.

Our colleague, Benjamin Trigona-Harany, gave the QGIS for Analysts workshop for the first time at FOSS4G. I had a very small part in producing the workshop materials and it was a lot of fun to put together. To try and come up with a “typical” GIS analysis workflow while using interesting data that would yield interesting results and show off the capabilities of QGIS was a much harder thing to do than I had realized! But in the end we settled on showing off the processing capabilities of QGIS (it has an interface that allows you to link multiple processes together and run it like a program, similar to other products) via a Wyoming antelope habitat analysis. Essentially, we figured out what types of habitat the antelope favored based on their ranges overlayed with raster data like elevation and landuse.

URISA’s GIS-Pro Annual Conference finished up yesterday. The tweets revealed that there was a good mixture of professionals at the conference and a good turnout. I wish I hadn’t missed NOAA’s talk on sea level rise and coastal flooding. Now that would have made a very interesting QGIS analysis too. I’m very impressed that part of the conference program included a half-day community project involving property condition field data collection. Hey, that would have been another good case study for a QGIS analysis workshop. One’s work is never done.

Has Cartography Advanced Enough?

September 8th, 2014

Reading about Plato’s thoughts on irrational numbers, I came across this, “Plato was profoundly interested in the subject…he says the general ignorance on this subject is disgraceful…” (Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy).

About 10 years ago I would have said, or rather I did say, much the same thing about cartography. But reflecting on this tonight I have to say that tremendous progress has occurred in all aspects of cartography: software, design, general geography skills,  and ubiquity of mapping products spanning all kinds of important subjects. (The possible exception to this is geo analytical theory, which was already advanced a decade ago, though arguably not practiced enough.)

Now the question is do we continue to teach, learn, and discover the art and science of cartography or are we done here?*


*I’m not done. It’s just a rhetorical question. :)

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration