Archive | maps

Kickstarter update #5: On to the next level

I’m catching up my blog to the kickstarter updates I’ve been posting. Here’s the original.

Hello, another update on your GPS ART POSTER print.

All but one of the $99 level prints are printed and I should pick them up this week. One didn’t quite make it in to the last run.

All but one of the $59 level prints (of those who responded to the survey) are now with the printer to be printed. One of them is proving a little difficult because it has a lot of lines on it. The original copy was nearly a 2Gb PDF which is about 10 times too big to actually print 🙂

I’ve just ordered about 450 poster tubes, which should be here in about a week. I’ve had to order them in blocks of 50, which means I’ll have lots of spare poster tubes. Presumably these will be useful for pretend sword fights. 🙂

This means, it’s time to open up the surveys, to $39 level supporters and below. So, expect a survey soon.

From my perspective, about 25% of the prints are “done” in the sense that they are printed, or waiting to be printed. Very roughly 50% are remaining to be shipped to the printer (the $39 and $19 levels) and then roughly 25% are digital, desktop wallpaper copies.

With luck, I should be able to get all of them shipped within the projected month of April. But it will be tight, and some might ship in May.  I view the process of putting the prints in to the tubes, labeling and mailing them, as largely a mechanical chore. Compared, that is, to the work involved in taking your descriptions and turning them in to PDF files for the printer. It will take a chunk of time, but hopefully there isn’t much that can go wrong (famous last words).

I’m adding in a little 30 second video of what it’s like to watch a large format printer produce one of these things. It might surprise you how much time it can take. As the tubes and prints start arriving, there should be more interesting pictures and videos to share.

Kickstarter update #4: Busy

I’m catching up my blog to the kickstarter updates I’ve been posting. Here’s the original.

Hi, thanks for supporting the GPS ART POSTER!

A quick note on the prints.

I’m working through your area selections. Some of them are incredibly detailed. This is a good thing, but it is taking time. For example, prints asking for “my house near the big park in my town” are really fun. I’m exploring all kinds of new places and making many beautiful prints.

I’ve sent the first batch to the printer, too.

But there is a dark side here, and I need to be extra, extra clear with you. If you didn’t pledge at the $99 level there is no feedback loop.

I will do my best to make a great print for you, but some of the area selections are very hard to get right. For example; county maps are very hard since county boundaries are hard to get right, since they don’t always follow roads or other things in the GPS traces. Instead they follow random other things, like rivers. Or, if you specify “New York” that can mean New York City, Manhattan, New York State… or anything in between.

So, if it is, really, really, important to you that the print is *just* *right* please drop me a message, and consider upgrading to the $99 level, because I want to make you happy.

Kickstarter update #3: Many Places

I’m catching up my blog to the kickstarter updates I’ve been posting. Here’s the original.

I’m writing with a little update on the gps art poster you supported. Thanks for that!

Yay! Code rewrite madness! The original software for this could take up to 2 hours to make a complete print. That doesn’t work when you have lots of prints to make. It has been completely rewritten and now takes about 50 seconds.

(For the technically inclined, originally it scanned hundreds of gigabytes of CSV files on a spinning disk. Now, it works with a smaller MySQL spatial indexed database on an SSD. The code itself is a relatively short ruby script talking to MySQL on one end and the PrawnPDF library at the other. Win!)

The $99 level pledgees now all have previews of their art, or have finalized their print. Soon, they’ll start being printed.

This means it’s time to move to the $59 level pledgees. There are 8 times more of you, and I’ve learnt a few things along the way that should make your process easier. Expect a survey soon to get your info.

For the levels below $59, sit tight, I’ll get to you as soon as possible.

Lastly, here are a few of the preview images.

image-235213-full-1 image-235214-full-1 image-235215-full-1

My first kickstarter project

GPS traces of Manhattan and surroundings

GPS traces of Manhattan and surroundings

Yay, my first kickstarter project.

For a long time I’ve wanted to expand on a project I did with Tom Carden in 2005. We took GPS traces of London and plotted them in a simple black-on-white scheme on A0 paper (about 3 feet by 2 feet). Bit rot has not destroyed all of the old wiki page or boing boing post about it.

Back then GPS was a rarity. Today it’s everywhere. We were able only to do London and for various logistical reasons limited to 100 prints which were posted to all corners of the Earth. What I’m able to do here is much more expansive – the United States plus a large chunk of Europe.

Large format prints of SF, Chicago and NYC

Large format prints of SF, Chicago and NYC

Each black line represents one GPS trace and I layer many on to a sheet of paper which highlights where people actually go as contrasted with a traditional maps which show every possible place where you can go. Because of the small inherent GPS inaccuracy of each individual trace, roads with a lot of traffic become thicker and bolder. Personally, I find these to be beautiful artifacts somewhere in between art, technology and social science.

Another wonderful thing is that they work fractally (across scales). From across a room there is a recognizable depth to them which speaks to the city they represent. Up close, you can see individual GPS trails and appreciate the detail. Either far or near you get sucked in to something which crystalizes the movement of a city in to something finite and appreciable.

A slightly blurry close up of SF

A slightly blurry close up of SF

A lot of work has gone in to these, to be expanded upon in a future post. Writing the software to produce them was, as ever, interesting but the smallest part. The final product contains many elements: printing, printers, inks, papers, rasterization, shipping, poster tubes, packaging, marketing, customer acquisition. In some ways this project has taken 7 years to put together, in some maybe 6 months.

I don’t expect to break the bank selling posters. I’m doing this because it just feels like someone needs to make this kind of art much more available. I don’t think Tom & I were the first to do this (projects date from at least 2003) and this won’t be the last.

It definitely will be fun, so join in over at kickstarter.

Maps at Google

Interesting Ed Parsons talk with some behind-the-scenes pictures of what Google uses to manage it’s geographic infrastructure. Nice enough talk but definitely for the Google audience, a little implicit that Google invented everything. Random dig at MapQuest who were apparently Google’s original map supplier (who knew?).

Google map data sources then and now

Interesting screen shot of what I’ll call GoogleGIS with streetview bubbles flattened out in to a donut as part of the editing process. Looks like a Mac app in some third party language/widget set:


Ed uses a tiny snippet of video of this guy who’s cheerfully editing map bugs submitted by the crowd;

Upper middle class Google Map Maker editor in relaxed Californian atmosphere fixing the occasional map bug

I’m not entirely sure how accurate that is though.

Map bugs dutifully fixed by glad worker bees

Full talk;

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