How to display geographic data in an easy way?
March 12, 2014 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Hi all, I have a side project in which I want to see the places I frequent on a yearly basis. I have gotten my hands on a beautiful data sheet that logs all my movements in the past year travel wise, and now I want to display that data on a map.

I am thinking either bubbles that reflect the amount of time spent there overlapping cities / geographies, or other ways.

My question is, if I have limited programming experience, if there is an easy and user friendly way to import or enter data and have the map reflect that data?

I am also open to general services that display information in compelling and beautiful ways. I prefer self service technology over handing this data to a designer who then does it, but I'm open to options.

Happy to answer any follow up questions.
posted by pando11 to Technology (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you looked into GIS (Geographic Information Systems) maps? The main program, which is produced by a company called ESRI, is extremely detailed and probably way more than what you're looking for, but they're not the only folks out there.

I've heard some good things about QGIS, though I haven't used it myself. Googling "open source GIS software" seems to produce several results worth looking into on the first page. I'm mostly familiar with ESRI's software, but in my experience you don't need to know any programming to use GIS software. Being organized about files and file naming is important, but overall it's pretty easy to toy around with. I've been told other programs are way more user-friendly than ESRI's ArcGIS tools anyway.
posted by Urban Winter at 11:18 AM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @Urban Winter, you have gotten me to a fantastic start. I have landed on this which is the perfect fit for my needs.
posted by pando11 at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2014

For something alot more limited, but also more simple, you might want to explore batchgeo. You can color-code with "groupings", but I don't think you can alter bubble size.
posted by tinymegalo at 11:25 AM on March 12, 2014

What format is your data in? A lot of what you have to do depends on knowing that. ESRI is probably overkill IMO.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 11:48 AM on March 12, 2014

I suspect that one of the ESRI products or QGIS are overkill. If you're not technically savvy, I'd look to something like Google Spreadsheet Mapper, or if you are technically savvy, generate a KML file and display it on pretty much anything using something like OpenLayers.
posted by straw at 11:57 AM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, ESRI and QGIS are total overkill for this. I agree with the batchgeo suggestion, but you could go with ArcGIS Online if you want to get your feet wet with ESRI products. If you're more ambitious and want to pretty it up, TileMill (MapBox) is the way to go. Also see Leaflet if you know some JavaScript or want to learn.
posted by desjardins at 12:14 PM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @desjardins, I checked out TheMill(MapBox) and it's even more perfect.
posted by pando11 at 1:30 PM on March 12, 2014

Coincidentally, Bobby Sudekum (a MapBox engineer) just tweeted out a map just like what you want. Here's the tweet conversation, which if you follow leads to some quick notes on how to make a map like that with TileMill. It relies on a particular color filter to do the heatmapping.
posted by Nelson at 5:49 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the inspiration; I made my own version of this map using my OpenPaths data, production notes here. It's definitely pretty easy with TileMill, no real programming required just some tweaking of style sheets. But if you've never used TileMill before you should plan on spending a couple of hours figuring it out. And get the right dev build of TileMill, the crucial colorize-alpha feature is not in the official release. TileMill-v0.10.1-243-gafc00a worked for me.
posted by Nelson at 5:06 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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