I write to think. This seems counter intuitive, given I make my living with visual concepts, not words. But open my notebook and you’ll see scrawled dot points that tumble into prose. Horizontal side notes climb up the page carrying extra thoughts.
At this point though, I need more than words to keep track of this Fibershed project. I’ve only posted about alpacas so far, but there’s a lot more work waiting to be published. I need a different way to mark the relationships between each contact I’m making. A map seems like a good way to do this.
Showing the way
Lucky for me, the Footscray Maker Lab (FML) was running a workshop on Open Street Map. Open Street Map is an open source map of the world that everyone can contribute to. The FML has been using Open Street Map to make a Maribyrnong Maker Map. It charts people, places and resources for making things in the inner west of Melbourne.
Jose Ramos from FML ran the workshop. He gave us just enough information to understand how to start and then let us loose! Jose explained that Open Street Map is a crowd-sourced world map. Every street, contour and name has been plotted by a user. To make our own personalised maps, we’d sign up to a service called uMap. This service lets you ‘overlay’ your own map information on top of Open Street Map. It sounds complicated, but this is what makes my map separate (and searchable) from other people’s maps.
Plotting a course
Of course, once I’d set up my personalised map I wanted to see what all the buttons did! The buttons on the left hand side deal with major navigation tasks, like going to the uMap home page and navigating to a spot on the map.
Things get interesting when you click the pencil button on the top right hand side of the screen. This is how you to edit your map. It was easy to edit my map settings to give it a name and describe its purpose. We also tried to draw an area shape to show the 500km limit of this project. The line-based polygon tool made drawing a circle too difficult, so we deleted it.
Making my mark
Next we tried drawing a marker. I put in the address of the first alpaca farm I visited. Open Street Map navigated to the address I input, but there was no sign of where that point was. This made me worry my map wasn’t going to be accurate enough for anyone to use. Luckily there were lots of developer-minded people at the workshop to help me find a better method.
I can use a process called geocoding. Geocoding maps addresses to their latitude and longitude. This gives me the accuracy I’m looking for. It’s possible to get this information from Google maps, but it’d take a long time. So we used a service called BatchGeo to speed up the process. I’m using the free service because I have a low volume of maps to plot.
With a bit of tinkering, we learnt how to enter the data so BatchGeo could map the locations. Separate address information with commas, and mark new columns with a tab. Click on the ‘make map’ button and BatchGeo will draw your map!
You could share this map as is, but we wanted to export the geocoding data. To do this, click the ‘save and continue’ button. A window will prompt you to title and describe the map to save it. The map will then load in your browser. At the bottom of the window there’s a link to download the data in Google Earth (KML) format. The link is hiding – it took us ages to find it!
Back in Open Street Map, click on the ‘Import data’ button. It’s an upward pointing arrow on the right hand side. Instant map markers!!! You can even choose which layer your data is uploaded to. Speaking of layers, that’s the next thing I set up on the map.
I’ve divided up information on my map into different groups. Each group has its own layer that can be turned on and off using the third button on the left of the screen. There’s a layer for farmers, makers, creators and community. Each layer has been styled with a unique colour. This way you can see at a glance which marker belongs to what layer. Clicking that third button on the left of the screen again, you’ll see there’s a ‘browse data’ option. This shows all the markers in a list form. In editing mode, this is where I add the information for each marker.
So far I’ve got a title and description for each marker. I know it’s possible to add a hyperlink and image. I’ll try to learn how to do that next. There’s not a lot to show on the map yet, but I will add more markers as I make new Fibershed connections.
Time to explore
I know what I’ve done so far is simple as far as maps go. Even so, I’m chuffed I’ve created it and excited to have used simple automation for the first time! I hope this map is useful for you. You can let me know if you see any improvements I can make to it, or log in and make them yourself!