NYCwiki talk:Maps

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On February 17, 2011 Tom Lowenhaupt wrote the following message to his ITP alumni list for suggestions on creating neighborhood maps:

The city has 352 neighborhoods with ill defined borders. These are unofficial (non-government) entities with historic (Greenwich Village / Long Island City / Harlem) or real-estate developer entities with geo-socio-economic values. With the arrival of the .nyc TLD they present the opportunity for a more utilitarian function through domains like,, and 349 others by our count - see

We're dreaming of each as a place detailing its heritage, current state, issues and opportunities with c/s and decision-support tools available to assist with local governance. (Incidentally, if we can create locally controlled neighborhood sites we have the opportunity of these not being information colonies of global media companies, with local retail and civic projects able to afford advertising/outreach.)

THE QUESTION: Being unofficial, there are no official maps of neighborhoods - natch. How do we create these maps? An idea I had involved a neighborhood day walk-bike-a-thon where people would circumnavigate their neighborhoods with their phone signals somehow marking the lines. As we all have different views of these neighborhoods there'd need to be a subsequent harmonization task creating "rubbery" borders.

Is this possible? If not, got an alternate idea?


To which he received these responses

android to the rescue

Google's MyTracks app (Android) will create paths. My app, Mobile Logger (iPhone) will also track a route with pushpins. Both apps should enable export of the data; ML can export GPX files.

Also, MyTracks just released an update to support upload to Fusion Tables, which would be a great location for this public data. I also just added Fusion Tables support to ML, but haven't released it to the App Store yet.

(See My Tracks page.)


See "Mapping the Hood - with a little help from Android" based on My Tracks and

flicker pictures

have you seen Flickr's derived neighborhood maps from geotagged photos with "placename" tags?

Aaron Straup Cope: The Shape of Alpha


to which a most helpful Arron responded...

Hi Tom,

You should probably start here:

The presentations that Liz mentioned are here (the second link has video of the talk):

The software itself, that we used to make the shape, is here:

I haven't tried it yet myself, but do you know about open signal maps?

I hope that helps.


where are you

The first thing that comes into mind is a very simple but elegant app / website that gets your location and asks you to define what neighborhood you'd consider yourself to be in at the moment, with a list and optional manual entry.

With enough participation, you'd have an essentially real-time dynamic overview of what people *really* consider to be the neighborhoods. That would be a really interesting algorithm to write. The problem of course is getting enough participation. Some kind of simple game or something to incentivize it...

Additionally / subtractionally, you could conceivably write a script that looks for neighborhood names on the internets (blog posts, articles, twitter, fb, etc etc) and looks for a nearby, possibly associated address. Sort of like how google image search works. This would be harder obviously... but an interesting challenge.

Thinking out loud, ±±t3db0t


take a look at[] as well - met them last week, very impressive work. their kits might be perfect if you're looking to involve communities in creating their own maps...

google maps

Google maps has "reverse geolocation," and it includes neighborhoods. I don't know how accurate these neighborhood data is, but it's definitely part of the Address Component Types in their API:



Hi Tom,

I would recommend a close look at as the tech of least resistance to getting this done. Designed by Mike Miguski at Stamen Design for open street maps, it's proven itself effective in efforts to map Kibera, Africa's biggest slum.

if it works in Kibera, it'll work in Queens.

one downside is the server side work with OpenStreetMaps is not trivial. given motivation and enough time though I expect this wouldn't be an issue.

and a bonus! there's folks in NYC from the humanitarian world with walking papers experience that might be interested in this.

more info:

Urban Omnibus

> > Urban Omnibus <> was working on something like this a while ago, not sure if they've done anything more with it. If you're interested in speaking with them hit me offlist, I can put you in touch.



Down the road a piece

As we ponder the near term I offer the following for down the road... From

"Google Maps is my consumer mapping solution; why wouldn't I marry it with my Cognos business analytics?"

The nutshell answer is that enterprise class BI demands enterprise class mapping.

There are numerous supporting points to this argument, which I intend to explore in this "Google Maps Mini-Series". The point to leave you with today:

Google Maps is a visualization solution, enterprise mapping (supported by GIS technologies) covers visualization but also enables data analytics.

Cognos BI users are used to the self-service capabilities afforded by reporting prompting, drill-downs, and drill through target reports. Once these users began to see information presented spatially, they begin asking "spatial" questions: "show me the points inside of this 5 mile radius; now drive my list report from these spatial results."

If you have trouble visualizing the difference, I would highly recommend checking out these moving pictures.

In our next installment of the Case Against Google Maps in Cognos: Can't We Do More Than Dots on the Map...?

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