Maptime Madison!

By Katie Kowalsky | February 17, 2015

I went to NACIS for the first time last October, and was amazed. It’s a terrific conference for map nerds like myself to get together and learn a ton in just a few days. I learned a ton of amazing things and met some great people. The most exciting product to come out of the conference was Maptime Madison!

Maptime is ‘part hacker night, part knitting circle’ but 100% about mapping.  It’s a community event that invites anyone who loves maps to learn the technology behind it. It’s all about open source, being beginner friendly, and teaching. We’re also so lucky to have a massive geospatial community in Madison, with the UW’s cartography and geography programs, the GIS community and cartographic firms in the city. Rashauna, Robin, and myself have been organizing it since we all went to NACIS in October and it’s been a great time.

This month I taught about CartoDB, an online map visualization application that is rocking the geospatial world.

teaching maptime

CartoDB is used by a ton of companies, from Twitter to the Wall Street Journal because its easy to use platform and fast visualization abilities. I like to use it as an ‘Introduction to Web Mapping’ because:

  • It uses no javascript, HTML/CSS
  • It can switch back and forth between 'data' and 'map' view, which helps get a sense of how mapping works
  • Georeferencing is  super easy
  • For those that know that know SQL or CartoCSS, they can try more advanced settings
  • There are basic mapping options but also some fun things like heat maps, time-series animated maps, and hex-bins.

Lyzi Diamond and I have talked about the future of map education, and how to successfully teach people to map. Our maptime format has basically been the combination of the traditional lecture and lab format in one, where our expert gives a brief presentation which includes a lot of stopping for questions, live demos, and then play time. There are a lot of kinks to figure out though, as we continue with our monthly meetings.

Some of the kinks include:

  • How do we create a brief lesson that's all about open source mapping, but open to all skill levels?
  • Making a repository for geospatial data that allows people to have clean data to map for tutorials during maptime
  • What do people want? We get a variety of people each month which really depends on the subject.

The more I delve into teaching about mapping, the more I love it. I think being able to show what you know is best done by teaching others your skills. The growth in our field as far as open source technology goes is incredible: more and more happens each day. For anyone who want to learn more: find a maptime! near you or start your own! It’s incredible to see the community’s reaction to cartography, which has always been positive in my experience.

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