Talking Maps

April 2-4, 2012 saw the Where 2.0 Conference come to San Francisco. Most of the studio went to at least one morning or afternoon, to watch many of our friends present on what they’re up to, and of course, to watch Eric talk about, and all the different parts we worked out to get the system launch-ready. Here are Eric’s slides (13MB PDF):

It’s been absolutely brilliant to watch the web’s response to the new maps – I’ll post more on that later, including links and examples of the maps being used and reused in other sites, one of the key goals for CityTracking.

We also prepared a surprise to accompany Eric’s talk on Wednesday: newspapers from Newspaper Club that contained watercolor maps of 20 cities around the world (Thank you, thank you, to Anne, Russell, Ben and Tom from Newspaper Club for helping us get the papers ready in time!)


Nathaniel is in Washington, DC at the moment, and also presented about how we created the Watercolor maps to a super-smart geo-tech audience today at Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) North America“Reminiscent of hand drawn maps, Stamen’s new watercolor tiles apply area washes and organic edges over a paper texture to add warm pop to any map. We’ve added more Photoshop-style raster effects to TileStache to render OSM tiles like you’ve never seen them before.”

In case you missed them, we posted a week-long series of blog posts to accompany the launch of from various people at Stamen:

If only I’d gotten this blog online in time (!!!).


“This is map-making gone riot.”

Mike & Eric at Code for America in January

Watch two presentations that Mike, then Eric gave in January this year: Big Data For Public Good, hosted by Code for America.

I happened to be in the audience, and was thrilled to hear a gasp or two when Eric revealed our work on the Watercolor maps in public for the first time, about 15 minutes in to his presentation. That was a couple of months before we launched them on March 22, 2012.

As a provocation, Rodenbeck closed with the statement that “there’s no such thing as raw data”—it is always scrubbed, filtered, and interpreted. The challenge—and great opportunity—is to analyze and interpret the data in service of the public good, and to communicate these insights to mass audiences in accessible ways that resonate and inspire action.


Dotspotting was the first project Stamen released as part of CityTracking, launched on June 17, 2011. Here’s how we describe what Dotspotting is for:

The first part of this project is to start from scratch, in a ‘clean room’ environment. We’ve started from a baseline that’s really straightforward, tackling the simplest part: getting dots on maps, without legacy code or any baggage. Just that, to start. Dots on maps.

dots on maps

Since the project launched, around 400 maps-with-dots-on have been created using the site. We’ve also often used the system internally at Stamen to get a lightning fast visual of data we work with for clients; to see its shape and spread. It’s incredibly simple. All you have to do is upload a CSV that contains latitude/longitude information for each row, in addition to whatever other fields you’re using to describe things. Super handy!

The Dotspotting site also contains a bunch of somewhat hidden but awesome features, like being able to set up an embeddable map that shows different types of dots on a map, in a colour scheme to your liking (a la Crimespotting). We’re working on exposing those sorts of features more clearly and explicitly, perhaps even as separate modules that can be accessed independently of the website.

The code for Dotspotting is available for download on Github, and licensed for used under the GNU General Public License.

Hello World!

Welcome to the CityTracking blog, from Stamen Design. There’s so much going on under the CityTracking banner we thought it was worth creating a new blog to keep track of it all.

Stay tuned for blog posts about new initiatives, examples of fabulous reuse of our CC-licensed map tiles, presentations & articles by Stamen staff about the project, and innovative related projects.

One other main feature of this website will be the development of a curated collection of tools for developers to use to construct various map-related features elsewhere on the web. We plan to build a “workshop” to visit to learn which components and tools are available to help you create mappish things. For example, you should be able to teach yourself how to print a wall-sized map, or how to create a map from a CSV file that contains a bunch of geo-coordinates.

We’ve also done a ton of work on CityTracking since we were awarded the Knight News Challenge, so we’ll be collecting all those bits and pieces, like Eric’s post about the project that he wrote for PBS back in November, 2010, to form something of an archive.

More soon!