Demand, Supply

This morning when I got into work, I noticed a small uptick in the bug reports that we get via maps.stamen.com. Curiously, quite a few of them were centered around England. I suppose I had thought that we would have generated most of the English tiles by now, so could expect smooth sailing there. Then, someone gave the game away:

“A blue tile in the center of London that unfortunately shows up on my desktop background when using Satellite Eyes.”

Friend-of-Stamen, Tom Taylor, announced almost 24 hours ago that he had “made a thing and wrote a blog post about it.” That thing is Satellite Eyes, which changes your Mac desktop wallpaper to a map of where you are. Tom has incorporated Watercolor, Toner and Terrain (in the U.S.) as well as the lovely Bing Aerial map as options.


Here is a screenshot of my desktop, with the Watercolor neighbourhood map of San Francisco in Halftone selected.

After many of us here at the Studio had installed the app, we began to notice that our tile farm was… well… smoking. Since Tom is English, we suspected that many other English people around England had also installed the app, and were happily playing with the preferences that let you switch between map styles and zoom levels. We took to the graphs:


1 is the normal, full usage. 5 is not.

Even though this is all Tom’s fault, it’s also a good thing! Far better to respond to actual demand than to try to optimize prematurely. So, we’ve increased capacity by spreading some of the some of the watercolor rendering load into EC2, and are working on re-creating those “underwater” tiles you might have noticed around the map.

Thanks, Tom! Excellent work!

Watercolor in the Wild

One of the most common enquiries we’re reading about Watercolor maps is about how to make prints. Given such demand, we’re thinking about a new tool to help you select an print an area of a map. Stay tuned for news about that.

I answered a bug report from Michael in Switzerland, who’d found the “underwater” bug in an area of the map he wanted to use on a poster about OpenStreetMap for a conference called GEOSummit, to be held in Bern June 19-21. As you can see below, he worked around the bug by blending Watercolor with the default OpenStreetMap tiles, and the fabulous OpenCycleMap, including a view on the Transport layer, by Andy Allan.

If only I was in Switzerland!

A Month of maps.stamen.com

Well, it’s been about a month since we announced maps.stamen.com, and what a month it’s been! The whole team has had tremendous fun listening and watching people enjoying the new maps: Watercolor, Toner and Terrain. Here’s a few snippets of reporting in the news, and a sample of fantastic re-use of the new maps…

In The News

“A new Creative Commons tile set adds a human, organic touch to cold digital maps. Now if only there were more projects like this.”
http://www.fastcodesign.com/1669353/stamens-new-web-app-renders-digital-maps-in-watercolor

“Beautiful visualisation tool transforms maps into works of art”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/apr/04/mapping-data-visualisation

“…a re-imagined view of cities…”
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/statewide/archive/2012/04/minnesota-in-watercolors.shtml

Experiments, Playing

@kerryrm:
“Playing with polymaps.org & maps.stamen.com (watercolor) for fun. Contemplating the possibilities…”

And we were super excited to spot this little tweet from @pajbam in Paris:

It was the “Maybe time to contribute?” question that got us excited; that these maps are tempting enough for people to try using them in whatever site they’re building. Like Bobby at Visually BS, who combined Terrain and Cloudmade’s JavaScript library, Leaflet, to make a map that shows San Francisco residents vantage points around the city from which to watch America’s Cup 2013.

Go, Gamers Go

Duncan integrated Watercolor into MapsTD (Maps Tower Defense) game he built on top of the Google Maps API. Looks pretty great as I defend the Taj Mahal…

Anton Westholm, in Malmö, wrote a utility to combine Watercolor with Inkscape to create a hex boardgame for an arbitrary area.

New Tools

Toner popped up on the fabulous WordPress plugin, Vérité Timeline, which lets you insert gorgeous timelines into your WordPress site, using data from a Google spreadsheet, or a JSON file. Great to see some interplay between Knight News funding recipients. (More please!)

Jonas Häggqvist built osm.rasher.dk, a site that shows data visualization and QA for Danish OpenStreetMap edits over Toner (as one of a few map style options). In this screenshot, I turned on a few different overlays: Power, Named Places, Traces (on OSM), and Street Centers.

It’s really important and exciting to see these maps help to build out tools in the same ecosystem. To use maps generated on top of OSM data to see OSM data more clearly must be some sort of VIRTUOUS CIRCLE, surely!

Pins, Pins, Pins

Many of the team here are heavy Pinterest users, so it wasn’t a big leap to look there for activity around the new maps.

Interesting how many people look to their home town or where they live when they first use a new map… these various pins expose places on the map that we might never have looked for at the studio.

Paul Mison discovered a nice easter egg on Pinterest when you try to pin a map – you see all the composite tiles shuffled about a bit. (I feel a game coming on!)

As I’ve spent the last while getting up to speed on the whole Citytracking environs, something Eric about the project wrote way back before the Data & Cities conference has really stuck with me, and should probably be on a t-shirt:

The project is: Here’s some work, grab the code, the license is cool, don’t worry about it, use it, go ahead and publish your stuff.

To see that actually coming true — even on cupcakes — and also to see people using the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license correctly is huge! We’re actively collecting examples of our maps in the wild, so if you’re using them, please either leave us a comment here, or tweet @stamen with a link!