Kelso at MIT for 2012 Knight News Challenge Winners

(Cross-posted from the Stamen blog, written by Eric.)

Nathaniel showcased nearly two years of City Tracking in Boston last Monday at the MIT/Knight Story and the Algorithm conference. You can read about this years’ winners here, as well about the changing nature of the grant: shorter cycles, more opportunities to apply, that kind of thing. It’s worth a look.

The City Tracking project started off with, which allows mapping of data spreadsheets. The project still sees active use, but after we made the Toner tiles available for download we started to notice that more people were expressing interest in the background maps than in the ability to put dots on them.

Responding to public feedback while the project happened was something we were interested in from the start, and is the result: a browsable, embeddable, and otherwise immediately usable map of the whole world that can be used in Google Maps, Modest Maps, and other mapping APIs without having to download all of OpenStreetMap or tinkering with servers and technical code.

Nathaniel closed with a project we launched in March showing how climate change can be made personal on the street level, instead of the usual course brush strokes, with Climate Central’s surging seas project.

These thin slices of big data are bite size morsels of aha. We hope you like them!


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.