Some people think that Google does not provide a solution for Geographic Information Scientists. I’d beg to differ, beyond their purchase of Keyhole Inc. and the subsequent formation of Google Earth, Googlers have also created the Fusion Tables experiment. Fusion Tables allow you to take data available in a Google Drive spreadsheet and visualize various datum overlaid on a Google Map base map.
Creating Maps using Google Drive Spreadsheet and the Fusion Tables Experiment
Here’s an example Fusion Table map I created, using South American butterfly data provided by the Fusion Table experiment. Clicking the “Rows” tab will showcase how the data exists within Google Drive, complete with embedded images.
Notice that there are columns for Latitude and Longitude that are used to geocode the coordinates. Fusion Tables also allow Google Drive users to create and associate objects with their spreadsheet records. The in browser geocoding ranges in accuracy, depending on how your fields are configured. For example, I created a Fusion Table for the 32 NFL Football teams, along with their XY location for where their arena is located. The Arizona Cardinals play in Glendale, but the geocoder defaults to a Glendale located outside of Los Angeles instead.
Fortunately, Google Fusion Tables allow for customization of column types by using the Change function.
Unfortunately, using the “Two column location” check box does not work when trying to specify City and State as a two column location. This would be useful in the event that a Latitude and Longitude are not available.
The Two column location check box is hard coded to work with Latitude and Longitude values. Thus rendering separate Address, City, State and Zip Code columns useless within the Two column location selection.
Longitude and Latitude values seem to be set as Two column locations by default. However, Google Drive’s Fusion Table appear to interact with Longitude locations better than locations set with Latitude columns, despite those two columns being linked as a two column location. Below is an example comparing the differences between using Lat and Long with my sample NFL Arena table.
Using my Arena Name for the Arizona Cardinals, yields a similar result as using the XY values do. Though there is a slight discrepancy, both Arena and XY geocode to the Arizona Cardinal’s arena in this case.
Ideally, Google Fusion Tables appear to work better with data that isn’t parsed out into separate cells. Google Drive is equipped to manipulate data, but spreadsheets that are set to use the Fusion Table experiment are a little harder to manipulate.
To wrap it up, I wanted to gauge the community to see how many folks have looked into using Google Drive and Fusion tables on a project. Does anyone have academic or business use stories for Google Fusion Tables?
Currently I have only played around with a couple sample data sets and am looking to put together a best practices guide for this web mapping tool.
Thanks a ton,
Massively Open Online Courses, commonly referred to as MOOCs, have gained in popularity since Harvard, MIT and Berkeley publicly came together and joined EDX. The academic institutions made their courses free and available to anyone with an Internet connection. As seen below in the Google Trends graph, MOOCs are at their peak for search volume.
What are MOOCs and how can society benefit from them?
MOOCs are just that, they are massively open online courses. Imagine a Massively Multiplayer Online game, like World of Warcraft, but substitute the game element with learning, researching and teaching. What you’re left with is a MOOC, which is an attempt to democratize education by making it widely available.
I jumped on the MOOC bandwagon as soon as Harvard announced that their CS50 offering would be available through EDX last September. I am ashamed to admit that I am only on Problem Set 2, which is technically the third week of material. Through this experience I have learned a load about Virtual Machines and basic principles in using C as a programming language. Beyond the hard facts, I’ve also learned that MOOCs are widely popular across the globe.
On twitter I’ve made several friends talking about #CS50 and #EDX, which has opened an international discourse revolving largely around knowledge and problem solving. Having been out of graduate school since 2009, this is the first time in a couple of years that the intellectual stimulation, in the form of classroom discussion, has come back into my life. MOOCs are a great way to encourage people to collaborate across political borders, no matter how far they have progressed through the material.
I realized that other people were thinking about MOOCs when I heard a radio segment on my local NPR affiliate. The conversation was geared towards how mid-level, and potentially overpriced, institutions would survive if universities like Harvard, MIT and Berkeley were giving away their course lectures for free. Since then, several other universities have teamed up with EDX to make their educational content available. The University of Texas System, McGill, Australian, Wellesley, Georgetown University, University of Toronto, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, TU Delft and Rice have all gotten on board and made select curriculum available to the public for free.
What amazes me is that universities are not the only driving force behind pushing free, high caliber education. Despite being a college dropout, Bill Gates has gone on the record saying that access to education is one of the most important problems that needs to be solved in America. In an Ask Me Anything interview conducted on Reddit, Bill Gates said “My foundation has funded a lot of MOOCs focused on community college kids or kids who have to take remedial math.”
I believe that Bill Gates hit the nail on the head with his comment about using MOOCs to get Americans up to speed with remedial math courses. This shows that people, such as Microsoft’s founder, are thinking about how open courses could be used to even the playing field; without charging tuition and subsequently sending the rest of our society deeper into student loan debt. If adopted by Community Colleges and other State Universities, such as what has been done by the University of Texas System, we could collectively educate society on the hard sciences and humanities at no cost to the student.
How Massively Open Online Courses could enable Economic Development
MOOCs could be used in conjunction with development strategies by local governments in order to prepare workforce for economic success. For instance, take my hometown of Albany, the state capital of New York, and examine the recent boom industry of Nanoscale engineering. Public and private funding has been used to turn UAlbany into a global epicenter for nanotechnology. As much as New York loves to import high skill labor into the state, it would be strategic for the state to make available course content that could get anyone interested up to speed on the subject matter.
Not everyone has access to the Internet, but Albany has several public branch libraries with accommodating hours, each city neighborhood has a branch or is within a bus ride to one. Partnering up with the brick and mortar institutions could assist in developing a new era of human capital. No longer can cities depend on the giant brand name corporations to employ their residents and provide them with a comfortable retirement. Cities, regions and states need to be smart in planning for clustered growth by focusing on core industries. This is important because it allows for the comforts of co-location and cohabitation among companies within a certain industry, which would allow for more options and experience for the area’s workforce.
A city and it’s culture cannot survive without a plan. MOOCs could be designed for, and adapted by cities, so as to develop the right kind of worker for a given industrial cluster. A city like Albany could benefit from teaming up with the University at Albany even more. Doing so would give the city of Albany a leg up on preparing it’s residents for the jobs of tomorrow. Investing in the human capital locally could also enable and empower an educated workforce to spawn their own innovative ideas and start a business of their own.
Education is a central tenant to the function of economic development. Without a talented workforce, a business cannot survive. MOOCs make education free for all, but could also be used in a more directed manner by aiming to develop a smarter, more prepared workforce. MOOCs could also be leveraged to prepare regions for the declining role that giant name brand corporations have on cities. Investing in MOOCs could also energize a new wave of educated professionals looking to innovate tomorrow within your town.
Thanks a ton,
Ways that the Madison Pour House can fill Mahar’s shoes
No one wants to admit this, but beer culture will continue to thrive in Albany long after Mahar’s shuts their doors tonight. For so long, it seems that Mahar’s has operated in an economic vacuum by creating a beer club environment for their friends. That client base is one thing that Mahar’s had going right, but that was largely due to the dedication of the regulars and long time patrons of the bar.
Albany’s Beer Culture will Survive
Spatial Analysis and Color Theory
Anytime I am consulting with a GIS client in regards to map design and layout, I almost always refer them directly to Colorbrewer. I was fortunate to have a colleague recommend this website to me a couple years back and have referenced it several times when designing my own maps.
Cynthia Brewer, a Professor of Geography at Penn State, has dedicated her academic research to how color theory applies to Spatial Analysis. Not only is Cynthia Brewer responsible for Colorbrewer, she has also authored a couple helpful books on map design; Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users and Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users, both of which are available at Amazon.
There’s no denying Cynthia Brewer’s impact on Color Theory within Spatial Analysis
For the 2000 Census, Cynthia Brewer contributed a substantial amount of research to assist the US Census Bureau to redesign some of their thematic maps. This lead to the development of a thematic color scheme that ranges from purple to orange, which has aided to increase the readability for those that are colorblind.
It is important for data visualization to be quick and concise. The more difficult it is to distinguish between colors on a map, the more difficult it is for readers to interpret the purpose of said map. Though purple and orange are not fit for every thematic map, it is important to select thematic map color schemes with your data and audience in mind. It can become confusing to the reader if your map’s color scheme takes too long to make sense of.
The great thing about Colorbrewer is that it provides three different types of color schemes to choose from. Sequential, Diverging and Qualitative color schemes can be selected – each of which provides several different color combinations that are easy to distinguish between.
The Colorbrewer website allows you to quickly choose between different thematic schemes and dynamically loads a sample map to illustrate how the selected color scheme would appear through an RGB digital monitor display.
Another great feature that Colorbrewer offers is color codes for three different color systems. If you’re designing maps to be viewed digitally on an electronic device, Colorbrewer gives codes in RGB values. If you’re designing a map to be printed out, then you can select the CMYK color system so as to optimize the way your thematic map appears on paper. Finally, Colorbrewer gives the option to use HEX codes, which comes in handy if you planned on publishing a thematic map to the web.
There is no denying that Colorbrewer is a great tool when designing a thematic map. Where Colorbrewer falls short is when it comes to applying styles to point and line objects. Though the website can show sample roads and point symbols, it is obvious that the website is designed to work best with region or polygon based thematic shades.
Though it would be nice if Colorbrewer was optimized so as to prescribe display properties for roads and points, it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. The website does allow users to change the color used to display for roads, which is nice because it allows you to experiment with different design and layout styles that could compliment a potential thematic color scheme.
If you haven’t already, then I highly recommend visiting the Colorbrewer website. It’s a great tool that has immense value when creating a thematic map for data visualization and spatial analysis.
Thanks a ton,
Using Geospatial Technology to Enhance Mobile Phone Gaming
There’s been a surge in company’s building development kits, free of charge, to empower a user base to create on their behalf. One such company is Game Salad. They’re a hip little social gaming company with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin, TX.
Game Salad takes a totally unique approach to gaming. They are the providers of the back end video game designer and essentially crowd source content by giving away their tool kit free of charge. Game Salad has a unique way of capitalizing on their “gratis” intentions by serving in game ads to gamers, whom have downloaded a game created in the Game Salad environment.
Being a huge fan of film culture, I am really impressed with how Game Salad’s development kit was used by the Alamo Drafthouse to promote “Hobo with a Shotgun” with a mobile iOS game. There’s no denying that gaming is a great way for company’s to interact with their potential customers. However, gaming on mobile phones can open several new opportunities for businesses to leverage.
Game Salad is able to provide their tools for free due to monetizing on creators using their development kit to build a video game. This monetization is delivered through in game advertising. Currently it is widely recognized that Google is the leader of internet and mobile marketing, but there are a couple intelligent things that Game Salad can do to increase the effectiveness of their in game advertising. By introducing geography as an essential ingredient within their marketing algorithm, Game Salad could create higher conversion rates for their advertisers.
Adding Value to Mobile Game Development by Collecting Geospatial Data
Location doesn’t seem to be an integral part to Game Salad’s mobile marketing approach. By introducing location intelligence, Game Salad could open up conversations with company’s that are able to attract local businesses to advertise on their gaming network. Geospatial intelligence could be used by Game Salad to provide more personalized marketing messages to their gaming community.
For instance, imagine Game Salad knew that “Hobo with a Shotgun” was played most frequently within a mile of a sub shop between the hours of 11 and 1 on a particular intersection in a city. By collecting and visualizing this data, Game Salad could communicate this information to the sub shop. Game Salad could also add value to the conversation by informing the sub shop of ways that their marketing message could be fine tuned so as to be as relevant as possible to the sub shop’s potential customers. I would be interested in taking action, if I were to see a coupon displayed to me for my local sub shop while playing “Hobo with a Shotgun”.
When you take the above example and think in terms of Game Salads’ entire game archives, there becomes huge potential to collect data across several socioeconomic indices in order to collect a dynamic data set. This data could be even more powerful if it were to be informed by geographic analysis pulled from tools that already exist on most smart phones. There are several companies that already offer this level of Spatial Information Technology intelligence, but it seems as though some companies are taking their time in realizing the value added to their product by integrating it within their marketing algorithms.
My recommendation to Game Salad, and large data aggregation companies across the information technology industry, is to correlate functions used with your smart phone applications to a place in space. This location data doesn’t need to be limited to just points, because polylines and line segments have a place in analysis in order to differentiate between different types of traffic. Building a mass data management tool that is capable of parsing smart phone users that are stationary versus those that are riding in an automobile is pivotal in understanding how your users are utilizing their space. This is important to companies like Game Salad because it can help them determine users that are playing a game in bed from those that are traveling in an automobile. Over time, this data can tell Game Salad more about the places where their games are being played, which in turn helps Game Salad communicate their potential advertising clients about their marketing. This could ultimately help Game Salad add value to their customers, both purchasing advertising and developing video games.
Knowing how people transcend space, while using your mobile application, is a means of quantifying the psychogeographical perception of a given space. Knowing how use your application while being a given location creates rich data for developers to improve on and advance their advertising design so as to seamless and relevant with the reality that surrounds smart phone gamers.
Here’s a link to get started with the Game Salad development kit.
Here’s a link to read more on the “Hobo with a Shotgun” mobile application from Wired Magazine.
Feel free to reply with ways you’d add value to companies like Game Salad in the comment sections.
Thanks a ton,
NFL Super Bowl and Metropolitan Statistical Areas
The Super Bowl is more than just an annual sports spectacle, it’s an economic motivator for cities that host the event. Cities world wide vie for the chance to host the Olympics, despite knowing they could potentially lose money on hosting the event. The NFL doesn’t work like the Olympics. For one, the NFL operates almost entirely with the states, despite the Buffalo Bills Toronto Series and the annual game in London ( which has now been expanded to two games ).
Fortunately for the NFL, all they need is a city with decent transportation infrastructure and an arena suitable for hosting the biggest game of the year. The first Super Bowl, hosted in LA at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, drew the smallest attendance of all time with just 61,946 fans. With a capacity of just 61,000 fans, Soldier Field in Chicago is the only current NFL stadium that would have a lower attendance figure than Super Bowl I in LA. Perhaps that is one reason why the NFL never chose Chicago to host a Super Bowl game.
Assuming that seating capacity is one piece of criteria used by the NFL to determine which Metropolitan Statistical Area, would it be safe to say that climate is also taken into consideration? Since the first Super Bowl, there’s only been a handful of games played in cold weather regions. One being the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota, where the Buffalo Bills lost to the Washington Redskins, and another being the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. Both of which hosted the big game inside a climate controlled dome.
No other city has hosted more Super Bowls than this year’s host city. New Orleans has seen four AFC teams and four NFC teams win the championship. The Dallas Cowboys are the only team to have won two Super Bowls in NOLA, but the San Francisco 49ers have a chance tomorrow to be the second NFC team to win two titles in the Big Easy. If the Baltimore Ravens were able to pull out a victory tomorrow, then they would be able to even up the amount of times the AFC has won titles in New Orleans. As it stands now, the AFC has four wins and the NFC has five wins.
Though New Orleans metropolitan area has hosted the Super Bowl more than any other MSA, Florida holds the title for most Super Bowls hosted within a state. Currently, Floridian MSA’s have hosted 15 Super Bowl games while Louisiana has only hosted 10. The state of California comes in second for the amount of Super Bowls held within a given state, having hosted 11 games.
The Miami–Fort Lauderdale–Pompano Beach, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area is unique in that they are the only city to host two back to back Super Bowls. This is a fact that served me well at the Trivia Night’s Live Trivia Bowl this afternoon at Wolf’s 1-11 in Colonie.
Currently Florida has three NFL teams, as does California. Between them, those states have hosted 26 Super Bowl games. New York, a state that also has three NFL teams nominally speaking, has never hosted a Super Bowl and will not get the opportunity any time soon. Though next year’s Super Bowl will be played in East Rutherford, New Jersey and is a Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area with New York City, known as the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA CMSA, it is not technically located in New York.
It seems very unlikely that the NFL would ever choose my home MSA, Albany-Schenctady-Troy-Saratoga, to host a Super Bowl.
Which MSA do you wish the NFL would let host a Super Bowl?
Thanks a ton
Geography and Location Based Applications
This article is the fourth and final part of a 4 part series on Geography’s Role in Online Internet Marketing.
How does Geography inform Location Based Applications?
Geography is a central function to a Location Based application. There are several mobile applications that require a user’s location prior to providing search results. These applications are great for gathering information on a customers commercial tendencies, but rely on a customer to opt-in to having their physical location captured.
Often times Location Based applications, such as FourSquare and Yelp!, do not actively solicit a customer to use their application and rely on the user’s interaction. They encourage users to share their location by awarding game-like achievements for frequenting a given place. They also rely on local businesses ( or Franchises ) to award coupons and discounts for check-in’s. This is advantageous as often times users have their location distributed to their social media profiles, which creates a ripple effect that could potentially be used to market a business’ products or services to a user’s internet friend base.
One disadvantage to location based applications is that their geodata tends to be fixed in a certain place. Much like physical billboards seen decorating a given street, business profiles are linked to a specified space. These spaces tend to be points composed of point data, relying on a Longitude and Latitude value and do not travel too well. This causes an issue for businesses that are mobile, such as food trucks and vendors at a farmer’s market. Most location based applications will not allow you to check-in with a given business if your location is further than a specified distance from the business’ point location.
Another geographical disadvantage to location based application is reporting. There isn’t a clean way to report on where customers are looking for a given destination. For instance, if a user is looking for a Belgian bar on a particular cross street, or if they were looking for a florist next to their work, there isn’t a way of capturing that data and exposing that back to the community. Imagine how useful this information would be to an economic development agency or a business improvement district.
Thanks a ton,