Here in our monthly Map Mavin Methods column we try to showcase a particular feature, ability or “hack” of our system that can help you make better maps. This month, however, I thought it would be best to bring together the facts and tips of several of our published articles and videos, and consolidate them to give you a clearer picture of the particular topic.
When it comes to making maps, the real key to creating something of value (both informationally and aesthetically) is to obtain good, high-quality data. Yes, you can absolutely create your own data and with Map Mavin doing so is a breeze. Yet whether with Map Mavin or other software options, a threshold of human ability will inevitably be reached as one approaches larger scale problems. Sure, I can map out every building’s footprint on my block or maybe in my neighborhood, but in the City of New York…no way! To do so requires the collaborative efforts of many people across multiple agencies and teams. If it sounds daunting, that’s because it would be for one person! Fortunately, the “open data movement” has encouraged large institutions to release some of their data for free to the public. Everything from the species of trees in a city to 311 noise complaints can now be found online and downloaded onto your device. How, then, do we go about finding these sources?
There are two main sources of open data in the context of Map Mavin. First, we can seek out data by using an Internet search engine and mentioning the given area or type of data we’d like to find. As a general guiding principal (this is subjective but very often the case), large cities are a fantastic place to start. American cities such as Chicago and New York, counties such as Boulder, CO and Los Angeles County and many others have particularly robust open data portals (this is due in part to some of these being early adopters of the idea). This extends to states, the US Federal government, and other nations as well so be sure to dig around and see what you can find! In searching for files, you’ll simply want to keep an eye out for the formats that Map Mavin accepts (.shp, .tif, .kml, .kmz, .json and .geojson) and you’ll be good to go!
Now if this sounds like a hassle or beyond your skill level (or desire), do not panic! After considering it in internal discussions for some time we’re proud to announce the release of our own internal data portal! With constant updates and already over 11,000 spatial files inside, chances are it contains data that would prove valuable to your next project. To access it, you’ll want to go to the Layers tab and then click Open Data Library. Alternatively you can visit the portal directly by visiting the following URL: client.mapmavin.com/library
Please note that you can import files directly into your Map Mavin account and also download them as GeoJSONs.
As always, Happy Mapping!