Thursday, December 16, 2010

No copyright on databases and maps?

Telstra’s Sensis has just lost an appeal with regard to Federal Court judgement that said its White and Yellow pages are not protected by copyright law. The key to the decision was that those compilations lack “creative spark” and hence cannot be protected under copyright law that requires “independent intellectual effort” to create the works. This ruling has important implications for all kinds of factual data collections, including listings of real estate, names and addresses or… databases with map data. Sensis will be seeking leave to appeal to the High Court to revert the decision.

It begs an interesting question: does it mean that all that high resolution imagery of your neighbourhood and representation of local roads, or cadastre boundaries, or geocoded addresses, are “free for all”? Google and others who publish such information would have no legal grounds for preventing people from copying it all in droves…

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mapping Above and Beyond

Maps break all the barriers…Who would have thought that maps and music can go together! Above and Beyond - Trance Around the World site has just released an interactive Google Map application that shows real-time twits referencing @aboveandbeyond tag from all over the world. The maps also shows locations of major trance music related events and comes loaded with plenty of options for sharing via Facebook and Twitter.

I recently started to listen to quite a lot of trance music on the internet - Above and Beyond weekly sessions in particular. Session #343 in my favourite so far. Now that I think about it, “spatial references” are very prominent on this site: “around the world”, “above and beyond”… so the map was a very logical addition!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Free postcodes with Reference Map

Following on from my yesterday's announcement about free reference map service - just a quick post on how to take advantage of free postal boundaries data that come pre-packaged with it.

To view on a map any of 2,507 postal area boundaries at full resolution (as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for Census 2006 population and housing data) just follow this simple URL pattern:

Multiple postcodes can be added to the map as follows (at this stage one at a time only):


A set of simple instructions on how to configure other map parameters can be found on web widgets page.

Since this reference map can be embedded in a website page, a simple javascript code can add additional functionality to render the content dynamically. It means you can now start serving postal boundaries and/or any other data in kmz or geoRSS format directly on your web site! Here is a link to a simple example showing you exactly how to do it.

And this file will also be handy to script the functionality: list of postal areas (Census 2006 version in csv format). Please note, Northern Territory postal area boundary data are named with leading "0" (ie. 0800).

Related posts
More examples of use of Reference Map service
Australian Postcodes User Guide
Post code maps and population statistics
Free postcode search widget

More practical map apps from Oz

Keir from Google Map Mania blog alerted me about a couple of interesting applications from Australia he reviewed recently. The first is called 'Touring to Australia' and is essentially free online trip and itinerary planner. It allows you to find places to stay and things to do and see on your trip. Just choose your destination and then select from a number of categories of markers to view on the map. You can select from accommodation, excursions, rental services, places of interest and activities. Whilst browsing the map you can add individual hotels and points of interest to your itinerary. Great tool for planning your next trip, business or private.

The second one is called 'Neet Street' and is a tool for reporting community problems which are then passed on to the appropriate authorities. Using Neat Streets you can report road obstructions, vandalism, potholes, fallen trees, abandoned trolleys, litter, and graffiti. You can download a Neat Streets application for the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android based phones. With the apps you can take pictures and submit community problems directly from your smartphone. The latest submitted photos and problems are displayed on a Google Map on the Neat Streets website home page. Neat Streets automatically forwards the reports to the appropriate authority based on the GPS location.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Free Reference Map service

I am launching today my newest creation: free reference map service for publishing and sharing spatial information. I am rushing this release since the end of the year is very close! Currently it only supports spatial data in KML/KMZ and geoRSS format and standard Google base map options but I am planning to add a lot more functionality and content over the coming months. Simple instruction on how to take advantage of available functionality is on free web widgets page. I will highlight here only one thing you really need to know to publish and share your own maps: just reference publicly accessible KML/KMZ or geoRSS file as follows FullURLaddressOfYourFile . It is as simple as that. An example of what you can do with it is below:

Actually, the whole concept behind the service is rather complex (and exciting!) but I will not go into details at this point it time. True, there are many other initiatives, possibly far more advanced, to enable easy creation and embedding of maps but they don’t allow for as much flexibility as I have in mind for my version. My idée fixe with content portability and reusability/repurposing is taking me into uncharted territory… Just consider this option – if you find something of particular interest on a web page, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to “cut it out” and take with you to bookmark just that bit and/or reuse (give another perspective!) in your own online endeavours (whether private or public)? Today I am introducing to the world “detach” concept that will allow you to do just that!

Detach function is a very simple idea, a variation on “link to” if you like, but opens up so many possibilities! If you like the map above, just “detach” it from this page to open it in a new window. Then you can bookmark it or add to favourites for future reference, or shorten the URL with your preferred tool and share via Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn or any other social network – with own commentary and spin! This process can be repeated endlessly… And if you are publishing a blog or forum, you can easily combine a number of layers in a single reference map application to provide your unique content and commentary… Again, this process can be repeated endlessly, and with no need to return to the site where the map was first published…. And if you are a developer, you can insert a script to add content dynamically… Implications of such possibilities are far reaching and will probably be best discussed in a separate post. I will only mention that “detach” is not like “clip content” functionality recently dropped by Google from its range of services when they decommissioned Google Notebook – the emphasis here are on portability of content permitted for sharing by content creator. Various back end services to discover what’s available for reuse are coming in 2011!

I first came up with “detach” concept for YouTube video player app but since it is still in alpha release, I have not widely publicised that option. I intend to enable “detach” functionality for all my widgets so they can be shared and used not only via dedicated personal pages (like iGoogle) or via embedding into web pages but also on their own, without attaching to specific “location” on the web!

As I am yet to make a switch to version 3 of Google Map API this shareable map service is build with version 2 (it has proven quality and reliability although lacks some advanced features of the latest version). Since I am reusing many components from my other applications, it was easier for me to work with that version. I will be switching all my apps to Reference Map platform and upgrade to v3 over the course of next year. Any feedback and comments most welcome!