NACIS Meeting 2008/MapGiving

NACIS 2008
Last week I was in Missoula, Montana at the annual NACIS Meeting.  The meeting is one of my favorite events of the year, bringing together so many cartographers in one place.  Every year I look forward to seeing the awesome people that are a part of this organization, and it always feels like “old home week.”

The meeting is a 3 day event, with the first day dedicated to “Practical Cartography Day” which showcased software demos and presentations about the processes of actually creating maps.  For the 2009 meeting in Sacramento, I will be coordinating the PCD session along with Neil Allen of Allan Cartography.  The sessions on days 2 and 3 are papers and presentations with typically a more theoretical approach, with lots of interesting topics.

This year I went a day early to participate in the MapGiving event, a 12-hour map-a-thon where 2 teams produced maps pro-bono for the Hank Aaron State Trail in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I was the captain of the team producing the interactive version of the map, along with Jim Meacham (Univ. or Oregon InfoGraphics Lab), Jeremy White (Blueshirt.com and a grad student at the Univ. of Wisconsin), and Nat Case (Hedberg Maps).

We started at 4pm on Tuesday afternoon with a briefing from the folks at Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail and then dove in to make a trail map.  Nat cooridinated with the other team of cartographers, charged with making a print map, and helped us share their data resources.  Jim and I focused on the UI for the interactive portion as well as the visual design of the map.  Jeremy focused on the Flash code for the map, and was very focused throughout the night.  By about 2AM, Jim and I had completed the map design and handed it off to Jeremy to integrate.  Officially the event was supposed to end at 4AM, but Jeremy continued to work through the night until 7AM to squash the last bugs in the Flash piece.

The MapGiving organizers, Lou Cross (Florida State University) and Tanya Buckingham (XNR Productions), live-blogged the event through the night.  The event was even covered by the local news media, including this video.

All in all it was a great experience.  I got to collaborate with some greate cartographers, help out a needy organization, and promote MapGiving which is a new endeavor but one with lots of promise.  Going forward I think this type of event will need to evolve.  The 12 hour marathon was fun, but I am afraid the quality of the maps suffered to some degree as we did not have enough time to properly research the trail and prepare the data. On the other hand, I was amazed at how well we were all able to pull together the maps given the time frame and state of the data.

The timing of the event into the wee hours before the rest of the conference made all of us a bit wiped out the rest of the week, but I’m sure many cartographers will be willing to donate their time, but in a more one-on-one setting.  I certainly would.

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