Baseball Fandom, Visualized

The United States of Baseball

From a New York Times deep dive into how people list their preferred baseball team on Facebook.

“Like the Mets, the Athletics are the less popular team in a two-team region — less popular everywhere in that region, based on the data from Facebook. Again, winning the World Series matters. The Giants have won two of the last four. The A’s have won none of the last 24.”

Alameda baseball fan baseI always knew that there are a lot of East Coast transplants in the Bay Area, 6% of them being Red Sox fans sounds about right.

Google Maps Gallery

10 years ago, when I was looking for a place to live, I had three maps to help me zero in on where to look. I was concerned with schools so I had a map from greatschools.org along with a school district map showing which houses served which schools. I then had a real estate map from realtor.com that showed the price of houses in the area. Back then the wish was to overlay the two maps on top of each other and, indeed, some of the original mashups which kicked off the Web 2.0 movement were driven by these types of demands.

Since then, the Google Maps teams has been busy pulling in all sorts of layers together and have gathered them all together into their Google Maps Gallery which launched today. There’s a load of things to get lost in (including the overlay of San Francisco in 1938 shown above).

Read their blog post to learn more.

Digital Contrails

What do you do when you have access to the twitter firehose and a top notch geo-visualization artist? Make beautiful maps of course! Gnip and Eric Fischer got together with MapBox and plotted millions of tweets by location, language, and device to come up with some fantastic interactive maps.

twitter-geo-tokyo

 

The map above is Tokyo and the blue dots represent the location of geo-stamped tweets by people identified by their tweet history as locals while those dots in red are “tourists” who normally tweet from somewhere outside the region. The map tells you a couple of things.

  1. Most tourists are tweeting (photo-sharing?) from the major city centers. I can recognize Shibuya, Shinjuku, Marunouchi, Yokohama, Ueno, Ikebukuro, maybe the Rainbow Bridge?
  2. If you’re familiar with Tokyo, you can see that people tend to tweet while on the train.

This second point reminds me of something I read in Wired a couple of years ago. In an experiment, researches placed oat flakes in a pattern that resembled the major city centers in Tokyo. Then they place a culture of slime mold in the middle and let the culture figure out how best to harvest or “move around” the oat flakes across the pattern. What they found was that the mold grew a series of tunnels that matched the patterns found on the metropolitan rail system.

What works on a large scale also fits a pattern at a much smaller scale.

slime mold

I’ve written about Location Traces as Art before. Even before the crazy NSA/Snowden tracking scandal broke it was a well-known fact that the phone companies had a wealth of data about us. Aggregated en-mass in platforms such as twitter, this data can paint an pretty amazing picture of the world around us. A couple more maps from the Gnip/Fischer/MapBox collaboration.

twitter-devices

It’s a little hard to see but this is a map of the world that shows which type of twitter client is used when a tweet is made. The Red is iPhone, Green is Android, and Purple is Blackberry. Looks like Spain is big on Android (for twitter anyway) while Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Southeast Asia are Blackberry strongholds (where BBM is huge).

bayareadevices

If we look at my neighborhood, you can see that I mostly live in an iPhone town except for a Oakland/San Leandro which is more into Android. I know what you’re thinking, The Atlantic already wrote about it. When you see lots of green, it usually signifies a less affluent area.

Fascinating stuff.

Google Glass and Time Travel

google-glass-patent

A lot has been written about how Google Glass will be great for those that put on a pair. Immediate access to the world’s most powerful database, push alerts from your closest friends, a voice UI so you can look up directions without having to look down at your phone, a  camera that lets you take a photo and share a moment, all without leaving that moment.

While these are all powerful use cases that are bound to transform how we interact with the world around us, I’m more excited for the capability of Google Glass to annotate the physical world as we travel through it for those that come after us, especially those that can re-experience that world, as we saw it, in context. Imagine being able to take a photo of Notre Dame in Paris today, on a trip with your family and saving those photos with all the GPS data so the photo has a place, on a map, in time. Add a community and you have a series of photos of a place, all taken from different perspectives. This, of course, is flickr’s world map – announced in 2004 under the tagline, “eyes of the world.”

flickr-world-map

 

While a picture is worth 1,000 words, what if you could add more context. What if you could add more text to your photo? Tell a story that shared how this photo, in this place, was important to you? This is Findery.com, a place where people leave notes for each other in space and time. As described in their FAQ,

Findery is made of notes. A note can be a story, advice, jokes, diatribes, information, memories, facts, advertisements, love letters, grocery lists and manifestos. The content of a note is only limited by your imagination. A note can be shared with the world, one to many people, one to one, or only with yourself.

findery

 

Findery and the Flickr Map are compelling maps experiences but imagine how powerful they could be if you could experience them in situ. The mobile versions of Flickr and Google+ get at this with a Nearby feature. This sort allows you to browse photos that are nearby to your GPS location. I’ve used it a few times but rarely is it compelling. Even if the photos are only a block away, they lose their connective tissue.

While Google Glass is interesting as an information capture device, the possibility of a viewing device that can potentially line up photos that are taken at the same place is something that really excites me. Once you have a head’s up display connected to a vast library of GPS-tagged photos you can enable clever overlays that show you not only the space around you but also that same space through time.

Check out OldSF – it’s a completely voluntary effort where two folks came together and took the time to put a bunch of photos from the San Francisco Public Library on to a map so you can browse through them. One of the founders of OldSF blogged about the thrill of overlaying one photos from the past and fading to the present (and back again) where you can basically time travel in real life. It’s a genre called, Now and Then photography most recently cataloged in the site, Dear Photograph

Imagine being able to pull up photos from your past, your father’s past, or your grandparent’s past. Ask Google Glass for directions to the nearest pinned memory and then bring it up in your glasses and be able to see that moment, captured in time, while standing on the very spot the photographer stood. Add voice annotation, capture some audio. It’s that moment that puts goosebumps on my arms. It’s that moment, reliving history, your personal history, that makes me excited to try out Google Glass someday.

notre-damePhoto from Tom

Japanese Maps a Unique Challenge

The New York Times has a piece pointing out that the new iOS 6 cartography woes that Apple is experiencing are amplified in Japan which presents it’s own unique mapping challenges. Mainly because they are trying to jam a global mapping paradigm into Japan which has its own challenges.

… cities like Tokyo are changing fast: its 80,000 restaurants, for example, open and close at a rapid rate amid cutthroat competition. Navitime, another map app that has benefited from Apple’s map problems, updates its data every eight hours, and replaces a third of its seven million data points every year.

The photo up top is a common site in Tokyo outside of most every train station or at the top of every subway exit. The city is changing so quickly that hand drawn maps, often annotated with side notes, are the best indicator of the what is where for the dis-oriented visitor. The back of most Japanese business cards are often helpfully annotated with carefully drawn maps giving directions to the establishment’s location with instructions like, “veer 30 degrees left and head past the large Coca-Cola billboard and take the next left at the noodle shop.” Navigating the back streets of Tokyo is more akin to orienteering through the woods than walking the streets of a well organized city.

But the real kicker for anyone trying to enter the Japanese market is that Japanese love maps and mapping services have gone to great lengths to provide the most detailed maps they can offer. Navitime, mentioned in the NY Times article, provides maps that tell you how to get from one place to another when it’s raining and you don’t have an umbrella (through office towers, underpasses, by shopfronts with awnings). Below is a screenshot from one vendor showing different ways from point A to point B. The route on the right is how to get there if you have a baby carriage.

The Western mind boggles at the complexity of the Japanese mapping services. Fundamental aspects of mapping break down in Japan. In Japan, they label the addresses by blocks, not street names. As Derek Sivers says in the Ted video below,

“Blocks don’t have names, streets have names. Blocks are just the unnamed spaces in between streets.”

Think different Apple. Think different.

Digital Cartography

Eric Fischer takes large datasets and turns them into art. His flickr stream is a collection of fascinating time-series maps plotting data over time to draw out shapes which take on a greater meaning. Weather it’s a map of taxis in San Francisco or an overlay of flickr metadata on top of NYC, Eric’s creations are at once beautiful and informative.

Last month Eric was able to use an open-sourced version of Chrome’s language detector library to parse a week’s worth of geo-tagged tweets and identify who what tweeting in what language, where. What you see above is is the result. Note how languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, English, Dutch, Italian, Swedish, and German stick to and define the borders of their nations. Within each country, major transportation hubs are lit up like avenues. One can only imagine it is the result of people tweeting while enroute somewhere on a train or bus.

iPhone Tracker Art

Dav Yaginuma, my brother-in-law, exported his iPhone’s location data and, using the open source iPhone Tracker modified the settings to create very fine grained view of his whereabouts. I would have thought an aggregated view such as the one above would give a strong signal to where he lives and works but I guess he is too nomadic to be that predictable.

At best,  the pattern resembles a colony of ants swarming spilled sugar water which, in some sense, describes San Francisco from a distance.

More visualizations like this on Dav’s site, Aku Aku.

I personally think this location data is really useful and describe it more as a feature than a security violation. For those concerned with what big companies know about you, check out my earlier post, Location Traces as Art

Location Traces as Art

Determined to teach others how much data telecom providers not only harness but retain, German Green Party politician, Malte Spitz, sued his cell phone service provider, Deutsche Telecom, for his location data. What he received was raw data of his location, signal strength, and when he was on the phone.  Working with the German newspaper Zeit, he then published this data spanning the six months between August 2009 and February 2010 and put it up on Zeit Online into an interactive map.

Publishing your movements has obvious privacy implications and that is precisely the point that Mr. Spitz is trying to make. Over 35,000 location coordinates were taken but even the New York Times article reporting on this project revealed that these were only a subset of all the data that could be taken. Each of the Spitz datapoints were taken when he (or his email client) was checking email via the Deutsche Telecom servers. Yet, even with this low-fidelity view, it’s easy to draw lines between the points and the sample set is large enough that it’s fairly easy to work out where Mr. Spitz lives, works, and other aspects of his weekly routine. The calendar bar on the site also lets you zoom in on where he spent Christmas.

Put another way though, having access to a private dashboard where I could review where I’ve been would certainly be helpful for my expense reports and letting me selectively publish my data would certainly save having to manually check -in and create visualizations as I did with FourSquare or the raumzeitgeist report provided by  dopplr showing your past trips (above).

TED just published a fascinating talk (Birth of a Word) by MIT researcher Deb Roy who used location traces at a micro-level (below) to study how his son (who was filmed and tracked for the 24 hours a day for the first two years of his life) picked up language. While the visualization was used to assist in research, it also wowed the audience at TED as a breath-taking visualization as well.

Does location data represent a new form of art?

Driving around with lasers

I heard about this cool project from a Nokia colleague on the Maps team using some amazing hardware used by Navteq. I promised not to blog about it but I discovered today that it was shown off last year so I guess it’s OK to talk about what’s already been reported. Apparently this was all the buzz at CES 2010 but I was in Finland and Mapping isn’t really my field so I didn’t know it was public. Any excuse to blog about a car mounted with lasers!

The image above is the output from a specially equipped car that scans the road and surrounding buildings with an array of 60 lasers on it’s roof. Think of it as an über-version of the standard camera cars you see mapping the streets today. It’s insane. Here’s how it’s described in a post by CNet.

One big part is a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system that uses lasers to construct 3D maps of the world out of a sea of data points. The company boasts that its True system uses 64 rotating lidar lasers, captures 1.5 million 3D data points per second from features as far as 150 meters away and works even when the data collection vehicle is traveling at highway speeds.

There’s more that can be done with the hardware than what you see above but I better not go into that. Rest assured, it’s mind-blowing. I was joking with a colleague, combine the plane and landscape database from the Flight Simulator guys at Microsoft with the street view database from Navteq and you’ve got a hyper-realistic gaming environment.

If you want to learn more about LIDAR and the technology about it, there’s a talk by two folks from Navteq at the upcoming Where 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, CA in April.