Azavea Atlas

Maps, geography and the web

Philadelphia Bursts with Resources and Support for Women in Tech (Part 1)

Philly Tech Week and the Women in Tech Summit are right around the corner.  This seems like the perfect time to highlight the many fantastic and unique opportunities in Philadelphia for women to become involved in the tech industry or learn new technical skills.  Philadelphia rivals New York and San Francisco for offering excellent resources for women in tech despite having a much smaller industry.  These organizations and projects help to support women in the community.

Azavea is proud to contribute to the women and technology movement in Philadelphia by volunteering a meeting space for future Girl Develop It classes. Here are some way groups in Philadelphia support women in tech.


These resources contribute fantastic opportunities for learning new skills:

Girl Develop It Philadelphia is one of 25 Girl Develop It groups worldwide that provide affordable and accessible programs for women who want to learn software development and other technical skills.  Philadelphia’s group hosts regular classes on a variety of tech topics as well as other social and networking events.  Second only to New York and San Francisco in total membership, Philadelphia’s group has the third highest number of events held and continues to host more!  An interview with the one of the organizers, Yasmine Mustafa, can be found in Part 2 of this blog post!

LogoPyStar is a workshop to teach women and their friends the basics of Python.  The PyStar crew has also partnered with Girl Develop It Philly and PhillyPUG to host events.  Additionally, they have project nights for helping students through tutorials and new projects. Check their Twitter for info.  And don’t forget to check out the wealth of fantastic content they have online developed by the Boston Python Workshop!


Teach and Nurture

These groups offer opportunities to give back to younger women in the tech community.


  TechGirlz is a non-profit dedicated to introducing adolescent girls to the world of technology through events, classes, projects, mentorships, role models and online resources.  Their full list of upcoming events and workshops, most targeted towards middle school girls, can be found here.  One TechGirlz mentor was recently named runner-up in a national young women in tech competition.

Rails Girls Philadelphia promotes the education of the rails coding language for girls and women.   The group’s aim is to “give tools and a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas.” They have a Summer of Code program where students are provided a stipend to work on open source projects and expand their skills.


These groups provide an opportunity for networking and community building for women in tech.

philly women in tech summit logo

Philadelphia’s Women In Tech Summit, now in its third year, is an annual event that brings together women in the technology industry.  The theme for 2014’s event is “Lead from Any Chair.”   The summit features guest speakers, workshops and discussions.



Philadelphia Girl Geek DinnersGirl Geek Dinners Philadelphia‘ (GGD PHL) organizes social events and networking opportunities hosted by area tech firms.  The group’s primary goal is “to bring women from various technical fields together for socializing, networking and learning. It also sees itself as providing a place to encourage women who may be considering technical interests.”

Grow & Collaborate

These events promote collaboration among members of the community.

LadyHacks, Philadelphia’s first hackathon for women, was held in March of 2013.  This event “welcomed women of all experience levels from all technical and creative disciplines to participate in a collaborative, web-based project in an inclusive, safe space.” Sixty-five women attended the event and worked on seven exciting projects.


She Tech Philly

SheTechPhilly is a community website that provides resources and event listings for women who are interested in technology in the Philadelphia area.  SheTechPhilly also features a blog highlighting events for women in tech as well as sharing knowledge and advice.

From Moscow to Kiev

Kiev room signAzavea is all about geography.  Even our meeting rooms are named after geographic locations – Sydney, Tokyo, New York, London, Paris and Springfield (the one where the Simpsons live). Until this week, we also had a room called “Moscow”.  As of this week, it’s now called “Kiev”.  Why the name change?  Well, I’ll leave that to your imagination.  Each room is marked by a map of it’s public transit system (yes, even Springfield has a subway system).  Check out Kiev’s.

Legacy of Roger Tomlinson, Father of GIS, Continues

The geospatial community lost an important member in February, Roger Tomlinson, also known as the Father of GIS.  Roger was a geographer and researcher that created the first computerized Geographic Information System while working for the Canadian government.

In the 1960s, Roger dared to develop digital solutions to the time consuming and laborious process of collecting and synthesizing data for use in spatial analysis.  This empowered his team to more quickly make important decisions on land use and resource allocation, a vital role for Canada’s Department of Forestry and Rural Development.  Even though his original digital map making methods would be considered archaic compared to today’s standards, Roger initiated the process to innovate computerized map making. The methods he developed have been documented in the film Data for Decision which explores the utility of the first computerized GIS.

Additionally, Roger’s book, Thinking about GIS, reaffirms the fact that geospatial analysis should be considered carefully from the start on any project and should never be an afterthought.  He also argues that GIS and spatial analysis cannot be defined as a single software product or tool.  It is a holistic approach to data management and business processes.  It is a comprehensive process which asks important questions to quality data in order to make better decisions.

I had the pleasure to meet Roger in 2009 and his passion for problem solving resonate with me today. His contributions to the geography community can not be overstated and have helped to craft an industry that prides itself in solving complex and important problems in our world.

I hope you will join us for a GeoPhilly screening of archival films featuring Roger’s Data for Decision produced by the National Film Board of Canada and many other films about geography and map making. You can RSVP for this Philly Tech Week event on the GeoPhilly event page.

A Streamlined “Add a Tree” Process in Yesterday’s New Release

Azavea practices Agile/Scrum software development, and our Civic Apps team (which works on among our other civic software projects) organizes work into 2-week Sprints. Accordingly, every couple of weeks we test and release to production a new set of features and enhancements to the OpenTreeMap cloud platform. Yesterday was one of those deployment days, with a new version of the software behind going live to all our users!

Sometimes, complex features are “in the works” for several Sprints in a row before they are released; often though, new OTM releases include smaller enhancements and bug fixes. Over time, these smaller improvements can add up to be quite significant. And these continuous releases of new enhancements are a key advantage of Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”, aka “cloud”) offerings like OTM, ensuring our users always have the latest version of the software.

The Civic Apps team has been working for a while now on features both small and large related to adding green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) support to the OTM platform.  The recently released TreeMap LA and our fabulous client TreePeople‘s goal of tracking green infrastructure in the Los Angeles area has been a key driver of this recent push for us. Trees are already “green stormwater infrastructure” because they infiltrate water and reduce stormwater runoff load.  But we’re extending OTM to support other GSI, such as green roofs, bioswales and rain gardens.  In this release, one of the small enhancements we’ve pushed live is a redesigned, three step, multi-panel “add a tree” process. This new multi-step design paves the way for us to also add in the workflow for users to add GSI elements like green roofs in an upcoming release. See what I mean about small improvements adding up quickly?!

If you have access to your own tree map on, or if you live near Los Angeles and want to add some trees in your neighborhood on TreeMap LA, here’s a run-down of the new workflow!

Step 1: Set the Tree’s Location

The first panel in our new three-step add a tree workflow.

The first panel in our new three-step add a tree workflow.

Hit the big, inviting “Add a Tree” button at the top right of your map, and you’ll see the the first step appear in the sidebar where the “Yearly Eco Benefits” calculations normally display. You can either click a point on the map to drop the Tree placemark there, or type in a street address in the general vicinity of the tree, or if you’re “in the field” on a GPS-enabled tablet, hit the “Use Current Location” link to automatically drop the pin right where you’re standing. Once you do one of these three things, you’ll see a Google StreetView inset (please note that Google StreetView is only available if you are using GoogleMaps as the base map) pop up on the map of that location to give you more context:

The Streetview window in the Add Tree process.

The Streetview window in the Add Tree process.

When you’re ready and sure of the location you want to place your tree, hit the “Next” button in the bottom right of the sidebar.

Step 2: Add Species and Additional Info

On the step 2 panel, we can add species information and trunk circumference/diameter.

On the step 2 panel, we can add species information and trunk circumference/diameter.

Watch mesmerized as the Step 1 panel gracefully slides away, to reveal our species and measurement input panel! Inputting the tree’s species and trunk diameter or circumference (we’ll compute either one from the other) information is what enables OpenTreeMap to calculate ecosystem benefits for your tree. If you don’t know either of these – maybe you need to brush up on your tree identification skills or you don’t have a tape measure handy – that’s fine, you can still add your tree. And if you only know one, enter it anyway! In the spirit of crowdsourcing, other tree map users can come by later and use the advanced search filters for trees missing diameter or species to come by and fill in the gaps where you left off. (Incidentally, the advanced search filter styling was another improvement we made in this release!)

Also, if your Latin is a little rusty and you can’t remember how to spell “Fraxinus quadrangulata” (that’s a “Blue Ash” to the rest of us…), no need to worry. OpenTreeMap will give you species suggestions (correctly spelled!) from the list of possible species for your tree map as you type. When you get close, just click one to auto-fill the rest of the name.

Right now, adding a tree height has no impact on the ecosystem benefits calculated for the tree. But if you’re able to measure it, by all means enter it to give your city’s urban foresters a clearer picture of the trees out there.

Once you’re good with your selections, hit the “Next” button to move on to our last step!

Step 3: Finalize This Tree!

On the last panel, you can review your tree location and species, and decide if you want to add more details or finish!

On the last panel, you can review your tree location and species, and decide if you want to add more details or finish!

With your tree’s location set and species and other basic information entered, Step 3 gives you a chance to review your work. Often, tree map owners have enabled lots of other data fields on each tree and planting site you can edit that aren’t accessible through this “quick add” process in the map sidebar. If you’d like to add more information about this tree, click the “Continue editing this tree” box to be taken to the tree’s more extensive detail page.

If there’s another tree near this one with the same species or a similar trunk size, it might make sense to check the “Add another tree with these details” box, to keep some of your data pre-filled and start this quick add workflow again. The “Add another tree with new details” box will also start the process over again, but you’ll have a clean set of fields to edit.

Or maybe you’re done with your editing for the moment! Either way, check the appropriate box and hit the “Done” button. Congratulations, you’ve just added a tree to your local tree map!

Azavea Shares Data for Google Maps Gallery

Making data about our elected officials and their districts more accessible has been a prominent part the mission of our Cicero API product. We believe it’s important this data is available to the masses. That’s why we’re excited to be part of the launch of the new Google Maps Gallery, an easy way to view some of the most interesting and data rich maps on the internet. The Google Maps Gallery already has hundreds of maps from many different data providers, such as the United States Geological Survey, the World Bank Group, NASA and even our hometown favorite PolicyMap. Eventually, these maps will appear in Google search results which will make it even easier to discover this important content. Right now, they can easily be embedded on a website or visualized in Google Earth.

As part of Google Maps’ Public Data Program for the launch of the Map Gallery, Azavea was invited to share some of the data we’ve collected and generated for our Cicero API database. To take a look at all the maps Azavea has produced for the Google Maps Gallery, check out our publisher page.

In the past couple years, we’ve made an aggressive effort to collect as much social media information about elected officials as possible. So one of the datasets you can view today on the Google Maps Gallery is a map of all current U.S. House members and their twitter account.

In addition, we’ve collected political data for other countries. Check out our recently added congressional districts for Mexico.

Ultimately, the Google Maps Gallery is just one place for Azavea to share data and research with the community at large. You can also find it on our GitHub, through CartoDB and ArcGIS Online. For a full list, head over to the Azavea Commons.