Wrapping up NACIS 2015

Wrapping up NACIS 2015

Last week, the Data Analytics team attended the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) conference in beautiful Minneapolis. The NACIS conference, in its 36th year, is an annual gathering of cartography professionals, students, and other map-minded individuals. Over 325 attendees, this year gathered in the historic Milwaukee Road Depot, a truly unique venue.

The conference started out with Practical Cartography Day (PCD), which focuses on the real-world uses of cartography and analysis in the industry and academia. One of the interesting tools announced on PCD was Dropchop. Developed by Sam Matthews of Code for America and powered by Mapbox.js and Turf.js, it’s a browser-based application that enables users to simply drag-and-drop shapefiles into the browser and execute spatial analysis tools without the need for desktop GIS. Dropchop is meant to be a data-first tool, as opposed to operation-first (traditionally most desktop GIS software) in that the spatial analysis operations are contextually based what can be done with the data.

Here is just a sampling of some of the many great presentations:

  • Daniel Huffman presented the methodology and design considerations for his linear map of the Lake Michigan shoreline.
  • Alan McConchie talked about Stamen’s work to digitize the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, including some valuable advice about mapping where boundaries change over time. Stamen used hexagonal bins to aggregate county populations to show change over time where county boundaries frequently changed in the 19th century. The project is on Github and will be launched soon.
  • Amy Lee Watson of Mapbox talked about her experience as a designer at Mapbox, rather than cartographer and gave some great designs tips. She also talked about her experience working on the Alltrails project and designing the awesome blueprint Mapbox basemap.
  • Code for America Fellow Patrick Hammons gave a Halloween-themed presentation about his experience making maps for nonprofits and community organizations with some good lessons learned.
  • Azavea’s own Sarah Cordivano took part in a hiring and career panel, and you can find all the questions and notes here.
  • And then there’s this awesome globe yoga ball created by Hans van der Maarel of Red Geographics.

In addition to the conference every year, the all-volunteer staff at NACIS also publish the Atlas of Design, available for $35. All in all, another fun and informative gathering of map-lovers, NACIS continues to get better every year.