Thursday, July 29, 2010

Next Climate Change Talk

Here's the latest release from a series of climate change talks I'm doing, this one discusses the Gulf Oil spill, the Athabasca Oil Sands and climate change:

Unlike the earlier 'Is the Earth a Super Organism' talk I've released so far in this series, this one is completely based in GEarth. It's 10th in the series but I've released it early as:
  • The spill is still ongoing
  • I wanted to have a go at a talk completely in Google Earth to showcase my ideas of what a well designed tour should be like.
I've made a Prezi to link to other resources beyond the scope of the talk:

Good Design Points: A few reasons I think this is a well designed tour:
  • The tour covers views across a range of scales, this is where a tour really beats a traditional PowerPoint presentation
  • Simple Flights: The flights between segments are simple and fairly slow to give users chance to process the movement and work out where they are being taken.
  • Scale: I included Nelson's column, the outline of Great Britain (twice) and a 5 mile long at various points to fix a sense of scale. GEarth is very good at helping users grasp the scale of things.
  • Annotations: I use lots of annotations to draw the user's eye to the correct part of the screen.
  • Dateline: Because the inbuilt GEarth dateline is too small I included a custom dateline indicator.
Things I'd like to fix:
  • Dateline is too small: I fell into the classic trap of looking at GEarth on a large screen then reducing down to a 640 wide movie clip - you can't read the text easily.
  • Audio Hiccups: There are a few audio hiccups that I'd like to fix but these aren't easy in Camtasia without affecting the video. I've got to get a better mic too....
  • Better Images: There are a ton of better images I'd have liked to have used but I haven't got the time to ask permission. Every image used is cc marked and that limits choice.

Work Flow: To produce it I imported models, images, overlays etc. into GEarth then I recorded a tour visiting all the locations as I wanted. Using the pro version of GEarth, I then recorded a silent movie of the tour which I imported into Camtasia. Within Camtasia I added the audio section by section, using freeze frames to extend the movie where needed and cutting footage to fit the commentary. I also added 'call outs' the red annotations which work in addition to annotations I've added in Google Earth. Its not an elegant technique but it avoids issues to do with GEarth tours such as not being able to review changes easily and needing to edit kml code rather than use the Camtasia graphic interface.

Friday, July 23, 2010

12 Neo-Cartographic Tips for Developers

After releasing the Google Maps API styling features Googler Mano Marks commented:
"The truth is, we're mostly engineers, not cartographers. I'd love to see some great guides to how to style your map. Anyone want to give it a go?"
So here are my 12 best neo-cartographic tips:

Tips 1 to 6 (9.30)

Tips 7 to 12 (6.10)

Links out: There are various links out and other text and relationships shown in the clip, to access them you can navigate in the Prezi pane:

Other Notes:
  • Not Just Cartography: Mano's request was asking about the new style features. Actually only 2 of the tips [5 and 6] relate to the new feature because IMHO a holistic approach to map design is necessary so you have to consider usability, graphic design and interactivity as well.
  • Not Just for Developers: I aimed the material at developers but its a good introduction to design for anyone thinking of putting an interactive map together because I don't use any jargon.
  • Discussion of Styling: My post discussing the lack of cartographic advice that went with the styling feature release. Ed Parson's post is also relevant.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Global Warming Map from Foreign Office

This GEarth layer and GEarth plugin has been released this week by the foriegn office showing the effects of 4 deg C rise in tempearature on the world. Great topic but poor science communication IMHO. For example, in an earlier incarnation it was a map (click the screen shot to be taken to the map):

In this form you could click layers on and off at the bottom and see all the countries in the world at once. In the GEarth plugin version, countries are obscured by the curvature of the earth and there's no layer control so you're left with a cluttered mess of circles and ovals all on screen at the same time.

I'm going to review it more fully next week when I have more time, there are a number of other interesting design features to the project.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Google Earth 5.2 Thoughts

Sorry for lack of posts last week, my family is over from New Zealand so I took some time out.

GE 5.2 has already been reviewed well by Mickey and Stephan, I share their enthusiasm for the tracks, elevantion and slide in browser functionality. I've noticed some other features in the 5.2 Pro version (not sure if they're in the normal version) that IMHO deserve comment:

Table: (Tools > Table) This gives you a table view of the KML that you've selected in the places column so you can see the text in the description boxes of a number of placemarks at once, its similar in functionality to Northgates KML editor. Table isn't documented anywhere I can find and I was disappointed to find its read only, it really would be useful if you could use it to write to KML directly as per GIS tools and the Northgates tool.

GE gives you the ability to produce KML within the editor already but I'd love to see functionality where I could put time tags into KML without having to copy raw KML out to a text file.

Regionate: This is documented to a degree but it didn't tell me exactly what this functionaility does, e.g. it doesn't chop up paths into smaller segments. Maybe it only deals with placemarks?

I was also excited to see a contextual help button in the dialogue box. Contextual help in GE is something I've advocated before so I was disappointed to find its only in the Regionate and flight simulator dialogue box (given a cursory hunt around). Why not link to help files from all dialogue boxes?

Slide in Browser: Stephan makes a nice point about the slide in browser, I agree with him that maintaining the option of the split screen would be good. However, I think that the sliding browser screen would be excellent for using GE in presentations, set up a tour, fly into an area in GE then pan across a presentation slide in a browser from the web, use that to support your talk for a while then return to GE to continue the tour. I think Google should think about linking the Google Docs presentation tool with Google Earth in this way, I played around with the idea but currently:
  • It takes 2 clicks to open a presentation (open balloon, select link)
  • Opening a GDocs presentation in the GE browser currently crashes GE pro!
Polygons and Ruler: I was pleased to see that the polygon bug has been fixed, that was a real pain. Being able to save paths produced with the ruler tool is also smart.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Climate Change Talks

Previously I've enjoyed releasing something good on GoogleEarthDesign's birthday (It was 3 this week) so here's my latest big idea:

Climate Change Talks: A quick search of the internets revealed no one has done a set of video clips on climate change for education (apart from illegal snippets of 'an inconvenient truth') so I decided to do some. Some of the later ones are matched to the UK A level Edexcel curriculum. Here's the first one on the topic 'Is the Earth a Super Organism'.

It's better viewed in HD

Format: Climate change as a topic requires discussing abstract ideas such as positive and negative feedback as well as map based graphics so I went for as an alternative to PowerPoint and added clips of GEarth tours where useful. When a lot of your presentation isn't actually spatial its better not to base your content totally in a GEarth tour as it presents difficulties. E.g. importing, sizing and adding labels to an image in Prezi is a snap with lots of drag and drop controls whereas its a pain to do as an image overlay in GEarth.

Having said that, some of the other clips I have planned which are completely spatial in nature will be done just as GEarth tours and recorded as YouTube clips.

Here is the original prezi page:
(navigate by using the plus minus buttons that will slide out if you mouse over the right hand side or use mouse wheel and click and drag)

It's rather like viewing a GEarth file after watching a tour of the content. In the bottom left corner of each frame it has links to related topics that don't feature in the talk.

Death to PowerPoint: Lots of people have criticised PowerPoint for its slide analogy format, I think you can still do some useful stuff with it but I see their point. The nice thing about Prezi is that I can produce a mind map like poster and then take you around with added audio by recording it with demo software (I use Camtasia 7).

  • I like the zoomable interface idea Prezi shares with GEarth tours
  • Prezi is very usable and Camtasia is not bad
  • Doing it this way I like the way I can be discussing one set of points but adding arrows to link back to earlier slides of content.
  • Using 3 bits of software is a drag (GEarth, Prezi and Camtasia 7) and is time consuming
  • I don't like the way promotes the idea of rotating text all over the place, I've heard reports it makes people feel sick.

Video Clips in Education: I had a long think about how to present this content and I thought it worth listing my inspirations:
  • Hans Rosling: Excellent speaker with great use of technology
  • Lawrence Lessig: Great speaker, interesting and unique style but I'm not sure I like how linear it is.
  • Ken Robinson: Amazing, totally absorbing using just his voice. Good to remember that technology is not what makes a great talk, its the talk itself and the speaker.
Very interested to hear what people think.