outside.in, part of the bevy of emerging geo services (i.e. we know geo is big, but aren’t sure what to do with it), surfaces “news” based on your current location. You can see what’s going on within 1000 feet of you, in your neighborhood, or in your city. So far so good, but it turns out that most of what’s going on right around me is less relevant than a lot of what is happening elsewhere (e.g. I don’t care that a random person is telling another random person via twitter that they are at my local pizza joint).

This is all about the fact that while location is a very salient factor in my experience right now, it is much less important when compared with my social network. In other words, I (generally) care more what my wife is doing even if she’s halfway around the world from me than what a stranger is doing at the bus stop across the street (unless what they’re doing is particularly interesting ;)

This leads me to a thought: the farther away an information source is from me in relevance, the more likely I want that information in aggregate. So, I may not care that random person A is at Goat Hill Pizza, but knowing that 60 people think Goat Hill has great garlic bread has some value. There’s a diagram in there somewhere, but no time to draw right now.

Just as the basic tools (if not necessarily the high aesthetics) of visual communication have been thoroughly democratized, tools for data visualization are moving to the mainstream. The most recent example I’ve seen, and it’s a lovely one, is The Gapminder World 2006. The exciting thing to me is not so much that the information design clearly and simply reveals unsettling truths (people in Africa live 30 years shorter lives than people in the US; think about that for a moment) but that the tool makes play out of the work of visualizing the ubiquitously invisible patterns of the world. Along with such as Stamen’s Trulia Hindsight and others, these tools are not only leaving the academy and the messy basement desks of government analysts and moving out into the world, but they are becoming more playful, more narrative, and more polemical. Let the spime wrangling commence (can people be Spimes?).

Google is really pulling out all the XMLHTTP DHTML stops with Google Maps. Still some bugs (and it doesn’t work on Safari), but there’s definitely some sweetness there.

A lovely collection of hand-drawn maps (via kottke)

The NY Times has an article on these killer digitized vintage maps of Japan. For example, there’s a “40-foot scroll map of the roads of Japan in 1687.” I guess people have had to deal with scrolling interfaces for quite some time.

Map Resources sells all sorts of maps as layered Illustrator and Photoshop files.

You Are Here: Maps 101

Mid-Tokyo Maps (via kottke)

A disturbingly-detailed map of springfield (via kottke)

My first reaction on seeing this navigation map of computer ethics was “feh! Why do people insist on mapping ideas onto a physical geography,” but then I spent a minute with it and realized that, unlike antarctica, where there’s no meaning to the geographical distribution of the data, the organization was meaningful. While both Encryption and Spamming are within the borders of Privacy, the former is near Intellectual Property, while the latter is at the juncture of Computer Abuse and Commerce. I’m not sure I’d want this as the sole means of navigating the site, but as an overview of the terrain (sorry), I think it works (although it could probably do without the rivers). (via RRE)

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