Moving to Medium

I am moving my posts to Medium. Here is my first one.




App development: Pie chart cluster markers — Ordnance Survey Blog

The first in a new series of blogs from the teams behind many of our apps, maps and services, sharing their experiences in software engineering, cartographic design, user experience and more. We start with a tale of collaboration, a rapid feedback process and pies! It’s never good to be faced with a new problem deep into……

via App development: Pie chart cluster markers — Ordnance Survey Blog

The UK’s 1st #Maptime chapter

I have been organising #Maptime Southampton (@MaptimeSOTON) since November 2014. It is the first in the UK and I am extremely proud of our group and the 5 excellent meetups that we’ve had so far. We have learned about OpenStreetMap, Mapbox Studio, Leaflet, QGIS Plugins and recently had our first Show & Tell where 10 peeps presented on a really diverse range of topics from Fledermaus to zombies!

Rather than write a brand new post about Maptime and my experiences in organising a local chapter, I will instead share the copy from an article that I wrote for the April edition of xyHt:

“I first found out about Maptime in the Summer of 2014 and was immediately inspired by their ethos, intentions and approach. I have for a long time thought that the barriers of entry into the world of geo are too high and training can be either hard to find or very expensive. With the abundance of open software and open data – this should no longer be the case. Maptime is one of the current movements looking to reset the balance and make learning accessible to all. It’s been well documented that the making of maps has become democratised, let’s democratise the learning too. The Maptime website states:

“Our mission is to open the doors of cartographic possibility to anyone interested by creating a time and space for collaborative learning, exploration, and map creation using mapping tools and technologies.”

I initially discovered Maptime through Twitter and was directed to I knew that it started in the US but after looking at the Chapters map and panning across The Atlantic I was very surprised to discover that there were no chapters in the UK. I work for Ordnance Survey, the Great British National Mapping Agency so I’m very fortunate to be closely connected to the industry and know that there is a fantastic, innovative group of map-makers here on our shores.

Where better to start a chapter than Southampton – a city with a rich history (Titanic, Spitfire) and home to the Ordnance Survey and a University with a fantastic Geography department. I reached out to Maptime HQ and they were super supportive in helping me get my chapter off the ground – they supplied useful documentation and pointed me in the direction of all the available resources.

I set about looking for a venue and a sponsor (just to cover the venue cost) as I was very keen to keep the meetups free to attend. It didn’t take me long to find a fantastic venue that fits the bill perfectly – The Art House is in the city centre and it’s ethos aligns with that of Maptime really well. It is fabulously informal, run by volunteers and harnesses and supports local communities.

After reaching out to the guys at the Open Source Geospatial Laboratory they very kindly agreed to sponsor the inaugural meetup in November 2014 and so Maptime Southampton was born!

I must admit that I was heading into the unknown and quite nervous – not knowing if anyone would show up at all. Thankfully 14 excellently-enthusiastic people turned up for our inaugural meetup we had a really good brainstorm session. As a group we discussed all the aspects of what we wanted this new community to become and the many things that we wanted to learn together. I was so pleased to come away from that first evening with a really long list of ideas and subjects to cover in future events, and I was really excited for the future of Maptime Southampton.

Since that initial meetup we have had two more and they have been great successes with 20 people at each. We have covered OpenStreetMap, Mapbox Studio and Leaflet and have already started planning a QGIS workshop for our next monthly meetup. I am also lucky enough to now have four offers of sponsor – a great sign that there is real interest in what we’re doing.

Other chapters have been springing up around Europe and there is now another UK chapter, Maptime West London (@MaptimeWLON). There will be a regional Maptime meetup at the forthcoming FOSS4G-Europe in Como, Italy and it would be great to see more activities like this at other events and conferences.

Maptime is a very effective way to learn new skills, brush up on others and also teach other people. Teaching can be really rewarding and there is a great sense of pride in passing on knowledge to others. There is a growing range of lessons and resources and Maptime HQ have some really exciting ideas for the future.

I would encourage anyone in the mapping/geo industries to start a local chapter – it’s a great place to learn a tonne of new stuff, share knowledge and socialise with like-minded people. Organising a Maptime chapter has been fun and rewarding and I am so excited to learn more at our future events alongside a really great group of people. I have got loads of ideas about different formats for our meetups and also plan to have social outings.

If you’re interested in starting up a chapter then visit for more information. The whole Maptime community is really supportive and it’s a great thing to be part of!”

You can read the article on xyHT here and read about regular Maptimer Nicholas Duggan’s experiences here.

GitHub for cartographers

“GitHub is a web-based hosting service for software development projects that use the Git revision control system. GitHub offers both paid plans for private repositories, and free accounts for open source projects.” – Wikipedia

So, I’ve only recently discovered the potential for cartographers to use GitHub.

On the face of it, GitHub is a platform for sharing source code and collaborating with others on projects – seemingly an exclusive club for coders – but I have discovered that this is simply not the case – there is much more to it and anyone can use it to share almost anything online.

Some cartographers have been using it for years now to share map-making resources; from symbols to software source code. As examples, the OpenStreetMap community are very active on GitHub and the UK QGIS User Group use it to share and collaborate.

My own experiences

When I first started looking into using GitHub myself, I came across this great article by Lauren Orsini on readwrite. The title ‘Don’t get scared, get started’ appealed to me as it summed up my sentiments at the time, and a line in the opening paragraph really jumped out to me; “Because it’s a social network that has completely changed the way we work.” Now social networks are something I’m familiar with – like most people nowadays, I use them regularly. This made GitHub seem immediately more approachable to me and I began thinking about it in a new light.

Once you start using it, you can see how the concept is similar to Facebook –  if you just replace ‘posts/photos’ with ‘files’ and ‘friends’ with ‘fellow geeks’. You can follow others and even star (Like) other peoples ‘files’. GitHub can be used to share all types of files, from PNG icons to geoJSON and CSV. It will store binary files (not text) happily alongside any code so you can share things like ESRI Shapefiles (.shp), True Type Fonts (.ttf), Bitmaps (.bmp) etc.

So, I have recently used it to share cartographic stylesheets, both at work (lots more to come) and personally. I am also currently working on some QGIS stylesheets (QML) for use with OSM Shapefiles from Geofabrik.

I use GitHub for Windows which makes it really easy to get files online straight from your desktop. The version control is really good and fully automatic. It maintains a snapshot of all your commits so you can always access previous versions of your work.

Some cool stuff…

Another awesome feature of GitHub is that it renders GeoJSON automatically on to a nice, interactive MapBox map and these are now diffable and customisable. This is really powerful for open geodata.

Here are some more examples of how GitHub is being used to share cartogarphic stylesheets:

Ross McDonald’s QGIS stylesheets (QML)

A CartoCSS template for OSM from MapBox

Standard OSM style re-implemented in CartoCSS

Carto Hack Camp

Ordnance Survey are running a hack day event for cartography!!

This unique event is on the 20th February 2014 and the winner will be offered a 6 to 9 week paid internship – a chance to work in the OS CartoDesign team!

See HERE for more details and sign up HERE

If you have any questions about the event then please email:

Carto Hack Camp
Carto Hack Camp