Tuesday 12 November 2013

To react or not to react. That is the question.

It seems I've irked Mr MacWright again with my latest blog about the police.uk crime map.

He's even gone to the effort of cataloging my blogs and creating a taxonomy of alleged anti-MapBox sentiment:

A little scary but kudos for the effort! Odd classification though. I try not to focus on any platform but, rather, look at specific maps so using my blogs as an anti-MapBox metric is being a little mendacious.

This is a blog that voices constructive criticism about maps...that's the point. That's what the internet does - provide a place to share thoughts and ideas.  My intention in the blog is to challenge people's ideas of how maps work by pointing out their weaknesses. Not everyone will agree but it's my blog and I stand by the comments. When I can, or time/data permits, I even rework maps to show how I feel they may be improved. Choose not to read if they offend but making the assumption this conduit is my only voice is a serious misrepresentation.

I speak at many events. I write and publish. I perform numerous critiques in my role at work and these are forwarded to the appropriate persons using the appropriate form.  This blog allows me to explore publicly visible maps too. I could choose not to but there are already too many people who tacitly accept any map the internet pushes. This blog is but a fraction of my contribution to cartographic discourse, both positive and negative (though I prefer to see it as constructively pointing out limitations rather than just being negative for the sake of it). It's also true that silence often says much more than words so sometimes it's simply best not to use social media as a vehicle and choose a less public form of interaction instead.

My take on the maps I use as a basis for comment is to see how the message suffers through poor cartography. The same is true for the crime map blog which is very positive about the technology underpinning it but the message the map delivers is flawed.  I struggle to see how one might come to the conclusion it was negative about MapBox per se.

I don't criticize the work of my colleagues via my blog because I strongly suspect my employer would be somewhat displeased. I wouldn't imagine this is a situation unique to me. Internally, comments are shared. I am also very critical of my own maps where I cannot necessarily achieve what I might want. It's really up to others to provide critical commentary on my work (which I would encourage)...and they often do which is what helps in trying to improve my own work.

There are many ways to influence change in trying to improve how maps communicate and my blog is one piece of a much larger jigsaw. You have to see the whole puzzle to get the big picture. Take my tweets for instance...there's probably a fair split between sharing or commenting on good work as their is sub-par work. I've certainly been pretty positive in tweets over the last few months about many initiatives coming out of MapBox, CartoDB, d3, the open source community and a host of other stuff.  I was the author of a very popular blog on the Esri web site explaining how those using ArcGIS Online can consume their MapBox maps as an alternative to the Esri offerings.

Do good work. Share it. Take critical comment in the right spirit. Set up parody Twitter accounts. Use your right of reply if you want.

To react or not to react: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous tweeting,
Or to take arms against a sea of misrepresntation,
And by opposing end them? To blog: to tweet.

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