Powered by GeoIQ, Geo Commons is an interactive website, open to the public, that is sponsored by many different companies, international NGO’s and news sources. Geo Commons offers extensive maps and data with an application to create your own maps directly on the website. This feature requires a free user identification, with which you can save maps, upload your own data to their database and create and belong to groups to share files and collaborate on maps. In a sense, this is a community for building maps and sharing resources. Geo Commons also offers free resources for API Developers. Access to this website seems like a must for any professionals utilizing GIS, and especially for students learning about these tools.
Maps: Tools for Adventure
Within their Education Beta website, the National Geographic hosts a section titled ”Maps: Tools for Adventure”. Specifically, this site aims to teach children about endangered animals by displaying layers of different information, such as migration patterns and populations, on a single map. The map is highly interactive and easy to navigate, even for children. Viewers begin by selecting an animal, such as the Bald Eagle. An eagle’s cry takes them to a map of the specie’s native region of the world. They can then select from different categories to see trends manifested on the map accompanied by facts. There is also a solutions section posing thought-provoking questions and pop-ups of well-balanced answers that are simple to understand. Albeit simple, overall I think the website is highly effective. The information contained is all visible from the main page of each map, so that the viewer is drawn towards each link. The links serve as pop ups so that the viewer is not navigated away from the webpage and their attention is kept with short and direct information snippets. The legend serves as a color-coded list of basic facts, which itself is a series of links. Due to the ease of operability of the interface, the simple maps included on this site are effective at educating viewers and holding their interest. The National Geographic hosts many other maps of this kind, including many more complex resources, on their Education Beta website under the “mapping” tab.
However, there is room for improvement. If a viewer wants to select a new animal or region of the world, they must click “Start Over” to return to the homepage. Some of the layers are difficult to read when selected together, which could be corrected simply through styling, such as reducing the density of the top layer. In regards to style, the north arrow and scale bar move between each map, distracting the viewer from the content. Finally, the website is limited to only five animals and does not link to additional sources of information.