Wk 1: Site Review SF Crimespotting

I chose to compare both LA Crime and SF Crimespotting interactive websites. Similar to LA Crime, SF Crimespotting overlays the city’s crime reports over a map of San Francisco. Crimespotting was built on the premise that civic data, re: crime, should be public and easily accessed by everyone. The website is built to track crimes color coded and classified as (assault/murder, violent, property and quality of life).

Like LA Crimes, there is a calendar of past crimes recorded. A further neat feature SF included is a calendar bar, to personalize the desired number of days of crime to display.

When your arrow hovers over a certain crime in the legend box on right, the map dims to highlight that crime. Cool feature!

In addition, Crimespotting has a Time of Day function, to show crimes done during the day vs. night vs. swing shift, or whatever chunk of time the viewer is interested in. This shows me that of the 22 robbery reports, 13 were committed at night.

Crimespotting also had tabs for Crime Reports and makes available its API information for everyone.

Overall I found SF Crimespotting to be a better user-interface website over LA Crime. It has a modern look, makes use of color and simplifies its function in a user compatible way (arrows, +/- button, scale bars). I also think there is more variety of crime posted on SF than LA (quality of life: narcotics, alcohol). One thing I would have liked to seen on both websites would be motor vehicular and bicycle/pedestrian collisions. It would be interesting to map these collisions, either in proximity to schools or bars. Especially with the time of day feature on Crimespotting in addition to the quality of life: alcohol categorization.  A lot of useful analysis could come out of having this data available on either Crimespotting or LA Crime.

Again, not knowing what my group project will be, it’s hard to tell how useful SF Crimespotting will be. However, the website in general is excellent and well made. It has definitely given me ideas on what are good and bad designs, what applications are useful to the user and how can these be created in an efficient and easy to use way.


Site Review: HyperCities Egypt

I’ve always really enjoyed the concept and execution of HyperCities Egypt, which connects the content of individual tweets to their specific location within a designated geo-spatial area. HyperCities Egypt allows for the real-time display of tweets, and also allows a user to review past tweets of a specific date in time.

By locating real-time tweets (and tweeters) within a geo-spatial construct, the map (Google Map API) acts as a multidimensional social news feed, connecting people and commentary with a particular location in a particular time. By allowing one to search through past tweets of a past date,  the site acts as a historical archive of social, born-digital commentary.

Not sure, but I think HyperCities Egypt was created to provide access to the tweets of those activists during the Tahrir Square protests; ostensibly, a real-time tweet-map could be quickly established for events/epochs of public uprising in any given city, providing the local community and global info industry with the means to gather nuanced details from people on the ground and in the action. In this model, news “trickles up” from citizen journalists, rather than trickling down from media punditry—a powerful reversal of the dominant news media paradigm.

Week 1: Site Review – Human Trafficking Map


This website presents a global display of human trafficking incidents and news. The incidents and news are sorted into several categories: slavery, prostitution, other, court cases, general news, organ trafficking, and human smuggling. Each category has a distinct symbology icon.



Users can search events in the searching part under the map. It offers filters such as country, range of dates/single date, and city. By checking/unchecking the boxes before countries, users can obtain information from certain countries that are interested to them. They can also choose dates and input a city name.



The website has rolling titles of newest events and announcements. It also shows detailed events sorted by categories at the bottom of the website.






  • informative: when you hover over the icon, it shows a brief description with the country name and the incident title. When you click on the icon, it shows a map in the info window that is zoomed in to the spot. This gives a clearer view of the location of the incident. In the info window, you can also read the type, city, and date of that incident. Moreover, a short paragraph about the news is provided, as well as the hyperlink to the news website.
  • clear instructions: the website offers an instruction about how to use the map, including such basic operations as zooming in and out. This is helpful to people who are relatively not familiar with the Internet.


  • ambiguous symbology icons:  there are seven different type of icons and there is no legend in the map, making it hard to tell the meaning of the icons. Moreover, the website uses flash and the icons are flickering, but only change colors or shapes. This seems to be unnecessary and confusing to me.







  • not enough searching choices: the website doesn’t offer a filter of trafficking types, which seems really odd to me. Because the information is displayed in different categories and the distinct types of icons are very visually dominant, it is natural to think people might want to search a certain type of incidents.



Generally this is an informative website with links to every items, but it is not visually neat and the use of too many types of icons tend to cause confusion. I would like to inset maps in info windows in my group project as it is very illustrative. I think including links in info window is useful too. I wouldn’t use flash in my group website and I will prefer simple and clear icons.

Wk 1: Site Review LA Crime

I evaluated LA Crime from the Los Angeles Times, which maps crime data from the police department over google maps of Los Angeles cities and neighborhoods. Opening page asks for your address or neighborhood. They also have mini updates for recent crime alerts and overall rankings for violent and property crime:

Once you’ve designed your area (I put in my address), LA Crime will do a crime analysis. Violent crime is further broken to homicide, rape, assault and robbery. Property Crime is broken into burglary, theft, grand theft auto and theft from vehicle. Using LA City Planning data, a profile of your neighborhood/area is outlined on google maps with any pertinent violent or property crimes falling within the outline color coded. A timeline below the map allows the user to see what crimes were committed in the past, with the interactive map continuously refreshing. Text summaries below of the last week criminal history are listed.

And if you continue scrolling down, the last 6 month significant crime histories of the designated area are also given with pie charts and graphs for those who prefer visuals. Lastly, the designated area is ranked among all the cities/neighborhoods in LA county with a sliding bar visual and contact information for the presiding police department.

In addition to crime reports, at the top of LA Crimes are also tabs for more information on your designated location such as: a profile of neighborhood demographics and population, schools in the area and local public comment.

LA Crime provides thorough crime information in a easy to use interactive map. It is almost repetitive in the different ways (text, charts, pie graphs, visuals) it presents the same crime data in order to appeal to all users. There is a lot of information on one page. While I appreciate all the different types of information provided, It would be nice for users if this was separated or broken up somehow so as to limit the necessity of scrolling down. Aesthetically, the program is not very appealing. There is a lot of white space on the page and the use of dull colors dampens the visual appeal of LA Crime. Using more colors other than shades or red or brown would be more attractive.

I have not yet decided on my group project and don’t know if LA Crime would be useful. However, if my project focuses on LA, this website would be a great starting point in familiarizing myself with a particular neighborhood or city.

Site Review: USDA Food Desert Locator

The USDA has a web GIS tool called the Food Desert Locator, and it seems pretty useless to me.

The site uses Javascript and ArcGIS API for Flex version 2.2 from ESRI. There’s very limited functionality. You can:

  1. Zoom in and zoom out.
  2. Toggle the background between topography and satellite.
  3. Make the highlighted tracks more or less transparent.
  4. Search for a given address.

That’s it! I find several faults with this site:

  1. It’s not very powerful: there’s really not much you can do with it. It’s really only interactive to the extent that you can zoom in. Otherwise it might as well be static.
  2. The interface doesn’t deal well with the fact that rural census tracts are much larger than urban ones. It makes vast rural regions — half of Arizona and New Mexico, for instance — appear as food desserts, whereas urban regions like LA barely register on the map when it’s zoomed out. This magnifies rural food deserts at the expense of urban and suburban food deserts — a big problem given that most Americans live in metro regions.
  3. There’s no indication of how it’s determined which tracts are food deserts and which aren’t.
  4. When you click on a census tract that’s considered a food desert, an info window pops up, but it’s poorly formatted. There’s too much information, some of it’s wonky (“Tract FIPS code”, “Percentage of total population that is low-income and has low access”, etc.), and you have to scroll to read half of it. The fact that they’re doing web GIS seems to suggest that they’re targeting a lay audience, but the information that’s presented is not presented in a way that’s easily understandable for a lay audience.

Overall this map is neither robust nor simple and elegant. It seems to serve no good purpose.

Site Review: “Digital Harlem”

Digital Harlem: Everyday Life, 1915-1930” is a web-based project that aims “to produce an ethnographic study of everyday life in Harlem as it became the black capital of the world.” The research project of four University of Sydney historians— Stephen Robertson, Graham White, Stephen Garton, and Shane White—the project has garnered critical praise throughout the scholarly community. “Digital Harlem” is the recipient of the American Historical Association’s 2010 Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History and the 2011 ABC-CLIO Online History Award.

Through a dynamic, multifaceted search interface, Digital Harlem provides an engaging, user-oriented research environ through which scholars and enthusiasts alike can access the project’s archive of ethnographic data. I believe the success of Digital Harlem is largely due to the simplicity of its layout, the ease and specificity of its search query form, and, of course, the unique implementation of its geo-spatial overlays. The site was created by the Arts eResearch team of the University of Sydney, programmed in XHTML and CSS and utilizing the Google Maps API.

At the  center of the Digital Harlem site is a reference map of present day Uptown Manhattan. The boundaries of 1915-1930 Harlem, shown in purple, appear as a large region within the central map. This is in fact a vintage map overlay of individual buildings made up of plates from the “Atlas of the City of New York, Borough of Manhattan,” Vol. 4 & 5, published by G.W. Bromley & Co. in 1932 (detail shown below). The actual boundaries are based on maps in Gilbert Osofsky’s, “Harlem: The Making of a Ghetto” (1971) and James Weldon Johnson’s, “Black Manhattan” (1930). The overlay’s function, in a sense, is to provide a historically accurate portrait of the neighborhood; it also juxtaposes the historical boundaries of Harlem (as evidenced in the vintage map) with the present-day boundaries of the neighborhood (as evidenced in the Google-provided basemap), bringing to light spatial insights that might not otherwise have been recognized.

Perhaps the most interesting function of the Digital Harlem site lies in its faceted search query form whose three top level categories—Events, People, Places—can be searched across using a variety of inputs, including date, occupation, race, gender, and street intersection. Before the search results display on the map, the user is asked to name the layer. Upon doing so, graphic nodes representing the queried data appear on the map. Each map layer is temporarily saved, and able to be toggled on and off in the “Layers” viewer (shown below), housed in the Content Sidebar on the right of the central map. This unique function of the search query form allows for the almost instant creation of overlays specific to the user’s queries, in essence allowing users to finely curate their own nuanced data sample from the larger dataset and potentially glean insight into previously invisible relations amongst people, events, and places.

However, a map can only ever be as accurate, effective, or useful as the data it represents. Digital Harlem’s creators have utilized a wide variety of sources, though criminal records and legal files from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office comprise the majority of the information in the database. I strongly question the site’s considerable use of criminal records to describe African-American life in Harlem, as it problematically frames the people of Harlem in terms of their legal standing or criminality. The cultural activities or impact of a community cannot be determined by that community’s crime rate; thus, the map unintentionally skews our understanding of the community and its constituents.

Scholz Week 1 Site Review B

Review of The Economist’s Republican Primary Map (new window)

Kyle Scholz

April 8, 2012

I. Technology

The technology used on this map is not detailed on the website itself, likely because the Economist is a private entity which would not like its competitors to crib its code for their own similar maps. It does, however, allow users to embed the map into other web pages, which is a good functionality (and a good advertisement for the Economist, too).

One important technological aspect is the dependence on Flash to run the map. For many Mac users this could be a problem. Luckily it is not a problem for me, as I am too poor to afford a Mac (and too dumb to read the Economist, but that is a different problem for a different class.)

All in all, the technology used is predominantly devoted more to the I (information) part of GIS than the G (geographic). The map is a basic map of 50 states, with the capability of hovering over each or zooming in to lock the info windows and explore them further. The information (about each state, primary, vote tally, and candidate) is top notch, so the simplicity of the geographic technology is actually a boon since it connects the user to the data without getting too much in the way of itself.

II. Interface

Economist Republican Primaries Map Main

Economist Republican Primaries Map Main Page

The interface is very good – hovering over a state temporarily changes the info window (shown above for “National”, the default when nothing is moused over) to show a summary detail of that state’s primary process and or results. Hovering over a candidate in one of the bar charts changes the window to show electoral details about that candidate.

One minor issue with the interface is the functionality of clicking on a state. As shown below for California, this click zooms the map onto the state specified and “locks” the info window onto that state so that moving the mouse off of it does not revert the window back to “National”.

Map after clicking on California

Map after clicking on California

The info “locking” functionality is useful, but the zooming in on the state does not appear to serve any purpose other than flashy aesthetics. No smaller-resolution (i.e. voting district) data is revealed, and the information shown by hovering over the candidate bars is not customized to the state in focus. In other words, the clicking provides absolutely no additional information besides a clearer picture of the outline of the state. The price of this “information” is a necessity to hit the “Reset map” button frequently to return to the full map to click on a state outside the immediate vicinity. Not a big deal, but the same amount of information could be garnered by highlighting or otherwise indicating the state in focus without zooming in and requiring extra “reset” clicks.

III. Conclusion

As someone who knows very little about politics (besides the fact that I am already tired of hearing about it on the news), this web GIS interface was very useful, educational, and even fun to use. I learned more from the hour I spent playing with this website than I have in the past month of accidentally hearing people blab about it on the television/radio.

The strengths of the website are in the simplicity of the interface, wherein hovering over or clicking almost anything gives immediate informational feedback. For any website I designed, I would hope to achieve a similar ease-of-use and fast learning curve. I would also aim to create a similar aesthetic beauty and simplicity – nothing on this site is stunningly modern, beautiful, or flashy, but it flows well and the color scheme is well constructed.

The weaknesses which I would try to avoid are unnecessary clicks (i.e. the frequent “Reset map” clicks after needlessly zooming in on a state). Additionally, I might try to make the symbology of the map more immediately clear – it took me a minute to decipher what each color, and each level of each color, denoted. Rather than explicitly showing a legend, the map relies on the user’s “connecting the dots” by the matching of colors to the bar charts at the bottom.

Mapping the Measure of America


The purpose of this interactive mapping site is to provide information on a wide-range of demographic variables, some of which are indexed, in order to illustrate the socio-economic and demographic conditions of different geographies (ranging from the state level to the neighborhood level in certain states). The user can also look at subpopulations (by race/ethnicity and/or gender) and do comparisons across the different indices and demographics.

This site does a great job of displaying a lot of information without being intimidating. The scales on the left still let you compare the specific information to the bigger picture, and the use of graphics and lighter colors makes the demographic information more digestible for the everyday user. I also really liked that the site contextualized the indices when you first look at them. I like a lot of things about this site, but what I appreciated most was the tons of information combined with the relative easiness of the site. Anyone could probably spend hours on this site and still not look at everything, but I also have the sense that I could just go over and find what I want pretty quickly.


The site doesn’t have too many negatives. At first the menus were a little bit buggy which was frustrating (possibly due to a slow connection). Trying to pick out information at the fine grain level (like looking a congressional district information in Southern California) became overwhelming. Being able to click on zoom or have it zoom in upon entering the zip code in these situations would have been helpful.

We won’t be creating anything this intense for the class, but what can be applied is mindfulness in the graphic display: being able to display all sorts of information without it being intimidating the ordinary user.

Envisioning Development


This site serves as a tool to compare income distribution to rents in New York City. The importance of the income categories are highlighted in that they are in color while the map itself is in gray tones. A user can select a particular neighborhood and see the income distribution, then look at rent information by moving sliders to see how many families can afford these rents. The user can then compare this information to that of the borough at large.

It does a good job of displaying a specific set of information in a visually appealing way. Its major advantages are that it is easy to use and that it does not overwhelm the user with tons of information. Someone attempting to get information about affordability in their neighborhood can go in and get it quickly. The use of color is very intentional however even the colorless parts are aesthetically pleasing.

I think that the site does what it is trying to do very well. However, I think that it would be great to include something about what the rents roughly are in these areas to get a better sense of the affordability problems in NYC. Because this site does not overwhelm the user with tons of information, I think it’s something that they could easily include.

Ultimately, this site is a good model of portraying a specific message in an a simultaneously simple and dynamic way.

270 To Win Election Map and Energy Use in NYC

This is an election site that has an enormous amount of past, present and future information about election cycles in each state. There are two options on the left hand side where it says “select an Electoral View” where it shows how many electoral votes there were in each state (just shown by those plain white numbers). You can see the electoral votes how they are currently and how they were in 2008.

Con: the way they project the electoral college votes is pretty boring. When you change from 2008 to 2012 you don’t really notice much change and is hard to tell the difference. 2008 is posted below:

Pro: you can see the election results all the way back to 1789, and they have them every four years! Here are the results for 1789:

Pro: In addition to having the electoral vote view, they have a dropdown menu where you can choose several different options about the results of an election as shown below:

Con: this map is really difficult to figure out. It has so many functions and options that it doesn’t get across a central point. It seems great if you want to know very detailed information about election results over our country’s history, but I’m not sure an interactive map is the place for that.

So, it’s intuitiveness would rank really low and I’m not sure this interface is the best for conveying the level of detailed information. It would be better if they could figure out a more nuanced way to display the information as opposed to having a lot of different options to view. It is however very complete in its information, just not very helpful or creative.

My next site that I reviewed displays the “Estimated Total Annual Building Energy Consumption at the Block and Lot Level for NYC.” This site is quite amazing as is the study undergone to estimate the data.

Pro: It is visually very easy to comprehend. It is displaying a massive amount of information (Block level energy data for every Block in NYC) yet it is intuitive. As you can see above, you can clock on a block and get information about the block (ID, Land Area, Electricity Use and Total Fuel Use.)

Con: the legend is a bit clunky and could perhaps be made so that if you scrolled over it, it would pop up but would be minimized otherwise.

You can also get a nice pie graph of the energy use as well, which makes it even easier to comprehend:

I think this site gets an A+ for making it intuitive, easy to comprehend and for doing that all while displaying massive amounts of information.