Warping Maps with NYPL
February 21, 2010 3:42 PM   Subscribe

New York Public Library is crowdsourcing the rectification of maps in their digital gallery. Help match rare maps of NYC to more precise current maps, browse rectified maps, or lend a hand rectifying maps of Haiti to help relief efforts.
posted by exesforeyes (9 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I love cartography and much as I love typography. I am saddened that modern maps are no longer pieces of art.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:15 PM on February 21, 2010

Neat idea, but there appears to be no explanation aside from the ten-minute "How to use this tool," which is hands down the worst instructional video I've ever seen. Most of the time is spent watching the narrator move his cursor around incomprehensibly in total silence; every once in a while he says something like "To mask, click on the Mask icon and blah blah blah" without ever telling you what masking is or why you would want to do it. I still don't really understand what this "rectification" is about except in the vague sense that it's aligning old maps with a new one, and the video didn't leave me with a burning desire to take part. Poor show, NYPL!
posted by languagehat at 4:51 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah I love NYPLs digital initiatives generally, but I really wish there was a way to get started with this, or even understand what it is without watching a video about it. "How to use this" videos strike me as something that says "We value our own time, but yours, not so much..."
posted by jessamyn at 4:56 PM on February 21, 2010

I was a map rectifiying superstar!
posted by Rock Steady at 6:04 PM on February 21, 2010

Hey, y'all. Sorry for the roughness of the user experience on this tool; we're planning to put a lot of work in to the UI over the next few months, and it should get a lot more intuitive. In the meantime, the feedback is helpful, and I'll see if we can get something more generally explanatory up soon (right now, the bulk of the users have either had some GIS background or been trained in hands-on workshops).

For now, if you'd like to play with the system, the best thing to do is find some unrectified maps and focus on the "Rectify" tab (available on each map once you create an account and login). Figure out what area the historical map represents, and pan/zoom in to that area on the contemporary base map (on the right). Once you've got roughly the same area visible in both windows, click a point on the historical map (on the left) and click the same geographic point on the contemporary base map (on the right), then click the "Add Control Point" below the maps. Lather, rinse, repeat until you've got a handful of points (how many you need will depend on the map, and how precise you are); once you think you've got enough, scroll down and click "Warp Image"...check out your handiwork, and if you're not satisfied go back and edit/add control points.

That's the gist of it; it's kind of satisfying in a playing-minesweeper kind of way, and you're helping create useful geodata for NYPL that will be freely shared back with the community. Let me know if you've got any questions, and please do share any feedback that can improve the app.
posted by epistemographer at 6:52 PM on February 21, 2010

Minesweeper? I'm in!
posted by jessamyn at 7:03 PM on February 21, 2010

I just wanted to stop by to say that orthorectification is one of my very favorite words. Almost makes me miss working in the GIS/photogrammetry world. Almost.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 11:07 PM on February 21, 2010

I just rectified 3 maps. It goes quickly once you get the hang of it, and its fun to see how subtle things have changed since the times of the maps. Clicking to see the result overlaid in Google Earth is awesome.

Epistemographer: My feedback, for what it's worth:
- The video says 4 points are required, but the page says 3
- I didn't understand what the "error" is, except that it went really big when I added a 4th point that was in a line with 2 existing points.
- There was no clear "I'm done. Save it!" button. I think it was the high errors that meant my "rectification" wasn't being saved, but there wasn't enough feedback to see what's going on.
- There is no way to search for maps that have not been rectified yet.
- The wording of everything is too scary. I "warp" sounds like something destructive, not like "I'm done." "Align Maps" would be far friendlier than "Rectification."
- Make it more game-like. Have a list of the "Top Mappers," have a "Featured Map of the Day," have a "Most Wanted List" of maps that have been requested to be aligned, have a "Master Map" showing all the alligned maps plastered over the modern map so it's clear where the gaps are.

But overall, very cool and I can't wait for the day when I can view a map and "go back in time" with old maps at the click of a button.
posted by wanderingstan at 3:01 AM on February 22, 2010

Additional pony requests: A word search box would be helpful as well (I opened up a second opensearchmap just to get oriented but it would help) and the ability to rotate the map prior to rectification.
posted by stratastar at 9:02 AM on February 22, 2010

« Older Gimme that old-time music   |   It's the breast for us. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments