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Introducing the World Freedom Atlas

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#1
zforest

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World Freedom Atlas

Hello,

For the past 6 months I've been working on this on and off. The World Freedom Atlas is a geovisualization tool for world statistics. I designed it for social scientists (I fled political science grad school a few years ago), journalists, NGO/IGO workers, and others who wish to have a better understanding of issues of freedom, democracy, human rights, and good governance. It includes over 300 variables from dozens of datasets and covers the years 1990 to 2006. It is meant to complement other efforts such as GapMinder World and the Online Atlas of the Millennium Development Goals.

I'll be submitting this for the NACIS student web mapping competition. I can think of dozens of things I'd like to change, redo, or add, but I don't have time to do many of them. I would, however, love to get your feedback. Thanks for your time and I hope you enjoy!

World Freedom Atlas
Zachary Forest Johnson
Cartographer and Software Engineer


indiemaps.com/blog

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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Very nice work!! I have just one minor complaint... The explanations in the hovering text bubble are a bit 'uneasy' on the eyes. I.e. they move around if the mouse moves around.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#3
supercooper

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Amazing! Very nice work indeed. One thing I had a hard time with was the yellow border around a country that highlights it...sometimes on the smaller countries it is hard to see...could you tell us a little about how this was done?

#4
zforest

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Amazing! Very nice work indeed. One thing I had a hard time with was the yellow border around a country that highlights it...sometimes on the smaller countries it is hard to see...could you tell us a little about how this was done?


Yeah that's a good call on the stroke outline -- I need to either make it thicker on rollover or find a better color.

I'm happy to talk shop. The atlas was programmed in Flash 8 using Actionscript 2 (final count is around 3000 lines of code). The basemap was simplified in MapShaper, exported to Illy from ArcMap, then brought into Flash, where each country was selected and converted to a movie clip (and now I wish I could redo the basemap but due to this process it would take at least 12 hours to redo all the steps). The data are all stored in a MySQL database. I use AMFPHP to bring the variables into Flash. With the exception of the PHP that is used to talk to the mySQL database, everything was written in Flash's Actionscript, with no backend whatsoever. Let me know if you have any specific questions about the production, design, or coding.

Zach

P.S. Supercooper, I see you're from Fayetteville, AR -- I grew up around there and did my undergrad at the UofA.
Zachary Forest Johnson
Cartographer and Software Engineer


indiemaps.com/blog

#5
travelbug

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Nice Work! The fonts are a bit small though, maybe I'm just getting old ;) And it would be nice to have the source of your data labeled.

#6
Sky Schemer

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Nice work. My one complaint is that the coloring isn't consistent between datasets. Sometimes a low score/white is better (political rights, civil liberties, freedom status) and sometimes a high score/dark blue is better (election process, rule of law). If you're going to keep the same colors for each thematic map and use the same display, the overall meaning of those colors shouldn't flip-flop.

#7
zforest

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Nice work. My one complaint is that the coloring isn't consistent between datasets. Sometimes a low score/white is better (political rights, civil liberties, freedom status) and sometimes a high score/dark blue is better (election process, rule of law). If you're going to keep the same colors for each thematic map and use the same display, the overall meaning of those colors shouldn't flip-flop.


This is a good point, and one that I struggled with. The problem is that the variables themselves are coded in this way. So for one variable a high value is a good thing (high freedom of expression, or whatnot), while for another variable a high value is a very bad thing (high restrictions on the press). I considered coding something into the database, so that the color scheme flips depending on whether a high value is 'good' or not.

I decided against this, though, because I worried that my audience (social scientists and others who have already worked with this data in some capacity) could be confused by this. I mean, presumably, they know what a high score on Institutionalized Autocracy means. And if they don't, at least the variable description describes what high and low values indicates.

Perhaps I will revisit this decision. Thanks for getting me thinking about it again.
Zachary Forest Johnson
Cartographer and Software Engineer


indiemaps.com/blog

#8
razornole

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Enjoyed the multitude of maps. The colors were aesthetically pleasing. My question would be why use discrete colors for your maps and a continuous color ramp for your legend? I didn't look at every map, but your data are discrete by country.
I guess that makes three of us on this thread from NWA, I live in Winslow and am in geography grad school at UA.
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#9
rajesh2911

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Amazing!!! nice work. Much more interactive. Fonts are bit small, Even than great work . congratulation.
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#10
zforest

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Enjoyed the multitude of maps. The colors were aesthetically pleasing. My question would be why use discrete colors for your maps and a continuous color ramp for your legend? I didn't look at every map, but your data are discrete by country.
I guess that makes three of us on this thread from NWA, I live in Winslow and am in geography grad school at UA.



The color scheme used is always continuous, even if a particular variable divides countries into a dozen or fewer classes. I suppose all data are discrete to a certain extent, even if 1000 unique values are present, so I believe the choice of a continuous color scheme for all variables is at least defensible. I agree that the option of classed schemes would be nice (maybe in World Freedom Atlas 2.0). I used continuous schemes for a couple reasons. First, they have inherent advantages over classed schemes for some datasets (show more detail, less classification, etc.). And the disadvantages they have (hard to get actual values off the map, perceptual issues, etc.) are mediated by the interactive medium (exact values can be retrieved from the map on mouseover). Second, using continuous schemes was <b>way easier</b> for me since I am coloring these maps on the fly, and since the whole application was written to be independent of the data (so in theory any country-level data could be inserted). If I do a second version, though, I will definitely add the option of classes schemes, with the option to add and subtract classes, change class breaks, and whatnot. Thanks for the feedback!
Zachary Forest Johnson
Cartographer and Software Engineer


indiemaps.com/blog

#11
MapMedia

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This is well done. A great resource. Very good design.
Regarding classification, I think this is where the rubber meets the road, and ppl will inevitably not hold your class breaks as rule of law, since this is not hosted on the UN or NYT sites. ;)
In terms of design clean-up items: I would prefer to see the classification descriptions pop-up in a box neatly placed in the open ocean south of Cape of Good Hope, so I can look at the map and refer to the description without manipulating mouse etc.

Lastly, a typical "0-100%" loading flash would be better than 'loading' then 'click to proceed' page, IMHO.

Other than that, colors are decent and the app is quite fast.




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