WRITTEN ON September 26th, 2005 BY William Heath AND STORED IN Online Maps

The judges are delighted to report that the UK map-hacking community is alive, well, and right up at the cutting edge.

The UK has a heritage of Ordnance Survey map data which can offer fabulous detail and quality. And now the whole world has the new online Google maps which offer unprecedented advantages in practicality and user interface.

Because the Google maps – introduced only earlier this year – present an easier interface for programmers, the better-designed independent services (ie with no pop-ups or new windows, needing no plug-ins and working equally wel with all browsers etc) tend to be Google-based. Google is smarter at getting the hacker community to work using the Google service. So far it looks like “Survival of the simplest”, as Stefan says. But could this turn into “easy come easy go”?

Anyway, here’s what the judge made of the various services we looked at –


This is one for the enthusiast, and people with a passing interest in airports benign or otherwise. Perfectly good mashup with clear detailed info. One pin in the map locates the airport.

OS Get a Map

We added this in just for comparison. Technically it does use public sector data (maps), but it’s not a mashup, so it’s not really a proper entry. It lets you print Landranger maps. It opens a new window which takes away the basic browser controls. It’s more pretty but less practical than a Google map, and doesnt provide anything not already provided for some years by other (now doomed?) mapping providers like Streetmap or Multimap. Probably an example of how UK public-sector map innovation is hobbled by the Treasury-imposed business model.

Neighborhood Stats

Full set of ONS data retrievable by postcode. We had problems using SVG on a Mac (even tho using an SVG enabled browser) and the plug-in isn’t available. The judges did wonder what it has cost to deliver this modest level of usablility. The very small maps are static and didnt really work for us. Not a mashup, but geographically classified data with poor maps. Requires pop-ups, which is poor form.

Edina historic maps – only available on subscription. We didnt subscribe. So it was disqualified.

Planning portal. Clean design but uses popups. Not clear who’s behind it. Drop downs will be quite full with over 400 local authorities, But we couldnt find any actual maps, so it doesnt seem a likely contender to win a map competition.

Empress (roadworks finder) Dismisses Firfox as an unsupported browser. Needs SVG, when you could, it seemed to the judges, deliver the same functionality without. But when youve installed SVG o IE its a proper mashup, giving the roadworks, so it has the data. Special tool for panning. No data on Alexa

Ninja Grapefruit’s mapped BBC news. Very original and effective – it takes BBC news stories and places them on a map. Presents a full map of the UK with pins for BBC news stories. So full marks, except there is a glitch in the South East: “Leeds woman killed on M1” appears near Basildon and “York Minster trains youths in preservation appears in Southend. But hey, it’s just a glitch.

g-Traffic info with custom overlays with extra info in rollovers. Interesting straight comparison with Empress. But its Google-based so offers satellite and hybrid views. Gives source of data, colour coding for severity and an ETA for it to finish. You can choose traffic jams from a list or a map. Brilliant.

House sale prices – Yes, it qualifies,. It’s Land Registry data, with a pin. Takes a while to find the maps, but it’s not mainly about the map, its about the house price. Feels intrusive – it tells everyone what you sold your housre for – but this is public-sector data anyway.

Five-day weather forecast. We liked this, and want to suggest they should switch to using the much-loved traditional BBC weather icons (no longer used). Lots of detail. It seemed suspiciously sunny everywhere, but it was . Great.

Spod.cx’s speed cameras…does exactly what it says, even though Spod claims to be based in the Cook Islands. The judges cannot possibly endorse the use of this site for criminality, of course, tho it does advertise detectors. Seems less easy to navigate for not having a post code enquiry. Quite slow, just because there are so many bloody speed cameras. More pins than map in some placees. Nice, we like it.

Lib maps. It works. Custom pins for different libraries. Demonstator only, covering some parts of the country. We like it.

Plymouth schools. Customised coloured pins, and custom bubbles for each school within each view produces mini-maps within the large map or satellite view. Pah! He’s showing off, in fact. Really clever, and useful. A winner.

Honorary mention for Place-O-Pedia
– elegance of design
– we like it.
– uses fully public data (not public sector data) so not really eligible. But it opens the way to all human knowledge being mapped out by location.

E&OE. Judges decision was arbitrary and we think about it again we risk changing our minds. Did we miss any? Let me know.

Thanks everyone for pointing out the sites, and for the fantastic work. Unthinkable just a year ago.

One Response to “Maps mashups – the judges have deliberated:”

Paul Maunders wrote on September 29th, 2005 1:22 pm :

I know it’s too late of the competition now, but we have another mashup site that you guys might find interesting… http://www.petrolprices.com – let’s you find out the cheapest petrol stations in a 10 mile radius of any town or postcode, and plots them on a google map.