Monday, August 26, 2019

Answer: What's your favorite geo-mapping / geo-information tool? (Part 1/2)

LOTS of comments this week... 

... as Regular SRS Readers chimed in with great suggestions for their favorite geo-resources.  

The new Google Earth on the web ( is a fantastic
geo-located information resource. 

We had two parts to this Challenge, but the first part is HUGE... and I'm still working on it, which is why I'm so slow in writing up an answer this week.  I'm going to write up my answer to Challenge #1 tomorrow.    

1.  (knowledge)  What's your favorite geo-information resource?  It could be something we've already talked about (like Earth, Maps, Streetview, or Wikimapia), or you teach us all something about a resource that you use and enjoy.  What is it?  Why do you think it's great?  
When I look at the long list of suggestions, I realize that there are LOTS of possible geo-resources.  See the next post tomorrow....  
2.  (skill)  Can you find a NEW geo-information (or geo-mapping, or geo-indexed anything!) resource?  What process did you follow to find it?  
What I was looking for here were some ideas about how to DISCOVER new geo-information resources.   How do you do that?  Here are the collected strategies of some SRS Regular Readers:  

Jon suggested the query: 

     [NEW geo-information]

... which gives lots of suggestions.  (Especially nice, the lists of resources.)  Worth exploring!  

Arthur Weiss suggested: 

     ["google fusion tables"]

... as a way to find alternatives to the geo-capabilities of Fusion Tables.  

Ramón gave us a link to Simon Kuestenmacher: 

     [ Simon Kuestenmacher ] 

... which leads to a bunch of the resources he's developed (or written about), such as his Twitter Feed.  

Abstracting these ideas 

These are great tactics, but I want to abstract them just slightly and turn them into real strategies.  

1. Searching for new resources:  A great way to find the latest resource (of any type) is to search for: 

     [ new kind-of-resource

Such as: 

      [ new geography data set ] 

      [ new mapping resources ] 


But problem with this approach is that many sites will title a page with "new"... and then leave it up on their site for years, constantly advertising that it's "new"!  

A great way to get just the truly new stuff is to use the operator after: -- like this: 

      [ mapping resources after:2016-1-1 ] 

The after: operator is relatively new, and lets you filter out everything before the specified date.  Notice that I removed "new" from the query since it's redundant.  (Anything after 2016 is defined to be new!)  Google also has the before: operator, which does the obvious thing.  

2. Search alternative names:  Jon's use of the search term "geo-information" is great, and suggests a strategy for finding even more resources--look around for terms OTHER than what you'd immediately think of at first blush.   (For instance, geospatial, geographic, mapping, etc.)  When I did the search for synonyms: 

     [ synonyms geo-information ] 

as I looked through the results, I found the term USGS, which isn't a synonym, but a REALLY useful search term that will lead to productive search results.  Like this: 

Or this... 

And if you want to see the latest, use after: to limit the results to the most recent.  

3. Follow people with aligned interests:   Often people will indulge their interests online in ways that are incredibly useful to others, especially if you're not part of that field.  Ramón found this guy, Simon Kuestenmacher (or his site), who is VERY much a geo-information / geo-tools guy (among other things).  

As a strategy, looking for people who are deeply into a topic (and then looking at their trail of postings on Twitter / Facebook / Web) often leads to fantastic resources.  Just a quick glance at Simon's posting leads to all kinds of marvelous maps, animations... and the tools and resources that he uses in his work.  

One example. Simon posted a marvelous Greenland animated GIF showing the effect of Mercator map projection distortion (see below, credit:@neilrkaye): 

which led me to find the tool used to make this:  TrueSize, which lets you compare the size of any two countries, such as Greenland and Mexico (which are, remarkably enough, almost the same size).  

Once you start working forward from interesting people, you can find all manner of useful connections.  It was this way that I found a link to Exploring the Invisible, which in turn led me to data sets from the World Bank, and handy ways to create your own maps from their data sets, such as this map of worldwide renewable energy resources (below).


Search Lessons 

There are ways you can improve your searching by making better queries, but there are ALSO ways to improve your searching by expanding the range of things you consider.  We've covered a few methods... 

1. Search for new resources by explicitly looking for "new" or newly posted content.  You can add "new" or "latest" (or similar) to your query, and that will give you that kind of results. 

2.  Search for another way to express what you're seeking.  In the topic of "interesting geo-information," there are MANY ways to say this. If you search for synonyms or alternative ways of expressing your target, you can enrich what you find.  

3.  Search for a person (or institution) that's aligned with your interests, and follow what they're writing about.  You can learn much from the other things they write about.  In this case we looked for a person with geo- mapping- data- interests, but this same idea works with nearly any topic.  (Give it a try with "medieval music" or "Southwest lizards."  As a friend once said to me, "This is the internet, Dan, there's someone who's deeply interested in anything...").  

Tomorrow, a few of the geo-information resources that we found.  

Search on! 


  1. Thanks!

    I was thrilled with the newish search operators, although for the same purpose I have been using the Any Time Search Tool (available on a search page in Chrome both for a desktop or my Android phone, but not on my default Android home search bar), with good results. If, for example, I choose the customized date range "From: 2016", this will add the following code to the SERP URL:


    When decoded, it becomes much easier to read and understand: &tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:2016,cd_max:. (Note that a customized date range is not available on my phone; and probably not on any phone.)

    An article on MUO (MakeUseOf), titled 6 Ways to Search ‘By Date’ on Google, gives another URL hack: just add &as_qdr=y3 if you want to see results from the past 3 years. It works.

    Even though I already knew a way of looking for recent results, I had to try the after: operator, of course. My search was [ mapping resources after:1-1-2016 ]. Something is not working as I expected, though. Not only the results are not the same nor in the same order as any of the above mentioned ones, but the results page shows items that were indexed by Google in 2015 and even 2014. Here's the snippet of one of them:

    Untitled - Texas Comptroller › property-tax › reappraisals › hidalgo15-16
    Aug 13, 2014 - ANALYSIS OF AVAILABLE RESOURCES. APPRAISAL ... MAPPING RESOURCES .... and noting any changes to the property since the last physical ..... 1/1/2016. Preliminary Property Value Study Released. 1/31/2016. 1/31/ ...

    I wonder what may be wrong in my procedure or in the operator itself.

  2. Hello Dr. Russell and everyone.

    As always very interesting and with lots of new knowledge, tools and things to try.

    I didn't know about before and after operators (introduced April 2019.) I tried them and search for them, and found also new for me: [Map:topic] and noticed it works, of course, different than searching using [topic]

    With [latest google operators]

    About the new operators found that Boolean Strings says the date format is: Year/month/day or just year. Google Introduces before: and after: Maybe that is why, Luis's results not working as expected? In my case, date formats are always a problem as it is different here in Mexico, when filling formats never know what to use and almost always received date format is not allowed (not in this operator, I mean calendars, formats, webs and even PayPal)

    Operators 2018 and we have Dr. Russell's info on them here:

    Google Docs by Dr. Russell: Advanced Search Operators

    About Simon, it is funny how live and Internet works. I didn't find him searching. It was very similar to what happened to me with Dr. Russell: "Six Degrees of Separation"

    With Dr. Russell, Google + was born and Ricardo Zamora gave invitations to try it. Him or Ricardo Blanco, shared a post about the new Google Search MOOC and being part of it, found Dr. Russell and his blog.

    With Simon. After taking Dr. Russell's MOOC, searched more and tried more. I found one (my sister did) about Dogs with Dr. Brian Hare, so I took it and after it, looked for him on Twitter. After sometime reading his tweets, found Simon.

    Other good accounts that I like and also not searched for them are: @DJsnm (I found him after Dr. Russell made his post about Rosetta and Philae, looked for more on YouTube and it suggested his account) and @statistacharts as I like Statistics and data, found it by suggestions after looking for soccer data

    Hope this adds more to the Challenge

  3. Well done, Ramón!

    I was sad at the "1-1-2016" date format choice but instead of trying the international format, or just researching as you did so well, I was just mumbling to myself and complaining about the operator not working properly…

    On 2019-04-09 (��), Google SearchLiaison tweeted:

    The before: & after: commands return documents before & after a date. You must provide year-month-day dates or only a year. You can combine both. For example:
    [avengers endgame before:2019]
    [avengers endgame after:2019-04-01]
    [avengers endgame after:2019-03-01 before:2019-03-05]

    More power user notes! You can use either dashes or slashes in dates. Both of these are valid:

    You can also use a single digit for month or day, so all of these are valid:

    The rest of the tweets in the same conversation (linked above) are also worth reading.

  4. LMV & Ramón —
    on a bit of a side-note/\|red-herring —
    …not a big twitter user nor subscriber, but can't figure out why I'm having these show up in Tamil language…?
    and when I go to the language list, English is grayed out & not selectable… any ideas on why?
    an example of what I'm seeing…
    Danny, after/latest synos & (perspective - I'm sure it was a nursery school prom…)
    fwiw, Danny's web & instagram… (why doesn't Dan have a 'gram?)
    dot com for a 2nd searching Dan
    insta/RAF Red Arrows, Wales
    a where? search (clue: not in Tamil Nadu)

  5. how many Dans does Google have? hard to search
    that would make search harder…? was vP Biden about?… or was he moosing in Maine… or Missouri… or Mississ30030333…
    Danny roams… have Dan & danny colluded/met?

  6. I was interested to see that you suggest using the "after" search operator rather than the date range tool (i.e., the time drop-down under the "Tools" option in the search results window). Do they produce different results/rely on different data?