Monday, August 18, 2008

There is no catch.

So, I am describing mapgiving to a friend and she asks, "What's the catch?" and I shake my head and reply, "There isn't a catch...we really just want to do what we do best, because we want to make a difference for people that are in need of better maps to promote their good work and don't have the resources to commission professional work." her rebuttal, "There's always a catch."

It leaves Tanya and I asking, "Why is it often difficult to give something to someone, especially of value without this idea of a 'catch' lingering?"

mapgiving is the the thing, the place, where the unknown and the known have come together to provide a great service, a beautiful culmination of sharing our talents with those doing great work around the world, to help them to be able to do that just a little bit better.

What you have to understand about this is, everyone who participates in mapgiving benefits. Cartographers get to do something they love, they get to expand their portfolio, they get to work with other experts in the field, fostering new relationships. All cartographers are welcomed to join mapgiving and donate a few hours here and there throughout the year. This includes cartography and geography students, which would provide a place to do client work possibly for the first time. Helping to build their portfolio and experience.

The client benefits by receiving a map that is directed to his or her specifications to support the work that his or her group is doing.

Simply put...there is no catch.

collaboration not competition

When Tanya told me about her ideas, I immediately began thinking about several years of sharing creative work once a year with other people who love maps at the NACIS annual meeting. For decades some of the most talented people in our profession have gathered to discuss all things map related. It is a network where collaboration and innovation between academics, students, government agencies, and professionals is fostered. Along with NACIS, there have been other meeting places, such as the Map-Mac list serve, and a the recent addition of CartoTalk which have broadened the network internationally, in addition to other professional organizations.

Tanya and I had participated in previous events at the NACIS annual meeting, namely MapOff. MapOff was a non-competitive exercise, if you will. Five cartographers were given the same task and asked to produce his or her own map. The map was then presented to the entire organization and critiqued. This was once done for a client, but was always done outside of the conference, and always as individuals, or within offices.

This kick-off event is not MapOff and it is not simply a replacement for MapOff. mapgiving is much larger. It is not something we are gathering to do just for this conference. But, it is an embodiment of NACIS, encouraging people within the field to work together. It only seems right to bring the two together for this event, and hopefully for many future endeavors.

Instead of working parallel to one another, as MapOff had done, mapgiving will pool cartographic talent to see what all of these great minds can produce. This mission will continue, as we work to get the word out there to let organizations know we are here, ready to help them. We will be asking cartographers to donate some time to join us in this.

Why 12 hours and why all in one night?

We decided to do the kick-off event in one night, because it was the most we felt we could ask people to go out of their way around the time of the conference. Most professionals arrive the day before Practical Cartography Day, so we wanted to capture this time.

Previously, cartographers were asked to prepare something ahead of time. We did not want them thinking about this ahead of time, we did not want them to be forced to find time to fit this in with their client work. Additionally, we wanted to foster new relationships with these professional colleagues, getting to know one another on a much more personal level than trading files via email and ftp.

Hosting this high-energy kick-off event allows us to really demonstrate how much fun and how much excitement we have for mapgiving, and to share it with the world. While, at the same time, encouraging more cartographers to become involved in this cause.

A beautiful Friday

Thanks to a summer schedule that has allowed it, and a generous gesture, all of us at XNR have had a rotating cycle of Fridays off through August. I spent my day away from the desk to map work on the trail. A glorious day of low humidity, light breeze and mid-70s made for a great afternoon to do a little ground truthing.

I packed up my bike and headed over to the trail, ill-prepared for the short ride I had for the day, but my lack of preparation certainly added to the adventure. I cycled through the city and found my way to the client's office where they were celebrating with a brat cookout. We met briefly, while he prepared and served food to the interns who were one their way back to school. I gathered more information from him about the project and a shared the approach the captains have decided on: one team for the print product and one for the on-line. He is quite excited.

We will plan to speak with the organization to determine a more focused list of goals for the project this month and will then begin collecting the data from them in early September.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Client meeting and ground truthing

Tomorrow I will be meeting with the client for the kick-off event and touring the area that the Wayfinding teams will be mapping.

In the meantime, we are continuing to help the captains establish their teams. It's exciting to see all of these talented individuals coming together.

You will be able to keep up with the kick-off event, as we blog, hourly here. Also, we will be posting regularly to Twitter, and will encourage the team members to do the same, throughout the evening. More information will follow as October approaches. If you want to get a head start on catching our tweets find us on Twitter: LouCross or tanmabuck.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


What qualifies someone to be a mapgiving team member (a.k.a. wayfinder)?
First of all, you've got to be someone who loves maps enough to sit in a room with other talented cartographers for up to 12 hours working towards the common goal of creating an outstanding map for a client you've just met. Sound like fun? We're counting on it.

We'll take care of wayfinders while they're working...They'll be well fed and watered, as they embark on the challenge of collaborating with their professional colleagues...and plotting a course for project completion.

The logistics of it all: Each team member must come prepared with his or her own laptop and appropriate software, or be able to borrow one, could be a teammate, who isn't required to be working on the project at the same time. This can be coordinated with the team captain. The mapping will begin at 4 pm MDT on Tuesday, October 7, 2008, and can last until 4 am, if necessary. Team members only need to be present for their specific task, but are encouraged to hang around throughout the process.

The info, as it was sent to the captains:
"Thank you for agreeing to be a captain for the mapgiving kick-off. Now it’s time to assemble your team. Once your roster is set, you will not need to do anything until Tuesday, October 7.

A few rules and guidelines for team membership:
• Each team must have at least one student team member
• No more than two members on a team who are currently employed by the same organization
• Teams can be up to 6 people
• Team members, must have access to a laptop and necessary software
• Team members do not need to be present for the entire Kick-off, but will need to be present to complete their mapgiving expected goals (as determined by the captain)
• Mapping will begin at 4 pm on Tuesday, October 7 (orientation at 3 pm MDT) and can last 12 hours
• All team members will receive a digital copy of the final map(s)
• The final map will be given to the client to use as they wish

A bit about the client:
• State trail in Wisconsin
• Client is looking for a “snappier” map than what they currently have, would like to include things like running/biking routes, points of interest that the trail connects, as well as points of interest along the trail, mile markers
• The initial use of this product will be for an on-line map, with simple interactivity (e.g., a link to the websiteof the point of interest), there is potential for it to be used in the future as a printed product
• There will be two scales of the map, this is where the team division will be

A bit about the setup:
• We will camp out in a room within the hotel
• Internet will be available, necessary data will be provided to you at the orientation
• Food and drinks will be provided throughout the event (please alert us to dietary requirements and preferences)"
It's coming together now...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Clients and Captains

Lou and I had a great conference call with our first client last week on Friday. Early on in the conversation we realized that there is plenty of work for two teams to tackle with this one project. For the kick-off we'll have one client. Two teams will work on different aspects of the project resulting in two finished maps.

The client will remain anonymous until the kick-off on October 7, in Missoula. We have given the captains some general information about the project so they can recruit the right talent to join their teams.

The team captains for the kick-off event received their invitations to the mapping marathon this week. As we had hoped, the response from the captains was quite enthusiastic.

Invitation text:

"Dear X,

You are cordially invited to be one of two captains for the mapgiving kick-off event to be held on Tuesday, October 7 in Missoula, Montana.

As a captain your responsibilities would include, assembling a team of cartographers who can complete a mapping project, which we will describe upon receiving your acceptance of our invitation. On Tuesday, October 7, when you arrive to the hotel, you will find your way to the mapgiving location for the evening. Food, drinks and a whole lotta fun and camaraderie will fill the evening. You and your team members can come and go as you wish. However, as a captain you will need to be present for the orientation which will begin at 3 pm MDT on Tuesday, production is expected to begin at 4 pm and can last up to12 hours.

The goal is to work with diverse group of cartographers to complete a task for an organization that is doing good work. The results of this session will be presented at the opening session where the teams and captains will have a chance to talk about the experience and process.

For a little more background, visit:, which will direct you to our blog. As soon as we have received your confirmation, we will fill you in on more details and assist you in setting up your team. Please respond to:

Lou and Tanya"
Two more have joined the effort... a few more to go...