More in the pursuit of Geographic Democracy

I wasn’t at all satisfied with yesterday’s results. GeoWeb San Francisco has 3d buildings, oblique views, streetviews, yelps. 6 out of 10 demo maps feature San Francisco. I made that up. But really SF has to be the most digitally mapped place on the planet. That’s why I tend to focus my efforts on the other side of the world .. does SF really need another map? I guess so. None of that glitz adds anything to democracy, and yes maybe it’s worthwhile paying attention to your own backyard.

San Francisco Electoral Districts

So I did something about it. Finder didn’t turn up anything, so searched and found shapefiles from the state and the city. Processed. And uploaded to GeoCommons, and made a map of San Francisco Electoral Districts: City Supervisors, State Assembly and Senate, and Congressional. All in one map. Bravo GeoCommons!

I mean, it could be better of course. The path is not as smooth as it could be by a long way. I’ll complain below. And the result is a little hard to visually parse .. though that’s the nature of overlaying polygons. Anyway, by toggling layers, it’s easy enough to compare two sets of district boundaries, and see that the differences make no sense whatsoever. Where’s the revision history?!


Really the primary issue is how much can reasonably be done on the web. GeoCommons needs to address a wide non-professional audience, without the burden of GIS. What kind of operations can commonly be expected and incorporated into a simple workflow, and what is left off the 80/20 cliff.

When I first uploaded the assembly district boundaries to Finder, and viewed in the map, there was nada. Turned out the shapefiles are in a California State Plane projection, and Finder doesn’t notice or complain. There’s no way to submit a “.prj” file .. yet. So I had to do the transformation myself. Used OGR.

ogr2ogr assembly_districts_4326.shp assembly_districts.shp -f "ESRI Shapefile" -t_srs EPSG:4326

I then tried uploading again. It works! But dang slow. 80 detailed assembly district polygons in California. But I’m only interested in the two overlapping San Francisco. And I don’t want to simplify .. the precise boundary is crucial in this application. Couldn’t I just tell Maker that for my map, I’m only interested in features in this particular view? Seems simple enough to explain to the user, and generally useful. But not there yet.

Finally the styling. It’s maybe impossible to style four polygon layers in such a way that they’re all discernible in a single view.


But yea, GeoWeb! Here’s an interactive web map, with reusable data, without any programming required, just tools. We’re on the right path.