Open Data and Beautiful Maps

Open Data and Beautiful Maps

Tylor Sherman

This past weekend we attended the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit and I gave an introduction to open data and beautiful maps. I talked about open data, covered the creation of a map in under 10 minutes, and discussed how to create beautiful maps using advanced techniques like custom tilesets. The video is already online thanks to the hard work of Justin Carlson, posted on his blog here and embedded below:


Tylor Sherman: Open Data & Beautiful Maps from Carlson Media on Vimeo.

Paraphrasing some of the questions and comments at the end of the video:

Question 1: How does generating views with OpenLayers differ than with GMap?
Question 2: Can you use the Google Maps API when using OpenLayers and a Google Maps tileset?
Question 3: How does location.module differ from others storage methods? How do you decide which storage method to use?
Question 4: Can I use tiles to display polygon data and still interact with it?
Question 5: If I have a database of address how can I convert them into latitude and longitude?
Question 6: What other input data types are supported by mapping modules?
Question 7: Can I use a shapefile to generate an overlay?
Question 8: What other tilesets can I use with OpenLayers?
Question 9: Have you played with polygons and highly granular shapefiles?
Question 10: How did you get the Google Map API entry step into the install profile?
Question 11: Ben comments that using geo.module instead of text fields is helpful if you have a lot of data because it decreases the server load by speeding up your queries.

For the talk I created an install profile and drush make file to build a simple and lean Drupal mapping distribution, which for now I have named Quickmaps. The source code for the distribution is available at I am making the slides available as a PDF here and have been tracking my Mapnik and Quantum GIS source files at The inspiration for this talk comes from my Water! drinking fountains map for Vancouver. This is a map I created just over a year ago now and it has been really engaging to see it being discussed and used in so many different ways. Here is the original screencast showing how to set up a water fountain map in under ten minutes:


Water! from tylor on Vimeo.

I had a great time sharing this presentation and it led to some great conversations throughout the rest of the summit. Thanks to all of the organizers for putting on such a successful event!