Pleiades Responds

My attempt at pumping Pleiades through yahoo pipes led to an interesting discussion with Tom Elliott, the direct of the Pleiades project. Tom writes

As Shawn observed, pumping that list of ancient names through a presentist geocoder (like Yahoo!’s) gives you suboptimal results.

Pleiades in fact stores locations for every feature (at least when we can determine their locations). In our customization work on Plone for Pleiades, we’ve tacked on a couple of other interfaces that aren’t as obvious to users as they should be. Anywhere Pleiades displays or lists spatial content, we also provide an Atom feed that’s extended with GeoRSS tags, as well as a KML feed.

So, for those archaic places, Shawn could choose to use either of:

Both provide the coordinates, and therefore get you around the geocoding problem.

The full text of Tom’s post is here. Thanks Tom! I’m going to see what I can do with those new feeds…

Yahoo Pipes and the Pleiades Project

I recently wrote about trying to get Platial to map various kinds of data. Today I tried Yahoo Pipes. Again, the task was relatively straightforward: can I get an RSS feed of archaeological data – such as ancient places in the (non-mapped) Pleaides website database – onto a map without having to point-and-click each individual place?

First of all, I searched the various existing pipes that others have created. A pipe, by the way, is a collection of different modules ‘piped’ together to mash together different kinds of, and sources of, data. The pipe updates itself when the in-coming data changes. I found the geo-annotated Reuters news pipe, by el80n. This pipe collects information from the Reuters news-feed, extracts the locational information from it, finds out the actual coordinates for that location, and then displays the result on a yahoo map.

pipe1.JPGI swapped the feed from Reuters to Pleiades’ Archaic places, and la voila. A number of the sites from that list turned up on the map. Now, there’re a few bugs in it. The place-extractor looks at the feed, and grabs the first ‘obvious’ place name. In Reuters, that’s the modern name. In Pleaides, that’s the ancient name. The database that contains the geocoding only has modern names, so things get a little odd. For instance, Artamis (modern Messa), gets mapped to an island in the South China Sea. There’s a query builder in the pipe, so I need to figure out how to get it to grab the modern name, while labeling the map with the ancient name.

All of this took about an hour. I had never used pipes before, and all I really did was swap feeds. Imagine what somebody who knew what they were doing could accomplish! You may view the live result here.

pipe2.JPG

TinyMap vs. Platial

I should not complain too much about Platial, as it is still in beta-testing, and the various bugs no doubt will be ironed out. I look forward to the map-from-rss feature – even rss feeds that are not geocoded can be imported (although you have to point-and-click to get the information where you want it). This will be an enormous boon when you’re dealing for instance with something like the Pleiades project. Their database has an enormous amount of information spatial information concerning ancient places. A person can subscribe to their Archaic places feed, for instance, and get the whole list. They do provide KML files for each individual point, but nothing (as far as I can tell) in the aggregate (and you have to dig down the document tree to fin ‘em). So I tried to get Platial to import the whole list from the feed, and then I was prepared to spend the time properly dragging things into place.

Platial burped, and that was that.

If I was going to have to drag-and-drop each individual record, I thought there might perhaps be an easier interface to use. Platial after all fancies itself something of a social-networking site (you can mash up your information with information from some one else’s map)… but as Gabby mentioned in an earlier comment, what if you’re out in the field, and you want someone back at the office to have a quick map of something you’ve found, without having to register, create a profile, etc etc? Tinymap is your answer. You go to http://www.tinymap.net, zoom in on the region your working on (or punch in the decimal coordinates), drag and drop some Points-of-Interest, annotate appropriate, hit save and your done. The site gives you a unique URL for your map, and you email that back to the office. So here is a sample, with some information from Pleiades: http://www.tinymap.net/CNztQCq7hlQ/

For quick and easy maps, TinyMap wins hands-down over Platial. Platial is better for more complicated maps with greater functionality – eventually.