Platial and Pleiades – rss feeds

I’ve become a beta-tester on Platial. The RSS feed tool seems to work better on the testing side of the site, although it is still somewhat quirky. The screenshot shows what you get once you submit a feed – in this case, the atom geo-referenced feed from the Pleiades Project. Now, what I would’ve expected, is that Platial automatically extracted the geographic coordinates for each item in the feed, and mapped it. That’s not what happens – rather, the Platial tool is expecting that you’ve added a feed that doesn’t contain geographic info (say, a list of church suppers in your area), and then you punch in the address, city, state, or lat/long coordinates. Now, that is indeed a handy tool for non-georeferenced feeds, but defeats my purpose. At least for today.

I’ve also tried using automatic feed generators for third party sites, things like Feedity on Archaeology magazine’s archaeological news page with Platial, and with Yahoo Pipes. I’d like to see where in the world things are happening! To date, not much success (Feedity tosses in advertisements which – I’m guessing – cause problems). I suppose were I handy with coding etc I could make it all work… but again, that’d be defeating the purpose.

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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.

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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.

MAGIS: Mediterranean Archaeology GIS

It turns out that what I thought was so clever yesterday, was done some time ago by folks at DePauw:

MAGIS, an inventory of regional survey projects in the greater Mediterranean region.

As of today, they have 288 survey projects in their spatially-searchable database. The interface is a bit clunky though, and relies on popups, which my browser consistently shuts down, despite me telling it not too. Platial and my BiblioCartography also have the advantage of allowing others to embed the maps in their own applications. If I get around to it, I might incorporate the MAGIS inventory.

BiblioCartography

In my research, I have often wished to know what kinds of archaeological projects were going on in a given region. This usually involved a bibliographical search on various names describing the region or place names I know within the region. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I know the name of the principle researcher synonymous with the region’s archaeology, and can search for that person’s published works.

But what if I don’t know these things? What if research in an area has yet to be published? It can sometimes be an extremely frustrating process. Wouldn’t it be better if you could just zoom in on a map of the region, and discover who is working there, and the relevant publications?

Problems should be solved by those who see them, and so, I have created just such an annotated map for archaeologists using the tools of platial.com

The map lives over on the side of this blog. I have created a sample annotation for how I think it will work: I have located a site that I have worked on (Forum Novum), provided links to relevant webpages describing the project, and included a small bibliography of published works relevant to that site. Marking a new site is a simple point-and-click process. You too may create annotations by using the buttons underneath the map. You can embed the map in your own website – and I’d be enormously pleased if you did!

I would suggest using the following format when you describe a site, because this will allow for more effective searching of the map:

Site name, site type

Links to major relevant website(s)

Names of principle investigators (which could be included in the tags)

Relevant bibliography