Today we're announcing a new cartography and storytelling project called Chesapeake Bay Grasses with the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), a partnership of federal, state, non-profit organizations and academic institutions dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Bay. Stamen has been working with the CBP to develop a visual story about the health of the Bay, based on a ton of scientific data that has been collected over the last 40 years or so.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. (An estuary is a body of water where fresh and salt water mix.) It's about 200 miles long, with a total surface area of about 4,480 square miles, an average depth of about 21 feet, and the Bay and its tributaries have a shoreline longer than the entire U.S. west coast. Thanks to its watermen, the Bay produces about 500 million pounds of seafood per year, despite increasing pollution levels. You can read lots more interesting facts and figures on the Chesapeake Bay Program website.
Here's a (west-facing) map of what it looked like in the 1600s.
And a more detailed view of the Bay created in 1840 by Fielding Lucas Jr. in Baltimore:
As you can see, humans have been interested in the Bay for ages. In addition to the fisherpeople, citizens and pirates (!) that live or have lived on its shallow waters, there is also a ton of scientific research going on, much of which is lead by the CBP. The Bay is home to some 80,000 acres of bay grasses, and bay grass density over time is a great indicator of the overall health of the system. We worked with CBP and, in particular, Dr. Robert Orth from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to create a map that helps show grass density across the Bay from 1984-2012. There's a general challenge for scientists around the world to mine their gigantic research datasets for insight and stories, and this project is a first round at help the CBP do that.
Knowing that the project was focussed on a body of water, and not the land ended up being a strong influence on the cartography we designed. But first, we had to make sure we could "operate" the remarkably comprehensive bathymetry data that CBP has. Here are a few of Seth's first drawings, where we were trying to work out why there were odd "water-y alien crop circles" appearing in the middle of the bay:
Turns out that the alien-y circles are probably data artifacts (dartifacts?) from a long-term Bay soundings dataset that had been interpolated into a raster. Nathaniel ended up fixing this more or less by hand, cutting and pasting non-alien pieces back into the larger picture.
In addition to a bunch of public datasets online at ftp://ftp.chesapeakebay.net, CBP partner, NOAA also has a selection of bathymetry datas available, if you're interested to experiment with it.
Here are some highlights of the bathymetry:
We gave the roads a very light-handed treatment because the water is the main feature of the map. There are enough roads to help locals find their way, and we labelled only a few of the major cities in the area, again to help people orient themselves, but never to overwhelm the water.
Tangier Island has been inhabited for years and years by fishermen and women. Crabs grow happily in the shallows around the islands, and you can see by comparing year on year, that the bay grasses where the crabs frolic have covered the area for the last 20 or so years. Dr. Orth explained it like this:
Tangier Island is home to one of the biggest grass beds in the Chesapeake Bay, and many island residents continue to make their livelihoods fishing and crabbing among the eelgrass and widgeongrass that grows here. While both of these species are typically found in high-salinity areas, they continue to thrive in the medium to low salinity of the region.
We're excited that the CBP now host the tiles themselves, and look forward to seeing this bathymetry used to help tell other stories with their data into the future.
By Nathaniel, cross posted from http://kelsocartography.com/
I am proud to announce the immediate availability of Natural Earth 2.0.0!
The 2.0.0 release focuses on 7 major areas and is available to download today à la carte at NaturalEarthData.
ZIP combo downloads of all vectors: SHP (279 mb) or SQLite (222 mb) or QuickStart kit for ArcMap and QGIS (165 mb).
- Economic geography: adds global roads, railroads, ports, airports, and time zones to show how people are interconnected and goods route (read Richard Florida on airports, full legal document about time zones and international date line shifts, and background on the E-Road network).
- Remastered geometries: fixes topological errors at 1:10 to 1:1,000 scales in the basic coastline, ocean, land, admin-0, and admin-1 related themes for files in the the 1:10m scaleset. By removing self-intersections, sliver polygons, and adjusting offset polygons, Natural Earth imports into more GIS software (like PostGIS) and will be easier to maintain. The coastline is adjusted to better conform to ~1:3,000,000 satellite imagery. Because of all these changes, some raster themes are also updated. Land, ocean, and minor islands all build topologically by scripting ingredients, as do the admin-0 and admin-1 cultural themes.
- Introduce Gray Earth rasters. Worldwide terrain depicted monochromatically in shades of gray. It combines shaded relief and regionally adjusted hypsography that emphasizes both high mountains and the micro terrain found in lowlands. View new raster »
- New file name and field name schemas. Full adoption of ne_10m_theme_name.shp file names with `ne_` prefix to allow better import into GeoDB and PostGIS storage, lowercase field (column) names instead of MiXeD and UPPER cased names, and use of consistent `name` field (versus name1).
- Address user submitted bug reports, ~25 since the 1.4 release, and earlier.
- Moved to Github for the backend versioned file management and coordination. Includes scripts to package updates and auto-create derived themes. View Natural Earth Vector on Github »
- Adopt semantic versioning. Know, by theme, the level of effort needed to update your maps when Natural Earth data updates are released. Read more about Natural Earth versioning »
Other notable changes:
All themes now include README and VERSION files. The admin-0 attributes have more veracity and now includes nested disputed areas (was a sidecar). Adds continent, region, subregion codes. Adds versions of country and admin-1 without boundary lakes. All places and parts of places have population and GDP estimates. The populated places pop_max and pop_min attributes are now fully built out for all records (pop max is for the metropolitan area, pop_min is for the incorporated city of the same name). populated places now include rank_max and rank_min for simple town size grading. All instances of name1 have been changed to name, name to name, name2 to name_alt. Vertexes were added to many themes to allow them to project into conics smoothly (they’re back!). All field (column) names are now generally in the order of: scalerank, featurecla, name, name_alt, natscale, labelrank, *.
Many thanks to the individuals who contributed over the last year of development: Tom, Nathaniel, Alex Tait, Hans van der Maarel, Scott Zillmer, Mike Migurski, Daniel Huffman, Xan Gregg, Peter Bispham, Drew Noakes, Miguel Angel Vilela, Matthew Toro, Kevin Pickell, Shawn Allen, Robert Coup, Iain, Leo, and more! Thanks also to Stamen
thru the Knight Foundation
Citytracking grant for sponsoring a portion of this work including remastering geometries for better PostGIS import, the move to Github, and adopting semantic versioning.
Over 225 files have been updated in Natural Earth 2.0.0. Abbreviated listing below.
Full changelog is available on Github »
- UPDATED: NE_ADMIN_0 - Updated for South Sudan, map colors (now with 7, 8, 9 and 13 options), population figures, removed () from notes, and more. note: diffs between sov, adm0, map units, map subunits, and new breakaways are all calculated on the a3 codes now, no longer mix of names and a3 codes. Added and split note_adm0 and note_brk to note which countries are parts of which sovereignties and who’s breaking away or disputing. One spurious “county” feature code fixed to “country” (finland). Added labelrank on all. Added new mapcolors (7, 8, 9 and old 13). Includes new detail on Caribbean Netherlands map unit. Adds more detail to Bhutan disputed areas. Now includes continent codes, and future region code placeholder columns. Added name_len to know when to abbreviate labels. Added label ranks.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_ADMIN_0_BOUNDARY_LINES_LAND - Minor updates to alignment of boundary lines (and topology fixes), additional coding to allow official US gov’t view of same. better disputed coding, including Kosovo. Densified vertex along lines to allow smooth projection into conics. Moved Omani exclave Madha to correct location. Adds left and right labels and codes. Fixes: N96NSYPAPV, ZQNTN5VGDD, Z8ZYYUQZVS.
- UPDATED: NE_50M_ADMIN_1_STATES_PROVINCES_SHP – Added some new ISO coding, other minor changes. Fixes topology errors. Adds admin-1 for brazil and australia. Uses same coding as 10m files. Derived from new scale rank version.
- **NEW**: NE_10M_ADMIN_0_ANTARCTICA_CLAIMS – Although countries have paused their claims to the southernmost continent, they haven’t suspended them. Thanks, Hans!
- **NEW**: NE_10M_ADMIN_0_ANTARCTICA_CLAIM_LIMIT_LINES – Although countries have paused their claims to the southernmost continent, they haven’t suspended them. Thanks, Hans!
- UPDATED: NE_10M_POPULATED_PLACES – A couple name corrections (Morelia, Mexico spelling fixed. Mazatlan, Mexico spelling fixed. Clarified confusion around Tabatinga / Leticia on the Colombian / Brazilian border. On the Brazil / Bolivia border, clarified Brasileia / Cobija. Fixed spelling of Shuozhou, China), many population max values, mostly in China, India, rift valley (Africa), Nigeria, and other countries in east Asia, but some elsewhere. Made sure cities in Switzerland are coded admin-0 of CH and China are CN. Moved Amundsen Base to 176° so it’s in the -12 timezone. Also moved Peter I Island. Vatican City is also moved to be contained by it’s admin-0 polygon. Same for San Marino. Added a poprank column with 0 to 14 numerical classes. Deleted spurious Extra Eureka town in Canada near Greenland. Delete duplicate town Urengoy in RUS, rename the real one Novy Urengoy. Fixes: 4SUAZ7BB49, D459XT1Z6Y.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_COASTLINE – Better matches modern satellite imagery to zoom 8-ish. The earlier coastline could have been several kilometers off (like in Gibraltar). Several large new islands added. Includes densified vertex along lines to allow smooth projection into conics.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_RIVERS_LAKE_CENTERLINES – See changelog for ne_10m_rivers_lake_centerlines_scale_ranks for details.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_RIVERS_LAKE_CENTERLINES_SCALE_RANKS – Updated river names, few new rivers, splits. added river connector in Sweden between lake near Stockholm and Baltic Sea. Fixes in France and Netherlands. Fixes Mackenzie river at it’s confluence with Dawson river in Australia. Names the Mahakam in Borneo (Rivernum 544). Changes scalerank on Nelson river in Canada. Fixes: SHAWNZQJ3B, 5J47B13PJ7, W9X539LBUT, 35YLBL2W9Z.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_RIVERS_LAKE_CENTERLINES_NORTH_AMERICA_SUPPLEMENT – Updated river names, few new rivers, splits. Fixes: SHAWNZQJ3B, 5J47B13PJ7.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_RIVERS_LAKE_CENTERLINES_EUROPE_SUPPLEMENT – Updated river names, few new rivers, splits. fixed topology errors. Fixes: SHAWNZQJ3B.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_LAKES – Removed major lake groupings (Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, etc) to geography label areas instead. Title cased the feature class values. Added Swedish lake near Stockholm (had been extension of Baltic Sea in ocean theme). Fixed topology errors. Fixed a few reservoir and salt lake codes (thanks Craig!).
- UPDATED: NE_10M_LAKES_NORTH_AMERICA_SUPPLEMENT – Name1 have been changed to name, name to name, name2 to name_alt. Fixes 4VA9P9UGQE.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_GEOGRAPHIC_LINES – New int’l date line, thanks Alex! Also densified linework for smoother projection into conics.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_LAND – A dissolved version of the original 1.x file, now renamed “ne_10m_land_scale_rank”, see that changelog for full details. Fixes XAWXTN54GT.
- **NEW**: NE_10M_LAND_SCALE_RANKS – Renamed our original land file to this. Incorporates new coastline. Includes densified vertex along lines to allow smooth projection into conics. Fixes XAWXTN54GT.
- UPDATED: NE_10M_OCEAN – A dissolved version of the original 1.x file, now renamed “ne_10m_ocean_scale_rank”, see that changelog for full details. Fixes XAWXTN54GT.
- **NEW**: NE_10M_OCEAN_SCALE_RANKS – Renamed our original ocean file to this. Incorporates new coastline. Removed Swedish lake near Stockholm (had been extension of Baltic Sea in ocean theme) to lakes layer. Incorporates new coastline. Includes densified vertex along lines to allow smooth projection into conics. Fixes XAWXTN54GT.
We've launched a new project for PMC, a consulting firm that advises municipalities on things like transit policy and energy use. Energy Efficiency in San Gabriel Valley looks at a variety of cities in southern California and reports how much electricity and natural gas people used, how far they drove, how much waste they generated, and other metrics. We compare each city to the others in the Valley, to LA and SoCal as a whole when we can, and plot these metrics on an interactive map and series of charts below. It works best in Google Chrome, as PMC's initial use for the project is a conference on energy efficiency and climate change, held last week in Monrovia.
We're using terrain background tiles, with terrain-lines overlaid), for the base maps. The outlines are loosely based on the municipality boundaries, and fill up and empty out based on whatever metric's being compared. La Cañada, Flintridge and Irwindale have the highest Vehicle Miles Traveled counts, and we think this is because they're furthest away from the center of the Valley:
Measuring like this shows outliers pretty clearly. "Rock quarries dominate the small community of Irwindale, but the city is planning to attract more diverse land uses as some of the mines begin to close," and you can see this reflected in the Waste per Job statistics for that city. It also has many more jobs than it does residents, by about 13 to 1.
Further down on the page, the whole site is clickable, sortable, and otherwise interactive. Selecting a stat down below pivots all the rest of the data, so every location becomes a potential jumping off point for more comparisons.
Compare the more industrial cities to largely residential ones, and the wealthier cities start to emerge, like Bradbury. With the smallest population, but highest residential electricity use, larger homes are implied.
Or, you can infer that La Puente is fairly "self-reliant", and people tend to stay nearby, since they travel the least:
The editorial is pretty terrific as well: who knew that Baldwin Park is the home of the first Drive-In restaurant in California (In-N-Out), and the best performing city in the Residential Gas category?
Stamen alum Sha Hwang and I shared a stage last night at Arkitektura's Design Assembly in their lovely Soma showroom. Besides the obvious awesomeness of sharing a stage with Sha (whose work at Trulia is up there with the best), it's always fun to talk to an audience of designers; their focus on how things look and the kinds of questions they ask bring a certain kind of energy. I also feel like I can let my hair down a bit (what's left of it), talk about the cultural aspects of what the studio does and explore some new, not-entirely-fleshed out ideas.
One of the ways I've been tricking myself into thinking new thoughts is to look at writings about other forms of expression and substitute the medium that's being discussed—painting, photography, architecture etc.—and replacing that with "data visualization." So if you take a look at what Group f/64 (Ansel Adams' cohort) said about photography:
"The members of Group f/64 believe that photography, as an art form, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself."
and drop "data visualization" in there:
"The members of Stamen believe that data visualization, as medium, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the data visualization medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself."
you wind up with some things to consider that we can toss into the mix of data visualization manifestos and what all this work is "for." Who would take seriously a manifesto about what photography if "for" that was this restrictive now? It's a way to jump the conversation into a more interesting place and start to anticipate a world where these kinds of visualizations are as common as photographs are now; maybe more so.
Another fun one is "fashion." I've been talking about with Ben Cerveny and others for a while now about the idea that Stamen's approach to mapping and data visualization is more like that of a fashion house than like a graphic design studio or a web development shop. Fashion, far from being superficial fluff on top of real culture, in this view is is highly technical (the Gaultier show at the de Young convinced me of this), an endeavor where innovation and new material is key, and is deeply embedded in and often leading aspects of culture.
And then Paola Antonelli asked, on Twitter, where a phrase in the talk came from:
@enjalot @stamen: uh? intriguing statement! pls explain?... "Data visualization will be ephemeral, dangerous and unfair"— Paola Antonelli (@curiousoctopus) September 27, 2012
So here are the slides:
Looks like I'm going to need some more rings, and maybe some better shades...but I haven't seen Lagerfeld with a better cummerbund.
A new installment in our continuing study of Bay Area infrastructure is live, at http://stamen.com/zero1. Some early coverage of the project here and here.
We've mapped the Bay Area's crime and taxis before, but in each case a source of data was readily available for the taking. In this case, we decided to try something different: going out into the world and gathering the data ourselves. We hired bicycle messengers and others to follow the various buses that ferry tech workers from their homes in San Francisco to their campuses down in the Valley (an arrangement that inspires mixed feelings among city dwellers) and to count the people getting on and off them. We started with the locations for bus stops available on public sites like Foursquare, and used Field Papers, an open source paper/mapping project developed earlier this year with Caerus Associates, for the physical mapping.
The context of the Biennial, whose theme is "Seeking Silicon Valley," seemed like a good chance to address the question of how the relationship between the Valley and its surroundings is evolving. This latest cycle of tech investment is spread out more broadly than the last one, leading some people to the conclusion that "...the distinction between Silicon Valley and San Francisco has all but disappeared. It is us, and we are it." I think the relationship is more complicated and dynamic than that (and I've been thinking about this for some time now); my hope for this piece is that it serves as an object to think with about the relationship between these quite different kinds of urban spaces and how we want to see that develop.
The exhibition is up until December 8 at the Zero1 Garage in downtown San Jose, and we'll be hosting and participating in some events around it in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Fundamental shifts are underway in the relationship between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
Historically, workers have lived in residential suburbs while commuting to work in the city. For Silicon Valley, however, the situation is reversed: many of the largest technology companies are based in suburbs, but look to recruit younger knowledge workers who are more likely to dwell in the city.
An alternate transportation network of private buses—fully equipped with wifi—thus threads daily through San Francisco, picking up workers at unmarked bus stops (though many coexist in digital space), carrying them southward via the commuter lanes of the 101 and 280 freeways, and eventually delivers them to their campuses.
What does this flow tell us about Silicon Valley, and the City it feeds?
Today we launched "Mapping the World's Friendships," a project visualizing the degree of interconnectedness between Facebook's hundreds of millions of members as part of Facebook's new Stories initiative.
Countries are sorted by a combination of how many Facebook friendships there are between countries, and the total number of Facebook friendships there are in that country. Turns out this number can tell you some pretty interesting things about not just where a country is now, but where it's been. The Marshall Islands shows strong results in the immediate geographic area—Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji—but the number one result is to the United States, over 4600 miles away, since the islands were occupied by the United States until 1986:
The U.S. occupied the Marshall Islands from 1944 until 1986, and 10 percent of the islands' residents hail from the U.S. The top destination for Marshallese immigrants is the United States, where they mostly reside in Hawaii, Oregon, California and Arkansas.
Coloring the circles by the predominant language spoken there (the example above has them colored by which continent they're on, for clarity) provides another kind of insight. Clicking on Haiti makes it "easy to explore French colonization in this view, since you can see at a glance which countries speak primarily French."
We get a similar kind of grouping between Peru, Argentina and Spain, which of course makes sense because yum, paella:
The relationship between Angola and Portugal, on the other hand, needs a little more digging to make sense:
"With the economic downturn in Europe at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, Angola became Portugal's lead export market. As many Portuguese companies shifted operation centers, Angola saw a wave of of Portuguese immigration with more than 23,000 immigrants in 2009—a substantial change from just 156 Portuguese immigrants in 2006."
And the one that really jumped out at us as being much more about recent geopolitical events than any long-standing cultural or linguistic affinities was the tight link between Sweden and Iraq:
Sweden has taken in more Iraqi refugees than the United States. One town alone, Södertälje, dubbed "Little Baghdad", has accepted 6,000 Iraqis since 2003.
We've just completed a mapping/data visualization project for One.org, the watchdog group that tracks the G8 and EU's spending commitments to Africa. The site represents each member country as a flag-filled circle, sized according to the relative size of that country's contribution. We track and display four variables for each country: percentage of total income, total dollar amount, amount to sub-Saharan Africa, and per-capita amounts. It's been interesting to spend time exploring the different aspects of this: from a amount given per-capita perspective Norway blows everyone else out of the water, but from a total dollars point of view they're actually quite small. The Norwegians, it appears, are generous, but poor. The urls change too as you interact with the piece, so if you want, say, to link to dollar amounts in 2005 you're all good.
Two things about the project:
- It was pretty strange working on a site where the client's name is "One." Eventually it got too weird to say "you've got a call with One at three" or "One just wants one more thing" so eventually we started calling the project "Garth" since that's who we were talking with most of the time.
- This was the first time we've worked with the excellent design team at Mule Design and I can't say enough good about them or recommend them strongly enough; what a lovely and professional bunch of people. Thanks Mule!
Sometimes I wish I could be as disciplined as my friends at Berg, who've been faithfully writing up weeknotes rain or shine for 308 weeks now. These days it's a struggle to even participate in all the things that are going on around the studio, much less write about it. In my head sometimes we're still just a couple guys sitting in a room smoking cigarettes and staying up until five in the morning [really]. The reality is that we've been up at around the ten-person mark for a couple of years now, almost half of us are women, I quit smoking 2 years ago, and these days I'm much more likely to see 5 in the morning by waking up that early than by staying up that late! In any event it's Friday afternoon and I didn't want to let another week go by without talking about at least some of the work that's been going on, so:
We're doing a pile of thinking about the background tiles that are the foundation of most of the maps that people are working with on line today. There's a ton of room to play here. For a little context, one of the earliest experiments with embedding information into these background images we did was with a model of San Francisco provided to us by SOM a while back. The first render was a fairly conventional one, a grayscale view with shadows and so forth:
In the second render, you take the block and lot number of each building, and use those to generate different colors for the buildings:
When you overlay the first (image) on top of the second (data), you can do this kind of thing:
Selectively blurring and unblurring complex shapes on the fly, in the browser. And since you know the logic you used to generate the background color from the block and lot number, you can extrapolate back out from the color to the lot number, and provide links to the City Assessor's records for those buildings, without having to send all that data down the wire. Which is kind of cool. We've used this in a couple of client projects over the years, and are currently working on a mapping project that's going to rely on this kind of thing in a pretty big way.
I mention all of this by way of segue into the problem that starts to come up when you start wanting to do this for the whole world. It takes about 360 billion tiles to cover the whole world down to zoom level 20. Which is alot, especially considering that most of them are in the ocean.
So here are some lovely things that Aaron's been working on, in part to find a way to more easily limit the areas that the tiles have to get drawn for:
Each continent gets a set number of discontinuous shapes that it's allowed to be made up of, and depending on the number of those that are allowed (the second image allows alot more than the first), you can start to generate coastlines that designate areas where you probably don't need to render tiles at very zoomed in levels. Plus, as is usual with Aaron's stuff, it's fun to look at.
Well, it's been a few years since I've needed to kick a coconut into all the corners of a new space (to absorb any potential bad juju, naturally) before moving in, but: here we go again!
The capable and strapping men at Bay City Movers have just spent about 9 hours on Tuesday loading all our stuff into a truck and moving it about 250 feet down the street to our new digs, at 2017 Mission St., Suite 300, in San Francisco. We can literally see the old studio out the windows of the new studio, and vise versa—so in geographical terms it's not such a big move, but the difference in the quality of the space is like night and day, the difference between this (and you shoulda seen it way back when):
It's a lot bigger than our old space, so we've spent the last couple of days rattling around the hallways and things are a bit chaotic, and in the case of the plant room/solarium, wonderfully so:
And the sunsets in the corner meeting room sure are lovely:
(all photos by Sha Hwang (who still owes me his bio), except the top one)
In some ways it's a shame to move now—Google just literally put Stamen on the map in their latest design update:
Sadly, it's at our old location. If only there were some way that people could update our location on a map...
Well, the Web 2.0 Expo is here in San Francisco this week, extending its delightfully O'Reillyesque tentacles into every nook and cranny of town—including a takeover of South Park—epicenter of the first round of Internet hilarity back in the late '90s. The town is full of nerds and marketing types alike, City Hall is all lit up, and you can't go near SOMA without tripping over all the discarded conference badges.
Stamen's part in these shenanigans was played by partner Mike Migurski, who, along with Twitter engineer Alex Payne, presented Design Your API: Learnings from Twitter and Stamen. Mike's got a post up about the talk, Matt McAlister has provided a nice writeup, as has Eric Nguyen at Mindtangle.
Aside from the tickle I get at seeing "Twitter and Stamen" on the marquee, the thing about this that makes me happy is that there seems to be a growing openness to the idea that it's the way things fit together that matters online—that it's all well and good to have an excellent site, but if people can't quickly and easily access the data on their own terms, you'll only be able to involve them so far. And I love that people are responding well to the idea that the simple Excel spreadsheets that Crimespotting makes available are just as important and useful for making data about cities available as the more complex APIs that projects like Cabspotting or Diggmake available.
Alex and Mike put their presentation up on Slideshare; you can get a sense of what they talked about below.