Map | Photo | Write is now a Nevada ESB!

It has been awhile since I have been back to update my blog. But it is hard to follow St. Thomas!

Exciting news: I'm an ESB!

What is an ESB?

It means Map | Photo | Write is now a certified Nevada Emerging Small Business

Just one more reason to love Nevada, its almost like they created a small business category just for only the coolest new businesses out this one!

Thanks Nevada!

I just discovered 500px

See you never!

Help! I Need a Photo Intervention...

The truth is, I'm better at taking photos than dealing with them afterward. I'm all about the thrill, the hunt...the chase. Once its up on Instagram I kind of forget about it and figure if I need it again I have it all stored, somewhere..........

My method is a little crazy in that, like I said I tend to prefer taking the pictures to figuring out what to do with them -- but its kind of like my current situation, temporary until I have better equipment, something I will always get around to. It's just that my "situation" has lasted longer than I thought, even my couch, desk and bed are still in storage. Its hard to think about trite things like managing my photos better, though the librarian in me is deeply offended enough to write this post and admit my sin and ask for your help. I have already turned the corner but first let me confess...

It goes something like this -- I take a trillion photos one day, I excitedly pick out 25 that I like on my way home, at the first place I can find internet and get a giant diet coke and cheeseburger -- usually the first sign of life along some interstate where I have competing needs for a shower/food/sleep too but can't wait to share those photos! So, I quickly pick a few but fail to scroll through EVERY SINGLE image I took, which gets kind of ridiculous but I can't help myself (see "Why I Hike Alone"). I tell myself I will sift through all the pictures when I get home and upload them to some place safe. I have done that once or twice. It takes forever! Not glamorous work like traipsing around Zion or Extraterrestrial Highway!  If the planets alilgn somehow the photos on my phone get uploaded to Flickr (the lucky ones, which I convince myself were the good ones anyway) and eventually they get deleted to make more space on my phone. The worst fate of all is when I run out of space on my data card in my camera and I may or may not have deleted hundreds of thousands of photos I never backed up in the mad dash to capture a new rainbow some place new. I'm really bad at this. I kind of miss film. In fact I have some I still  need to develop, from 2011. I think it will be a fun surprise, if I can find it. 


So I'm trying to change. Even given my not so great photo maintenance habits, I have over 20,000 images on Flickr alone....that's JUST the stuff that survived...the stuff that was transferred to my phone at some point, and was not deleted before or after a random Flickr upload. I have been on Flickr since April of 2015. Let's not talk about pre-April 2015.  Hopefully my best photos have some kind of evolutionary self-selective behavior or I'm screwed. 

I tried to fix some of this today. I created a "public" album on Flickr where I started moving some of what I think are my best "moments" anyway, I haven't been able to go back through with a finer comb yet to really narrow down the best of the best (that still exist...dammit).

Sadly...or as fate would have it-- Squarespace only allows me to pull in 20 images from Flickr if I want to use it as an album, which in fact I do. I like that Flickr displays closer to a full resolution photo experience for your viewing pleasure and I don't have to resize everything. I feel this will be a better platform if I do want to start selling some of my best photos. I'm nervous about that. I'm not some kid on the internet wanting to sell you crappy pixelated photos you print yourself. Only the best my friends. And really, I still don't believe people actually buy photos on the internet, so really I just want to make a nice gallery. 

So, there is no way to prioritize photos from Flickr into a new page here. It just takes the first 20 public photos it can find in your photo stream. You can see what I mean here, with this not yet linked page I'm putting together, only these are not the photos I want to showcase. But this leaves me with an interesting challenge, if I open a new Flickr account just for this. HOW DO I PICK 20 PHOTOS?!? I will do my best. 

But if you want to help me, I'd love it if you would tell me your favorite photo of mine either on Instagram or Flickr (the public ones, yeah so far that is 1500 out of 20000 ;) makes you wonder huh :)


As for Flickr, I haven't been able to move everything into the "Favorites" yet and I know some may be partial to Angel's Landing or Neon too so I won't discriminate if you are inclined to help me out, here is a link to my  Flickr Albums 

I should add, I prefer a natural looking image (like, something you would see if you were to go to the same place I did, though I do try to capture more exceptional moments in those places, or things I find) that said, my instagram photos may be more edited/stylized where my Flickr photos will tend to be more in their raw format (so imagine the possibilities!!) some of my flickr photos may be edited. But not most. 

I wish I knew how to create a poll here, I'd try to at least make it easier. My original plan was to narrow it down to something like 3-5 photos and I guess I figured I could buy some time by throwing this out there. I appreciate your concern for my photos :) 

You are Going to Love Me, Vegas... and Map Review No. 1

I love Vegas. For so many reasons and I still need to write about ALL those reasons...

Today I'm a bit more focused on a couple of smaller possibly less apparent factors to outsiders (and, technically I'm really still what I'd call an outsider just probably more knowledgeable than the average person who only visits and has all the Vegas stereotypes in their head)

I love that it still in many ways feels like the "wild west" it is so unique compared to just about every other US city (I'd guess only other places in Nevada like Reno or Laughlin are even similar -- Atlantic City maybe sorta/kinda but only in the "casino tourism" sense)

In a way that California used to embody but now seems so bogged down in cost of living issues, taxes and a divide by the rich and poor, laws...

Nevada is like the wild cousin (I mean, expelled from the family kind of wild and proud of it!) In some ways its super advanced (things are easier to get done and so there are unique advances here that don't happen as much in other places) but its also like its still 1883 in some ways (I would not be terribly surprised to witness a duel in the street by warring outlaws, on horseback at this point)

Things are happening. They go up, and down. Ideas come and go. Businesses land in the boneyard far beyond their time. It occurs to me how unique it is to make a historical map where one of the oldest entries is from 1937 and one of the most iconic wasn't even built until the 1960's but its now "old school" Vegas and no one even knows "where" that place used to be, what address it was because its gone. It now exists only as piece of vintage art on another street (I'm speaking of the Hacienda Horse, if you must know)

I am not naïve. I know it is a harsh place, a harsh climate. Businesses come and go, in spectacular fashion. Why bother? BECAUSE YOU NEED ME.

And because I'm kind of a rebel too. I studied urban planning -- one of the original reasons I was drawn to Vegas was for all the reasons I was supposed to think it was so awful. I wanted to high five it for growing where it shouldn't exist and for not caring what those snooty types think of it  (who would "never live there" but would visit once or twice a year only to turn their nose up every time they leave about how "awful" it is). People do live here. It can be harsh. It can also be really, really cool. Like an experiment that ended up attracting -- yes some of the sort of low life (or disadvantaged really) types that came for the hookers and drugs and ended up on the streets doing just that in spectacularly ugly fashion... but it also attracts some very interesting independent types (I would put myself in that category :) and entertainers, outdoorsy types and there is more but lets put it this way -- if your grandparents chose to retire to Vegas over Phoenix I'm assuming they were cooler than your neighbors grandparents and you probably are too. But I'm getting off track here...

Given what I would describe (just based on my observations -- I've lived a lot of places and have studied a few things...) as both advanced-- in terms of business culture and yet still sort of 1890 (in terms of an educated populace lets face it, and a smaller population with a lot of transients) there are amazing things happening. But it seems to me an expertise and diversity in that expertise to really make things work well is lacking. There is a lot of spirit but given harsh realties of the climate, dependence on tourism, lack of educated population and stable population (though that seems to be changing...) this can all add to what seems to be an expectation -- that all good things will come to an end. Boom and Bust cycles.

I keep seeing more and more examples of this -- anyone familiar with Downtown Las Vegas and Zappos, Container Park and who follows that kind of stuff is probably getting what I'm talking about. It was super interesting to me from the start long before I even moved to California, it really gets to a lot of the questions I had even back in high school -- from sociology to urban planning -- Vegas is a like a lab to me where so many theories could be proven or disproven because it IS so different than Chicago, New York or LA.

I digress. I could obviously go on about this and I still have more to learn. I know I could and probably will fail here (it seems to be the attitude people go in with -- maybe I should not adopt it that readily!) But I'm not another new restaurant, boutique, crafty cocktail or beauty salon. I'm not a real estate agent, a drug dealer or hooker (yet!) or any of those other things there are arguably already enough of.

I make maps (which has become painfully obvious to me how important it is in a place that is constantly changing -- especially when non-map makers are making them). I am also relatively well educated in a place where the bar is relatively low for such things, meaning things I'm not even that educated in like business -- seem to be coming to me rather obviously. It's a boom and bust place. People go into business all the time without skills, vision or education. It kind of shows you "why not me" because anything seems possible.

Back to the maps. Tourists need them and businesses need them just to find each other! Now, GIS can be kind of a lofty thing -- I can make super advanced groundwater maps (predictive modeling). I could configure your servers. But I see a bigger need in Vegas and its much more simple. How do I get there? How do I get tourists to me?

There are in some cases people fulfilling that need. In many cases they should not be. But the spirit of this town is so encouraging that even those who should not, do. I can, so I should at least try.

Business case No. 1 - why Vegas needs an independent, skilled map-maker/GIS person/who is also good at other stuff like photos and writing, who is not already tied up working for the government or newspaper and too tired to help you (and probably lost anyway, looking at your map made by an "artist").

Downtown Pub Crawl Map, Made by: I have no idea and I'm sorry. But you should really add a source and credit to these kinds of things...

Sooo. Maybe not the best way to introduce myself if this hurts somebody's feelings. Truly, at first glance -- this is a really cool looking and informative document. It is certainly artistic, polished and professional looking. It's obvious no one's baby brother made this. It looks nice. It looks like it was made by someone who is probably pretty good with graphic design and those kinds of tools. They are probably very good at non-mappy things. And -- truly since I have no idea who made this or how informed they were of the event -- if they had all the info they really needed. So -- I really don't mean to use this as an opportunity to be critical of someone who did a great job with ambiguous info, etc. I just felt compelled to write this because we had so many issues last night trying to figure out what to do/where to go and this map was the center of it all -- I suspect there were issues overall with the planning of this event and it had more to do with that than this map maker. Still, it gives me a good opportunity to highlight why I think my skills are important to a growing, touristy place like Vegas :)

Ok -- so what is wrong with it? Let me expand on that...

1. First thing - the legend is on the flipside of the map. You have to turn it over to cross reference information -- important information about where you are supposed to go next (and if it matters if you go on a route or choose your own adventure -- it is NOT clear)

2. The symbols. Kind of cool looking -- hard to see, the food has some that look like fork and knife, the speakeasy's are lips -- the rest are numbers.. therein lies the problem. WTF does it mean? When are we supposed to go for food? Do the numbers mean anything? Do we visit the speakeasy at the end? I could probably guess but then...

3. Confusing details on the legend (Which is on the other side so you have to keep flipping it back and forth while trying to make sense of it) Not confused? Allow me to help you with that. Zero in on # 9-11 where exactly do I need to be at 9PM? Is the other stuff over at 9PM or midnight? Is Herbs & Rye a place or a drink?  Oh really, find #11 on the map then. Find #9 for that matter.

4. Confusing details once figured out, turned out to be actually false. This could be the fault of the organizers, not the map maker but I have to point out, that even though the map is confusing -- it became painfully clear that organizers/map person/bartenders/bar owners were not all equally in kahoots. For instance, check in was actually at Park, not Inspire if you already had a ticket. Worst part about that? Park is #2 on the list. We went there for our 2nd stop (walking past the check-in again) and went inside and showed the bartender our pub crawl punch card. He said "yeah, about that...we are not doing that. we didn't hear about it until 4pm today, sorry" and that was not the first time we got that kind of a response. Some other business were very much on the ball and where things were confusing, they made up for with politeness and a willingness to make up for the confusion. Some were not, obviously they missed out on the opportunity or didn't realize it. Worse -- the times were totally wrong. We were at Atomic Liquor well before midnight but were told we missed the shuttle to Velveteen Rabbit. We missed food at Carson Kitchen because it was after 9pm. When we made it to Gold Spike - no one had a clue what was going on and the bartenders told me to ask security about it, and they laughed at me. Finally, a bartender told us go outside where we found an elaborate food truck party/display and everyone was shutting down for the night. We had seen one shuttle around 12:00am on the dot in front of Gold Spike but given how much of the details were wrong -- we didn't plan to wait to see if there was another shuttle coming before 1am to take us to the after a mysterious location not on the map, with no clear indication of where we might find ourselves AFTER the after party....

5. What is that red thing? Is it a route? Funny cause the arrows are actually on the streets going off into oblivion like the after party and Velveteen Rabbit.

6. No source/credit info, I can't figure out who to be mad at. Is redbull responsible for this? A company that the event organizers worked with? Not sure.

7. That north arrow. I rest my case.

It is easy to be critical of something -- I know, especially after the fact and when you were not the one who did all the work on something. The creative and technical process can be very challenging -- this is certainly a lot better than nothing, and better than most and probably very good if the details really were that confusing and not communicated well to the establishments involved and their bar staff. I always see things I wish I'd done differently after I hit "publish" or "send" and sometimes unfortunately after they are published like this map -- and its terrible when someone just gave you the wrong details (in that case I might even leave source/credits off the map too, if I had a feeling I'd been given bad or confusing info!)

So - I have to give the designer the benefit of the doubt. Given things I can't really know -- here is what I would do differently (or at least try to given unknown variables).

Function over Style - I like cool maps as much as the next map nerd. But every time it is still more important to be as correct as possible than pretty. All maps lie somehow be it a projection thing (the earth isn't actually flat) or something more serious. Some are much more correct than others. Even if the details were all correct here, it is still too confusing for too many reasons. Style should be an add-on. Your first duty as a map maker is getting things as correct as possible (or using disclaimers or other methods to communicate what you are not sure about). Your next duty is to highlight the most important information in a way that makes the details easy to understand, and favors what is important to know. Some of the way I might do that? Below...

Scale - first off, the scale is not right for this map. Perhaps they were given a size, the map had to fit whatever size card it was on (it was about the size of a postcard) which almost forgives putting the legend on the back (though not quite) I would enlarge map area. I'd increase the scale to include all points on the map (Velveteen Rabbit and Herbs & Rye) if it was not possible to do without making the issues worse, I would instead include an overview map so you could see they were outside the immediate downtown area. For non-map nerds that's basically like how you see Hawaii in a box next to California on maps of the US. You know its not literally next to CA, but it is still on the map. One of the first things I said to my friend was "why do we need a shuttle? you can walk to everything" which was true, about everything on the map... for me to know about Velveteen Rabit and the after party at Herbs & Rye I had to flip the postcard over and use ALL KINDS of deductive reasoning skills (while drinking) read all the text and way too many things that a local might assume other locals know...

No ambiguous routing -  Sometimes its better to leave things out if they don't make sense. The red route does nothing to help anything and is in fact confusing. If I can't draw a route for you in a way that makes sense, I would rather communicate route in a different more effective way (that might have been a good use of text or symbols) if I can't communicate the route effectively its better to leave it out and let people figure out their own route based on a good map.

The Symbols. Just No - I have to say, the symbols are probably the biggest offense here. If you really know what you are doing you can have a map with only streets, street names, and symbols -- not drawn to scale or even that correctly and it will still make sense. The beauty of good map design is not always about what you include but what you don't. Less can really be more. You want to tell people where to go, sometimes that means it is better to limit unnecessary information. The problem with these symbols is the lack of consistency. On first glance its nice to look at. But when you think about actually communicating a message? Not so good. That's why maps have disclaimers. People use them to get places - and get lost. They can be dangerous tools which is why the map making job is so important, and why it really pays to have a trained, skilled person making maps for you. Symbols are probably the second most important on your map after the map itself. If you do it right you may not need a legend. But that's rare. This map needs a legend and it adds to the confusion of the labels rather than clearing it up. It mixes numbers with symbols, colors, routing -- it is kind of like talking to a crazy person who keeps changing the subject mid-sentence and you have to keep flipping the paper over to find the key -- to a foreign language. While drinking. The symbols must communicate a consistent message and when the subject changes, the heading should too in order to indicate what the new symbols mean (such as where the symbols changed from numbers to lips, and then how some of the numbers were not even on the map). This really drove me crazy, just ask my friend who was with me!

Text - Textual information can go a long way toward clearing up any confusion that is not obviously communicated via symbology or map -- that is its main job on a map. Here, the textual details added to the confusion (do we need to be somewhere at 9pm? what is happening at midnight? what about the velveteen rabbit?). If I were making this map and had to work with limited space -- I'd have put coherent details on the backside that explained the event, if there was a route or choose your own adventure, and information about the drinks and liquor. I would NOT waste space on the map itself with arrows pointing to drinks. That just confused eveything more! You need to put your most important info on the map. Text should be used to clarify, and I'd put that on the back so you would not have to flip the page for the most important information (where to go, how to get there, route.) I would add some text to the map itself only where totally necessary (such as an arrow, with text that says something about the Velveteen Rabbit and Herbs & Rye being located outside the map area).

Basemap - a good basemap can save a lot of this pain especially given the lack of space. My friend pulled out google maps on her phone more than once to actually get to two of the places. A map can be made more simple and elegant buy using only details that are needed (i.e. streets, labels, buildilngs, etc.) In this case a basemap including buildings or even imagery may have been helpful, it was a little too conceptual, but especially given the confusing information and symbols.

Legend - goes on the same page of the map - except in the rare case you don't need a legend. In this case you do. Front page. End of story.

Source/help info -   I admit sometimes I leave my name off a map if I have to do it for work but don't get to do it the way I think is right.  In this case, I would insist on including a phone number or website people could call or lookup for more details if they have questions, such as about the after party and shuttles -- as mentioned the details were actually wrong. Even if they were right we still had questions about the event.

Disclaimer - yeah it may read like I'm going down the list of traditional map elements but this map needs one. In this case I'd make it funny but clear. Don't sue me if you get drunk and lost while clutching this terrible map, this is just a suggestion of how you might like to do the pub crawl (or something of that nature) the "xyz" organization is not responsible for your bad decisions.

North Arrow - Look. We have discussed there are times you defer from the traditional map elements. Some maps (And great designers) can get away with not using a legend if the map is just that well done or simple. Sometimes, it doesn't need a title or text info. A disclaimer and source/credit is usually advisable though they get printed without them all the time.   A north arrow however, is one of the least offensive things to leave off a map after the neatline (I'm not even going there with the neatline -- there is way too much going on here that needs to be fixed, I don't even care. The post card ends and those arrows point off into the distance -- I'd remove the arrows at the ends of the streets and call it good, in terms of neatline).

But NO! North Arrow! This does not get off the hook. This is where I went from frustrated about this map to "this is going to be my first map review" (cause we really did miss a lot due to the lack of, or confusing info). There are things you can get away with leaving off a map. Heck, I'd even give you a pass for putting your legend on the back or on a second page if it was at least helpful.  But the North Arrow? You choose to include it and its not even standard north? WHAT!?!?!? Why not just leave it off? Or is that kind of the symbolic disclaimer?  Like, don't expect this thing to be right! I don't know Las Vegas well enough to know if that directional is actually correct (that north is pointing in whatever direction is shown there). It doesn't matter! Because it doesn't help with anything! It's a waste of space, a frustrating one. Could have told me something there about the fact that all the food places stopped serving at 9pm and/or given me a phone number to call about the ACTUAL shuttle times, not the ones reported on the next page.

Ok, once I did all that. I'd make it look decent. Maybe pretty. But I'd consider my work well done once everyone who paid to go to the event, left the event happy -- having visited all the businesses (or atleast it would have been clear and easy for them to be able to do so). It was a great event. My friend and I are both new in town and the places we did make it to (where the staff knew about the event) things worked out so well-- we talked a lot about how we knew some of these places existed and what a great way to sort of preview them all so we can make plans for the future. We were totally sincere. This was an excellent way for businessness to advertise here in Vegas (and I keep reading about people going out of business due to lack of patronage). From my viewpoint -- this map and the communications on it were an integral piece of whether or not that happened last night - patronage or lack of. In my opinion it was a huge opportunity lost for several businesses -- who probably don't even know how many people were out there wandering around...

So - I am sorry to be critical but I couldn't miss this opportunity to give you a real world example about why my skills, education and background is so badly needed in this neon jungle :)



Just Dropping This Here..

I'm pretty proud of what I accomplished in the last ...20 hours or so (considering I was sleeping for at least 4 of them and talking to my cat for at least 2)

Of course I had a little guidance from some documentation from the Maptime pages, leaflet, GitHub and friends who probably don't want to be associated with me so I won't name them.

But when I say help I mean speed reading through stuff I don't know much about. I mean yes, I know GIS and I used to do some coding but I haven't done much in awhile. In a few spots the learning curve was pretty steep -- especially as I focused more on putting a leaflet map in the header of this blog. It's there, actually but it doesn't show up very well because its http on an https page...anyway.

Srsly I'm late for a Geoff Tate concert. For real, you read that right. I've been playing with open source software and coding for the last 15 or so hours and now I'm on my way to a concert -- yes, that guy from Queensryche. And I'm late because I was doing this.

So, I will explain both tomorrow when I have more time (why what I did is mildly impressive or important and why I'm going to that concert...)

:) thank you everyone for your halp.

ps. I have also assembled my board of directors and that's what I really wanted to write about today but obviously my ideas are coming faster than my abilities to execute them (its gonna be good though.... stay tuned!)