Monday, January 6, 2014

First Draft of SCA Kingdoms of the Eastern US & Canada Interactive Map

Woohoo! The first draft of SCA Kingdoms of the Eastern US and Canada Interactive Map is done! (See the link to the right.)  Conceptually, this hasn't been the most difficult project to work on, but in practice, well, that's a story in itself.  Let's just say it was much more challenging and tedious than expected.  Anyway, the data have been uploaded, maps made, and results shared!  Huzzah! Now for the next steps.

So I worked on the project on and off over the past few months, but decided to finish it over the holidays, sans SCA events and work.  The last bit was to consolidate or dissolve ZIP/FSA (postal) codes (areas) to the local groups and add website and Facebook URLs.  It also took a bit of work to add in the coastal buffers (to minimize the complex geometry and maximize website performance).  It's at this point, I was feeling done with it.  "But wait, there's more!"

A few things needed to happen in order to share the mapping results.  First, the data needed to be uploaded to the ArcGIS Online website.  Without getting too detailed, there is a very specific method for uploading the data in a way that maps can be made.  From here, each map layer is configured for visibility, symbology, and pop-up information.  It's pretty quick once you've worked out the details of the process.  I also learned that these configurations can be saved as layers and reused in other online maps.  The process was repeated for each kingdom then compiled using the layer files in the SCA Kingdoms of the Eastern US and Canada Interactive Map.  Once all of this information was made public, I embedded the HTML code into the blog page, wrote an FAQ, and started to share the good word.  I finally have time to write about it.  =)

As I've shared the information with the other team members, I'm coming to realize what's next. At some point we'll need to consolidate our map information as well as prepare for the initial round of updates.  Hopefully edge-matching Kingdoms will go pretty well, but there will probably be some editing.  The updates should be interesting.  As far as I know, branch seneschals are responsible for maintaining the complete list of postal codes for their branch.  The problem is postal codes, and seneschals, change over time.  As new neighborhoods get built, postal routes change.  Often new ones are added and occasionally old ones are removed due to shrinking populations in rural areas.  Not to mention, changes in post office box locations and newly opened/closed businesses that get their own ZIP code (i.e. large corporations).  It's likely seneschals don't check or have the means to look for postal code changes in their areas.  While working on the project I also noted that many groups define their boarders based on counties, not postal codes.  This is problematic because postal codes can have more area outside their target county than in it.  In other cases, I found unclaimed postal codes.  Sometimes it's obvious which group a postal code belongs to, but not always.  I labelled them "Crown Lands" until branches and Kingdoms decide where to allocate them.  Needless to say, there will be corrections.  And as a by-product of this project, each Kingdom will get a complete list of regions, primary branches, subsidiary branches, and URLs for websites and Facebook pages.

This is certainly a big project. To date, I think I've put in 50 to 60 hours.  It hasn't been terribly difficult, just tedious organizing, sorting, standardizing, and configuring it all.  Database and GIS people are crazy.  ;-)