Does your organization provide services in the community regularly? Do you have regular routes of sites to visit: neighborhood elderly, community centers, or even regular errand runs? There are many situations when a local nonprofit or community organization needs to plan a logical route between multiple locations in a city or region. But what's the most efficient route when you have several - or a dozen - sites to visit?
In the computer science world, this is a classic computational challenge that programmers have long studied, referred to as the "traveling salesman problem" because of its original context: given the distances between each city, what is the most efficient route between a number of cities, so that you visit each city once and only once?
OpenGeo is the maker of the OpenGeo Suite, an enterprise GIS/web stack based on the official standard products of the Open Geospatial Consortium. OGS contains Open Layers, PostGIS, GeoServer, and more.
In addition to the commercial version, a "community edition" is available with only community support available. This isn't just click-and-point Google Maps, but for those people looking for a robust, full-featured, open source GIS stack, OpenGeo Community is a great choice.
MAPresso is a free Java-based utility for creating and displaying cartograms and choropleths, two types of maps that nonprofits can use to visualize their data. Although importing your data into MAPresso isn't the simplest procedure in the world, the resulting maps offer a variety of analytical and aesthetic tools suitable for creating powerful and dynamic maps.
In last week's article about cartograms, we discussed one type of thematic map (a map that displays a theme, such as poverty statistics or disease infection rates). This week, we'll look at some free programs to make choropleths - thematic maps that preserve distance and shape, but use colors or patterns to differentiate between different regions with different values.
Most of the maps we use look familiar to us: for instance, most Americans can recognize the shape of the continental United States whether it's appearing on a weather map or in a newspaper article about the economy. Sometimes, however, ordinary maps depicting geographic area aren't the most useful method of visualizing our information.
Erek Dyskant submitted his Census Data Explorer project as part of the Sunlight Labs "Apps for America" challenge. While only a few layers (poverty and race) are available so far, this seems to be a relatively fast browser for visualizing census data at the tract or neighborhood level. It appears to be using OpenLayers and Google Maps, and of course the data comes from the Census Bureau. Good luck, Erek!