Monday, September 29, 2008

Sneak Preview of GeoCommons Maker from FortiusOne

Sean Gorman from FortiusOne was kind enough to let me have a play with the new GeoCommons Maker application ahead of its upcoming release. I don't have time for a detailed review right now, but overall my first impressions of it are very good. Maker is their new product focused on enabling non-expert users to make nice maps. Map layers can be of three types - basic reference data, or chloropleth or graduated symbol thematic maps.

The following is a graduated symbol map showing number of Facebook users by city in the US.

Maker screen shot

This is an example of one of the map creation screens - the whole process has nice clear graphics which are well thought out to explain the process and options, with ways of getting more information when you want it.

Maker screenshot 2

I am a big fan of FortiusOne's vision of putting spatial analysis in the hands of people who are not geospatial specialists. There are still a lot of traditional GIS people who think the sky will fall in (people may draw invalid conclusions if they don't understand data accuracy, etc etc) if you let "untrained" people analyze geospatial data, but I think this is nonsense. I think the best analogy is the spreadsheet. Of course people can draw incorrect conclusions from any kind of data, geospatial or not, but in the great majority of cases this does not happen, and they discover useful insights. Spreadsheets let "untrained" people do useful analysis on all kinds of other data, and I think that FortiusOne is trying to democratize access to spatial analysis in the same way that the spreadsheet has done for non-spatial data. The benefits of having a much larger set of people able to do basic geospatial analysis are huge.

As I said above, I think that this first release looks great, and I look forward to seeing where they take this in the future. I understand that the public release of this will be coming soon.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, thanks for the review. I am curious to hear how Maker! compares to UMapper?

Peter Batty said...

Hi Andrei, I think that the focus of Maker is really pretty different from UMapper. Maker is primarily focused on creating thematic maps from existing datasets. It has no tools for interactively creating data like UMapper does, and doesn't have the range of imbedding options that you have. But it has very nice capabilities for simple spatial analysis and thematic display which I don't think you are so focused on.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Peter, I am looking forward to playing with Maker on October 1st.

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