Scholarly Smackdown: StoryMap JS vs. Story Maps

In today’s very spatial Scholarly Smackdown post we are covering two popular mapping visualization products, Story Maps and StoryMap JS.Yes they both have “story” and “map” in the name and they both let you create interactive multimedia maps without needing a server. However, they are different products!

StoryMap JS

StoryMap JS, from the Knight Lab at Northwestern, is a simple tool for creating interactive maps and timelines for journalists and historians with limited technical experience.

One  example of a project on StoryMap JS is “Hockey, hip-hop, and other Green Line highlights” by Andy Sturdevant for the Minneapolis Post, which connects the stops of the Green Line train to historical and cultural sites of St. Paul and Minneapolis Minnesota.

StoryMap JS uses Google products and map software from OpenStreetMap.

Using the StoryMap JS editor, you create slides with uploaded or linked media within their template. You then search the map and select a location and the slide will connect with the selected point. You can embed your finished map into your website, but Google-based links can deteriorate over time! So save copies of all your files!

More advanced users will enjoy the Gigapixel mode which allows users to create exhibits around an uploaded image or a historic map.

Story Maps

Story maps is a custom map-based exhibit tool based on ArcGIS online.

My favorite example of a project on Story Maps is The Great New Zealand Road Trip by Andrew Douglas-Clifford, which makes me want to drop everything and go to New Zealand (and learn to drive). But honestly, I can spend all day looking at the different examples in the Story Maps Gallery.

Story Maps offers a greater number of ways to display stories than StoryMap JS, especially in the paid version. The paid version even includes a crowdsourced Story Map where you can incorporate content from respondents, such as their 2016 GIS Day Events map.

With a free non-commercial public ArcGIS Online account you can create a variety of types of maps. Although it does not appear there is to overlay a historical map, there is a comparison tool which could be used to show changes over time. In the free edition of this software you have to use images hosted elsewhere, such as in Google Photos. Story Maps are created through their wizard where you add links to photos/videos, followed by information about these objects, and then search and add the location. It is very easy to use and almost as easy as StoryMap JS. However, since this is a proprietary software there are limits to what you can do with the free account and perhaps worries about pricing and accessing materials at a later date.

Overall, can’t really say there’s a clear winner. If you need to tell a story with a map, both software do a fine job, StoryMap JS is in my totally unscientific opinion slightly easier to use, but we have workshops for Story Maps here at Scholarly Commons!  Either way you will be fine even with limited technical or map making experience.

If you are interested in learning more about data visualization, ArcGIS Story Maps, or geopatial data in general, check out these upcoming workshops here at Scholarly Commons, or contact our GIS expert, James Whitacre!

Finding the Right Data at the Scholarly Commons

As you probably know, February 13-17th is Love Your Data Week, an annual event that aims to help researchers take better care of their data. The theme for today — Thursday, February 16th — is finding the right data, a problem that almost all researchers will run into while doing their work at some point or another. And the Scholarly Commons is here to help you out! Here are a few ways that you can “find the right data” through the services we provide here at the Scholarly Commons.

Online resources

The University of Illinois subscribes to an almost countless number of online resources that you can find datasets and data files on. While it can be hard to figure out where to start, oftentimes, there will be a LibGuide that can help point you towards a few sources that you will find helpful. The Finding Numeric Data LibGuide specializes in data for the world, United States, and Illinois, and can generally be used for projects in the social sciences. If you’re looking for GIS data, you can head to the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) LibGuide. We even have an area where you can browse all of the Library’s LibGuides and see which guide will be of the most use to you.

Purchasing data

If you’ve found a dataset that you truly need, but cannot get it through one of the services UIUC subscribes to, you may be eligible for the 2017 Data Purchase Program. Researchers can submit an application which outlines their data needs, and the University Library may choose to purchase the data, and make it available for general use by the campus community. For more information, see the Data Purchase Program website, linked above.

Attending a Savvy Researcher workshop

Throughout the semester, the Scholarly Commons and other Library departments run Savvy Researcher workshops, which teach attendees various skills that will help them be better researchers. While many deal with finding or organizing data, here is a sampling of a few upcoming workshops that will deal directly with finding data: Finding and Organizing Primary Source Materials in DPLA, Advanced Text Mining Techniques with Python and HathiTrust Data, and GIS for Research II: GIS Research, Data Management, and Visualization. For the full schedule of Savvy Researcher workshops, head to the Savvy Researcher calendar. You can also get an idea of what’s going on with the Savvy Researcher workshops by looking at the #savvyresearcher on Twitter!

Making an appointment with an expert

A central part of the Scholarly Commons’ mission is to connect you to the people you need to get the help you need. If you’re looking for data help, take a gander at our Scholarly Commons Experts page and see if there is someone on staff who can help you find what you need. If you’re still not sure, don’t worry! You can always fill out a consultation request form, or email us, and we’ll help you get in touch with someone who can guide you.

Love and Big Data

Can big data help you find true love?

It’s Love Your Data Week, but did you know people have been using Big Data for to optimize their ability to find their soul mate with the power of data science! Wired Magazine profiled mathematician and data scientist Chris McKinlay in “How to Hack OkCupid“.There’s even a book spin-off from this! “Optimal Cupid”, which unfortunately is not at any nearby libraries.

But really, we know you’re all wondering, where can I learn the data science techniques needed to find “The One”, especially if I’m not a math genius?

ETHICS NOTE: WE DO NOT ENDORSE OR RECOMMEND TRYING TO CREATE SPYWARE, ESPECIALLY NOT ON COMPUTERS IN THE SPACE. WE ALSO DON’T GUARANTEE USING BIG DATA WILL HELP YOU FIND LOVE.

What did Chris McKinlay do?

Methods used:

  • Automating tasks, such as writing a python script to answer questions on OKCupid
  • Scraping data from dating websites
  • Surveying
  • Statistical analysis
  • Machine learning to figure out how to rank the importance of answers of questions
  • Bots to visit people’s pages
  • Actually talking to people in the real world!

Things we can help you with at Scholarly Commons:

Selected workshops and resources, come by the space to find more!

Whether you reach out to us by email, phone, or in-person our experts are ready to help with all of your questions and helping you make the most of your data! You might not find “The One” with our software tools, but we can definitely help you have a better relationship with your data!

Love Your Data Week 2017

The Scholarly Commons is excited to announce our participation in Love Your Data Week 2017. Taking place from February 13-17th, Love Your Data is an annual event that aims to “build a community to engage on topics related to research data management, sharing, preservation, reuse, and library-based research data services.” The 2017 theme is data quality.

Love Your Data Week takes place online, and you’ll find us posting content both on this blog (look out for our post on February 16th) and at our Twitter, @ScholCommons. We’ll be posting new content for each day of Love Your Data Week, so stay tuned! You can follow the wider conversation by looking at the hashtags #LYD17 and #loveyourdata on Twitter and elsewhere. You can also check out the University of Illinois Research Data Service’s Twitter @ILresearchdata for their Love Your Data Week content!

Each day of Love Your Data Week has a different theme. This year the themes are as follows:

  • Monday: Defining Data Quality
  • Tuesday: Documenting, Describing, Defining
  • Wednesday: Good Data Examples
  • Thursday: Finding the Right Data
  • Friday: Rescuing Unloved Data

Got something to say about data? Or just want to be a part of the action? Tweet @scholcommons or comment on this article!

Finding Data on Champaign County

The Champaign County Courthouse, taken by Beyond My Ken and hosted on Wikipedia Commons.

Many scholars at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign keep their research local. But sometimes, finding data for a specific locale can be difficult. These suggestions are just a start when it comes to the resources that University of Illinois students, faulty, and staff have at their disposal when it comes to finding local data, but it’s a good place to start.

American FactFinder

American FactFinder is a free-to-use service provided by the United States Census Bureau. It contains basic facts in its Community Facts section, but allows for more detailed research through its Advanced Search option. We suggest that researchers use the Advanced Search for more in-depth questions. It contains census data for Champaign County from 2000 through 2015, at the time of writing this post.

Social Explorer

Social Explorer uses census data to create map visualizations. It is important that you access Social Explorer through the University of Illinois library, and not a Google search, as the latter will give you limited functionality in the site. Social Explorer offers information dating back to 1790, as well as a good deal of customization. Maps that you create with Social Explorer can be downloaded and used as a visual.

SimplyMap

SimplyMap uses a mix of both census and market research data to create map visualizations. A little clunkier than Social Explorer, it allows you to compare and contrast different variables with census and market research data, giving you powerful visualizations. Though you cannot download the visualizations themselves, you can download the data sets and tabular reports SimplyMap creates for you. Similarly to Social Explorer, you should enter SimplyMap through the Library, and create an account using your U of I email address.

These are just three of many data sources for Champaign County. Do these fill your needs? Do you have a favorite data source, either listed here or not listed? Let us know in the comments!

Getting Over Data Anxiety

For some people, looking at a spreadsheet brings back bad memories of sixth grade Pre-Algebra classes and mediocre grades. Unlearning your fear of numerical data may take time and patience, but will ultimately leave you a better, well-rounded researcher. Here are a few tips on how to start the process of embracing numbers in your research and life.

  1. Find data that interests you. If you weren’t someone with a heavy interest in math, the mere sight of an equation may make you shiver. That’s why it’s important to begin your journey with data by practicing with data that actually keeps you absorbed in your work. If you’re invested in the outcome, you’re more likely to put in the time and effort to learn skills and best practices that will ultimately make using data easier for you in the long run.
  2. Find some guidance. Staring at a sheet of numbers while scratching your head isn’t always a great plan. Find resources that will help you. Here at the University of Illinois, the Scholarly Commons, Research Data Service, and the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning offer frequent Savvy Researcher workshops to help people learn how to use data and corresponding software. You can also schedule a consultation request with a Scholarly Commons expert online, or e-mail the Scholarly Commons for simple questions. If you want to keep to yourself, there are also a number of data analysis LibGuides, which you can peruse.
  3. Start simple.  Don’t try to learn R in a day. You’ll end up frustrated and discouraged. Take some time to survey your options, and start simple, with Excel and SPSS, for example. Each software has unique things that it can do, and figure out a system that works for you.
  4. Understand why you’re doing this. Everyone has had the moment where they look at their research and think to themselves, “Why am I doing this? Why didn’t I go into the private sector?” It’s understandable. Looking at some of the incredible things people are doing with numerical data can help you remember why it is that you’re taking the time to learn these skills — which will actually be very marketable if you do decide to go into the private sector, just saying — and what you can do with them. A few favorite projects of mine are Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s GBD Compare visualization, The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People by Mason Currey, and Two Centuries of US Immigration.

Just like any skill, learning how to handle and understand numerical data takes time and effort. But mastering data will add depth to your research, and allow you to present your findings in new, interactive ways.

Apply now for grants to help purchase data

Census data with text overlayThe University Library is soliciting applications from faculty and graduate students who need to purchase numeric or spatial data for their research.

This is a pilot program to address the needs of faculty and graduate students whose research requires that they access and manipulate commercially available data sets.

Data requests can be for repackaged public data or for data collected by individual researchers that is subsequently made available for a fee.  The library strongly prefers to acquire data that are accessible online rather than on DVD or other tangible storage media.  For licensed data, this grant program will only support a license for one year.  Other library funds may be available to continue the license after the first year but continued access cannot be guaranteed.

The awards will be targeted toward meeting smaller needs (ca. $5,000 range). However, the amount available to be awarded for individual proposals will depend up on the total number and suitability of applications received.

The application deadline is Oct. 15. Application directions and other details are available on the Library’s website.