# Google MyMaps Part II: The Problem with Projections

Back in October, we published a blog post introducing you to Google MyMaps, an easy way to display simple information in map form. Today we’re going to revisit that topic and explore some further ways in which MyMaps can help you visualize different kinds of data!

One of the most basic things that students of geography learn is the problem of projections: the earth is a sphere, and there is no perfect way to translate an image from the surface of a sphere to a flat plane. Nevertheless, cartographers over the years have come up with many projection systems which attempt to do just that, with varying degrees of success. Google Maps (and, by extension, Google MyMaps) uses perhaps the most common of these, the Mercator projectionDespite its ubiquity, the Mercator projection has been criticized for not keeping area uniform across the map. This means that shapes far away from the equator appear to be disproportionately larger in comparison with shapes on the equator.

Luckily, MyMaps provides a method of pulling up the curtain on Mercator’s distortion. The “Draw a line” tool,  , located just below the search bar at the top of the MyMaps screen, allows users to create a rough outline of any shape on the map, and then drag that outline around the world to compare its size. Here’s how it works: After clicking on “Draw a line,” select “Add line or shape” and begin adding points to the map by clicking. Don’t worry about where you’re adding your points just yet, once you’ve created a shape you can move it anywhere you’d like! Once you have three or four points, complete the polygon by clicking back on top of your first point, and you should have a shape that looks something like this:

Now it’s time to create a more detailed outline. Click and drag your shape over the area you want to outline, and get to work! You can change the size of your shape by dragging on the points at the corners, and you can add more points by clicking and dragging on the transparent circles located midway between each corner. For this example, I made a rough outline of Greenland, as you can see below.

You can get as detailed as you want with the points on your shapes, depending on how much time you want to spend clicking and dragging points around on your computer screen. Obviously I did not perfectly trace the exact coastline of Greenland, but my finished product is at least recognizable enough. Now for the fun part! Click somewhere inside the boundary of your shape, drag it somewhere else on the map, and see Mercator’s distortion come to life before your eyes.

Here you can see the exact same shape as in the previous image, except instead of hovering over Greenland at the north end of the map, it is placed over Africa and the equator. The area of the shape is exactly the same, but the way it is displayed on the map has been adjusted for the relative distortion of the particular position it now occupies on the map. If that hasn’t sufficiently shaken your understanding of our planet, MyMaps has one more tool for illuminating the divide between the map and reality. The “Measure distances and areas” tool, , draws a “straight” line between any two (or more) points on the map. “Straight” is in quotes there because, as we’re about to see, a straight line on the globe (and therefore in reality) doesn’t typically align with straight lines on the map. For example, if I wanted to see the shortest distance between Chicago and Frankfurt, Germany, I could display that with the Measure tool like so:

The curve in this line represents the curvature of the earth, and demonstrates how the actual shortest distance is not the same as a straight line drawn on the map. This principle is made even more clear through using the Measure tool a little farther north.

The beginning and ending points of this line are roughly directly north of Chicago and Frankfurt, respectively, however we notice two differences between this and the previous measurement right away. First, this is showing a much shorter distance than Chicago to Frankfurt, and second, the curve in the line is much more distinct. Both of these differences arise, once again, from the difficulty of displaying a sphere on a flat surface. Actual distances get shorter the closer you get to the north (or south) ends of the map, which in turn causes all of the distortions we have seen in this post.

How might a better understanding of projection systems improve your own research? What are some other ways in which the Mercator projection (or any other) have deceived us? Explore for yourself and let us know!

# Life after I Drive: Setting up a website for yourself or your project!

What happened to the I: Drive?

It’s been retired, everything on it is in read only, the hardware has been left to die and will be dead by January 3rd 2018, and everything will go where these things go when they die (that great server in the sky I suppose).

Always free options:

Weebly, Wix, etc. As we’ve discussed before on this blog, Weebly is one of the easiest to use, including WYSIWYG editor with customization based on dragging and dropping components, and still has a professional look. And to learn more about Weebly and other free website platforms, check out these site builder tutorials from the iSchool!

Are there still hosted options on campus?

Yes!

Basic hosted options on campus:

Don’t have a lot of experience building websites and looking for something really really simple?  Definitely check out Google Sites through your Illinois Google Apps. It is possible to get a hosted sites dot google dot illinois dot edu site/[yoursitename]/[pagename]  for yourself or or your organization. Google Sites has a WYSIWYG editor where you can drag and drop site elements such as text and image boxes as well as  elements from your Illinois Google Apps, such as Google Docs and YouTube videos. With Google Sites you have the option to publish either to the web or to Illinois users. For more information check out https://answers.uillinois.edu/illinois/page.php?id=55049

Reminder: Omeka.net

For all our digital humanists, virtual exhibit creators, and potentially anyone looking to make a snazzy portfolio website, we can set up an Omeka.net account through the Scholarly Commons that has more storage than the default account. To learn more and request a page check out http://www.library.illinois.edu/sc/services/Digital_Humanities/Omeka.html

Publish @ Illinois.edu  (PIE)

Although you or your group’s site will never reach the absolute stunning magnificence of the Commons Knowledge blog, you too can create a micro-site through WordPress at the University of Illinois. WordPress features a WYSIWYG editor and is fairly easy to learn even with limited programming experience. There is a limited amount of space available to save media, luckily you can attach links to images from Box in order to get around these limits. There are also custom designs available to University of Illinois units, these are especially important for meeting our state’s website accessibility standards! You can learn more and request your own small slice of the PIE at https://techservices.illinois.edu/services/publishillinoisedu/details Definitely check out the PIE blog and documentation pages and contact Technology Services for more help.

Setting up a Wiki with Confluence

Need to create a space for members of your team to collaborate on projects or want a site for a course beyond Moodle? Do you have team members from outside of the University of Illinois that you want allowed to contribute to content?  Technology Services can get you set up  with a wiki through Confluence. Check out https://wiki.illinois.edu/wiki/dashboard.action to request and https://wiki.illinois.edu//wiki/display/HELP/Getting+Started+and+Help to learn more and see what one of these wikis looks like in action!

Web services through your college’s IT department:

These sites also provide a lot of information about web resources on campus in general!

Are you a web developer looking for a server?

Consider looking into the Virtual Server through Technology Services, yes this is a service that costs money and is based on how much space your site uses. However, if you want a more stable hosting solution for the long term this is a great option!

# Getting Started With Paperpile

Did the Paperpile Review leave you interested in learning more?

To use Paperpile you need an Internet connection, Google Chrome, and a Google account. Since student/personal use accounts do not require a dot edu email, I recommend using your Google Apps @ Illinois account  for this because you can fully use and enjoy unlimited free storage from Google to store your PDFs. Paperpile offers one month free; afterwards, it’s \$36 for the year. You can download the extension for Chrome here. If you already use Mendeley or Zotero you can import all of your files and information from these programs to Paperpile. In order to use Paperpile, you will need the app on each version of Chrome you use. It should sync as part of your Chrome extensions, and you can install it on Chrome on University Library computers as well.

You can import PDFs and metadata by clicking on the Paperpile logo on Chrome.

On your main page you can create folders, tag items, and more! You can also search for new articles in the app itself.

If you didn’t import enough information about a source or it didn’t import the correct information you can easily add more details by clicking the check mark next to the document in the menu and clicking edit on the top menu next to the search box for your papers.

Plus, from the main page, when you click “View PDF” you can also use the beta annotations feature by clicking the pen icon. This feature lets you highlight and comment on your PDF and it saves the highlighted text and comments in order by page in notes. It can then be exported as plain text or as very pretty printouts. It is rectangle-based highlighting and can be a little bit annoying, especially when highlighting doesn’t always covered the text that was copied. Like a highlighter in real life you cannot continue to highlight onto the next page.

When you leave the app, the highlighting is saved on the PDF in your Google Drive and you can your highlights on the PDF wherever you use Google Drive. The copied text and comments can be exported into a very pretty printout or a variety of plaintext file formats.

Not the prettiest example but you get the idea.

I didn’t try it but there’s a Google Docs sidebar so that anyone can add references, regardless of whether or not they are a Paperpile user, to a Google Doc. I imagine this is great for those group projects where the “group” is not just the person who cares the most.

###### Troubleshooting

Paperpile includes a support chat box, which is located on your main page, and is very useful for troubleshooting. For example, one problem I ran into with Paperpile is that you cannot change the page number to match what it actually is in the article and page number is based on the PDF file in the notes feature. I messaged and  I got a response with a professional tone within twenty-four hours. Turns out, they are working on this problem and eventually PDFs will be numbered by actual page number, but they can’t say when they will have it fixed.

For other problems, there is an official help page  with a lot of instructions about using the software and answers to frequently asked questions. There is also a blog and a  forum which is particularly nice because you can see if other people are experiencing the same problem and what the company plans to do about it.

Scholarly Commons runs a variety of Savvy Researcher workshops throughout the year including personal information management and citation managers. And let us know in the comments about your favorite citation/reference management software and your way of keeping your research organized!

And for the curious, the examples in this post are based from the undergraduate research collection in IDEALS. Specifically:

Kountz, Erik. 2013. “Cascades of Cacophony.” Equinox Literary and Arts Magazine. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/89474.

Liao, Ethel. 2013. “Nutella, Dear Nutella.” Equinox Literary and Arts Magazine. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/89476.

Montesinos, Gary. 2015. “The Invisible (S)elf: Identity in House Elves and Harry Potter.” Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal 2 (1). http://hdl.handle.net/2142/78004.

# Review: Paperpile Citation Manager

Are you addicted to Google Docs and are looking for a citation manager, PDF reader, or research workflow system? Do you wish you could just cite while you write in Google docs like you do with Zotero or Mendeley in Word? Do you have an extra \$36 a year to spare?

Then you might want to try Paperpile!

Paperpile is a simplified reference management system and research workflow program for Google Chrome created by three computational biologists based in Vienna.

Pros:

• Easy to use
• Can organize your sources when you’re trying to write a paper or doing readings
• A lot of explanatory text in the app
• Allows you to import metadata and PDFs from your browser (similar to Zotero’s one click import) and asks you if you want to add the item (PDF and details) to Paperpile
• The annotations feature makes readings and notes for classes a lot of fun with very pretty colors
• When the PDF is not encrypted, if you highlight the text it will copy the highlighted text into notes with your annotations that you can then copy and paste when writing a paper
• Wide range of document types and citation styles
• You can cite while you write in Google Docs
• Provides look up to find similar journal articles to what you are researching, which allows you to do research through the app, especially if you’re doing research from science databases
• Keyboard shortcuts
• 15 GB of free space through Google
• Good customer service
• Thorough explanatory material

Excerpt from Montesinos, Gary. 2015. “The Invisible (S)elf: Identity in House Elves and Harry Potter.” Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal 2 (1). https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/78004.
And check out Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal and more great undergraduate research in IDEALS!

Cons:

• High cost (\$36), especially compared to solid free options like Mendeley and Zotero
• Requires Internet access
• Although the company is in the process of developing a plugin for MS Word, currently, Paperpile is heavily reliant on Google and Google Drive
• Paperpile is a proprietary software and a startup so there are risks that they will go out of business or be bought by a larger company
• Though, should the worst happen Paperpile uses open standards that will allow you to get your PDFs, citations out — even if they are in an ugly format — as well as the highlighted text saved in your PDFs, which can be downloaded through Google Drive
• Paperpile is a very new product and there are still a lot of features to be worked out
• I will say however that it is a lot less buggy than a lot of comparable reference management / PDF annotation software that have been around longer and aren’t classified as in beta, like Readcube and Highlights

Paperpile is comparable to: Mendeley, iLibrarian, colwiz, Highlights.