Neatline 101: Getting Started

Here at Commons Knowledge we love easy-to-use interactive map creation software! We’ve compared and contrasted different tools, and talked about StoryMap JS and Shanti Interactive. The Scholarly Commons is a great place to get help on GIS projects, from ArcGIS StoryMaps and beyond. But if you want something where you can have both a map and a timeline, and if you are willing to spend money on your own server, definitely consider using Neatline.

Neatline is a plugin created by Scholar’s Lab at University of Virginia that lets you create interactive maps and timelines in Omeka exhibits. My personal favorite example is the demo site by Paul Mawyer “‘I am it and it is I’: Lovecraft in Providence” with the map tiles from Stamen Design under CC-BY 3.0 license.

Screenshot of Lovecraft Neatline exhibit

*As far as the location of Lovecraft’s most famous creation, let’s just say “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”

Now one caveat — Neatline requires a server. I used Reclaim Hosting which is straightforward, and which I have used for Scalar and Mukurtu. The cheapest plan available on Reclaim Hosting was $32 a year. Once I signed up for the website and domain name, I took advantage of one nice feature of Reclaim Hosting, which lets you one-click install the Omeka.org content management system (CMS). The Omeka CMS is a popular choice for digital humanities users. Other popular content management systems include Wordpress and Scalar.

One click install of Omeka through Reclaim Hosting

BUT WAIT, WHAT ABOUT OMEKA THROUGH SCHOLARLY COMMONS?

Here at the Scholarly Commons we can set up an Omeka.net site for you. You can find more information on setting up an Omeka.net site through the Scholarly Commons here. This is a great option for people who want to create a regular Omeka exhibit. However, Neatline is only available as a plugin on Omeka.org, which needs a server to host. As far as I know, there is currently no Neatline plugin for Omeka.net and I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon. On Reclaim you can install Omeka on any LAMP server. And side advice from your very forgetful blogger, write down whatever username and password you make up when you set up your Omeka site, that will save you a lot of trouble later, especially considering how many accounts you end up with when you use a server to host a site.

Okay, I’m still interested, but what do I do once I have Omeka.org installed? 

So back to the demo. I used the instructions on the documentation page on Neatline, which were good for defining a lot of the terms but not so good at explaining exactly what to do. I am focusing on the original Neatline plugin but there are other Neatline plugins like NeatlineText depending on your needs. However all plugins are installed in a similar way. You can follow the official instructions here at Installing Neatline.

But I have also provided some because the official instructions just didn’t do it for me.

So first off, download the Neatline zip file.

Go to your Control Panel, cPanel in Reclaim Hosting, and click on “File Manager.”

File Manager circled on Reclaim Hosting

Sorry this looks so goofy, Windows snipping tool free form is only for those with a steady hand.

Navigate to the the Plugins folder.

arrow points at plugins folder in file manager

Double click to open the folder. Click Upload Files.

more arrows pointing at tiny upload option in Plugins folder

If you’re using Reclaim Hosting, IGNORE THE INSTRUCTIONS DO NOT UNZIP THE ZIP FILE ON YOUR COMPUTER JUST PLOP THAT PUPPY RIGHT INTO YOUR PLUGINS FOLDER.

Upload the entire zip file

                      Plop it in!

Go back to the Plugins folder. Right click the Neatline zip file and click extract. Save extracted files in Plugins.

Extract Neatline files in File Manager

Sign into your Omeka site at [yourdomainname].[com/name/whatever]/admin if you aren’t already.

Omeka dashboard with arrows pointing at Plugins

Install Neatline for real.

Omeka Plugins page

Still confused or having trouble with setup?

Check out these tutorials as well!

Open Street Maps is great and all but what if I want to create a fancy historical map?

To create historical maps on Neatline you have two options, only one of which is included in the actual documentation for Neatline.

Officially, you are supposed to use GeoServer. GeoServer is an open source server application built in Java. Even if you have your own server, it has a lot more dependencies to run than what’s required for Omeka / Neatline.

If you want one-click Neatline installation with GeoServer and have money to spend you might want to check out AcuGIS Neatline Cloud Hosting which is recommended in the Neatline documentation and the lowest cost plan starts at $250 a year.

Unofficially, there is a tutorial for this available at Lincoln Mullen’s blog “The Backward Glance” specifically his 2015 post “How to Use Neatline with Map Warper Instead of Geoserver.”

Let us know about the ways you incorporate geospatial data in your research!  And stay tuned for Neatline 102: Creating a simple exhibit!

Works Cited:

Extending Omeka with Plugins. (2016, July 5). Retrieved May 23, 2017, from http://history2016.doingdh.org/week-1-wednesday/extending-omeka-with-plugins/

Installing Neatline Neatline Documentation. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2017, from http://docs.neatline.org/installing-neatline.html

Mawyer, Paul. (n.d.). “I am it and it is I”: Lovecraft in Providence. Retrieved May 23, 2017, from http://lovecraft.neatline.org/neatline-exhibits/show/lovecraft-in-providence/fullscreen

Mullen, Lincoln. (2015).  “How to Use Neatline with Map Warper Instead of Geoserver.” Retrieved May 23, 2017 from http://lincolnmullen.com/blog/how-to-use-neatline-with-map-warper-instead-of-geoserver/

Uploading Plugins to Omeka. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2017, from https://community.reclaimhosting.com/t/uploading-plugins-to-omeka/195

Working with Omeka. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2017, from https://community.reclaimhosting.com/t/working-with-omeka/194

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!

Event: Illinois GIS Day

  • What: A celebration of GIS Day, an “annual salute to geospatial technology and its power to transform and improve our lives.” The event is free, and includes a keynote address, presentations, lightning talk sessions, a map/poster competition, and a career connection session.
  • Where: iHotel and Conference Center, 1900 S 1st St, Champaign, IL 61820
  • When: November 15, 2016 from 8:00 AM – 4:15 PM; registration open now
  • Why: To spend a day with other GIS enthusiasts, to make important connections, and to learn new and important information about what is going on in the field, including a keynote address by Keith A. Searles, Chief Executive Officer, Urban GIS, Inc.

GIS Spotlight: What3words

What3words is an addressing system that works as an alternative to using latitude and longitude. The system consists of a grid of three meter by three meter squares laid over the globe with a three word code randomly assigned to each square. Their system is based on the idea that three words are much easier to remember, as well as record and relay, than multi-digit latitude and longitude coordinates.

This new addressing system is extremely useful for countries where there are inconsistent or nonexistent addresses or street names.  The Mongol Post has adopted what3words as their addressing system because of the considerable nomadic population in Mongolia and the lack of road names over much of the country.

Even in countries with functional postal systems what3words can be used to identify places that have no address. For instance, the Alma Mater of The University of Illinois has no street address, but in what3words its address is stores.basin.frame.

14251424459_4b27cbbd25_bI think that what3words is a really interesting idea, and since I love maps I find it enjoyable just looking around their website. It’s fun to find a what3words that’s very apt for its location (despite the random distribution of words), or… one that’s not.  For example, worlds.largest.ocean is located just outside of Marshfield, Wisconsin.

worlds.largest.ocean

There are some limitations, however. What3words only gives information about the surface of the Earth. It does not give any reference to where things are vertically. Addressing in urban areas would not be able to rely solely on what3words for this reason; an apartment number or floor would have to be added. What3words has said that it’s possible they could incorporate a height dimension in the future.

What3words can be used with ArcGIS, a mapping software that the Scholarly Commons has available on all PCs in our lab. Since the Scholarly Commons is located on the third floor of the library, I can’t direct you here solely through what3words. I can however, specify the best library entrance for getting here.

Enter at and go up the stairs.

Come visit us!

MapLab, new Wired magazine blog about maps

Maplab screenshot

The popular technology & culture magazine Wired recently launched a new blog entitled MapLab to feature resources and ideas about maps.  MapLab’s scope includes learning about, using, making, and enjoying both analog and digital maps.

As staff commented in the initial post:

We’ll be exploring mapping software, hunting for data, and figuring out, step-by-step, how to make digital maps. We hope to make maps that tell interesting stories, answer important questions, reveal hidden relationships, and enhance the reporting we do at Wired.

Early posts have featured:

  • The Urban Observatory, a web application that provides geo-spatial comparisons between cities over multiple variables, including demographics, land use, and transportation.
  • A recent California Supreme Court ruling that local governments must release digital mapping files under the state’s public records law.
  • MapBox Satellite Live, a future service of MapBox.com that plans to provide immediate access to near real-time satellite imagery of anywhere in the world, in a standard format.
  • Maps and the Geospatial Revolution, a new MOOC (massive open online course) about digital mapping.

The blog is authored in part by GIS professionals and encourages feedback from readers.

blog: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/maplab
RSS: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/category/map-lab/feed/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/wiredsciblogs

GeoChallenge 2010 !!

GeoChallenge 2010 has arrived.

     • Are you interested in a Treasure Hunt?
     • Do you want to play with GPS?
     • Do you want a chance to win an iPod Touch or 100’s of dollars of gift certificates?

The campus is celebrating GIS day (Geographical Information Sciences) on November 19 with displays and lightning talks by people actively involved in geographic sciences. During the 2 weeks before GIS day, you can try your hand at a GPS rally. There are fun clues to various locations around campus. You go to each one, and answer questions about what you find there. The answers give you directions to the next clue. On the way you will help collect geographical information that will be presented at GIS day. When you are done, you will be entered in a drawing for some pretty cool prizes.

http://www.library.illinois.edu/sc/geochallenge_2010.html has the instructions and starting clue.

For information on GIS day go to http://webstore.illinois.edu/gisfair/

GeoChallenge 2010 - 1st clue