GeoSIMS–An Application for Interior Mapping

In my years at the University of Washington, my greatest accomplishment (along with Eric Darst) was the envisioning, design and implementation of GeoSIMS–the Geographic Space Information Management System.

FloorPlanGISThis online application utilizes a multi-campus set of georeferenced floorplans to enable the tracking of room information. The implementation was a challenge–a  lot of different people and departments had to be brought together to make it work. Some groups were indifferent. Some were resistant. Ultimately it all came together, and the UW has a system of space tracking that is streamlined and automated.

For those of you interested in a bit more detail on the background of the program and its uses, you can download my presentation to the University for the GeoSIMS rollout (warning–10 mb Powerpoint file).


Seattle Archipelago in the Media

Even though I’ve only made nine posts on this blog, I’m going to get all self-referential. What happened with the Islands of Seattle map was both thrilling and overwhelming. I went in knowing that it had the potential to go viral, but I wasn’t quite prepared when it did.

20140220IslandsOfSeattle_Streets_webI got the idea for the map from Burrito Justice’s map of San Francisco. In his scenario, there was 200′ of sea level rise, creating a fascinating landscape of islands and bays. From a purely geographical perspective, it was beautiful and compelling. The horror of the damage to the city was lightened by the way he named the resulting land forms. Seattle was a perfect subject for this sort of treatment, and I knew how to do it.

I made the map in December, and posted it on a handful of social media outlets. In addition to the dozen or so Twitter followers I had at the time, I tweeted directly to Burrito Justice, to let him know I’d appropriated his idea. He immediately re-tweeted, and I got a small bump in traffic on my Flickr site where I’d originally posted it. I posted on Facebook and LinkedIn, where a few people liked, nobody commented, and it just fizzled into nothing. I knew that it had the potential to go viral, but I lacked the network to really make it happen.

Then I got lucky. I was approached by Robert Lindsley, Director of the brand-new Whole U program. He was looking for University contributors to his website. He was thrilled with the map, and I offered to write up an article to accompany it.

The article was published on January 15. It included a link to, so I checked the stats before going to bed that night. It had over 200 views referred from the Whole U–I thought that was fantastic, but the trajectory was just beginning to rise. The next day got started when former Mayor Mike McGinn shared the article on Facebook. By the end of that day, there were 4,900 views. The day after that, there were 5,600. Those were just the stats on my site–at the end of the week, my article on Whole U had over 85k views, and ultimately had over 100k. It got over 6,000 shares on Facebook, and hundreds of tweets through the Whole U site alone. It was on the front page of RSpatialitiesStats_CountryMapeddit for several hours. My post on Spatialities was shared on Facebook over a thousand times. I picked up a bunch of new followers on Twitter. Visitors from 53 countries visited my site (I don’t know if they were all human). I got calls from the Seattle Times and KUOW, asking me questions about global warming that I couldn’t answer.

It was all happening simultaneously with the demands of my regular job. I still had work to do! I had some significant deadlines to meet the next day, and all the attention was distracting me from my tasks. I was completely unprepared when the Seattle Times called. Most of the questions weren’t difficult or probing, but I just hadn’t thought about what I was going to say to the media. I hadn’t thought that I would be talking to the media at all. I was slightly better prepared when KUOW called the next day. But when they asked me to do a brief on-air interview, I had to defer. I had too many demands from my job, and I didn’t feel ready for a live chat. By the time I had figured out my talking points, most people had stopped asking.

The media contact issue was minor compared to scale of all the other attention. The map became something of a Seattle icon, I got 96 hours of fame, and I learned a lesson about preparedness.

About a week later, Dr. Kirk JohnsonKirkJohnsonLecture, the Sant Director at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, contacted me. He wanted to use the map in a presentation he was giving at the University of Washington. I was honored to have him include it–it was the highlight of the entire experience. It was like getting a scientific stamp of approval…without all that messy peer review. I’d assumed that in the presentation, he’d show it for a few seconds before moving on to the next slide. It wasn’t until the very end of his talk that he finally showed the map–and it stayed up or he next half-hour as he and Dr. Julie Stein, Director of the Burke Museum, did their Q&A session.

Over the next week, it had calmed down; the virus had run it course. There were still spikes in my stats, little Facebook flareups, as the latecomers discovered it (and it was always Facebook–even at the height of it all, attention on Twitter was relatively minor). I still get a few visitors a day, usually from the Whole U or Facebook.

Thanks to all the posters below, as well as all the folks on Twitter and Facebook who shared it.

And of course, the original post that I wrote for the Whole U:

I’m looking forward to seeing how all this attention translates into he physical world. I don’t have a firm date yet, but printed maps will be available at Museum Quality Framing and Frame Central shops around Seattle.

In the next few days, I’ll also be releasing a Portland version of the map. They’ll be available at Museum Quality Framing, Frame Central, and Beard’s Framing around Portland.

Moving to

This site hasn’t been up long, but I’ve started finding limitations in what I can implement in my site. So, I’ve packed it up and moved it all over to a self-hosted site with a installation. Everything should look and function the same as before, but any of my subscribers will need to click through and re-subscribe.

Watch for new historical and speculative maps!

Portland, 1905

The thing to remember about this early 20th-century Portland map is FORESHADOWING

What stands out for me when I look at this map are the lack of freeways (always the case with maps older than 50 years or so), the lack of suburban sprawl on the Washington side, and the relative lack of outer neighborhoods in Portland. The only Columbia River crossing is a ferry at the approximate location of the current I-5 bridge. Where there are now marinas and the airport there were wetlands. Electric railroads linked the local cities and towns (again, often striking to see, especially considering how we are returning to an updated version of this transportation mode).

And remember, with FORESHADOWING, you know you’re getting a quality blogging experience.

As with the others, the high-resolution, restored version of this map is available for purchase…

Los Angeles, 1928

This one’s for all my LA folks…

One of the things about being between jobs is that you get to find little projects to obsess over. I’ve been enjoying combing through old archives, finding these cool old maps, and restoring them (while still  maintaining the vintage patina). This 1928 map of downtown Los Angeles was torn, stamped and stained when I found it.

Los Angeles at this time had one of the most extensive streetcar networks in the world. There were no freeways in LA in 1928. There were very few anywhere–the first proto-autobahn was built in Germany in 1922. If you look at this area now, there are freeways in every direction. Here’s the modern view.

Order full-sized prints, or wrapped canvas maps here…






City of Seattle, 1908

Seattle, 1908

Every once in a while, here at Spatialities world headquarters, our research department (me) runs into an old archived map that our marketing department (also me) thinks would look great on someone’s wall.

I found this 1908 USGS quad while researching the former location of the Lake Washington shoreline. It’s from an important time in Seattle’s history. The the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition was about to happen, which would shape the University of Washington campus for the next century and beyond. Because the Ship Canal had not been built, Lake Washington was eight feet higher.  The Duwamish River still meandered, and South Park and Georgetown were towns in their own right. People were still waiting for the interurban. Rail travel within and between cities was still the best way to get around. Freeways hadn’t been invented.

I did a considerable amount of clean-up to this map–removing old rubber-stamps and imperfections.  It’s now ready for your wall.

You can order hard-copy prints of the files I’ve cleaned up here…





Continue reading