10 May 2005

GIS Instead of Podcast

I put off the podcast for today, because I was working on some GIS stuff and I actually got a break. GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems – it is technology used to make maps, and it will be very important to this campaign. Normally custom GIS is not used in Congressional races unless the candidate is willing to spend several thousand dollars on the software and experts needed to use it. The easiest software I have seen is Maptitude by Caliper, which sells for only $500. ESRI sells it’s popular and powerful ArcView software which is used pretty often for this, but it is more like $1500 for the software alone – hiring someone that can use it is something else entirely.

I want to run this on Mac and/or Linux with some custom database and automated scripting, so I’m using GRASS, which is both open and free.

However, it is a bit of a learning curve, especially when you don’t know much about GIS to begin with. However, I made a breakthrough this morning, learning how to import and view both Shapefiles and TIGER/Line data. Which means I can map and overlay the congressional districts, voting precincts from 2004, county and full street and landmark information for all 4 counties in my district. Here are some quick maps :
(full street maps of all four counties; blue is district lines, light grey is 04 voting precincts, black are streets)

(04 precincts on top of districts by color – green is mine)

It’s not very useful by itself, but I can zoom down to any precinct and see the street layout, and I will be able to start marking houses I have visited, voter ID results, printing custom walking maps for volunteers over the web, etc.

It will be invaluable for door to door planning and precinct captain organizing, as well as data and progress visualization.

So, no podcast – technology called!

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