The drinking society with a mapping problem

NACIS logo

I’ve recently returned from Sacramento after attending the 2009 conference of the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS), and I wish to briefly plug the organization here in case either of my readers is not already familiar with it.

If you work with maps, you should join NACIS and go to its meetings. Consider these facts:

  • NACIS represents all sorts of cartography, and you will see some amazing maps and learn about lots of work that’s going on in the field.
  • NACIS comprises all sorts of cartographers, and you will meet some all-around fantastic people and make useful contacts.
  • NACIS offers some incentives for students, including several map awards and I believe one or two travel awards.
  • NACIS not only accepts, but embraces and encourages your drinking habit.
  • NACIS is a darn good time.

Except that an outbreak of swine flu among my friends apparently occurred, I had a blast this year and greatly enjoyed shaking many hands and talking (with varying coherence) to many people whom I hope to call friends and whom I very much look forward to seeing again next year or sooner.

Some quick highlights:

  • Stamen Design’s Michal Migurski was the keynote speaker. I was thrilled to meet and chat a bit with Mike, whom I admire to a point just shy of having posters of him on my walls. He’s posted his talk on his site, so check it out. It was very good to see someone like him and a topic like his invited to NACIS, as I think the organization has hitherto been lacking in representatives of some important new trends in cartography.
  • Natural Earth Vector was unveiled here by Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Tom Patterson. This project is, quite simply, a godsend to cartographers. It’s a big collection of geographic reference vector data designed by cartographers for cartographers (i.e., designed to look good at various scales). Keep an eye out; it’s due to be released soon.
  • Cartographic Perspectives, the NACIS journal, was introduced in a new digital, open-access format. You can download the special issue (PDF). Also see the CP page on the NACIS site, where you can access archived issues.
  • Another face that was good to see at a NACIS conference: a representative from Google! Andy Szybalski, the designer of Street View, spoke about the powers and limitations of combining immersive views with maps, and gave us a look at the evolution of Street View’s design. All told he seemed to be a hit with everyone and was a pleasure to meet.
  • Of course I’m going to promote my own work here. We gentlemen proprietors of Axis Maps showed off indiemapper for the first time, and are getting ever closer to being able to launch this awesomeness. I’ll let the website do the advertising, but if anyone who was present at NACIS should happen by here and didn’t already give us an earful (or, um, suspects that the Axis end of the conversation may not have recalled it the next morning), we welcome your feedback! Hit me or anybody else at Axis Maps.
  • There was a bathtub full of beer.

And there were many other excellent people to meet and things to see and hear, too numerous to list. So get in on this! Next year, St. Petersburg, Florida!

NACIS bathtub beer

A note on the post title: somebody (I don’t remember who) characterized the group this way in the past, so it’s not just me saying it, although we who came up through UW-Madison have tried to be the standard-bearers.

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  1. As one of your two implied readers, I thank you for informing me of the existence of NACIS.

    I think you get more traffic than just me and some other guy, though.


    13 October 2009 @ 4:04pm

  2. I can attest to the overall appropriateness of the title, I am a drinker… and I have a mapping problem. To the teetotalers of the world I paraphrase from a Scottish Proverb, “you speak only of my drinking but never my thirst” ; ) In fact Andy I must apologize for not catching your presentation as it came after a beer less lunch that I rectified by ducking out of the conference for a few pints in the hotel bar.

    This was my first NACIS conference and it was indeed a lot of fun, though I must admit I found the party room a bit stuffy. My contact making may have suffered at my desire to immediately get the hell out of there and again retire to the hotel bar with a buddy. Maybe next year I will make a stand and actually shake a few hands.

    Next time it might be nice to encourage a number of the Pub crowd (if there is one) to find a real bar to hang out in.

    David Medeiros
    14 October 2009 @ 2:00pm

  3. A beer-less lunch at NACIS? That sounds terrible. I had a lunch beer before my talk, though granted it was like four hours before.

    This year’s “hospitality suite” was better than last year’s by miles, but in the past four years (my experience), the room in Madison in 2006 could not be beaten. It was an honest-to-goodness bar/lounge that we had all to ourselves on the top floor of the hotel. The hotel didn’t leave it stocked for us, sadly, but you take what you can get.

    Andy Woodruff
    14 October 2009 @ 3:19pm