A couple of weeks ago I blogged about an app that Steve Peters has built for visualising the Indices of Multiple Deprivation data.

We’ve just released an app of our own: the IMD Mapper.

(The initial view is of Manchester, because that’s where Ric’s office is, but the data covers the whole of England and you can navigate around it with the usual Google zoom and pan tools, or you can re-centre the map by typing in a postcode).

The app works with the same linked data datasets that Steve was using, but we’ve concentrated on the mapping aspects and how to combine an online SPARQL endpoint with a pure JavaScript visualisation to help you explore a rich dataset.

The same techniques could be applied to pretty much any dataset that associates numbers with geographical regions, so Ric has started a series of blog posts to explain all the details of how it works.

In some ways this is pretty standard stuff – draw some polygons on a Google map and colour them in. But we wanted the map to be interactive, so that when you click on a region you get information about it, including a link back to the specific data points that are being presented. That takes some additional JavaScript magic (well it seems like magic to me, Ric did it).

Also, we spent a fair bit of time on making it reliable and reasonably fast, while retaining the full flexibility of pulling live data from the SPARQL endpoint.

Much of what we’ve done could be applied for other similar situations – Ric has structured the code to be modular and re-usable. It’s open source and available on Swirrl’s Github account.

Data is too valuable to be wrapped up in one application: this is another example of how making data open and making it available through online APIs enables it to be used in many different ways, with the minimum of fuss.

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