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GIS Cloud: First Look = Maps for My Outdoors Page!

As many of you know, I maintain a webpage called “Darren’s Outdoor Page” which I’ve had for many years (since sometime in the early-mid 90’s…I honestly don’t remember when it started!)  The page documents my outdoor adventures, which consist mostly of wilderness canoe trips in Ontario.  I’ve been neglecting the page for a few years, and although it doesn’t contain information about any of my more recent trips, it still contains a lot of information, and as such gets its share of traffic.  The page that seems to consistently get the most hits has always been the “Maps” page.  Apparently GIS geeks aren’t the only ones interested in maps; outdoorsy folk are as well!

The “Maps” page was simply a collection of links to online maps that would be of use to wilderness canoe trippers and other outdoor enthusiasts.  Since the list was compiled pre-“Google Maps Era,” maps on the web were not nearly as sophisticated as they are now.  Since my maintenance of the page has been sorely lacking, it had not been updated for many, many years, and many of the best new mapping resources were not represented.  I recently decided to do something about that, and have put up a newly renovated “Maps” page.  Take a moment now to check it out, then come back here.

I decided that since some of the best Canadian data is now available via Web Mapping Services (WMS) that I should have the maps embedded directly on my own page, rather than just linking to other sites.  I’ve done that with the Toporama and OBM Maps pages.

Since you’re likely all GIS folks, you may wonder why I didn’t use OpenLayers, or something similar.  In fact, you may be wondering what I did use.  It’s an embedded map from GIS Cloud.  I chose to do this more as a ‘test’ than anything.  Since GIS Cloud was first announced, I’ve been interested in checking it out, but had no suitable ‘project’ to test it with. I decided that this was a perfect opportunity.

You’re probably interested in some basic thoughts on how GIS Cloud works.  I can’t say I’ve spent a huge amount of time with it yet, but so far, it is getting two thumbs up from me!  It’s very simple to create a map, and add data (you can upload your own, which it will pump into a PostGIS database behind the scenes).  Simple themeing, quering, etc. is all supported.  It does what you would expect a basic GIS viewer to do.  So far the analysis side seems a bit weak, but it appears that may come.  The real beauty of this is just how easy it is.  Want to create an embedded map (like my examples)? No problem. A few clicks, copy and paste the code, and you’re done.  Want to share in Google Maps?  Just as easy.  Want to publish as your own WMS?  Done.  In my opinion, this is the killer feature.  Load any of your own data, theme it with a simple user friendly interface, add other layers to it, and very quickly publish to WMS.  No hardware required.  No crazy software install and configuration issues.  Just a few clicks and you have an active WMS.  Amazing.

What do you think?  Have you played with GIS Cloud?  What do you feel are its strengths and weaknesses?  What are you using it for?  Let me know in the comments!

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