Internews Center for Innovation & Learning

Internews Center for Innovation & Learning
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Tile Mill

Tile Mill is an open-source application that enables to create interactive maps. Tile Mill is produced by Development Seed who are known for their "beautiful maps". Using a CSV and other file formats as a source of data, Tile Mill enables to generate pop-up information when the user hovers over map locations. Once the interactive map has been produced, it can be uploaded to the MapBox server enabling the maps to be incorporated in to websites. 

Tile Mill and the associated MapBox products should be considered if users want to use a geographical map as an interface for generating or visualising information related to a specific location or region. It should be noted that the MapBox hosting does cost. Basic accounts are $5 / month. The tutorial that comes with the application is quite good. However, to create more complex maps - such as Media Landscape in Afghanistan - there's a need to bring in a person or people with design and technical skills. Users can become familiar with the basics of TileMill and generate a simple map in a couple of hours.

Contracting Development Seed to build interactive maps is possible, but their professional services are expensive - ranging from $20,000 upwards. Development Seed has open-sourced all their products, and if a cottage industry builds around their products, then development costs could come down. For projects with small/no budgets, the best way to proceed for now is to either stick to simple maps, or get the IT team to carefully go through the documentation and look at some of the existing maps that Internews has already had built by Development Seed - and look and learn, and do.

Available expertise: 

The Afghanistan Project has used Development Seed to produce interactive maps, including the Afghanistan Journalist Violence site. Michael Dwyer has spent time using TileMill and creating composited maps.  For more details on this contact someone from the Afghanistan team or the author of this post.

Key Features: 
Create interactive maps that visualise data sets
Suitable for: 
visualising datasets, producing interactive maps, overlaying multiple datasets to determine trends and patterns
Time commitment: 
The basics can be learnt by anyone in a couple of hours, but more complex maps will require high technical skills
Technical expertise needed: 
Anyone with very basic technical sensibility (ie. you can build html pages or use dreamweaver) can create a simple interactive m
Cost considerations: 
Basic maps won't cost much, but highly interactive maps will use high amounts of tech skills.