June, 2012 Archives

With over half a million geotagged photos on Flickr in the Washington, DC region, we can use that data to explore our community. For this post, I am going to conduct text searches to see if certain words have a geographic pattern in their usage. Text searches in Flickr’s API are matched against the photo’s title, description, and tags. I’m using a map of 560-by-320 pixels, or 20.64-by-11.81 miles at this zoom level (244 square miles).

To start with, I picked terms that should clearly map to certain areas: “Virginia,” “Maryland”, and “District of Columbia.” Virginia returned 23,840 photos, shown in blue. Maryland returned 17,477 photos, shown in red. District of Columbia returned 32,386 photos, shown in green. The heat map uses the natural logarithm of the totals, in order to prevent the regions from being dominated by the high-intensity spikes.

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I have over 44,000 geotagged photos on my Flickr account, most of which are in the Washington, DC region. But Flickr doesn’t let me see their distribution, limiting me to 200 photos at a time in the Organizer, and even fewer on my map. My custom-made heat map (below) shows the total photos without having to page. Because my photos in Dupont Circle are so numerous as to dwarf other areas, I used a two-tone heat map switching gradients at 1% of the highest square. Overall there are 35,377 photos from MVJantzen in this map.

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After discovering that the National Mall has the bulk of Washington, DC’s geotagged Flickr photos, I wanted to zoom in and study the distribution more closely. In this more-detailed view, the square with the most photos is over the National Air & Space Museum. With over 9 million visitors per year, Air & Space is the city’s most-visited museum. The 14-by-14-pixel in that location has 8,502 photos. However, because that square does not map directly onto the museum, it is only an approximation; you should also examine neighboring squares that might also overlap the museum. And of course we are counting only photos that are geotagged, which is a small subset of all photos actually taken.

The second-most populated square on the grid is over the Verizon Center, with 8,291 photos. The third-highest square falls on the Lincoln Memorial, with 8,171 photos. (Again, these numbers represent only the squares, not the attraction they seem to correspond to.)

It’s interesting to see the trail of photos around the perimeter of the Tidal Basin, with a blank segment on the north by the Kutz Bridge. Perhaps that’s because the sidewalk is too narrow to invite lingering, or because people care only about the trees elsewhere. You can also see a cluster along Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as 7th Street. The entire map has 341,464 photos. » Continue Reading…

Where are Washington, DC’s most interesting places? On the theory that people are more likely to take photos of interesting places, I used Flickr’s API to find out how many photos were geo-tagged across the region. Starting with a 480-by-360-pixel map, I created a grid with 32 columns and 24 rows, making 768 15-by-15-pixel squares. For each square, I calculated the latitude and longitude of the boundary, and asked Flickr to tell me how many photos have been geotagged in that area. The cropped image below makes it clear the National Mall is the most-photographed place in the area, with West Potomac Park and downtown also registering on the radar.

That bright red square on the Mall has 63,793 photos taken on it, but the total for the original (uncropped) map has 719,633. I used a linear scale to set the opacity of each square in the heat map. Any square with fewer than 1% of the highest-value square’s total will be practically invisible. Since the Mall dominates the photographic landscape, I need to use a different display method to show the variation among the less-popular areas. » Continue Reading…

Like everyone else on the planet, I saw the Avengers super-hero movie, and liked it enough to look forward to the inevitable sequel. But as a long-time (albeit former) reader of The Avengers comic books, I have a list of things I want to see in the sequel.

I want Ultron. The post-credits sequence brought the villainous Thanos into the storyline, but the super-villain I want to see is Ultron. His origin’s connection to Henry Pym and the Vision would provide a narrative foundation for the next movie. His patented encephalo-ray makes for dramatic comic-book panels, but is a bit problematic because he has to keep missing or else it’s game over (victims become brain dead). The Avengers don’t really have any other iconic adversaries. No one wants to see Kang the Conqueror or Immortus in a movie. Once Marvel gets the movie rights for the Fantastic Four or the X-Men, they can pit the Avengers against Dr Doom or Magneto, which would be fun. » Continue Reading…

I returned to the DC Data Catalog in hopes of finding data that revealed something hidden about our city. But the data is either too dense or too scant, and nothing I found rewarded the effort to mine the data.

I started with the Building Permits, using data from January through April of 2012. This four-month period had a whopping 11,991 permits issued. The system has three types of permits, which I represented with primary colors: green for construction (35% of the total), red for supplemental (53%), and blue for post card (12%). “Postcard” permits are for the most common home-improvement and small construction projects. 206 of all entries (under 2%) had no geographic coordinates and thus aren’t included on the map.

The animation on the right has no surprises. The permits are fairly evenly distributed.

So, next I looked at 311 calls for 2010. 311 handles all non-emergency calls for city services. There were 429,676 calls logged in 2010. DC has a population of 601,723, so I guess that’s less than one call person per year. I looked for calls that might be indicative of quality-of-life issues, that might have an interesting geographic pattern. » Continue Reading…

Sometimes Data Is Boring

For fans of beers and bike, the New Belgium Brewing Company brought its Tour de Fat festival to Yards Park in Washington DC. Makers of Fat Tire Ale, the Fort Collins-based company puts together the free festival, and gives the beer sales proceeds to WABA and other local bicycle advocacy groups. The event started in the morning with a costumed bicycle parade to RFK stadium and back. It was a beautiful day for the kooky carnival. There was entertainment all day long, most notably from colorful marching bands MarchFourth and Mucca Pazza.

Splat on the Camera
Exploding water balloon » Continue Reading…

The DC Strokes Rowing Club held their annual Stonewall Regatta at the Anacostia Community Boathouse. Though the Anacostia has better conditions for rowing than the Potomac River (it has less traffic and is less choppy), it lacks the glamour of its better-known and larger neighbor. The boathouse is in a remote area with no commercial activity nearby. But on Sunday the regatta made the Anacostia river come alive, with 19 teams competing in 33 events, and food trucks serving lunch. In the morning, pink-clad runners were seen in the background, across the river in Anacostia Park for the Girls on the Run event. I was lucky enough to ride in a launch to take the following photos.

Racing the S.S. Barry
DC Strokes Rowing Club » Continue Reading…

2012 Stonewall Regatta

Crack came back with another assault on the city’s sense of taste and decorum. The misfit theatre troupe put on a show called “Anything Goes,” six months after they romped through Town with Crack High. With drag queens, skits, and comedy, it’s the closest we get to vaudeville in DC. The high point was an irreverent medley from Sister Act that was fearless and fun. The photos below are just a sample of the show’s mix of misfits.

Mother and Baby
Summer Camp and friends » Continue Reading…

Offensive Attack on Washington

I dipped into DC’s data catalog and extracted the bike theft data. They have five years of crime stats posted. However, the most recent year, 2011, has only 5 bike thefts reported. That’s after 629 in 2007, 729 in 2008, 551 in 2009, and 545 in 2010.

The crimes are recorded in the city’s database as crime = theft and method = bicycle. I’m baffled why this is recorded in a “method” field; this sounds like the crime was committed by someone on a bike. The city’s Crime Incidents page defines their usage thus: » Continue Reading…