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Magnus has suggested that we add an interface, to some sort of map generator, so that instead of cobbling together and separately uploading gazillions of maps of every little thing we can just specify coordinates and *poof* are provided with a map suitable for most basic uses.

There's probably no other way to do it. We need a spacetime_DTD though, so that latitude, longitude, polar drift, etc., are taken into account when you have spacetime coordinates on Earth in the past.
You don't need to account for polar drift unless you want to walk through a doorway with your eyes closed guided only by GPS, 3 years after the coordinates of the door were recorded. -- Tim Starling 02:13 5 Jul 2003 (UTC)
I wish to understand what is meant by "polar drift" and how this is relevant to what you propose, as I don't.
Unlike mathematical abstractions, everything in the real world is constantly in motion. The surface of the earth, including various positions of various poles (magnetic, rotational, etc.), are not perfectly still relative to one another, so surface features recorded with a high precision one year may appear to move to another position over time. Mostly this has to do with the drift of the anchors of the coordinate system at the poles, but there are also other forces of nature at work (tectonics, vulcanism, etc.) that shift surface features slightly. Until recently (GPS) these shifts were unthinkably negligible, as another comment suggests. Most solutions are probably impractical for a wikiatlas, but stamping the time and date of a GPS reading along with the coordinates is relatively simple and will allow software (javascript/server script) to compensate for drift (if necessary) and identify stale data that may require new readings.

A number of maps have been uploaded by Caltrop made with the generator at Online Map Creation, which uses publicly available geographic datasets and the GPL'd GMT mapping tools. These are pretty rough on the eyes, but with some tweaking (and antialiasing!) we could probably get a similar setup, er, set up that could generate attractive maps on demand from within the wiki system.

Also see [1] which is getting at some of these problems, Talk:Wikipedia_DTD and Talk:Wikitax where some space and time coordinate issues are discussed. Simple ideology of Wikitax lays out a start at how to approach this in the Wikitax specification.

Thoughts? Comments? has a really good collection of county outline maps for the US states. These maps are very "plain" so they are easy to modify. I modified the county map for w:Cumberland County, Maine for example in MS Paint by simply painting in that county (one click). It would be similarly easy to add a generic "Legend" to each map, marking state capitals, county seats and major cities, painting water bodies blue and so on. That's what is so nice about generic maps. If PHP has the ability to modify images before sending them to the client, you could just keep the state maps on the server and do modifications like painting in a county, adding caption text and stars for capitals et al on the fly. I mean, if that would be easier then writting the script from scratch to generate images. Robert Lee

Is this something we should do? Is this something we should not do? Are other tools sufficiently usable and within our grasp?

Discussing tools here is the wrong approach. An Atlas must start with a standard spacetime_DTD.

Wikipediatlas? That contains 100% of the word "Wikipedia", which it should not since it will be different. Perhaps Wikiatlas? Emperorbma

A very interesting project is HEML, the Historical Event Markup and Linking Project at It provides a means of coordinating and navigating disparate historical materials on the internet. It includes

  • an XML schema for historical events which describes the events' participants, dates, *location* and keywords; the schema associates these with source materials in print or on the web.
  • XSLT stylesheets that combine conforming documents and generate lists, maps and graphical timelines out of them. WouterVH


  • Don't have to upload millions of image files
  • Changing the parameters of the map can be done by any contributor by tweaking the magic markup; no re-upload etc -- more wikiish than current system
  • If you need a more detailed map, you can take one of these and tweak the image, then upload it
  • Visual consistency between maps


  • Work to set up, maintain the system
  • More special markup to learn for users/editors
  • Server load?
  • Increased dependency on central server; more stuff to set up for potential fork of project. (Or is that a pro?)

If we do set up a Wikipedia map generator, here are some ideas:

Things it must do[edit]

  • Map syntax must specify coordinates, scale... obey a spacetime_DTD

  • And image size -- sometimes you want a tiny li'l map as a locator, sometimes you want something huge. There should also be a reasonable default size.
  • And map projection -- a little orthagonal 3d globe projection like the mockups to the right would be perfect to stick in the corner of a page to establish world context. Again, there should be a reasonable default.
  • Color scheme should 'fit in' to Wikipedia reasonably well. Electric blue and orange just aren't my favorites. :)
  • Antialias! Jaggies make the maps very hard to read.
  • Cache the generated images. It would sorely waste server power and user time to regenerate every map every time someone looks at it.

Things it should be able to do[edit]

  • Select showing of continent, national boundaries; subnational if possible
  • Highlight the given country in a separate color
  • choose whether the displayed map is political or geographical, or neither. What about historical maps?
  • adjust for polar drift over centuries, i.e. time is part of place
  • Labeling of countries, oceans, rivers, moutains, major cities -- should be able to fit with the language of the article
  • Have detailed information on the ocean. Names of currents, boundaries, danger zones and topography.

Things that would be cool[edit]

  • Clickable image maps -- ability to click on a continent, country, or labeled entity and jump to the article about it
  • Topo/physical
  • Adding elements to the maps, such as arrows (for invasions, population movements), symbols (oil wells, airports, fishing centers, etc) labels (this person died here in 343), and boundaries (France in 1678).
  • Show continental drift past and future; perhaps even showing the creation and erosion of mountain ranges in the process.
  • Locations and details of sunken ships etc.
  • In a spirit of cooperation have the facility to vote & rank a link based on how appealing it is to walk or cycle
  • Keep in mind, that coastlines and rivers changed their path over the centuries - I personally are always very amazed about maps showing the german coast 200 years ago and having it in it's nowadays shape
  • present locations in the context of today's boundaries (national boundaries, rivers) and/or historic boundaries. For example, it would be able to present ancient Prussia on a current map that will facilitate geographical understanding, or various empires over time.

Words would be editable in different idioms ( or include symbols for certain terms ). For this, the ideal is en:SVG to edit the text if necessary.

Another thing is putting streets, parks and buildings mountaintops, and so on (like the gazeteer of Mapquest and WhereIs, even Yahoo Maps (Japanese))long with other features and Wikipediatlas will be launched soon. This is going to be informational. The map size will be huge. 18:37 (UTC) Pumpie


In the short term, can we handle this like we handle ISBN numbers, where Latitude and Longitude coordinates are recognized when the page is generated, and redirected to a special Wiki page while preserving the numbers as parameters? Then, we can just redirect to other sites to generate the actual maps, just like the ISBN page does, and users could edit in their own sites just like they add their own libraries tody. Presumably this would be trivial to implement, since all the logic already exists and would just need to be cloned. -- 16:27, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)


I've put a few things up at, although it's just a "view atlas" rather than the editable framework at the moment...


Zephyr46 ( ) this was made with the Geosphere Applet, ( ) if it can be loaded into WikiFormat the only issue is the XML sheet that stores all the geotags. The entries could be organised by national capitals, provincial capitals, Ancient cities or by country etc. AkuAku's blog has a great layout demonstration ( .

Not only geographical atlas[edit]

We have on wikipedias, wikinews and other projects a template Wikimedia Commons has media related to: on pl wiki it is look for gallery on commons. So I think, that we have of course many files on commons : photos, maps, sound files etc., but there are described on commons in many languages: commons:George W. Bush, commons:Warszawa, commons:Москва. There are graphics (and other files) chaotic throwed to main space pages.

I think about Wikiatlas as a project with own portals: Geographical atlas, Zoological atlas, Botanical atlas, historical atlas, each one in each languages. Atlas is not only simply and accidental collection of maps or other graphics. It requires a good description. Commons is now only a "store" for useful files.

If somebody wants to look for Atlas of Polad, Atlas of Africa or for Atlas of Animals, and wants to read it in his language, we are able to give it him/her now. Aren't we? :) Przykuta 08:28, 6 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Related projects[edit]

Related projects on wikimedia sites[edit]

Related projects externally[edit]

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