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MapMan #001

Luke Concollato.jpeg

The Magic of Maps: From RuneScape to Real Landscapes

When I was a kid, I used to play a computer game called RuneScape. It was an online open-world game, but most of the world was restricted to members only.
My parents refused to pay the $10 per month membership fee, so I resorted to looking at the map and wondering about all the amazing places and stories hidden just out of reach.
Maybe this is why I love maps; they don’t just help us navigate but reveal the rich stories within them.
Fast forward a couple of decades, I’m putting together the maps for our next Landscape Impact Program. I want these maps to tell more of a story.
When curated right, maps have the amazing ability to show landscapes in a new light (literally) and help us identify areas of high biodiversity. They tell the story of drought, pre-cleared vegetation, or water movement.
Maps tell the story of communities and families.
I want our maps to tell the stories of our farmers, their land, and the landscapes they steward.
Instead of producing a static PDF or a data portal where farmers toggle layers on and off, we decided to create ArcGIS StoryMaps for each farm and the overall landscape.
This way, farmers can use their Farm Story as a tool to understand the opportunities on their land and as a showcase for their farm.
ArcGIS StoryMaps are a fantastic tool for storytelling, but configuring even one takes a while, let alone dozens. Herein lies the challenge.
I needed to automate the creation, generation, and customisation of each farm’s StoryMap. This involved connecting our Geospatial Reasoning Engine to a new custom script that would identify the available data and then create the panels and text for the StoryMaps.  I’ll spare you the intricacies (there were plenty) but after a couple of weeks of iteration, we finally had a prototype that could take a property boundary and generate the StoryMap in around four minutes. The resulting StoryMap, which can be shared as a web page link, follows the journey of water through the land - I’ll dive into the story structure in a future newsletter.
We rolled out the first round of Farm Stories in our G2G Landscape last week and received some great feedback. It was amazing to hear about the ways farmers intend to use their Farm Story, some of which we hadn’t even considered.

We’re eagerly anticipating the next round of Farm Stories for the Windharp Horizons in the coming weeks and see where this new product will take us and our farmers.


Sincerely,The MapMan (Luke)


P.S.After writing this article, I decided to log back into RuneScape, maybe even getting a membership and exploring the parts of the map I had only fantasised about. Instead, I found out my account had been hacked and banned for running a bot that targeted chickens (you need feathers to fish). I guess I’ll stick to the real maps for now…

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