Put Little Debbie on the Map

Little Debbie Star CrunchIf you’re anything like us, you imagine maps everywhere. There really is no better way to visualize geographic data. In your Excel spreadsheets, or hiding in plain sight on Wikipedia, many stories are best told with a map.

This is one of them.

What’s This Have to Do With Little Debbie?

Recently a friend from Portland, Oregon, got back from visiting family on the east coast. He came to visit and brought Star Crunch cookies, a snack made by Little Debbie. It was his childhood favorite, but he hadn’t found it out west. He’d stocked up while back home.

The next day, I discovered the Snack Finder on Little Debbie’s website. I plugged in a Portland zip code and discovered several places that sell Star Crunch, in a long list of store names and addresses.

Star Crunch store list

That’s the perfect opportunity for a BatchGeo map. Three copy-pastes later (I decided to look up the 12 pack, single Star Crunch, and the Big Pack), I had a beautiful, browsable map. This gave him a way to visualize just how close he was to his favorite childhood cookie.

View Portland-area Star Crunch in a full screen map

I simply texted the link to him, with no other information. He was surely impressed, but probably as much due to BatchGeo’s mobile-optimized maps as the answer to his sweet tooth.

Do the Same With Any List of Locations

This isn’t just a story about finding cookies. While these treats are delicious, you’ll find tasty stories everywhere as you browse the Internet. You just need to look for them. You will find data in all sorts of formats, but many will copy-paste nicely into BatchGeo. Check out our open data tutorial for an example of just how easy it can be.

You can use BatchGeo to visualize the data you find. When you plot it on a map, you’re telling a story. Use the maps in a blog post, create a store locator, or just share it with a friend.

Of course, a BatchGeo doesn’t just plot a bunch of marker pins on a map and stop there. Any additional data becomes available within each marker’s info box. And that same data can be grouped or you can create cluster maps to bubble up important insights within the data.

Don’t let your story go untold. Create a BatchGeo map now for free.

How Often Are There Earthquakes in San Francisco?

It’s been 110 years since the great quake of 1906 destroyed San Francisco. Ever since, San Francisco, and California as a whole, has obtained a reputation for these ground-shaking natural disasters. On the anniversary, we thought we’d take a look at every significant California earthquake since 1900 and see just how many are in San Francisco.

California earthquake heat map

For starters, we used our new Advanced Tools to look at a heat map of the data. This takes into account the concentration of individual quakes. The greater Bay Area is certainly a hot zone, though that is a geographically large region. To the North is Santa Rosa, with Santa Cruz to the South. Each of these cities is around 50 miles away from San Francisco.

Next we added a record to the top of our data to serve as the center of San Francisco. Then we had BatchGeo calculate the distance from every earthquake epicenter to that San Francisco data point. With the map below, we can now see how many earthquakes have been near San Francisco.

View California Earthquakes Relative to San Francisco in a full screen map

Using BatchGeo’s grouping feature, we can filter the map to see the earthquakes within about 50 miles of San Francisco. There have only been half a dozen since 1906, and no others that were centered within the city. The closest was a 2014 Napa quake, 30 miles away with a magnitude of 6.

Distance is only one factor. Plate tectonics and magnitude have a lot to say about how far the disastrous effects will travel. The 1989 earthquake that interrupted the Bay Bridge World Series between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants collapsed a section of that bridge, as well as a San Francisco freeway. The epicenter was nearly 60 miles away from San Francisco in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Expanding the radius to 100 miles still only shows 13 major earthquakes, including both 1906 and 1989, as well as others that did no damage in San Francisco. That leaves another 41 earthquakes elsewhere in California. There are several clustered around Eureka, a small group in the Sierras, and quite a few in the Los Angeles area.

To conclude, in San Francisco you can expect an earthquake every decade or so, but it’s unlikely to match the expectations set by disaster movie San Andreas, the devastation of 1906, or even the World Series postponing shakes of 1989.

Advanced Mode Adds Even More Insights to Your Maps

Your maps help you understand your data. They tell a story that a standard spreadsheet just doesn’t make possible. With our new Advanced Mode, we’ve enhanced the visual map by selectively exposing the data it contains. You can use sort, select, and copy any of your data in spreadsheet-like format. We’ve also included visual selection tools (rectangles and circles), as well as a handy distance measuring tool. BatchGeo’s Advanced Mode is available to all Pro users. We think it’s so useful that we’ve switched it on by default (you can adjust this in the Pro menu in the upper right corner of any map).

Data Sorting, Selecting, and Copying

At the heart of Advanced Mode is the Data View, which can be activated from the context menu by right clicking on the map. The height-adjustable table looks a lot like a spreadsheet. It also acts a lot like a spreadsheet, allowing you to sort columns and select rows. Then you can copy the selected data to paste back into a spreadsheet or use as a new BatchGeo map.

To sort, click a column heading. To reverse the sort order, click again. When you’re ready to select several rows, click and drag to highlight them all—you may see the map view change in response as it displays those you’ve selected. To select (or un-select) one at a time, hold Ctrl (Cmd on Mac) and click on the desired row.

Advanced Mode Data View

When you’re ready to copy your selected data, just activate the context menu with a right click above the data view and choose Copy.

Select Visually Using the Drawing Tools

Sorting and selecting via the Data View will likely feel familiar to working with spreadsheets. You can also highlight the map geographically, with your selection translating to the table below. The drawing tools in the upper left of the map bring the power of visual selection to your data view. Use the rectangle and circle tools to choose just the markers you want to include. Then copy them as you would when selecting data in the table itself.

Bounding box selection

To select using the bounding box, choose the rectangular tool icon. Position your cursor to one of the corners of the area you want to select. Then click and hold your mouse while you draw the box around the markers you want to select. The circle tool is similar, but instead of starting at one corner, you begin in the middle of your selection. In both cases, you can hold shift while selecting to extend your selection.

In addition to visual and data selection, there are two other features of Advanced Mode we want to point out.

View Heat Maps to Expose Marker Density

There are already a number of ways to visualize the density of locations using a BatchGeo map. Since we display all the markers, more in one area will naturally cause them to overlap. You can also use our map clustering feature, which is a great way to share the data within your map publicly. As part of Advanced Mode, we’ve added heat maps, which gives any Pro user the ability to toggle a heat map view of the geographic data.

Heatmap for UFO sightings

To activate the Heat View, just select it in the context menu with a right click above the map. Once activated, it will become your own personal default view on any map until you deactivate it using the same context menu on any map. The Heat View will only be visible to users that are part of your Pro plan using the web interface, and only if they use the same menu to activate.

Heat View is the best way to visualize the density of locations to uncover the story within your data. We think you’ll like it.

Calculate the Distance Between Markers

Finally, a fun little feature that we’ve found surprisingly useful. How many times have you wanted to know the distance between points on your map, or how far a marker is from a landmark? This happens to us all the time, so we added another tool to calculate on the fly.

Measuring Tool

Select the little ruler icon in the upper left menu. Then click and hold where you want your line to start. As you drag the cursor, you’ll see the distance displayed. It uses a straight, as-the-crow-flies calculation. You can take as many measurements as you like, and let go of the mouse click whenever you’re done.

Uncover More in Your Maps

We’ve heard from other BatchGeo Pro members that these tools help them find more value within their data. You can zero in on the customers, leads, or other location data that is important in the moment. The new Data View allows for easily exporting subsets of your spreadsheets, with the visual selection bringing brand new ways to geographically slice and dice your data.

Let us know what you think. If you haven’t yet, you can upgrade to Pro with our no-risk 30-day refund guarantee.

World Homicide Data Visualizes “Hot Spots”

We’re fond of the notion that maps tell a story. A spreadsheet can be a great way to organize data, but it also obfuscates insights that are made clear visually. Sometimes the underlying story is a good one, like the 36 hours of #love. Other times, as with the map of worldwide homicide data below, the story can expose some negative trends. A lot of good can come from telling a bad story. It can open eyes, inspire change, or simply start a conversation.

View Homicide Rates of World Cities in a full screen map

All of the cities on the homicide map have higher murder rates than anybody wants, though some are much worse than others. The homicide rate typically used to compare cities is the number of murders per 100,000 population of a city. This allows for more direct comparisons than actual homicide numbers.

Although, no matter how you look at the data, Mexico and south in the Americas have some serious issues. The highest homicide rate is in Iguala, Mexico. Its 183 murders for just 118,102 population put it at a rate of 154.95. Another 11 cities also have a rate of at least 100. The largest city in the bunch, San Pedro Sula in Honduras saw 2,777 murders in 2013 (the most recent data) for its population of just over 2 million. That’s a rate of 127.45 per 100,000.

In terms of raw homicide numbers, the only places outside of the above region with more than 1,000 murders is Karachi, Pakistan (population 21 million), and the three largest cities in South Africa.

By comparison, the United States looks tame, with every city on the lower end of the homicide rate. That said, the US has more cities on this map than any other country, with 16. The next highest is Columbia (15), then South Africa (12), Mexico (12), and Brazil (11). To appear on the list at all, these cities have some of the highest violent crime in the world.

Of course, these numbers are all self-reported. There is huge unrest in some African countries, for example, that isn’t tracked here. Also, areas at war are not included.

There are many other insights to be found in this map, or any map you make. Use BatchGeo’s grouping feature to filter and expose the stories within your data. Then go tell them.

Where to See UFOs in the United States

A light flashes in the sky, a shape emerges that you cannot quite identify as manmade. Could it be a UFO? My strict definition, that object is both flying and unidentified. If you’re like thousands of others across the United States who have seen these, you’ll submit it through an online form or by calling a hotline. In 2015 alone, there were over 6,000 UFO reports, many including shapes and other details. We’ve plotted every one of these reports on the BatchGeo maps below.

View 2015 UFO Sightings, sum clustering in a full screen map

We’ve used our map clustering feature to show an overview of the more than 1,000 cities that had two or more potentially extraterrestrial sightings in 2015. This accounts for more than half of the overall sightings. The sum clustering shows the total reports for a region, and you can click a cluster to zoom into the area. Once you get to an individual marker, its contents will show the details of the most recent sighting.

All 6,267 reports are available in the detail map below, but this overview map gives a good idea of where you’re most likely to see a UFO—or, at least, where people are more likely to report them. This data was gathered by the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC).

UFO in the Bedroom by Marc Brüneke

While reports are predictably more common in higher population areas, big cities like New York and Los Angeles do not make the top 10. Phoenix had the most reports with 42, followed closely by Las Vegas at 41. Tucson, Portland (OR), and Chicago round out the top five, with around 25 reports each. Orlando, Boise, Albuquerque, San Diego, and Seattle complete the top 10.

Famous UFO landing spot Roswell, New Mexico, only had two reports in 2015, the same number as Roswell, Georgia.

View 2015 UFO Sightings in the US (detail) in a full screen map

The above detailed version of the UFO data shows every report from 2015. This can be great fun—or research—browsing the sightings near you. The details in the reports are sometimes humorous, sometimes insightful, as NUFORC attempts to explain some as satellites or stars.

One of the most interesting pieces of data in the reports are the shapes of the UFOs. The classic “flying saucer” disk is not as popular as you might expect (198 sightings, 10th most common). That said, circle (#2) and sphere (#5) were common. Seen in 20% of the reports, by far the most common “shape,” simply describes the UFO as light.

Have you seen a UFO? You’re not alone. You can join thousands of others by reporting it to NUFORC. Or grab the latest data and use it to create a BatchGeo map of your own.