Public Lab Wiki documentation

balloon mapping review

1 | 2 | | #700

Questions for Balloons/Kites

Review notes:

Lots of people making maps, but not bringing it back to the PLOTS site. Needs more contributors. Perhaps integrate GM Blog into PLOTS site.

EMBED for our Archive maps

barrier to local version of mapknitter is high, recommend other approaches? or offer VM images

  • potential sponsorship for Bitnami stack. not worth our staff hours.


  • how to use PLOTS video
    • portraits of plots researchers.. their workflow.
    • Pat Coyle, Michelle Tobias
    • “map of maps” a map showing where maps are
  • be clear on who we can stitch maps for, how much support we can give.
    • mapknitter co-learning? *Opacity of software development? Can we integrate coding work and hardware work a bit better? Contributors to software also in Public Lab

Proposed goals for next month: Get mappers reporting on their activity, mapknitter trainings? (new quick how-to video for using mapknitter, waivers for safety concerns, person to person contacts), embed for mapknitter send out notification to list, kickstarter supporters... regional meetups + online workshops. Proposed goal for three months: Interviews on outcomes, greater support for kites Proposed goal for six months: Report on outcome for GRM--based on interview data etc, a cadre of expert knitters, Proposed over all goal for year: kite kits for sale and kite documentation.

History/context of tool

  • what inspired it? Low cost Aerial Photography (we don’t have an I had this idea page?)
  • who (all) designed/developed/tested it? Where? Jeff-Broadly used by PLOTS staff and beyond
  • where has it been used and how did it go? Many sites, well (do we have any injury reports) Despite wide use there are a low number of research notes about the tool--are we keeping this distributed community together? Most development was done pre-PLOTS, transition from GM to PLOTS still half-hearted.
  • how specialized is demand for the tool? broadly applicable or very site/condition specific? Broadly used-protest mapping, landuse mapping, wetlands mapping, oil spill mapping


  • documentation, transmission to new users? Documentation of the balloon appears successful-it would be great to do follow up interviews with people who have just made maps with online materials-Despite wide use we only have 10 contributors to the webpage, Kite documentation is also good but its unclear if people have used it to make kites? Would a video or illustrated guide help?
  • tools needed? camera, balloon, helium, bottle, rubber bands, computer, mapknitter
  • skills needed? - what knowledge does it assume? difficulty? How many people are actually knitting there own maps?
  • materials needed - supply chain limitations--Camera and cost/access to Helium, computer access, internet access.
  • saftey--Need a Safety waiver


  • what is it costing us in staff hours? Majority of Staff field hours are mapping events? A large amount of Stew’s time is spent knitting maps?
  • what is it costing in materials?
  • COTS (consumer-off-the-shelf) effects


  • what are the per-use costs?
    • helium $30-50
  • what are wearing parts? (frequency of replacement)
    • balloons (1-10 flights) gloves


  • are there opportunities for people to participate/contribute? People can contribute to making maps, its not clear that people can contribute or are contributing notes on improvements they come up with...does the tool seem too fixed?
  • formats: online/offline? Both are required to make a map
  • cost? (dollars, time) $100 for flight, average map knitting time--not clear from documentation
  • access to materials, components? Internet access required to finish map. Do we have a downloadable version of MapKnitter?
  • language barrier? Spainish language version
  • language: domain-specific, insider/outsider

Change effected

  • how has it measurably/materially affected:
    • local ecology Not clear from documentation
    • available/actionable information? Not clear from documentation
    • decision making-Not clear from documentation
    • legal, policy, regulatory-Not clear from documentation
    • enables participation in a formerly closed information loop


2012 tool goals:

  • Mapknitter-Map of Maps?
  • Interviews with Users
  • Increase number of online contributors?
  • Stew train some other expert map knitters?
  • Do we have a downloadable version of MapKnitter?

  • Need follow up research on how maps have been used

  • Can we encourage or do a drive to encourage people to share their mapping stories and success stories?
  • Would be nice to see local versions of Balloons and kites.

  • Kites are underrepresented on the grassroots mapping page-There is only one mention of Kites-without saying why you might choose to use a kite...make a decision tree? Is a Kite or Balloon right for you?

  • Illustrated guide for kite?