Map advice

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Where do I get the appropriate data to draw a good
political map of the world and each continent?

This may seem somewhat off topic (at first), but these two
groups are heavily user presentation oriented, so please bear
with my oblique query...  I have a potential project coming
up, with an initial meeting in a few days.  The basic project is
to have a world map, click over any continent any you get
an image map for that continent.  Now move the mouse over
any country and you get some stats for that country (or click to
get the stats) like the number of widgets the country produces
and the average shoe size of its citizens.

Every part of this is straightforward for me except the image
maps.  My problem is getting the maps.  These are really barebones
maps we're talking about (no cities or roads needed, not even
country names), but they should look nice and precise.  Of
course any existing maps are already copyrighted my potential
clients will want ownership of the maps.  So where do I look
for a simple but good quality political map for the web?

FURTHERMORE, country colors should somehow reflect on
the number of widgets produced.  Occasionally (infrequently)
the widget counts will change and they'll have an entry method
for that, but now the country colors should change (on an
automated basis).  To me this means that what I'm really after
is some specification for the coordinates of the outlines of countries,
and on the server side I'll have to create new maps whenever
widget counts are changed.  So, though this part is well out
of newsgroup scope, I'll get PHP to do that (which I don't
have a problem with).  The point is that the maps will be
static but need to be regenerated occasionally for coloration.

So, my real question is: Where do I get the appropriate data
to draw a good political map of the world and each continent?

I've searched the web and probably don't know the right
words (map server is not what I'm really looking for, I think,
since I'll only be serving static pages).  Also, I'm open to
other architectural comments on this possible project.

Csaba Gabor

Re: Map advice

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whenever i've noticed attribute lines for stuff like that it always
seems to be the cia world fact book. /

b  r  u  c  i  e

Re: Map advice

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Thanks Brucie, good tip.  They have good maps (for what I want to do)
freely available, but not the underlying data for me to regenerate the maps.
As of right now, what I'm planning is getting one of those maps,
writing a little progam to record where I click, and then I can trace
out all the countries.  Then dump those polygon points to a database
and let PHP craft the resultant map.  Still, it seems like this is something
that should be standardly available and not something I should be doing.
Plus, my tracing would not be nearly so fine grained as the underlying maps.

(As a side note: I wonder if this technique doesn't allow me to use pretty
much any map because what I create is my own, since I'm drawing it myself.
Ie. as I understand it, it's not the data that is copyrighted, but the
An interesting copyright issue)


Re: Map advice

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Do you mean like the maps on the Degree Confluence Website?
I'm not the one that does the maps, but all the data came
from public sources. Ont he other hand, there are many more
man-hours involved in locating the data, massaging it, and
producing the maps, than can possibly be done in "a few days".

Dave Patton
Canadian Coordinator, Degree Confluence Project /
My website: /

Re: Map advice

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That is a cool site/idea.  Those maps are approximately like
what I'd like.  For example, I'd like the US map at about 2.5
times the size with state borders (more specifically, I'm after
the polygons that determine those borders).  Or a Europe map
that is, again, 2.5 times the size of the US one with borders like
that of the map for Hungary that came up from your link (so of
course the scale would be slightly smaller than what came up for

Yes, I agree that the map data can be had publicly (for example,
a starting point might be htpp://,
but my problem is figuring out what, EXECTLY, to download
and then to understand what I've got (Ie. Is an ARC shapefile
what I want? and how do I work with it?).  As far as I understand,
what I'm looking for is a list like:
Chad: PointC1, PointC2, ..., PointCn
Niger: PointN1, PointN2, ..., PointNm
and so on.

Oh, yes, I agree about the time.  This upcoming meeting is for
discussing the POTENTIAL project.  It will only be due at
the end of May, which I think gives me enough time.

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