April 8th, 2008

Six map apps that put Portland on the mapping map

Maybe it’s the fact that we’re a major inland port. Maybe it’s the affection for the outdoors that permeates the Portland culture. Whatever it is, we’ve got something for maps around here. Portland is map happy. And nowhere is that more evident than our obsession with the mapping APIs that further the technology of cartography.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the mapping and location apps that call Portland, Oregon, home. (Thanks in no small part to the reigning King of mapping, Matt King. An “*” below identifies each of his mapping projects.)


The most well-known Portland-based mapping application, Platial, is the largest independent social mapping application. According to the Platial site:

Platial enables anyone to find, create, and use meaningful maps of Places that matter to them. Our dream is to connect people, neighborhoods, cities, and countries through a citizen-driven common context that goes beyond geopolitical boundaries. We are building Platial because we adore Places.


The admittedly “we did it for the fun of it project” that helps the would-be lush-on-a-budget find the nearest happy hour. And fast.

In Unthirsty‘s own words:

Unthirsty is the work of a group of like-minded souls who were always struggling (for obvious reasons) to remember where and when they last enjoyed that good happy hour. A plan of action was drawn up on beer sodden napkins over bargain pints and some mighty fine nachos. Thus, Unthirsty was launched and dedicated to the good of all mankind’s legally drinking denizens.


Yearning for yarn? Look no further than KnitMap, your way to finding all of your needling knitting needs or simply getting your Turkish Cast-on on.

KnitMap describes itself as:

[A] site that catalogues and maps the locations of retail shops that sell yarn, knitting supplies and knitting accessories. You can search to find these locations in the US, Canada, UK and most of Europe. Its anywhere that Google maps will work, and the list is growing everyday! Once you’ve found a shop, you can rate it’s attributes, leave comments, upload photos, and add it to your Favorites.


Think Unthirsty and KnitMap are cool, but interested in putting your own spin on the “plot and find [whatever] via Google Maps”? Then look no further than SocialMap, the mapping technology that powers both of those properties.

Why release SocialMap?

SocialMap was created to help solve the problems we encountered on the web within the communities we are a part of. Through its humble beginnings as a national Happy Hour finder, then a Knitting store locator, we noticed regions and groups that had a passionate user base, but were very underrepresented online. Existing websites and search engines were not only dated in their technology but lacked the ability for users to interact with the information presented.


Winner of the “Best Mashup” at this year’s Mashup Camp, Mapdango takes other API-accessible content and plots it on the map.

Mashup Awards described Mapdango as:

An extensive Google Maps mashup that lets you explore locations with helpful information including weather (WeatherBug), photos (Flickr), facts (Wikipedia), events (Eventful), news (Google News) and more.


New to the Portland mapping scene, WeoGeo takes a deep dive into online cartography, providing extremely detailed mapping options.

[WeoGeo] supplies surveyors, engineers, cartographers, and scientists with the ability to conveniently store, search, and exchange high-resolution CAD and GIS mapping products. Mappers easily list their data for sale. Researchers quickly find the data they need.

(Bonus) TwitterLocal* (formerly known as TwitterWhere)

It’s not a mapping application, per se, so I didn’t want to include it on the list. But TwitterLocal is another Matt King project that makes location information useful in the context of Twitter. Simply plug in a location and TwitterLocal will provide an RSS feed of the Twitter residents in that area, like Portland, for example. It’s a valuable tool for getting a feel for your neighborhood Twitter types.

That’s just a short list. But, admittedly, there’s so much mapping occurring in map-happy Portland, that I may have missed some obvious maps. If I did, please feel free to admonish me in the comments.

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20 Responses to “Six map apps that put Portland on the mapping map”

  1. David Kohler says:

    Thanks for the mention, Rick. We chose to relocate our company, WeoGeo, to Portland from Tampa not only for the great tech community, but also the healthy professional mapping community. I am sure with exciting new geo items coming out daily, like Yahoo’s Fire Eagle and Apple’s iPhone SDK, we will see more and more blending of the tech and mapping communities. And this list will no doubt continue to grow.

  2. Matt King says:

    I almost hate to admit I have about 3 more location-based applications coming out very soon. Apparently I can’t get enough.

  3. Rick Turoczy says:

    Then I’ll have to publish the “Seven Matt King mapping apps that are putting Portland on the mapping map” or “Matt King is map happy.” Or both.

  4. David Kohler says:

    Our timing is a little off. By the end of this week, we will be hosting Aerials Express’ (a national aerial photography company) entire Portland catalog.

    On anther note: for those interested in traditional mapping technologies. Portland is hosting the national annual conference for ASPRS (http://www.asprs.org/portland08/index.html) at the end of this month.

  5. Allan White says:

    Don’t forget EspressoMap! Indispensable.

  6. Matt King says:

    Or, “What is with this Matt guy? I mean, why can’t he stop making map applications? Doesn’t he know it’s getting a little out of hand?”

  7. Rick Turoczy says:

    Got another recommendation: http://tripplanner.bycycle.org

    @Allan White Thanks for http://espressomap.com/ too!

  8. Also the Personal Telco Project’s map of wireless hotspots around Portland: http://map.personaltelco.net

  9. Thanks, Rick. Just got a chance to catch up on stuff! Great post. Kudos to Matt King for being so prolific!

    New functionality coming to mapdango soon as well.

    And some other geo* apps coming in time. Let’s keep the map happy momentum going in Portland!

  10. AdamD says:

    I usually try to shy away from tooting my own horn and it’s not exclusively a map app (built in 2004–”the age when geocoding was difficult”)… but check out http://www.wifipdx.com/

  11. Audrey says:

    Now I really have to get a new and improved food cart map (http://www.speakeasy.org/~aeschright/maps/) out there, before Matt or someone else beats me to it.

  12. GPS Visualizer (http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/) is also based in Portland, and has been around for longer than any of the six sites mentioned in this article!

  13. One more the list, though a tad ancient (2 years old)

    Web 2.0 Innovation Map (http://www.fourio.com/web20map)

    Portland didn’t have much to map back then, now would be another story.

  14. Whoops, my link didn’t get linked. I’ll try again with HTML: http://www.gpsvisualizer.com

  15. [...] Originally launched in December 2007, Portland Octopus is a side project of Selliken Systems, LLC. (Yet another Portland-based mapping application I need to add to my next Portland map app round up.) [...]

  16. [...] we really, absolutely have a WhereCamp Portland. Let’s say in October. There’s just too much interesting mapping and location-geekery happening here to not do it. Who wants to help make this [...]

  17. [...] you all know that Portland has been enamored of the geolocation and geogeeking stuff for quite a while. We’re kind of like that. But now, we’re starting to see the idea of [...]

  18. [...] happy hours throughout Portland, or anywhere else you might be. If you’re into mapping, the geo-geek mapping goodness here may keep you chained to your desk a little longer than you [...]

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