ISO 3166-1

Wednesday, 2 October, 2019

ISO 3166-1 just trips off the tongue, however it’s one of those standards that underpins a fair amount of daily geospatial traffic that is undertaken on a daily basis. Yes, I’m talking about country codes which Wikipedia helpfully defines as:

ISO 3166-1… defines codes for the names of countries, dependent territories, and special areas of geographical interest

This is important because it is used in so much analogue and digital data exchange between countries, although don’t for a moment think the ISO is the only organisation that defines country codes… but that’s a whole other blog post!

What gets in included in the list is interesting… the criteria for inclusion include member states of the United Nations, a UN specialized agency or a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Becoming a member state of the UN is clearly helpful, although what makes a country is interesting in itself, as well as highly politicised. Palestine is an obvious example, but just look at the UK. The UK is a country, but should Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland also be included? For example, they are included for FIFA. The UN loosely uses Article 1 from the Montevideo Convention which outlines four qualities a state should have: a permanent population, a defined territory, government, and the capacity to enter relations with other states.

Anyway, once you are on the ISO 3166-1 list you get 2 and 3 letter codes, along with a 3 digit numerical code. These are maintained by the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency and, given the above, change regularly. You can view the current list here and subscribe to official updates.

At the RGS we are a membership organisation and take online international payments, so having up-to-date country codes is important. Rather than subscribe to the ISO, we use the UK government Country Register, which includes an update service. It has the ISO-2 letter codes, although isn’t necessarily identical (as it’s countries the UK recognises).

Open Access UK Unit Postcodes

Thursday, 29 March, 2018

The Ordnance Survey released their Code-Point Open product a few years ago that has the OSGB centroids of the unit postcodes. It’s very useful but is only points - if you want the postcodes areas as polygons then you need to license Code-Point with Polygons (snappily titled!). A number of people have derived unit postcode areas using Voronoi polygons including more recently Mike Spencer with some intro at his Scottish Snow site. It’s worth noting that Voronoi diagrams equally partition space between points and nothing more - they are not equivalent to unit postcodes (which can be arbitrary) but are a reasonable first guess. One dataset worth having for your arsenal of spatial data!

Waldo Tobler

Tuesday, 6 March, 2018

I was sad to see that Waldo Tobler passed away last month - a lifetime geoscientist he contributed huge amounts to computational cartography but will be best remember for the First Law of Geography. Some more details at GeoLounge and in the original paper.

However I love the CSISS Classic which was a tongue-in-cheek experiment with Peter Gould on geocoding. Read it because its wonderfully powerful way of showing students about geocoding. Hopefully we’ll see an anthology of his work in the not too distant future.

QGIS 3 features

Monday, 5 March, 2018

QGIS 3 is well and truly out now - download your copy here. And the good folks over at GIS Geography have put together a list of QGIS features that are in the new version. Some of the highlights include 3D (1), coordinate reference bounds (5), geopackage (7), background processing (8), new print composer (13), refined graphical modeler (25), but they are all worth taking a look at as it might just be a solution to the problem you have!

QGIS3 Beta

Sunday, 24 December, 2017

QGIS 3.0 is well and truly on its way with lots of updates, modifications and new features. Here is a great 24 days of Christmas list. Don’t forget to download the beta, play and report bugs back.

Roger Tomlinson’s PhD Thesis

Thursday, 12 October, 2017

UCL’s Department of Geography have digitised Roger Tomlinson’s PhD thesis from 1974 and placed it online (see James Cheshire’s blog post). As the grandfather of GIS it makes compulsive reading - although disappointing UCL haven’t placed it on EThOS.

!Get Banging!

Wednesday, 11 October, 2017

That would be DuckDuckGo Bangs by the way! A fantastic way to quickly redirect your search/query to another service - I use !w (wikipedia), !g (Google) and !yt youtube lots. Last year I requested one for my favourite mapping engine Streetmap and lo-and-behold they have release it.

Just search !smap

Links Thursday

Thursday, 30 March, 2017

A couple of recent links that are worth a punt…

20 FREE Satellite Imagery Data Sources: once you’ve waded through the ads, a really useful list of free satellite imagery sources

London Cycle Lane Map: following the London underground map meme, one in that vein but very pleasing.

OSM then and now

Friday, 3 March, 2017

Quite astonishing what 10 years of volunteered mapping can do…. wonderfully exposed at OSM Then and Now. Use the slider and be amazed!! Ive centred upon Bletchley, a suburb of Milton Keynes, and home to Bletchley Park and the home of the codebreakers.

xkcd’s bad map projection

Thursday, 16 February, 2017

The timezone world according to xkcd