Dots never felt like such an accomplishment


The Travels of Widsith (through line 30)

The Travels of Widsith (through line 30)

This may not seem like much (trust me, I know), but this image above represents a real albatross to me, one that I look forward to removing from my neck so I can get back to the serious business of trying to make my website not suck (along with all the rest of the stuff I’m supposed to be doing).

There are a number of problems with this image that I could list, but the fact that I have dots on the map, and indeed that there is a map at all, kind of overshadows my disappointment in my own abilities here.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not really geographically inclined.  I also have varying levels of patience with software that is designed for a very narrow user base, especially when that user base does not include me or anyone with whom I converse on a semi-regular basis.  Add in the fact that the software in question is open source, meaning that it is designed by people who donate their time to make it work, but don’t necessarily donate their time to make it usable, and we have  a perfect storm, or at least the prime conditions for me to go remove the software suite tout suite.

Nonetheless, I seem to have found a way to make Quantum GIS (QGIS) put the things I want in a place I can live with, which is satisfactory.  Just don’t expect me to invite it over for dinner.

Ultimately, the process of getting those dots up there would have been a lot easier had I been smart and selected a map project that didn’t require me to delve as deeply into the research as mine did.  Indeed, the fact that there are so few dots on that map is indicative of the fact that I was only able to process the tribes from the first thirty or so lines of Widsith.  There are, in all seriousness, about one hundred more dots to place if I were to be completionist about this, which I might be as I have a bit more time.  It might even be fun to use some Javascript to make the thing interactive at some point, placing a copy of the poem next to the map and highlighting the location when the tribe’s name receives mouse focus or something.

Still, since we’re supposed to be showing our steps, I’ll start with this:

You’ll notice that I’ve got a decent amount of information in there.  I collated what I could glean out of Kemp Malone’s study of the poem along with additional scholarship on the Web and then did my best to put dots in locations that seemed like they were reasonable.  Let me reiterate: there is so much up in the air about all of this that any sort of attempt to locate the majority of these tribes is an act of speculation at best.  The points on the map are there only to designate the most general places possible because I have neither the time nor the patience to learn how to work with areas and polygons.  The purpose was to give a general idea of how widely traveled Widsith claims to be; the dots do well enough to get that point across.

From there, it was easy enough to import the Google sheet into Google’s Maps Engine.

Well, sort of, anyway.  The data went in just fine, but certain parts, like the hyperlinks, didn’t convert for some reason.  I had to go in and manually add each of the hyperlinks to the data table of each group, being careful to put the right link in the right spot.  The fact that the data in the Maps Engine software had been moved around made it far more difficult than it needed to be, but I got it in there eventually, anyway.  To its credit, however, the software automatically created a hyperlink out of the URL I posted in each cell.

Afterwards, I had to get it overt to QGIS.  I followed Jessica Troy’s advice and installed Google Earth before doing much else.  I then went back into Maps Engine Lite and exported the map as KML.  I then opened the new KML file as a layer in Google Earth.  Voilá!  More dots!

My spreadsheet data as rendered by Google Earth

My spreadsheet data as rendered by Google Earth

I then cast about, looking for a way to save the data I had imported as something other than it was to begin with.  I found nothing.  Curious about what would happen if I just entered the KML file into QGIS directly, I plugged the file in, and then followed Jessica’s directions for getting a base map working.  I’m not sure if just having Google Earth installed made some sort of difference, but I was able to get the information inside of QGIS without a problem.  The results are what you see at the top of this article.

I’m not really all that interested in making a map that does fun, dynamic things online.  As much as it would be cool to be able to switch the different locations on and off by fit or thula, I think I’d rather concentrate on getting the data entered in as completely as possible.  Still, there must be projects for the future, as well, which merely reminds me to remain philosophical about GIS and its role in visualizing history and literature.

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