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How to Create Beautifully Detailed Maps Using Twitter Data

With over 6 billion tweets, you, too, can be a digital cartographer.

by Sophia Callahan
May 29 2016, 11:35am

One of Eric Fischer's tweet maps. Images via

Using the geotagging data from from Twitter’s public API, data artist and “map geek,” Eric Fischer created the most detailed tweet map ever. With the help of his Mapbox article that outlines both his creative process and the tools he built for the project, anyone can replicate his beautiful maps.

Fischer first connected to Twitter’s “statuses/filter” API and received the Tweets in JSON, a format used to transmit data between a server and web application. Because the JSON format came with more metadata than he needed for his map, he created his own program to parse the streams for only the essential information: username, date, time location, client and text.

Twitter Map, “Los Angeles,” 2014

“Even though there are six billion Tweets to map, only nine percent of them are ultimately visible as unique dots. The others are filtered out as duplicate or near-duplicate locations,” Fischer explains in his how-to. To clarify the map, he filtered out duplicate or near-duplicate locations, and eliminated the “banding” effect of Tweets sent from iPhones.

When the viewer zooms in and out of areas on the map’s website, the density and massive scale of the glowing green dots becomes clear. Fisher talks about how the challenge of achieving this effect is finding a way to “include all the detail when zoomed in deeply while unobtrusively dropping dots as you zoom out so that the low zoom levels are not overwhelmingly dense.” For example, he continues, at zoom level 0, when the viewer sees the whole world, there are 1586 dots. At zoom level 14, there are 590 million.

In an interview with CityLab, Fischer states that he believes a successful map is one that can “confirm something that the viewer already knows about their neighborhood or their city, and then broaden that knowledge a little by showing how some other places that the viewer doesn't know so well are similar or different.” Fischer is making milestones as he brings cartography into the digital age through stunning visuals and data-filled social maps.

Twitter Map, “O’Hare,” 2014

Check out Fischer's maps below, and to see more of his projects, visit his Flickr page, or keep up with him on Twitter.

This article was originally published on December 12, 2014. 

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