Annual Report: 2021

Friends, colleagues, and patrons, it’s time for my Annual Report. You’re all so kind as to support my work each year with donations and with spreading the word, and I try to be transparent with you about what exactly you’re supporting.

This year it felt like I had a lot less time to devote to side projects and tutorials. Maybe that’s just my perception, and it’s not actually true — it’s been a confusing year for many of us. But in whatever quantity I was able to, I’m glad to have been able to give back to the community that has taught me so much, and to repay your faith in me. With your support in 2021 I was able to (in no particular order):

Organize a mapping exhibit at the Overture Center, here in Madison. My colleague Tanya Andersen and I assembled a group of maps to help show the people of our area just how much cartography is connected back to our community. This is actually something that’s been in the works for a couple of years now, and we’re so pleased that we could finally make it happen. It’s up through January 16th if you happen to be in Madison.

Organize a special NACIS Map Gallery exhibit in Oklahoma City, Map Where your Heart is. It was great to see people share maps of places dear to them!

Answer a lot of questions via email, Twitter DMs, YouTube comments, Slack, etc. I spend a lot of my pro bono time out of the public eye. People write to me each year asking for software help (especially Blender), career advice, interviews for school projects, etc. I try to take the time to write back to everyone. It’s not really something I’d considered, when writing tutorials: the more resources you put out there, the more of these kinds of interactions they generate. I’m happy to help, and will try to keep up as long as the the volume remains manageable.

Volunteer to teach a class at UW. Tanya Andersen and I teamed up to run an independent study class at the University of Wisconsin. We met weekly (remotely) with our three students, advising them as they developed projects and carried them through to completion. This is some of my favorite work — being able to show people, hands-on (virtually) how to accomplish practical cartographic steps, and then watching them make great things with those tools.

Continue my “Live Carto” series from 2019–20, with four new broadcasts. It’s been fun to be able to work on a project and have people there alongside me to keep me company, especially during this pandemic isolation. I’ve appreciated being able to meet people from all over the world, and to be able to share knowledge with them in this format. I’ll continue doing this on occasion in the coming year!

Keep my tutorials updated. As software changes, often these resources need updating to stay useful (it can be frustrating and confusing to read through a tutorial that doesn’t quite match what you’re seeing on screen). I recently upgraded by Blender tutorial with new screenshots and workflow adjustments in response to that program being updated.

Create new tutorial content. Besides keeping old things updated, I also want to keep making new things that help people. This year I put out a tutorial on background blurring, and one on making semi-randomized dot patterns.

Create non-tutorial musings. That background blurring tutorial pushed me to consider some larger concepts that ended up as both their own blog post and a NACIS presentation.

Release short, ephemeral tutorials. It occurred to me recently that I also post mini-tutorials on Slack groups and on Twitter — things that don’t make it onto my blog or YouTube. These usually happen because someone asks a question about how to get something done, or because I discovered a neat trick I want to share, but it’s too short to be worth a formal writeup. Maybe someday I’ll collect these into a blog post.

Create a bunch of random one-off mappy things that get released to the winds of Twitter. Last year, I collected some of them into a free PDF book, An Atlas of Minor Projects. I haven’t done enough of these projects for a second book yet, but I am keeping track of them better this time around, so that maybe in 2022 or 2023 I’ll be able to assemble a second volume. Here’s one of those minor projects for you: a Halloween-themed map of the Murderkill River, in Delaware.

Make some non-live video content. I’m continuing to try and grow my tiny corner of YouTube. Besides the dot pattern tutorial, I also put together a walkthrough of how I make my cyanotypes, since it’s prompted a lot of questions from curious folks on Twitter.

I promise that I do not have that beard anymore.

Continue my long tradition of pitching in to help NACIS, the main professional society for mappers in North America. It’s an all-volunteer organization, so the more we all help out, the better it becomes. In the last year I:

  • Served on the Diversity & Inclusion subcommittee
  • Served on the Nominations Committee
  • Helped oversee logistics details for getting reprints of the first three volumes of the Atlas of Design to customers
  • Served as guardian of our projectors. I keep all four of them in Madison, and make sure they get to the conference site and back, without losing too many cords and connectors.
  • Co-led a special presentation with NACIS Past President Leo Dillon, in which we helped people better understand how the organization functions and how to get involved.

Present to various conferences and classes. Besides sharing some of my thoughts with the NACIS crowd as usual, I was also invited to present to WLIA, as well as a colleague’s class.

So, maybe it wasn’t as quiet a year as I thought!

Your patronage helps me justify taking time away from my freelance work in order to write, design, and help others. It also pays for things like conference fees, the fees I pay to keep ads off my blog, domain names, and other direct costs associated with all these side projects. Thank you for making this list possible!

As we move into 2022, I hope to continue to merit the support you have shown me. I never know exactly how much I’ll be able to do so in a given year, but I do know that I fully intend to keep up my efforts to contribute to the cartographic community. You have all taught me so much, and I will continue repay the favor as best I can.

If you’d like to support my ongoing work, one of the easiest ways you can do that is to spread the word — tell your friends and colleagues about my tutorials, YouTube videos, or whatever else you think they may like. And, if you’re interested in lending financial support to my efforts in the coming year, I have these two handy buttons for you!

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