#30DayMapChallenge 2020 – bigger and better!

Before the blog actually starts, here is an unofficial theme music and opening video for the post. Please dedicate a few seconds to watch it. 

Ok. Thanks. Now you can start reading. 

In November 2019 I started #30DayMapChallenge on Twitter. I thought it was a good idea to take the concept of Inktober and make a geospatial version out of that. So for each day of November there would be a theme and people could interpret that theme the way they liked and make a map  around that theme. I was assuming last year that a few people might join in, but the outcome was very different. Hundreds of people made maps and the challenge really blew up (in a positive way!). You can read more about it from my previous blog post on the topic. 

So I just had to do the challenge also in 2020. On September 1st this year I published the themes on Twitter. I also prepared a GitHub repository this year with all the necessary information and some extra links to tutorials, data and tools. 

During the month the challenge happened also on other platforms besides Twitter. At least there were some Facebook groups where people were doing the challenge, there were some posts on Instagram, LinkedIn and on other social media platforms too. This is great to see, as my vision is that this wouldn’t be a thing for only people on Twitter. 

Like last year, some of the topics were easier than others. Probably a new favorite for me was day 12 when the purpose was to do a map without GIS software. People went really innovative on this one and the end result was maps with not only pen and paper, but also maps with chocolate, carrots, MS Excel and everything in between. The entries for that day were ones where creativity was really unleashed. During the challenge I noticed a real sense of fatigue approximately halfway through the challenge and other people commented the same thing. But overall I was really happy how the challenge seemed to be above all a positive experience for the majority. 

Whopping statistics of the 2020 challenge

More than 7 000 maps were done by more than 1 000 people. These + 1 000 people come from at least 69 different countries and speak at least 32 different languages. The twitterspehere rewarded the mappers with almost 23 000 retweets and way over 100 000 likes. Those are astonishing numbers. There is nothing more I can say about that.

Maps published on each day. Source: https://haifengniu.com/en/post/30-day-map-challenge/

Clearly the first three days are easy (points, lines and polygons) and attract the most participants. A halfway fatigue is also visible on that graphic. Still I find it astonishing that even on the most “unpopular” day of the month well over 100 maps were published!

When looking at the likes the maps received, clearly there seems to be some sort of negative correlation between the time spent to make the maps and the number of likes they got and others commented that they noticed the same thing. Maybe it just indicates that the best ideas don’t come when forced?

San Francisco with qlimt style in QGIS I published on day 3 of the challenge. 

Although the high number of entries makes me a happy mapper, I think the success of the challenge shouldn’t only be about the number of people making the maps. I got a lot of positive feedback from people saying that this challenge made them share their visualizations for the first time and made many people try out different tools. As written in the code of conduct, that is the gist of the challenge!

The amazing community around the challenge

First of all I want to thank everyone who did maps. Not going to mention anyone by name here, because all of the 7000 did a great job and I am very thankful for dedicating their time and effort to the challenge. Based on my poll on Twitter that was a lot of time on average. 

That is. A lot of time. 

A thanks to people who devoted their blood, sweat and tears to collect the results and helped people to find and browse the results easier. I want to highlight a few here who contributed in different ways. Thanks to Sebastian who added an iCal file to the original GitHub repository so that it was easier to follow which day we were on. Thanks to David for his relentless work collecting metadata for the challenge and above all the awesome gallery he has put up again also this year. Thanks to Haifeng Niu for collecting very interesting Twitter statistics from the challenge, for writing a blog post about your process and releasing the code too.  Also want to thank Aurelien Chaumet who was really active on Twitter during the month and collected statistics and metadata too.

Thank you to the organisations who promoted and took part in the challenge. I was really happy how for example British Cartographic Society and Ordnance Survey took part in the challenge.  Some major private companies from the geospatial field also took part in different ways which was awesome to see. 

The challenge is also spreading to the academic community. Academic journal Regional Studies, Regional Science currently has a Call for Papers on “Innovation in Regional Graphics” where they are “inviting submissions from suitable entries to the #30DayMapChallenge on Twitter”. So if you have ambitions of writing an article around some of the maps you made for the challenge, you should definitely check that out. 

Map challenge in 2021

I have tried to ask for ideas from people, for future development but in general people seem to be quite happy with the concept. One thing I want to highlight next year even more is that doing less than 30 maps is fine. Clearly some people chipped in their contributions on one or two days which they felt most close to their expertise or when they had the time to do the maps and felt like they had to explain that somehow. I hope that next year that would feel even more common way to take part. 

In the blog post from last year I wrote that the challenge will be bigger and better next year and data will be more organized. Well that was achieved, so let’s keep the same goals for the coming year. I even bought myself the 30daymapchallenge.com domain and one plan is to build a whole website around the challenge. I even have a dream about #30DayMapChallenge merchandise, but let’s see. Overall I think the challenge is on right tracks and as 2020 is what it is and November in Finland is cold, dark and wet, this community effort lit up my November at least. 

Once again: thank you everybody who took part and let’s make this next year even bigger and better!

Topi Tjukanov is MSc and Bachelor of Business Administration who is interested in data crushing, mind-boggling visualizations and open source software. Freetime activities consist of travelling, reading and being a football enthusiast.