When we set a #FreebieFriday competition on Twitter last week to win two of our mappy Rubik’s Cubes, we were overwhelmed with the response as hundreds of people entered. If you haven’t spotted them before, we had the Cubes produced as corporate gifts last year. We had a handful left over and thought we’d share them with all of our map fans out there.
The Rubik’s Cube has been around since 1974, so most of us are familiar with the tricky little puzzle. The record for solving the puzzle currently sits with Lucas Etter of the United States, set in November 2015 with a time of 4.90 seconds. We haven’t been brave enough to try the map Rubik’s Cube yet, as we’re not sure we could cope with the maps in disarray!
We all know and love a map around here – and they’re well known for being handy navigational tools, or for providing a basis for making analytical decisions, but they’re also a pleasure to look at. We know from some of the giveaways we’ve had over the last year that there are plenty of you out there who like map products – from a Rubiks Cube to deckchairs to cycle jerseys.
But aside from promotional items, maps are also widely used as inspiration for artworks. We’ve spotted some great artists using maps in their work recently and wanted to share some with you.
It was Tony’s work that kick-started our thoughts on map art. The Unstlanders from the Hsteland island of Unst have always claimed that their island was the inspiration behind Treasure Island when Robert Louis Stevenson drew his map. Tony was himself intrigued by the links between fictional and real maps and has set about transforming an OS map of Unst into the world of Treasure Island. Take a look at Tony’s website to see how he’s getting on.
To get the new year off to a flying start, we thought we’d give you a little reminder of our social media accounts, where to find us and what you can expect to see. Our business is quite varied, we’ve come a long way from simply being the producer of our world-famous paper maps. While our much-loved maps remain an important part of our brand, they represent only 5% of our business. We produce digital map data, online route planning and sharing services and mobile apps, plus many other location-based products so you know exactly where you are. Businesses and government use our data to improve decision-making and planning, you can find out more about that on our website. Our social media accounts reflect that wide range of uses, here’s how you can find out more about us in 2016.
See what we’re up to
There are several ways to see what OS is up to with photos and videos. We’ve recently joined Instagram and regularly share photos of beautiful Britain from our OS Photofit competition winners, behind the scenes snaps of our business, the views captured from our Flying Unit team while they’re surveying Britain and much more. Join us there, and tag your own photos with #osmaps or #ordnancesurvey to show us your #GetOutside adventures.
Fancy some geo-fun? We’ve dug two mappy games out from our archives to entertain you with.
Milton Keynes map slider
Why not give our map slider game a go? You may well have played one of these games as a child (maybe even in ‘real life’ with plastic sliders, others of you on screen!). Simply move the blocks around the screen until you get the picture displayed in the correct order, showing a landmark in Milton Keynes using our OS MasterMap Topography Layer.
Map symbol slide
We do our best to make sure we #GetOutside and enjoy Britain, but sometimes, it is nice to curl up on the sofa instead. If you have made the sofa decision, we’ve got three great ways for you to explore Britain in the comfort of your own home…
We’ve created GB Minecraft 2, a Minecraft world made with our OS OpenData products – freely available for you to download and explore. The world consists of more than 83 billion blocks representing over 220,000 square kilometres of mainland Great Britain and surrounding islands. It even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records!
Not content with turning OS data into a Minecraft world, our OS Labs team have now created a virtual Ben Nevis to explore on Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. In Oculus Rift, our developers have created a game where players race against the clock to find a hidden trig pillar. For those of us without access to Oculus Rift, our dev team have built a virtual reality tour of Ben Nevis.
OS OpenData is being used across many of the new passport pages in the latest designs being issued from this month. OS maps also form a part of the security features of the new UK passports. HM Passport Office have stylised our vector maps to fit within the new design, showcasing the area linked to the featured icons.
When @catweg wondered on Twitter what the map would look like if Winchester had remained as the nation’s capital and grown over the years as London has…we had to give it a go!
If you’re looking for some walking inspiration for 2016, take a look at our favourite walks from 2015 on the blog. Just bear in mind that these have been walked at all different times over the year and conditions could vary dramatically. Always check the latest weather and conditions before you head out, take all of the right kit with you, and let someone know where you’ll be heading and when to expect you back.
This is a great 11 mile ramble with great views over the Pentland Hills and Edinburgh. There is also a lovely pub called the Flotterstone Inn opposite the car park at the visitor centre.
Guest post by Howard Gadsby, Senior UX Architect at Ordnance Survey
What we’ve done and what it means for you
We’ve been busy making some changes to the OS website to help users find their way around more easily.
Over the past couple of months, we’ve gone through a process of understanding how our customers use our site, and we’ve taken steps to improve that with a new navigation.
Our website is vital to showcasing what we do as an organisation, and the products and services we sell. Making this easy to use and simple to understand is one of the core jobs of the website.
How we’ve done it
To create a better experience, it’s vital to understand what our users do and want, so we started by running some usability tests on the OS website, using a tool called usertesting.com.
We asked people to find various pieces of content – some were easy to find, others less so, but the feedback from real customers on their experience was invaluable and highlighted both the good and bad points of the existing navigation.
With a fortnight left to go in 2015, we thought we’d take a look back at the year and see which blog stories piqued your interest. We’ll countdown from 10-1 on the top mappy and geo-based blogs:
In March we added four new products to our OS OpenData portfolio. OS Open Map – Local, OS Open Names, OS Open Rivers and OS Open Roads have proved popular so far and offer you increased detail and accuracy and the opportunity for analytics. They are fully customisable and can work together or be imported and integrated with your own software and database. In June we also released a simple guide for OS Open Map – Local to help users get the most out of it.
This year marked the 75th anniversary of the Southampton Blitz. We marked the occasion by showcasing our map that shows the bombs dropped on the city of Southampton at the peak of the Blitz on the nights of 30 November and 1 December 1940. Hundreds of tonnes of bombs were dropped during the two nights, destroying many properties and damaging hundreds more – including our former head office on London Road.