Development Seed

Subscribe to Development Seed feed
Updated: 2 weeks 22 hours ago

Open Data Day Garage Party

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 10:00



We love open data. And we love to talk about it over drinks with other open data lovers. Next Friday, February 20th at 7:00pm we are hosting an Open Data Day celebration in the Mapbox Garage. Head over to the Garage after the first day of Open Data Day DC to talk about open tools for open data.

Even if you can't make it to Open Data Day DC (or didn't grab a spot on the now closed list), come over and share the #opendatalove.

Let us know if you're in by RSVPing now.

Data Hungry Happy Hour

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 10:00



We'll be at the Thought For Food Global Summit next week working with some brilliant people on the biggest challenges in agriculture and feeding the hungry. Look for Olaf at the Summit.

If you are in Lisbon for the Summit, please join us for a Data Hungry happy hour on Thursday evening. We'll be geeking out on better data, satellites, and sensors can contribute to better food policy. The Happy Hour kicks off at 18.30 in Fabulas in the center of Lisbon. The first couple of rounds are on us. You can RSVP here.

Announcing Libra - the Landsat imagery browser you will love

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 18:00



We've been working with Dauria Geo to produce the most usable imagery browser. Today we are releasing Libra, a fork of the Dauria Geo browser for open Landsat data. Libra allows you to browse, sort, and download more than 275 Terabytes of open Landsat imagery as easily as booking an Uber.

Liberating Landsat

We love open imagery. The global development organizations and developing governments that we work with use open satellite imagery for everything from evaluating disaster response, to tracking deforestation, to planning for drought. For our partners, open imagery isn't just a matter of cost; it is a matter of licensing and distribution. They get immediate access to Landsat images and can analyze, manipulate, and distribute with almost no restrictions.

To make Landsat data more useful, we've made it easier to use. We built two open source tools for working with Landsat data - Landsat-util and Landsat API. It used to take all day for Development Seed's imagery specialists to turn Landsat data into imagery layers for online maps. With these two tools, any developer can do it in a matter of minutes.

These tools gave us a huge head start in building Libra. Libra relies heavily on Landsat API to quickly query by date, geography, and cloud cover and get image URLs, scene centroids, scene boundaries, and other metadata. Using Landsat API as a backbone of Libra also encouraged us to make improvements and configuration changes on Landsat API such as changing the limits on requests and returned data and some error handling.

Have a look at Libra and hit us with your feedback @developmentseed.

Introducing Development Seed Lisbon

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:00



Last week we announced the opening of Development Seed Lisbon. To kickstart our operations in Europe, we brought on our friends from Flipside, an experienced team working on meaningful open data projects for organizations around Europe. This move allows us to connect with partners and talent in the region, and also deliver quality work right out of the gate.

Olaf Veerman

Olaf will lead the Lisbon office, run projects, and help us establish a strong presence in Europe. He lived for many years in Latin America, working with small business networks, cooperatives and small farmer groups in Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela. His experience in working with civil society organizatons around the world allows him to quickly understand our partners' needs and help them use technology to increase their social and economic impact.

You can connect with Olaf through Twitter.

Daniel da Silva

Daniel brings solid engineering skills that he applies to anything from building light-weight frontends with well structured APIs, to deploying tools for offline/online data collection. He is a quick learner and problem solver whose technology expertise spans PHP, Node, Angular, Jekyll and Mongodb. Daniel is going to help us pick the right tool for the job and deliver quality work to our partners.

Find Daniel on Github.

Ricardo Mestre

Ricardo is a talented designer and front-end developer who pushes how modern technologies can be used to craft usable and engaging websites. He worked for some of the biggest companies in Portugal, but is most passionate about free culture and equality, which he contributes to through his music, art and other projects. Ricardo is going have a big impact on the design and usability of our work.

You can find Ricardo on Twitter.

Development Seed opens office in Lisbon

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 11:00



Development Seed is opening an office in Lisbon. Our team grows by a continent today in beautiful Portugal where we will continue to build data tools and solve complex development challenges. Establishing an office in Europe puts us closer to our partners in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. It will also allow us to better connect to the talented open data hacker movement in the region.

To bootstrap our European team we are immediately bringing on all our talented friends at Flipside. The Flipside team have been doing fantastic work on projects ranging from opening data on clean energy, building mobile monitoring tools with Text To Change, and tracking forest fires around Portugal. The entire team joins Development Seed today. Olaf Veerman from Flipside will lead the Portugal office and help us to grow the team.

If you are in Lisbon, come and celebrate with us tonight at our Open Data Happy Hour.

Building a Better Satellite Imagery Browser

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 11:00



Satellite imagery companies spend billions of dollars acquiring pictures of the planet. However, anyone who has worked with that imagery knows that the tools for searching and accessing this imagery are painful to work with. That's why we are excited to be working with Dauria Geo to build a fast, easy, imagery browser. To do that, we are relentlessly reducing friction and creating something that feels more like Airbnb or Pinterest than traditional GIS-based imagery browsers.

Dauria Geo's strategy is built on making imagery easy to integrate across every industry. Here is how we worked with them to bring usability to image browsing:


A primary goal is to eliminate the steps required to start looking at imagery. Dauria Geo discussed the "bounding box problem" -- traditional imagery browsers require you to provide a bounding box to start a search. The user either has to outline a polygon or upload a file with the bounding box. If the bounding box is too big or returns too many results these sites often require you to start over.

Our solution? Just zoom.

We will explore options for advanced search that may include boundary uploads, and those interactions will follow the same simple design concepts foundational to a good user experience. As we add those features, we will preserve the ability of users to immediately start interacting in a manner they expect from a modern website.

Responsive filter and sort

Once the user has identified their area of interest, the next step is sifting through all the returned images to find the best one for their needs. We've made this easier through visual filters and sorting tools that help you quickly get to the best image. Familiar icons allow users to filter and sort without having to learn the interface. We included visual tools like a histogram on our filters to help users intuitively understand the implications of their filtering choices. Sorting assumes "best to worst" to make sorting easy and to surface the best images. All along, we provide thumbnail previews of each image so that you can immediately see what you are getting.

Making the interactions obvious

Our aim is to create interactions that seem natural without the need for a website tour. Moving around the map shows coverage areas. Selecting an area filters results to that geography. We benefited here by using Landsat imagery that has a consistent bounding area, but we believe we can keep this intuitive even with different shaped scenes. To keep user interaction from breaking, we did a lot of work under the hood to make the site fast and responsive even while loading a lot of data and images. With a streamlined request process, once you've found the right image, you can download or purchase in one click.

We were able to quickly stand up a fast mapping application by building off the Mapbox stack. Simple, intuitive tools make it easier for more sectors to benefit from satellite imagery. As we help global development organizations and emerging economies to use imagery products, usable tools will be critical. We think existing imagery users will also appreciate having a more enjoyable relationship with their imagery finder.

Open Data Happy Hour in Lisbon

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 11:00



Next week we'll be in Lisbon where we're hosting an Open Data Happy Hour with our friends from Flipside. If you're in the neighborhood and want to talk Open Data, know more about our satellite imagery work, or geek out on sensors, make sure to drop by and have a drink with us.

The Happy Hour will be hosted at Liberdade 229 and start around 19:00. We hope to see you there. RSVP here.

Welcome Joe Flasher

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:00



Joe Flasher is joining Development Seed to help us run faster and to broaden our technology stack. Whether he's launching Delta II rockets, growing the open data community in Mongolia, or connecting an arcade claw game to a Facebook app, Joe is always looking for better ways to bend technology to solve real problems. He is constantly seeking the solution that is more elegant, more practical, and more human.

Joe is the perfect person to help Development Seed grow and explore. He's going push us to build better products and to make bigger open source contributions across satellite imagery, sensors, drones, and devices.

Give Joe a holler on Twitter or Github.

2014 Web Index measures the Internet's openness and impact

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 01:00


2014 Web Index measures the Internet's openness and impact

The World Wide Web Foundation released their 2014 Web Index, an annual accounting of how the internet has changed the economic, political, and social lives of citizens across every continent.

This is an ambitious and complicated story. The impact of the internet on the 84 countries in the 2014 report is difficult to isolate from culture, politics, and economics. Ultimately, the report found that open and inclusive internet correlate to equitable societies. The report is rich with data and worth reading in full.

Visualizing liquid data

Making useful and appropriate comparisons between 84 countries is hard. To create the Web Index, the Web Foundation pulled a range of primary and secondary data into normalized indicators, which together comprise the index. The report, produced online in collaboration with WESO, gives a global overview in addition to nuanced subviews on topics such as internet censorship and gender equality.

When we first began collaborating with Web Foundation to visualize this information, they were in the process of collecting and interpreting their data. They had identified key themes that they knew would be important: economic equality, neutrality, censorship and surveillance, and gender-based violence, among others.

Using these leads, we dived into the preliminary results in search of effective, telling visuals. Quick feedback loops and frequent communication with research specialists at Web Foundation helped us to build better visuals. It also helped Web Foundation better understand their data and how to communicate it.

Comparing Countries

We ran up against the challenge of showing 84 countries in interesting ways, while doing justice to the data. Although the data is country-level, not every story lends itself to a map. In our visuals, we use flags, bubbles, and names to indicate countries.

In plotting gender-based violence, we ran into the problem of page size. The graph examines countries with stark differences in how they support victims of online gender-based violence, and how frequently they prosecute perpetrators of that violence. Each graphic had to be single page and embeddable. To make this fit, we used a fisheye effect that moves with your cursor.

Open Data about the open Internet

The Web Index is fully open. You can download all of the data here. The Web Foundation and WESO built an open API with data from this year and previous years. The code for their site and our four visualizations are open as well.

A Home for Open Housing Data

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:00



The housing crisis deeply impacted millions of Americans, and today the effects are still being felt. For the many problems facing communities, from wage disparity to affordable housing, there isn't a single fits-all solution.

That's why we are very excited about the work that Woodstock Foundation is doing to support fair housing policies. Today they launch a nuanced look at housing and income disparity in Illinois in the form of a new map-based open data website.

The site brings together 74 datasets on the well-being of local communities. It is a good roadmap for anyone working in housing justice in Illinois. Community organizations can explore the average amount of mortgage debt people take on and the rate of foreclosure filings in the Chicago six-county region and elsewhere in Illinois to inform their decisions on where to focus their work. Some data sets go back to 2008.

Where the highest income census tracts are in the Chicago six-county region

Serving complex data through static JSON

Housing data is complex, and Woodstock has gathered some amazingly granular statistics about housing data in Illinois. Splitting this data into a format that we could serve over the web proved a difficult challenge. Woodstock is also a small nonprofit, and we wanted to ease as much as possible the burden of maintaining a complicated website.

So we wrote a python library to break up their spreadsheets into JSON. Every time you switch to a new facet of housing data, every time you view a different year or category of that data, your browser incrementally downloads a new JSON file. Although those files in aggregate would take ages to load, individually they are manageable. Those scripts, along with the rest of the site, are open-source.

To further reduce load times, we use the topojson spec to reduce the size of geographic boundary data. This allows us to separate geographic data from numerical data, so you only download those complex census tract boundaries once. The code that runs in your browser than re-connects those boundaries to the housing or mortgage data you select on the fly.

Using vector-based geographical boundaries has other benefits. It allowed us to use a mouse click on an overlaying geographic boundary and a point-in-polygon test to find, for example, which congressional representative is responsible for which census tract.

Detecting congressional boundaries

Census tracts over multiple years

Census tracts change a lot over census years, and this can be a problem when mapping a multi-year data set that covers more than a single census geography file. Attempting to compare the data between those years that use different tract definitions can be tricky. Tract ID, or FIPS codes can either refer to a different neighborhood or disappear entirely.

The Census releases relationship files that show where these changes and additions occur. Using this, we created a tool that overlays 2000 and 2010 census tracts, and shows differences between the two years.

Currently the project covers only Illinois, but the code is available on GitHub and ready for you to fork and contribute your own state.

Join us at EcoHack this weekend

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 14:00



Toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie

To address climate change and promote environmental justice, we need better tools to understand our changing planet. That's why we are delighted to help host the DC EcoHack with WRI at the Mapbox Garage.

EcoHack is an event to bring together a diverse community of scientists, hackers, designers and others who want to tell stories and create tools to protect our environment. The event is open to people of all skill levels. As long you're interested in using technology to improve and better understand our natural environment, we'd love to see you there.

If you're in DC, register and come join us at the MapBox Garage in DC. Our friends at Mapbox are also hosting the San Francisco EcoHack and EcoHacks will also take place in Sydney, Cambridge, New York, and Madrid.

Drew and Marc will be using some of the time to work on landsat-util, an open source tool that makes it easier to work with open satellite imagery. We are also keen to help on projects using green energy investment data and tracking natural disasters.

Hope to see you there!

International Conference of Crisis Mappers storms NYC

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 14:00



Satellite imagery over Monrovia, an area that has seen a significant burden of Ebola cases.

Today, Marc and I are heading up to New York to attend the International Conference of Crisis Mappers. Open crisis mapping is growing up. We are seeing greater demand for maps and data for crisis response and preparation. ICCM 2014 will be an important place to discuss how we can grow to handle this need, how we better generate real collaboration from data, and how we build infrastructure that is usable and inclusive.

We're looking forward to talking about OpenStreetMap, satellites, and open data; topics that are critical in the midst of the response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Reach out to @nas_smith or @kamicut on Twitter if you want to chat.

Getting to vote

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 14:00



Working embed. US voters, find your polling location

In the US, and around the world, it can be confusing figuring out where you should vote and which races you are eligible to vote on. In the US, going to the wrong polling station is a hassle. This hassle can be prohibitive, particularly if you are disabled or rely on public transportation. In countries coming out of conflict, going to the polling station can be a brave and risky act. You'd better be at the right place when you get there.

Open data is helping to get voters the information they need to participate. By opening up data about voting locations and process, States can involve private actors, such as The Pew Trusts and Google, as partners providing accurate information about where to vote. The VIP (Voter Information Project) is an embeddable tool, based on an open source stack, that relies on an open API. This allows other groups to repackage and distribute this information to their audiences.

By opening up the data, States are no longer solely responsible for getting voters to the right polling place. Voters should be tripping over this information in every Google search, Foursquare check-in, community message board, and favorite blogs.

"Usability and Voting" by ericgundersen

Hey there, designers.

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 10:00



At Development Seed, design is not about pushing pixels or passing a perfect mockup to the next person. It is about truly understanding — and sometimes defining — a problem, working out a systemic solution with visual and interactive components. You will be brainstorming solutions with our strategists and turning them into sketches, websites, and data visualizations with fellow developers.

We build new ways to help people make decisions — impacting policies and creating transparency on all levels. We are hiring a designer who is a doer and a thinker, eager to join our mission.

You are:
  • an artist; you have a favorite medium to express your ideas, be it ink, paint, vector or gif
  • excited about the web, particularly how the representation of information on screens can inform people’s decisions
  • eager to work with data and the patterns it leads to
  • curious and hungry to learn new subjects and skills
You know how to:
  • ask good questions and get to the heart of a problem
  • illustrate abstract concepts and workflows in visual forms
  • use the right font and color at the right time, knowing that aesthetics is derived from your communication goal, the information, and the medium
Experiences with any of the following will be a plus:
  • Web maps (such as a map made with MapBox Studio)
  • Responsive web frameworks
  • Git
  • D3.js for visualization (bar chart counts)
  • Static site generation (Jekyll, Flask, etc)
  • SASS

But don't let any of that scare you. If your design chops are good, we will work with you to tech up on everything you need to know.

To apply:

Please send your portfolio site, and links to three projects, to with “Designer” in your subject.

Dauria Geo completing new design specs

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 12:00



Dauria Geo is just completing new design specs for their Perseus satellite constellations. Perseus-O, a constellation of 8 satellites, will provide daily global coverage of all arable land at 22 meters resolution (meaning each pixel represents 22 meters on the ground). With the same spectral bands as Landsat this new imagery will be able to measure crop health and flooding. The Perseus-HD constellation of 20 satellites will provide daily images of all urban and arable land at 2.5 meters resolution -- showing roads, buildings, ships, and fields.

In addition to having their own satellites, Dauria Geo will make Landsat and MODIS open data sources accessible through their API. They have established partnerships with industry leaders like Deimos in Spain, EIAST in Dubai, and Eye Innovation in China to provide a variety of resolution, coverage, sensor, and freshness of imagery, offering a unique balance between resolution and timely revisit. This is super exciting for our team as we work to expand where we source imagery for NGOs to process in their pipelines.

The new technical specs mean Dauria Geo moves into the next build phase, and is on target to begin launching the Perseus constellation in 2015. We're collaborating with Dauria Geo now as they build out integration and visualization tools -- from antenna to API, that makes image acquisition, analysis, delivery, and integration easier for both NGOs and enterprise. Dauria Geo is building an API to empower developers to access fresh and historical imagery, compute needed data layers on the cloud, and harvest data in ready-to-use format. Their cloud platform can do heavy analysis and feed data directly into applications. By directly integrating with the Mapbox API, we can quickly deploy sophisticated and beautiful applications from agriculture to disaster response using the platforms that developers are already building on.

We'd love to see more satellite providers compete on ease of integrating their data. We'll be helping Dauria Geo to review their API to make it developer friendly and we will build open source tools on top Dauria's API. These tools will serve as open templates for integrating Dauria with tools like Mapbox to quickly build powerful, data-rich sites. This is really positive move for the industry and for users.

Marhaba Marc Farra

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 15:00



Marc Farra has joined the Development Seed team. Marc loves to experiment with image processing, arduino sensors, and data infrastructure. He is going to help us explore new ways to collect and process data.

I first ran into Marc in Beirut. At the time he was running Lamba Labs, a hacker space in Beirut that was sowing the seeds of Maker culture and open data advocacy in Lebanon. A year later, he took the Afghanistan polling station locations we posted on Github and started to build a mobile app for Afghans to locate their nearest polling station.

Say "Hello", "Salut", or "Marhaba" to Marc on Twitter and Github.

Getting Green into Green Energy

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 13:00



Reversing climate change means investing in green energy, and as the sustainable sector grows, ensuring it grows in both developing and developed countries. Today the Fondo Multilateral de Inversiones and Bloomberg New Energy Finance are launching a vastly expanded Climatescope, to provide open data about green energy investment in 55 countries. The data provided by Climatescope creates an information-rich environment for green energy investors. It also provides valuable data on clean energy policies for activists and policymakers.

Opening Climate Investment Data

We worked on the Climatescope website with Flipside, a smart, new open source technology shop based in Lisbon.

The site takes a very thoughtful approach to opening information. All the data powering the Climatescope site is available through an open API, which you can easily integrate into your own applications. The full dataset is also available for analysis. On almost every page lives a download button that provides a CSV file containing whatever you happen to be viewing.

Most importantly, FOMIN got the licensing right. The data is licensed CC-BY. It can be used (with attribution) by anyone, even for commercial purposes. This is critical when you want data to encourage commercial activity. Moreover the website itself is also open and is licensed GPL 3.0. The entire site can be forked by other open source projects.

Dynamic Static Websites

Like many of the sites we (and Flipside) build these days, Climatescope is a fully interactive site without a database or a heavy CMS. Climatescope users can manipulate, interrogate, and download the data on any device and in low bandwidth requirements. The site uses Jekyll, Angular, and D3 (among other tools) and is hosted on Github. Read more on our approach to CMS-free websites.

Customized weighting

People have different priorities when evaluating the environment for clean energy. The site is designed for a range of users, from activists to journalists, politicians, environmentalists, and the curious. FOMIN is committed to giving Climatescope users full control over how much weight each metric carries. To accomodate this, we built simple, intuitive sliders. Movement in one slider spreads the difference evenly across the other three factors. You can lock any slider to make it easier to hit an exact breakdown.

Hacking for the Planet

Have some data or coding skills? Care about the planet? Consider joining an EcoHack near you on Nov 15-16. We are hosting the DC EcoHack with WRI. EcoHacks are also happening in Sydney, Cambridge, New York, Madrid, and San Francisco.

Howdy Dan McCarey

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 17:00



Dan McCarey has joined Development Seed. Dan is going to help us to turn complex data into compelling stories. Dan is an information designer and web developer. He builds powerful websites. Dan is passionate about leaving the world better than he found it. That passion has drawn him to live and work in Nepal and Sudan.

Dan created the interactive "Mapping Cholera: A Tale of Two Cities", which recently appeared in Scientific American. This stunning interactive uses historical data and maps to track the spread of cholera in New York in 1832 and compares that to the spread of cholera in Haiti today.

Follow Dan on Twitter and Github.