A visual history of European borders

I’ve come across this video a number of times, the latest was this morning in an article shared by LinkedIn.

The video shows the borders and populations of each country in Europe for every year between 400 BCE and 2017 CE.

This is one of the things that I think about whenever I hear people arguing about the ‘problems of immigration’. Immigration, my dictionary tells me, is “the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.” And a ‘foreign country’ is simply one that is not my own.

But look at this map—look at the boundaries, look how fluid they are. Look how completely and utterly man-made (and it was mostly men) most of these are. Some are dictated by coastlines but the majority are, I’m sure, dictated by ambition and greed.

I think it would do Europe a world of good right now if every citizen had to have their DNA analysed to show us where we have come from. It would show that we are all more connected than we think, and as such we need one another.

An exercise to map your family’s timeline

Family timeline method on BJ Fogg's website
Family timeline method on BJ Fogg’s website

Here’s an exercise that psychologist, innovator and university lecturer BJ Fogg used at a family reunion that I’d love to do with my own family.

The idea was to collectively map their family’s story, starting from his parents’ wedding to the current day.

Each person was given their own post-it note colour and told to write their memories of that year on the post-it. They used 4 x 6 inch post-it notes to allow the writing to be larger and write more.

The post-it notes were then stuck to large boards. Each board was divided into three columns, one column per year.

The exercise led to a lot of sharing, about positive events and negative, both of which have shaped their family’s journey.

You can read more about the Fogg timeline on BJ’s website.

I wish I’d discovered this exercise earlier. Last year we had a huge reunion down in the Scottish Borders where family from California met up with folks here in Scotland, some meeting for the first time. This would have been tremendous fun and a great way to share our stories and see where our lives interacted and if there were any common themes.

Next time, maybe…?

Find your local postbox

Map showing locations of postboxes.
The blue marker indicates the centre of your postcode area; the red markers indicate postbox locations.

I’ve lived in Anstruther now for over eight years and I still don’t know where all our local postboxes are. Now I do, thanks to Find My Nearest Postbox from Matthew Somerville.

Find My Nearest Postbox ‘mashes-up’ postbox data from the Royal Mail with map data from the OpenStreetMap project, presenting an immediate and visual guide. All that is missing is a Google StreetView style view to let you see exactly where the postbox is.

Why doesn’t the Royal Mail website have this facility? Their site tells you how much stamps are for each size and weight. It enables you to print stamps on your own computer. But it doesn’t it tell you where you may post your letters. Surely that’s one of the key touch-points for using the Royal Mail services. That’s not very user-centred.

Anyway, Matthew Somerville’s service couldn’t be simpler. Enter the postcode you want to explore and hit Enter. I wish I’d found this earlier.

He also has a mash-up of cash machine locations.

London tube map redesign

Redesigned London tube map by Jug Cerović
Redesigned London tube map by Jug Cerović

The London tube map first designed in the 1930s by Harry Beck was a piece of design genius. But I really like this redesign by French- Serbian architect Jug Cerović.

Ukip will be pleased, it returns the Circle line to being a circle again!

Not content with the London underground map he has also tackled maps of

While we’re on the topic of tube maps. Here’s a tube map made entirely from HTML and CSS.