Mapping with Ruby and Rails

Back when I started MapBuzz, there was so little work being done in the open source geospatial world with Ruby and/or Rails that Sean even commented on it. Geospatial was the realm of Python and C/C++ on one side, and a completely duplicated Java software stack on the other (an interesting dichotomy that’s worth a blog about at some point).

Although Python/Java still remain dominant in the geospatial world, there has been an uptick of interest in the Ruby and Rails communities. So let’s take a look what’s new.

We’ll start with Shoaib Burq’s RailsConf Europe 2007 talk Rails GIS Hacks. Although I wasn’t at the conference, Shoaib asked me to review his materials a couple months ago. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to provide feedback – but he really didn’t need it. His materials are absolutely excellent and are now online – so check them out.

Google Maps with Rails

Earlier this year, Apress released a book about using Google Maps with Rails. I haven’t read the book, so can’t comment on it. But one of the authors, Andre, has an active blog Earthcode that frequently talks about Rails and mapping. Other blogs of interest are The Pochi Superstar Mega Show! by Guilhem Vellut, High Earth Orbit by Andrew Turner and GeoLabs by Nomad Labs.

On the software side, various Rails plugins have appeared over the last years that make it easy to embed a google map (such as ym4r, cartographer) in a Rails application. There are also a slew of geocoding gems, and Ruby bindings for Gdal and Geos (provided by yours truly).

And as far as sites, there is of course my favorite MapBuzz. In addition, OpenStreetMap has moved to Rails and I would guess Andrew’s site Mapufacture is also using Rails.

So although community is still quite small, it sure is a lot bigger than last year. And if I missed your totally excellent Ruby Mapping library/blog/site let me know and I’ll add you to the list.

  1. September 19, 2007

    I really like which allows you to upload GPX data from your GPS to create a map, it’s written in Rails.

    I did read the Apress book about Google Maps on Rails, I think it’s pretty good but some reviewers pointed out that it’s weak on RJS which is true.

    I’m very interested in YM4R, it seems like a nice plug in and I plan on converting my Secret Falls site over to it.


  2. Charlie Savage –
    September 19, 2007

    Hi Hugh,

    Thanks for the links – your site looks great. I just sent you an email via its support link – if you don’t get it, mind dropping me a line at cfis at savagexi dot com?

  3. September 20, 2007

    Hi Charlie,

    At [WeoGeo]( we’ve been Ruby, Rails, and Amazon Web Services to build an online marketplace for maps. WeoGeo provides map creators an easy way to make their products findable and available for sale over the web.

    I’d also point out the excellent [GeoKit]( plugin for rails by [Andre Lewis]( It extents ActiveRecord with automatic geocoding for models and easy distance calculations. Great stuff.

    On the fun side, a couple friends and I recently created []( – a geographically aware registry of ruby user groups around the world. This was built in a weekend for the [RailsRumble contest](


  4. Charlie Savage –
    September 20, 2007

    Hey Scott – Thanks for the excellent links. WEbGeo looks really interesting – I’d love to learn more about it. And GeoKit does look great also.

    For MapBuzz, we made something similar – although with tighter integration with GEOS. Anyway, I’ll have to take a closer look at GeoKit.

    Nice work on RubyBrigade – any interest in merging it into MapBuzz?

    And are you going to Foss4g?

  5. September 21, 2007

    I wish I was going to Foss4G – but I’m too busy to get away at the moment. I’ll be checking up and trying to read up on the presentations as they appear on the web afterwards though. 🙂

    For RubyBrigade – we have json for all the brigades (well, we will again once I fix a stupid bug), maybe that could be consumed by MapBuzz?

    After the RailsRumble contest is over we’re going to start working on it again and adding more user-group specific features.