Nick Blackwell

Software Developer | Research Technician 5

The University of British Columbia

Nick Blackwell joined the Center for Social, Spatial, and Economic Justice (CSSEJ) in 2009 in a work study position for Dr. Jon Corbett, and is currently a Level 5 Research Technician at the center, (now the SpICE Lab). Before Joining UBC, Nick Blackwell studied Electronic Engineering at Okanagan College, and Computer Science and the University of British Columbia. Nick primarily develops and maintains the participatory mapping application Geolive, as well as mobile integration (IOS, Android) and server management related to Geolive (RHEL).

Nick Blackwell originally created Geolive to support a number of Jon Corbett's graduate student mapping projects. Geolive has since become a flexible mapping tool that is extensible, allowing plugin functionality to provide solutions to a wide range of mapping applications. Geolive is packaged alongside Joomla, a website content management system allowing fully developed websites to be built around a Geolive map.

Geolive Facebook Page

The Geolive Framework

Geolive - Mapping Framework

A Geolive map acts as a medium through which registered users can share their own multimedia information and experiences about a specific place. Geolive is a versatile tool that we have used to support a number of web-based participatory mapping projects ...

Geolive Administrators Guide

Geolive Administrators can create mapping applications using Geolives graphical control panel interface. By adding functional components to the map, each geolive map instance can be customized into a unique mapping application, solving a wide range of problems ... more

Geolive Development Wiki

Geolive is a server client application. Server development consists of writing Geolive extensions which are categorized by the type of functionality they add to geolive. The core functionality of geolive itself is provided by a number of System Plugins ...

Geolive Mapping Projects

Taku River Tlingit Place Names

In the most northwestern area of British Columbia, the Indigenous peoples are the Taku River Tlingit. The Taku River Tlingit are Tlingit peoples whose territory extends between British Columbia, Southern Yukon, and Southern Alaska. The word Tlingit can be translated to mean People of the Tides Taku River Tlingit The Taku River Tlingit Place Names Map, has been created to bring awareness to the traditional Taku River Tlingit place names in the northwestern area of British Columbia. more

Taku River Tlingit First Nation Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences: What’s new for 2014-2015 Christine Schreyer - Research David Lacho - UBC Story Interactive map visualizes Tlingit connection to land Learning to talk to the land: Online stewardship in Taku River Tlingit territory [Christine] Schreyer hired [David] Lacho as her research assistant on the project "Learning to Talk to the Land: (Re)claiming Taku River Tlingit Placenames," a community-based mapping project using the GeoLive tool.

Sharing Positive Experiences

The UBC Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship partnered with the BC Centre for Employment Excellence and the SpICE Lab at UBCO on an online mapping tool research project. This map on the internet will allow individuals to share and learn about the positive employment experiences of self advocates in BC Goals of this project are to determine: what factors support and contribute to positive, inclusive employment for individuals with developmental disabilities in BC. How service providers able to support individuals with developmental disabilities in finding and keeping employment that is paid, positive, and inclusive. And how employers can create an accessible and inclusive work place for individuals with developmental disabilities. more

Local Adaptation

A Geolive site mapping municipal climate change adaptation in Canada. The objective of this project is to map impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability related to climate change more

Global Reach UBC

Recreate - Okanagan

Recreate is a mapping service that provides spatial and descriptive information about various recreational activities around the Okanagan ... more

Office of Research Services


This project has been developed to promote a positive space for feedback on aspects of the WDCAG at the University of Victoria from March 7-9, 2014.

Place and Pipeline

Created by Andrew Barton, Place and Pipeline explores the narrative of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project and the Environmental Assessment process through the geoweb The intent behind this website is to provide a platform for participatory mapping, where members of the public can contribute their thoughts, comments and feelings regarding the Northern Gateway Pipeline project in the form of text, photographs, video, and audio recordings. The site is part of a research project under the umbrella of the Centre for Social, Spatial & Economic Justice (CSSEJ) at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus, and is part of the interdisciplinary GeoThink research project. The website is based on the Geolive platform. Place and Pipelines ubc news article trekmagazine article more

Small Islands Research

In association with the Asia Pacific Islands Program at SCU, SICRI collates research publications and related data on island cultures and societies The tool includes full indexing of material from the refereed publications Shima, Island Studies Journal, Journal of Marine and Island Cultures and Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology. more

BC Marine Trails

The BC Marine Trails Network Association is a BC-based registered society dedicated to the creation of a marine network of campsites and access points along the coastline of British Columbia As written in the ‘History of the BCMTNA’ major progress began on this initiative in 2007. The success of the BCMTNA to date rests with our hard-working volunteers and dialogue and consultation with First Nations, other stakeholder groups, and government agencies.

The BCMTNA is comprised of ten paddling clubs from Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island and the mainland of BC. Each club assigns designated representatives to liaise and volunteer with the BCMTNA. Over the past four years, these volunteers have logged significant hours 'ground proofing' sites, inventorying campsites, launches and stopovers along the network of trails.

At the heart of the Association is a core group of directors and our president. Their roles and responsibilities have become complex and far-reaching. Given the length of the BC coastline — estimated to be around 27 000 km long — and the huge number of actual and potential sites, there is a significant amount of work yet to be done.

A healthy part of our volunteer work is working with Recreation Sites and Trails BC, our government 'partners'. We meet with their technicians and managers on a regular basis to not only exchange information, but to get advice and help on the progress of a trail. We are very fortunate to have such support. Marine Trails Musgrave Flotilla Stephan Meinke's Youtube channel BC Marine Trails The BC Marine Trails Network Summer News from BC Marine Trails, Georgia Strait Alliance, and MEC Paddlefest! Coastal marine trail network gives B.C. paddlers more options Photos: Weather cooperates with MEC Paddlefest at Jericho Beach

Mobile Development

Apple Development

Android Development

Other Projects

Placemark Icon Generator

The Placemark Icon generator is a web based tool to generate high quality map icons. This tool renders icons from svg images using a number of parameters to create icon sets for creating maps. more

Lives Lived West of the Divide

The MNBC Historic Document Database provides access to thousands of historical documents including photographs, Hudson's Bay Company records, Church missionary records, and personal accounts Each document is indexed by items such as its source, subjects, family names and geographic locations mentioned within the document. Google Maps are also used to help interpret the indexes and help demonstrate historical Métis land and resource use in British Columbia. This project gathers documents from both historical archives and directly from British Columbia's Métis community on an ongoing basis. If you would like to contribute any old photos, letters, or documents in your family's collection, please visit the Contribute Files page.

Nick Blackwell created an interactive search tool to enhance the MNBC database. more

The MNBC Historic Document Database was developed Mike Evans. Evans is Canada Research Chair in World's Indigenous Peoples and Research Director for Métis Nation British Columbia. Currently an Associate Professor at UBC Okanagan, Mike is an experienced community-based researcher with a diverse range of research interests including: urban Aboriginal issues; Métis history and contemporary issues; Tonga; Oceania; Trans-national migration and globalization; Whaling and whale-watching tourism; Trade liberalization, diet, and nutrition in the Pacific.

Geoide Member

The Geospatial Web (Geoweb) emerges from the combination of Internet technology, geographic information, and social networking. As part of the second-generation World-Wide Web (Web 2.0), the Geoweb has the potential to address the crucial issues of our time, such as global environmental change. In this project we employ the Geoweb to stimulate, mediate, facilitate, and advocate public understanding, engagement, and action towards a sustainable development of the nature-society system. The project team seeks to examine what defines effective participation through the Geoweb, contextualize observations and opinions on environmental change, and develop a technical and policy infrastructure to support climate change response and adaptation. abstract Our research approach includes a case study laboratory, in which experiments are conducted in partnership with different levels of government and non-profit organizations across Canada using a diversity of geographic and social scales as well as a variety of Geoweb technologies and applications. more

S.K.I. Conference Presentation Abstract

Geolive: Participatory mapping on the Web

Nicholas Blackwell, Jon Corbett and Sven Koberwitz
Center for Social Spatial and Economic Justice, Center for Social Spatial and Economic Justice, Center for Social Spatial and Economic Justice,


Geolive is an online participatory mapping application that combines the Google Maps API and Joomla an open source content management system. Using the example of a food system mapping project developed at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, this paper discusses the usability, design and implementation of Geolive, as well as explores the broader possibilities and limitations of participatory mapping using web 2.0/3.o and open source software.

Background and Relevance

The recent and ongoing development of web-based social networking and Geoweb applications has had a significant impact in the way people access and share locationbased information (Haklay et al., 2008; Hudson-Smith et al., 2009; Elwood, 2010). The new ability to allow any Internet user to author content and then communicate this content with a global audience has changed the flow of knowledge between individuals, organizations and government (Goodchild, 2007; Nuojua, 2010).
In this new era of multiple-authored interactive web content, the design and implementation of Geoweb applications requires new considerations, and must overcome novel and emerging hurdles not found in legacy web-based geoinformatic applications (Rouse et al., 2007; Coleman et al, 2009). Considerations in the development of geoweb tools include:
  • Security and user management
  • Expandability and concurrency
  • Reusability, ease of distribution and durability
  • Data management and privacy
  • Data dependability, and content filtering
  • Data analysis and decision making
Geolive is a web-based participatory mapping tool developed at University of British Columbia Okanagan. The application allows users to create and share their own spatial information using a single dynamic map-based interface. The original goal for Geolive was to create an application where many users can view and author spatial data content simultaneously, while allowing the software to be open-sourced, reused and distributed. Although there are numerous requirements in supporting public participation using Geoweb applications, the main focus of our research, and concomitantly this presentation, is design-centric. In other words how, from a usability perspective, can an online mapping tool be designed and developed to best support the active participation of users in the contribution of location-based content and in doing so promote community involvement in geographically bounded issues. Methods and Data To take Geolive from concept to deployment, we used a modular architecture that allowed Geolive to take advantage of existing open source software. These software blocks were used to solve many of the complex problems encountered in developing a Geoweb application from the ground up. This meant that instead of re-inventing the software development protocols required in typical website management and administration, Geolive's development could focus on integrating our participatory mapping application with existing blocks, or modules, of website functionality. This freed up efforts to focus specifically on developing the mapping component of the tool.
The design of Geolive as a Content Management System module has provided us with many advantages over standalone applications (Goodrich and Tamassia, 2006; Stallings, 2005). Geolive's user management is simply an abstract connector to the system that Joomla provides (for examples see and Additionally user management plugins can be applied directly to Joomla and work with Geolive immediately, these include for example user profile pages, avatars, and access control. The Joomla framework also provides platform independence, allowing Geolive to be easily distributable. However, allowing multiple Geolive instances to exist makes it difficult to maintain software. To help keep versions consistent, Geolive instances have the ability to upgrade themselves to match the highest released software version that is released on the Geolive project server. The ease of distribution of Geolive may provide solutions to future issues involving large volumes of data (currently large datasets have not been encountered).
The Geolive client application is built using the Google API as well as a number of 3rd party JavaScript Libraries, such as Mootools, CKEditor, and the Simile Timeline. Using asynchronous communication between the client and server, users can actively manipulate and contribute to the map. One of the key concerns with using the Google API is how client information and map data are stored. Although the API is used to render content, Geolive's data are stored on the local server, and is protected using existing Joomla security. Unlike cloud-based storage, managing user contributed data this way adds the ability for it to be analyzed and filtered by administrators. However security issues such as SQL injection and cross-domain script attacks must also be considered (Connolly & Begg, 2005). Building an Ajax framework can also be prone to security flaws, as it exposes sensitive methods that could be exploited if not properly secured (see

Development considerations

Each of the six considerations for Geoweb application design identified above have had a major bearing on design and usability of Geolive as well as the trust that users can place in the tool in regard to security and privacy of their sensitive information and data. Security and user management include the ability to protect user accounts using Joomla's authentication framework and user connectors, as well as securing asynchronous communication; Expandability and concurrency allow administrators to design for, and adapt to, large and growing users and datasets with simultaneous manipulation; Reusability, ease of distribution and durability enable the provision of an installable package that can be customized and used on different hardware and software platform; Data management and privacy, ensure that user contributed content is stored locally and used ethically); Data dependability, and content filtering mean that information is accurate and can be managed efficiently and; Data analysis and decision making help provide statistical information and tools to find trends and patterns in user contributed information. Each of these considerations will be discussed during this presentation.


The Geolive application is a participatory mapping tool built using a number of open source software libraries. Its integration with the Joomla CMS has allowed it to meet complex security requirements for web applications, while allowing it to be distributable. Geolive has been implemented into a number of different web sites, and demonstrates strong potential to share spatial knowledge.


Coleman, D. J., Sabone, B. and Nkhwanana N., 2010, 'Volunteering Geographic Information to Authoritative Databases: Linking Contributor Motivations to Program Effectiveness'. Geomatica Vol. 64, No. 1, pp. 383-396. Connolly, T. & Begg, C., 2005, Database Systems: A Practical Approach to Design, Implementation, and Management. Pearson, pp. 1424. Elwood, S., 2010, 'Geographic information science: emerging research on the societal implications of the geospatial web', Progress in Human Geography, 34(3), pp. 349-57. Goodchild, M.F., 2007, 'Citizens as sensors: the world of volunteered geography', GeoJournal, 69(4), pp. 211-21. Goodrich, M. T. & Tamassia R., 2006, Data Structures & Algorithms in Java: Object Oriented Programming. John Wiley & Sons pp. 714. Haklay, M., Singleton, A. & Parker, C., 2008, 'Web mapping 2.0: the neogeography of the Geoweb', Geography Compass, 2(6), pp. 2011-39. Hudson-Smith, A., Crooks, A., Gibin, M., Milton, R. & Batty, M., 2009, 'NeoGeography and Web 2.0: concepts, tools and applications', Journal of Location Based Services, 3(2), pp. 118-45. Nuojua, J., 2010, 'WebMapMedia: a map-based Web application for facilitating participation in spatial planning', Multimedia Systems, 16, pp. 3-21. Rouse, L.J., Bergeron, S.J. & Harris, T.M., 2007, 'Participating in the geospatial web: collaborative mapping, social networks and participatory GIS', in A Scharl & K Tochtermann (eds), The geospatial web : how geobrowsers, social software, and the Web 2.0 are shaping the network society, Springer, London, pp. 153-8. Stallings, W., 2005, Operating Systems: Internals and Design Principals', Benefits Of Object-Oriented Design. Prentice Hall pp. 832.

Selections From: The Added Value of Scientific Networking:

The Added Value of Scientific Networking: Perspectives from the Geoide Network Members Alternate Link Geolive is now being deployed by the university associates in partnership with four community organizations based in British Columbia and Ontario, each working at different spatial extents (from the local, to provincial to national level) and on different issues. These organizations include: The i2i Intergenerational Society of Canada, the Kawartha Heritage Conservancy, the Ottawa River Institute and The Sustaining What We Value Project (a collective of several non-government organizations and government agencies). Geolive is a platform that enables users to build their own problem-specific application and share their own spatial information using a dynamic map-based interface. The purpose of Geolive is to create an application where many users can view and author spatial data content simultaneously. The software is open-sourced, and thus can be reused and widely distributed. Geolive is now being deployed by the university associates in partnership with four community organizations based in British Columbia and Ontario, each working at different spatial extents (from the local, to provincial to national level) and on different issues. These organizations include: The i2i Intergenerational Society of Canada, the Kawartha Heritage Conservancy, the Ottawa River Institute and The Sustaining What We Value Project (a collective of several non-government organizations and government agencies).

Git Hub Projects

Scaffolds is a php library for creating content from a directory of structural php files usually containing boilerplate html. The purpose of Scaffolds is to create reusable html or other code quickly allowing organization of the code to be progressively applied. Scaffolds The Scaffolds library is used on a number of projects (including geolive). But also standalone websites such as the Placemark Icon Generator

Easy Image is a very lightweight php image tool meant to abstract image file types, provide simple image transformations and writing. This library uses php's GD Image Processing module. Easy Image

pyWave is a library of command line tools written in python for processing audio files. Python Wave

Easy Csv is a csv library providing tools to make it easy to read, write, and search csv files. Easy Csv

Media Wiki Extensions

The SVN Viewer, Parser Function, is a MediaWiki Extension that displays documents within an SVN repository. Nick Blackwell developed this extension primarily to provide detailed documentation of the Geolive Framework. This extension makes use of the GeSHiCodeTag extension for MediaWiki to display formatted source code for various languages.

The Scrumdo Feed Viewer is a media wiki extension that connects to scrumdo's REST api and displays project data and activity feeds within mediawiki allowing developers to use scrumdo the way that it was intended and also provide public accessibility to projects automatically. This tool was created for the purpose of developing and documenting Geolive - Activity Feed

External API Integration | Geolive

The Twillio SMS plugin for Geolive is an extension that allows the Geolive framework to notify administrators of content changes by SMS.

The World Weather Online plugin for Geolive is an extension that allows the Geolive placemarks to contain up to date weather information from weather sensors located close by