What a difference a week makes!

We’re very GLAD to announce a range of new features for Global Forest Watch: weekly forest change data and enhanced subscriptions. With the combination of these two features we’ve taken a huge leap forward to keep this critical issue at the forefront of global consciousness.

More than a four letter word

GLAD. On paper it’s just four letters, but technologically it represents so much more. It stands for Global Land Analysis and Discovery and means that, every week, we can release fresh new data about how forests have changed in that week. What used to be a yearly routine of checking for change and addressing the impacts can now be undertaken every week. And that data is extremely precise: we can detect change at a scale of just 30x30m (half the size of a football pitch).

With GLAD alerts you can pinpoint deforestation events. The gif above shows the extent of deforestation in just a small part of the Republic of Congo.

To visualise this in a useful and usable way, we wanted to find a balance of fast loading (so users don’t get frustrated by loading times) and high accuracy (making the most of that fine resolution data). We experimented with some different approaches to achieving this, plumping in the end for a hybrid approach of summary raster layers when zoomed out transitioning to point data as you zoom in. By cleverly encoding multiple years of data into single map tiles, changes over time can be animated much more quickly, without the need to download the data for each transition; this significantly boosts performance.

With the weekly nature of these updates, this was also an opportunity to improve the back-end. We worked with the WRI data team to write automated scripts that pull the data into CartoDB very shortly after it’s calculated. This removes the need for humans to constantly update and upload the data, making the whole back-end much more seamless.

In just the last few weeks, WRI’s analysts have witnessed the expansion of logging roads around the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru and the Republic of Congo, as well as the expansion of oil palm into primary forest in Kalimantan. While it’s only available for these three areas so far, it’s soon set to cover the world. But before you get stuck into that data, we have one more trick up our sleeves…

Please consider the environment as you read this email

Emails. We all get them. Every day I get dozens of notifications about meetings to go to, documents to send off, a sale on that pair of killer heels I’ve been craving for months, urgent petitions to sign… What if you got a really inspirational email, telling you exactly where deforestation is happening, right now, in your country? What if, with a few clicks of your mouse, you had the data to send ground patrols to investigate illegal logging almost as soon as it’s happened? Now you can, with enhanced GFW subscriptions.

In a matter of seconds you can subscribe to updates for your country

The GFW subscription module is really easy to navigate. Simply sign-in with your existing google, facebook or twitter login (we only want to know that you’re a human, we won’t take any of your personal data) and you can assemble all the notifications you need to manage your area of interest. Whether it’s a protected area, a sub-national jurisdiction or a whole country, you can set up alerts about changes in any layer you want.

Bearing in mind the size of the partnership (3 additional applications and many more to come) we also created room for the subscriptions module to expand into the future to handle user stories, data uploaded by users and interactions with the other properties (climate, commodities or fires).

Getting people to create user accounts, sign up for notifications and then take notice when they get notifications is not an easy thing; our aim was to create rewarding experiences, rather than just making it as painless as possible, giving people as many reasons as possible to sign up. This starts with the sign-up workflow (hardly any required fields) and leaving people back at the page they were looking at: how many times have you completed a sign-up or log-in only to be taken back somewhere completely different? We carried that through into the notifications and call-outs, so you crave that weekly dose of insight rather than it being ‘another thing to deal with’.

With the user at the forefront of every design decision, we pored over and perfected every part of the journey to leave people with a delightful experience. We take great care over every user, so you can focus on taking care of one of planet’s most precious treasures.

So what are you waiting for: sign-up now!

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