Atlastory API Documentation

Objects and structure


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A Node represents a specific point on the earth's surface defined by its latitude and longitude. Nodes are the fundamental building blocks of the map. Each Node also belongs to a Source.


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A Way is an ordered list of Nodes that can represent a line or polygon, connected through Way Nodes. A Way is a polygon if its first and last Nodes are the same.


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A Shape is an actual feature on the map. It can contain any ordered combination of Nodes and Ways connected through Shape Relations. In the database, each Shape has a beginning and end date, along with a data column that contains key/value pairs representing any other data associated with the shape: name, description, etc.

Each connected Node or Way has a type specified in the Shape Relation: outer (polygon), inner (polygon), point, center, or line.

Unlike OpenStreetMap where Nodes & Ways can be accessed individually, all data and tag access must be through a Shape.


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Defined, non-overlapping time periods that contain every Shape for that time. Each Period can be thought of as its own map -- so if this were OpenStreetMap, there would be just one Period: the "current" one.

The original reason for having separate "periods" in addition to each Shape having a start/end was to avoid map conflicts. When editing the map, the contributor knows they are editing a defined period, not a map where each Shape has its own start/end point.

A quick example of map conflict: Shape-A spanning 1800-1900 borders or compliments Shape-B spanning 1860-1900. If the first shape is edited while viewing in 1800, it may conflict with the second shape. Instead of making contributors find and correct all map conflicts, defined Periods are used: Shape-A belongs to 2 Periods, 1800-1860 and 1860-1900. The 1860-1900 Shape-A can be edited into a new Shape without effecting the 1800-1860 version.

The Periods concept may become obsolete if we can find a way of fixing the conflict/overlapping problem without it. At the moment, Periods will exist in tandem with times for individual Shapes.


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Like traditional GIS "layers", except that they contain multiple Types of shapes that can be style separately or together. A level contains objects of the same kind (point, line, or polygon) and of similar styling.

  1. land
  2. admin1
  3. admin2
  4. admin3
  5. settlements
  6. rivers
  7. lakes


Types are used for styling. Every Shape belongs to a Type. Examples:

  • admin1: sovereignty, country, dependency, colony
  • admin2: state, province, republic
  • settlements: city, capital-[1-3], town, village

So a Shape might contain a single Node, and belong to the town type, which in turn belongs to the settlements Level.