I suspect the title of this thread casts the conversation in a less-than-favorable light. My guess is that, if hand-drawn maps ever get to be a thing of the past, it will happen only because the general public becomes more digitally literate than it is today. I would wager this will take at least a couple of decades. When folks can create hand-drawn maps like this little masterpiece by Bob Thurston Marathon Map by Bob Thurston
, who would ever say they need to use software to create maps? Of course, the majority of us do not have this kind of artistic skill.
My intent in opening this topic (thanks for segregating the threads, Mark) is to think about the future of map creation. Since Mark and others here have done such a fine job of presenting and explaining the free options with which to draw clear maps, it seems to me it behooves us to make these tools better known to measurers and then encourage them to use them - not to require them.
I laid out two race courses early yesterday morning working with two hand-drawn certification maps that each had two incorrect street names, and no cross street names where needed to readily locate splits and to ascertain the race route. Most vexing, an incomplete representation of a divided highway on which it turned out the permit required the race to run only on one side of, in a single coned-off lane. The maps showed only a single lane, no median, and no cone lane. It would have been easy to take runners on the wrong side of the highway here had the police not been on site to show the permitted route. Would digitally-produced maps have prevented all these problems? Probably not. However, I contend that the digital map production process, regardless of the software used, has a better chance of being accurate if for no other reason than it uses a digital image of some kind over which the race route is traced. Had this process been used for my races yesterday, I bet that divided highway would have been picked up and represented as such on the maps.
As mentioned previously, many maps I have seen on USATF.org present a less-than-professional image. I contend that, if we start taking some small steps now towards encouraging more digitally-drawn maps, we can all benefit. Mark recommends what I consider a good first step: updating the manual to include his basic tutorial on creating electronic maps.
As a next step, what harm could there be in asking state certifiers to forward a link to Mark's tutorial to all measurers who submit hand-drawn maps with a recommendation to consider using digital methods? Who can doubt that at some future year, the majority of USATF certification maps will be digitally-drawn?