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If you laugh at this map, it means you’re a huge map nerd

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

We here at Vox are giant map nerds, so I could not help but share it when I discovered this joke about maps, made in map form. In case you can't read the key, it says “Countries That Are South Sudan”:

A map of countries that are South Sudan. Red indicates "South Sudan," green indicates "Not South Sudan," grey is "No Data" (xcrissxcrossx)

In case you are not a huge nerd, the joke here is that, if you look at a lot of maps, you are almost certainly familiar with the frustration of seeing South Sudan and a few other places always marked as "no data." Sometimes the exclusion can seem silly; these places are not actually black holes of information from whence no data can emerge. This map pokes fun at that by joking that even a map merely locating South Sudan would be unable to do it.

It's from Reddit.com/r/shittymapporn, an excellent subreddit that is a jokey play off of the popular map-sharing subreddit r/mapporn (there is no actual porn involved in either). Vox's Anand Katakam slightly modified the original by adding Western Sahara under "no data" and changing the green to a shade slightly less horrid.

So why are South Sudan and these other grey places almost always marked "no data" on maps? In the case of South Sudan, it's because the country is very new, because getting data there was difficult when it was part of Sudan and the Sudanese government blocked census-taking efforts, and because in the few years since declaring independence has been troubled by internal violence. The other grey places tend to be so either because they are closed off — North Korea by choice, Somalia by violence — or because their unusual status makes data collection too politically awkward for international organizations.

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