aftermath

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Maplog

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As noted in aftermath’s current sticky post, most of my blogging on Hurricane Ike is being written on my personal tracking map.

As I’ve probably recounted before, I have kept journals almost from the day I learned to write. So I had barely using the Internet during its earliest pre-commercialization days before I itched to switch from the card catalog organization of favorites list to a daily record organization, a shift in perspective that I did in fact develop for a major inhouse knowledge system within the company for which I then worked. To those two integrated organization perspectives we can now add a spatial aspect: placement of Internet links and content on a map.

I know, I have made it rather clear that I find the arrogant mediocrity of Google‘s products and services to be even worse than that of Microsoft. And as soon as any reasonably competent competitor wakes up to the powerful potential of mapping blog content, Google will once again lose my recommendation, that I can guarantee. For now, though, Google Maps offers some intriguing blogging tools that to the best of my knowledge are unique, unavailable anywhere elsewhere on the Internet. And although certainly there are already many users who have dabbled with Google’s map tools, very few bloogers if any at all seem to have yet taken those mapping tools to their maximum potential.

I’d already started collecting personal Google maps marking various locations mentioned throughout aftermath. Yet I admit, I’m still enough a newbie at it that when I finally decided to track an incoming hurricane, at first I took a pen to a paper tracking chart. And that even when I grouched about wanting to take that electronic, at first I wasted time searching for whether anyone offered any on-line hurricane tracking tools. Duh me. Google maps fits the bill quite well.

And in building my personal tracking map for Hurricane Ike, I’ve found that such a map becomes a mini-blog in its own right. Vacation blogs will never be the same again. Want to blog personal comments on watching the next Tour de France? Add depth to an Election Eve blog post? I could list countless other illustrations. Linking a map with blogging is at least as powerful a dimension as was linking dates to the early Internet favorites organization.

Useful Features – Some notes on useful Google map features I’m playing with (to be revised and extended as I continue mapping Ike) –

  • Personal Notes As I’m tracking the position of Ike, I’m adding personal notes to each placement, which essentially adds that spatial dimension to the chronological blogging. An early comment about indecision about evacuation made when the storm was strong first moving over eastern Cuba, followed by a firm decision against evacuation as the storm moves off Cuba into the Gulf, would take on a different feel that no other form of blogging would quite capture as effectively if Ike were to surprise us all by building to a cat 5 and turning directly on Houston, were I to have any second thoughts on evacution as the storm neared the Texas coast. My map blogging can be seen by clicking on any of the icons placed on the map, or alternatively by clicking on the list of links given by Google on the leftside sidebar.
  • Basic Internet Capabilities – Personal notes made on a personal Google map can carry most of the basic HTML coding, including links and images. As obvious as this might seem, pioneer opendiary and other blogging flops have blundered by preventing or tightly filtering HTML, making blog posts little more than a non-electronic note on a small piece of paper might carry. Add images and links to your Google map notes, and you’re stretching all the muscles that blogging was meant to have.
  • Automatic “Blog-like” Chronology – Back to those leftside sidebar links Google gives our personal maps: whatever organization Google uses for those sidebar links for any general map search, for personal maps such as my Ike tracking map the listing of those links are what turns this into a mini-blog, albeit reversed from the order of a typical blog, with most recent “entries” listed at the bottom. For the early part of a hurricane tracking chart, the chronology seems pretty self-evident; but by the end, when I might be noting positions of various events all over the region, the value of that chronological order will become more evident. For certain purposes that a maplog might be useful, such as a blog of a battle, the link between the spatial map coordinates versus the sidebar’s chronological listing become indispensible to understanding the overall picture.
  • RSS Feed – Updates to a personal Google map can be followed by subscribing to the map’s RSS feed, further enhancing the blog-like feel of a Google map, particularly in the instance of one that does in fact have a chronology to it, such as a vacation log. For instance, updates that I am making to my personal Hurricane Ike Map can be followed via its RSS feed.
  • Related Content – Bring the focus of my Ike tracking map in close to my hometown Houston, select “Show search options” at the right side of Google’s search bar above the map frame, select “User-created content” from the dropdown box, enter something like “Hurricane Ike” in the search box, then hit the “Search Maps” button. Presto! Instant “community” beyond anything that the backward-thinking programmers back at livejournal, or almost anywhere else for that matter, ever dreamed. (Although Google will need to quickly start dealing with spammers and other irrelevant content, else this potentially powerful community organizer will become quite useless via the clutter already accumulating.)

Wishlist – Things I wish Google maps did differently (as in, things their competitors will eventually have without fuss).

  • Internal Bookmarks – Google makes it obvious that each pushpin or line or area created on a user’s personal map has its own bookmark, else how could Google navigate from its sidebar links to the appropriate place on the map. So why can’t a user directly access those internal bookmarks? On almost any of the dozens of personal maps I’ve already created, there have been countless times already when I would like to have a blog post or other web content point specifically to one point on the map. Alas, unless one creates an entirely separate Google map devoted solely to that point, it is currently impossible to link to such an internal bookmark in the same fashion Google’s own sidebar does.
  • Sidebar Link Sorting Flexibility – Nice that Google’s sidebar links on a personal map are listed in the order one places the links on the map, since that chronological order implicitly creates a sort of blog in its own right, as I noted above, quite useful for something such as a map of the progress of a hurricane. All too frequently, though, one wants to reshuffle those links. Currently, the only way to do so via Google maps would be to completely recreate a personal map. Clearly, it ought not be difficult to give a user sorting capability over those links.
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Written by macheide

10 September 2008 at 9:49 am

Posted in macheide

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