In this week’s assignment, we used Google Maps and uMapper to plot multiple points on an embeddable map project.
Both tools allow for some customization of basic things – plot points, colors, images, some HTML, etc. But the strength of Google Maps lies in the flexibility of the platform and the Application Programming Interface or API.
APIs are code structures that let bits of software talk to other bits of software. In this case, Google Maps can interact with any number of other Google apps or outside elements to produce automation, data visualization and deeper mapping experiences.
Here’s a look at some fairly basic examples of Google maps with individual plot points and, in a couple cases, using Keyhole Markup Language, or KML feeds. These are geocoded coordinate sets that can be added in bulk to a map – a bit like an RSS feed for mapping.
- Individual plotting – the Michelin Guide
- Using a KML feed from Foursquare to map my checkins. This goes beyond silly games and meeting buddies if you use it strategically – checking in to assignments, following a multi-point story, etc.
- You can also find these KML feeds in other mobile apps. In this case, I plotted points for my daily bike commute in an app called Bike Brain. How could you make use of this type of feature?
Google offers a tool called Forms in Docs that allows you to solicit answers to questions. This is a great app for getting user generated content in it’s own right. Have categories with map coordinates or addresses and you can create maps from the corresponding spreadsheet.
This dangerous intersections story is built around a map generated from user submissions using a form.
Beyond the simple
- Toronto cycling collisions interactive map
- Mapping mexico’s drug war
- NYT Netflix map
- NYT parking tickets -
- Chicago bike accidents
- England poverty riots
Those last two maps were created using Google’s Fusion Tables tool. It’s not horribly complex, but it does require some spreadsheet kung fu and a willingness to dig into coding a little deeper.