Hack 48. Tell Your Communitys Story

Hack 48 Tell Your Community s Story

Give a guided tour of your community with photos and a Google Map.

We've all been there before; huddled around a computer, looking at photo after photo of a friend or family member standing in front of one tourist attraction after another. I don't know about you, but after the third picture I start to fade fast. It's not that the pictures are necessarily boring (although they very well might be); they're just so repetitive.

The laws of physics require that a photo be a representation of a physical place, but we so rarely display photos within any context of physical location. Google maps provides just such a context, and the effect of placing photos on a map at the location they were taken adds an extra dimension of information to the photo. I'm not suggesting that your slideshow of Hawaii with eight photos of you on the shores of a beautiful beach will become the most enthralling presentation ever, but you might hold people's attention for six photos rather than three.

5.8.1. The Hack

Community Walk (http://www.communitywalk.com/) attempts to facilitate the process of placing photos on a map showing where they were taken. The intent of it was, surprisingly enough, not to simply alleviate the boredom of vacation slideshows, but rather to allow people to share their communities. I roughly define a community as a group of things that share some commonality in the mind of some person or group of people. Although a community does not necessarily have to exist in a physical area, it does have to involve something that exists in a physical location, even if that is just the people that are involved in the community.

Many communities may exist in the same physical area as well. It all depends on the perspective of the people involved. A baseball fan may see SBC Park in San Francisco as one of the many ballparks in the United States, as shown in Figure 5-26.

The manager of a hotel may see the ballpark as a highlight of the area around the hotel, as in Figure 5-27.

With Community Walk, I wanted to give people a way to share these different perspectives, providing different ways to organize and display the various things in a community on a map. I also wanted to allow the creator of the map to configure the map to behave exactly as desired. The hotel manager may not want anyone else to be able to edit the map of the hotel or write comments on the various locations on the map, while the ballpark aficionado may want to allow certain people to edit the map and everyone to add comments about the various ballparks and baseball teams that play in those parks. Community Walk allows for all this and then some.

5.8.2. Getting Started

To get started with Community Walk, go to http://www.communitywalk.com and enter the street address or latitude and longitude of your location. This will create the initial map and pop up a window to enter in necessary information about the location. If the location is close to where you want it to be, but not exactly right, you can move it after you save it by clicking Move on the window that pops up when you click Save.

Figure 5-26. A fan's-eye view

Figure 5-27. The hotelier's perspective

You will initially have the option of choosing from ten categories that describe the location. The default options for the category are Business, Education, Entertainment, General, Hotels, Parks, Residence, Restaurants, Shopping, and Transportation, but these can be changed. In order to change them, though, you'll need to create a user account. You can do this by clicking the Login link under the righthand panel. You can also log in directly from http://www.communitywalk.com.

Once logged in you will be able to configure everything about the map, including which categories are available, which tabs are available to organize the locations on the map, who can edit the map, whether or not users can make comments on the locations on the map, and so on. Right after you log in, you will be brought to a page that lists all of your maps, allowing you to configure, view, or edit each map, and if you started creating a map before logging in, that map will be available for configuration automatically. You can also access this screen by clicking Configure Map on the bottom of the map.

5.8.3. Adding Your Own Locations

Now comes the fun part: adding locations to the map. You can do this by clicking Add Markers at the bottom of the map. This presents you with three options: By Click, By Address, and By Lat/Long. Each of these offers a different way to put a location on the map, although my preferred manner is By Click, as it allows me to quickly add locations directly onto the map exactly where I want them to be.

Once a location is added, you will be presented with the same pop-up window that you saw when you first created the map. Now you will be able to choose from the categories you designated when you configured the map, as well as enter the rest of the information for the location. When entering the description, you also have the option of using some special wiki-like commands that allow you to format the text in the description and include links to external web sites as well as links that change the state of the map without leaving it. At the time of this writing, the available commands were as shown in Table 5-1.

Table 5-1. Community Walk's wiki-like commands

Command

Resulting text

bold("sample text")

sample text

italic("sample text")

sample text

link("http://www.communitywalk.com", "Community Walk")

CommunityWalk

internal_link("3wx82-0$j.>23jWKl5%", "Madrid Hotel")

Madrid Hotel

In the internal_link command, the first parameter 3wx82-0$j.>23jWKl5 is a set of directions for the map, telling it where to center, what location to show, what picture to show, and so on. This value can be determined by putting the map in the state, panning and zooming to the view that you want to see, with the pictures you want to see on it, and then selecting all of the text after the # sign in the URL. If the URL in the address bar were 23jWKl5%">http://www.communitywalk.com/group?id=328#3wx82-0$j.>23jWKl5%, the internal_link state parameter for that view of the map would be 3wx82-0$j.>23jWKl5%.

At any point you can go back and edit the information for any location by simply selecting that location and clicking Edit in the window that pops up. You can also move the location or delete it by clicking Move or Delete, respectively. These links will not be available when someone is simply viewing the map.

5.8.4. Adding Photos to the Map

Once the location has been created, you can add photos to the location by clicking Add Photos from the window that pops up when you select the location (a user viewing the map will see a link for "No Photos"). This will open a window that will allow you to upload photos. The photos will be automatically resized if they are too big and will be displayed in the order they were uploaded. You can change the order by clicking Reorder after the photos are displayed and dragging them into their new order. For each photo, you can enter a title and short description. The description can also contain the same commands described for the main description.

Personally, I usually don't have my photos named very well on my computer. So I prefer to simply organize the photos that I want to use for a specific location into a folder on my computer, upload all the photos in the folder, disregarding the order, and then reorder the photos and enter the title and description from the resulting view, where I can see which photo I am dealing with.

Each location that has photos uploaded to it will have a small camera icon next to it on the righthand panel. Additionally, if the map is configured to allow comments then the righthand panel will have a comments icon that will change color depending on how long ago a comment was added to the location.

Lastly, in addition to allowing for comments to be left on a map, Community Walk allows people to share each location they create with the community (or keep them private), is fully integrated with http://del.icio.us/, and will soon have an API for accessing all of the shared location information.

The goal of Community Walk is really to bring people within a community together in a space that lets them share their experiences. As enabling as the Internet is, it almost seems to be pulling us away from the physical world around us. Hopefully, by adding a dimension of the physical world to the Internet, Community Walk will allow people to better interact with the communities around them, bringing us back into that physical world just a bit.

Jared Cosulich






Google Maps Hacks
Google Maps Hacks: Tips & Tools for Geographic Searching and Remixing
ISBN: 0596101619
EAN: 2147483647
Year: N/A
Pages: 131
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