How to Make the Most of Maps.

From the first minute of this map-tech smorgasborg, I could tell this was going to be a rewarding (in a karmic sense) session.

OK/Cancel’s Kevin Cheng ([UPDATE: SxSWi 1.2 late] who, beside being a cool web-comic dude is a YahooMaps guy for Yahoo), moderating, starts with a set of filtering questions:

– “Have you used an online map?” Most of the room.
– “How many people use Mapquest? Yahoo? A9? Microsloth? Google?” Google %99 percent. Two for Mapquest, no one for Micro$loth.
– “How many have used map-mashups?” – About 50 folks.
– “How many have made map-mashups?” – Maybe 20 folks.

CommunityWalk’s Jared Upton-Cosulich – folks use their site “for weddings, bar crawls to the Pakistan earthquake.” He demos a new interface that integrates the “real-world” via Quicktime panoramic movies and GoogleMap points. He clicks to the Austin Convention centers entrance and the Web-application pops up the QTVR movie that shows the street outside from that viewpoint.

PJ Hyett – WayFaring – shows their most popular WayFaring tracking mash-up, the JackTracker which tracks TV show 24’s fictional Jack Bauer’s movements.

Recent (the day of the forum, to be exact) graduate Glenn Murphy demoed MeHere, a web-application for tracking people in realtime. Glenn opened with “Yes, kind of creepy”, a sentiment I share. He started with PlaceOpedia – map mashup between Wikipedia and your location as reported by MeHere.

Cool tech, troubling implications. He anticipates the day of highly mobile computers reporting your location in realtime and integrating your GPS position dynamically with other folks map-mashup applications is commonplace.

Murphy is using GreaseMonkey extensively to modify Yelp:Map-tastic to provide a “center-me” functionality using MeHere. Asks how many folk use GreaseMonkey – “I know at least one, the author is in the audience”. It’s Aaron Boodman is sitting 3 feet in front of me.

UK geo-tagger Daniel Catt – works for Flickr now helping them with their mapping strategy. Just hired by Google, he’s integrated his garnix app with GoogleEarth to track you in realtime (via an attached GPS device). Like MeHere, he’s sharing information via GeoRSS on his position.

In England, unlike the US, governmentally created mapping information is quite expensive. He shows us OpenStreetMap, a volunteer web-based effort that uses individual’s captured location information to create open-source maps, including England.

Best advice: “A map is not a good interface for adding information.”

Cheng to Catt – How do you go about choosing a map API to work with?

Catt: If you have a large team, MSN Virtual Earth is great – it lets you get down to the bones of the system – it’ll get you all the way. Google is easy to get started with – ease of use – geo-cachers like because of quickstart. Yahoo is moderate choice – neat that you can assign Flash SWF files to map points. Neat effect: “we add smoke to a point”. Very cool interactivity

Hyett – likes Google because can he can re-engineer the JavaScript – doesn’t like Yahoo API because of lack of transparency

Cheng to Hyett – How did you go about redesigning CommunityWalk?

Hyett (a big Ruby on Railsfan): Even though the first pass was raw “he always thought of CommunityWalk as something bigger”, “once you get something out there, it builds on itself”. Lucked out and got some “free” help to redesign simple front-end.

Cheng has developers of mashups stand up; asks designers to standup; he’s trying to organize a mashup of talent in realtime.

Hyett: Advice: keep it simple philosophy…we like one-click interface to adding location information…

Hyett and Couslich are having a bit of a fight to differentiate their apps – Wayfaring and CommunityWalk – each having quite a bit overlap.

Murphey to the panel: “There’s a lot of map mashup sites out there, they use a common API, do you find that the API [drives the look-n-feel] of these sites?”

Catt hints that Flickr/Yahoo will integrate political/governmental information into their mapping – precincts, census tracts, etc. This would be very handy for local activists.

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