Tag Archive for 'GeoRSS'

Mapping Google Spreadsheets

There are several methods to use free map services for visualizing a list of point-features. I found this wizard for instance at the gmaps samples. It uses a published Google Spreadsheets document and puts the listed features on a map. This method is a clever way because you can use Google Spreadsheets to hold, manage and edit your data and don’t have to go through the map publishing process over and over again when you update your data.

The problem with that wizard is, that you have to know the coordinates already. So it won’t help if there is just a list of addresses without coordinate information. You must geocode (assign coordinates to each address) your items before you can put them on a map with this method. And if the map should be shown somewhere else, you’ll need a Google Maps API key, which is tied to exactly one url-string.

Luckily Yahoo! invented the Pipes: I put a quick Pipe together which allows you to geocode addresses stored in a Google Spreadsheet.

Here is how it works:

  1. Enter a list of addresses in Google Spreadsheet. Here, for instance, is a list of shops in Vienna where you can grab a free copy of biber.
  2. The column “Name” identifies the name of my features and the column “Address” holds the address to geocode. If you want to use another structure, you should clone the pipe and adjust the Regex-module to match your needs.
  3. Publish your Google Spreadsheet as Atom or RSS feed (click the link “More publishing options” in the “Publish” section), e.g. the biber feed
  4. Enter the feed url into the “Google Spreadsheet feed url” field and hit “run pipe”
  5. A Yahoo! Map showing all your (successfully geocoded) addresses should be produced

Alternatively you can take the GeoRSS feed or KML-file from the Pipe and display it in Google Earth or put it on a Google Map (and embed it into a blog post).

bigger map

Yahoo! Pipes are simple, yet powerful, and I think it should be possible to modify the Pipe in order to return a table containing coordinates. There is already a JSON output by default. Regarding the geocoding limit, I’m not sure which number applies for Yahoo! Pipes.

We are hip!

TupaloToday I’ve found a solution how to stay up to date where all the young hip people are going out in Vienna: it’s easy, just follow the “bobo” tag on Tupalo!

Tupalo is a Vienna based mapping-”Stuff in your Neighborhood”-start-up, a social networking site where people can easily pin-point their favorite spots on a map, rate and review them and share experiences. I started liking it mainly because it reminded me of a couple of nice places I went once, but for some reasons forgot about them and never came back again. So Tupalo is responsible for my quite long wanna-go-again list.

Among other features users can subscribe to all kinds of feeds on Tupalo. What I did to catch up with the local hip crowd is to subscribe to the bobo-RSS-feed. Since Tupalo is a mapping application, the RSS feed is of course GeoRSS flavored and can be placed immediately on a map. Each time a new hot bobo venue pops up in Vienna, I’ll get informed what and where it is right away! Great!

Local traffic information

BaustelleThe Austrian automobile club ÖAMTC now publishes traffic information (road works and traffic jams) about the Austrian road network as KML file. Originally designed for desktop applications like Google Earth, but faster and more convenient viewed online as Google Maps overlay.

Anyways, by its nature I would consider GeoRSS as the format of choice for publishing that type of information: a frequently updated news feed containing geocoded items. If KML is taking over that ground too (after heading towards a de-facto standard for online geodata), what’ll be left for GeoRSS then?

The point is that I don’t really see the need of KML and embedding styling information, etc. in this case. The value lies in the information rather than the representation. A syndicated GeoRSS news feed, for instance, I can receive on my mobile news reader too. Even though my mobile news reader doesn’t provide any features for mapping geocoded items yet, but at least I’m be able to get traffic information on the way, when traffic information is essential. On the other hand, how many potential users are able to view KML on the way?

Andrew Turner provides an excellent further read in this KML & GeoRSS context.

An extra traffic information RSS feed is on the site available too, but with less items and not geocoded. However, the initial question remains: why prefer KML for publishing frequently updated location aware content over GeoRSS?

User-created content in Google Maps

Since a few weeks Google includes user generated content in Google Maps search results. Basically it’s a good idea and useful data because some places or place-names aren’t collected by commercial mapping companies, who provide services like Google Maps with data. Jesuitenwiese at Prater for instance, a nice picnic spot in Vienna, now shows up in Google Maps search results because it got mapped by a random user on some site on the internet.

However, I’m not quite sure of how many people are really aware of that marked spots in their Google “My Maps” are available to a broader public audience through Google’s search functionality.

A search for picnic in Vienna for example links to the wedding route of a Google user (identified by a real name), or a picnic a woman (again, a real name is showing up) went to last Sunday.

To make sure private things remain private, well, at least not shown as Google search result, the flag “unlisted” in Google “My Maps” has to be set. Regarding KML or GeoRSS you can tell Googlebot how to handle the content by editing either robots.txt or sitemap.xml.

GeoRSS in Google Maps

This is great news for simple location encoding formats: Google announced today native support for GeoRSS in the Google Maps API.

So to view a GeoRSS flavored feed in Google maps just type the URL into the Google Maps search field or add it as query parameter like this.

What’s next? Maybe GeoRSS feeds getting indexed for searches within Google Earth? Just imagine for a moment the amount of content you could access out of Google Earth…

Twitter map mashup

Well, I didn’t jump on the Twitter bandwagon – the last days my feed reader was quite cluttered with blog posts starting with t and ending in witter – but the twittervision map mashup nicely demonstrates visualization of rapidly changing geotagged content.

As far as I can tell, after having a quick look at the Twitter API, the map solely relies on geocoding services. There is only a <location> element containing place names in the Twitter data stream, no GeoRSS or any other geotagging method has been applied yet.

The geoURI scheme

Alex and I have started working on an Internet draft for a geo Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) scheme. Basically a geoURI should identify locations by specifying latitude, longitude and (optional) elevation like geo:48.20833,16.37278,171. By adding query arguments, like geo:48.20833,16.37278,171?type=cathedral, it’s possible to extend the identifier and provide more information or call applications where to visualize the location (e.g. a GIS application, Google Earth, etc.). Words and text fragments within HTML documents can be labeled as place (geotagged) for instance: St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Nothing will happen when you click on the link…).

Our intention is to keep the URI as simple as possible and to make information about locations for internet users as easy accessible as writing an email after clicking a ‘mailto:’-link.

However, today a first draft was submitted by us to the IETF and it will be presented to the geopriv working group at the next IETF meeting held in Prague March 18-23.

We are still in the middle of ongoing discussions and too many ideas around possible geoURI-applications, -neighbors, -examples and -services need to be structured and sorted out. But if you are interested you can track the geoURI development and share your opinions with us at geouri.org (feed).

GeoPress, but now?

Finally I figured out how to get the GeoPress plugin working in WordPress: the API keys are not optional, you MUST register at least to one (either Yahoo! or Google) in order to successfully add a location to your post. Otherwise the geocoder (the Yahoo! geocoder) won’t work or the map (the Google Map) won’t show up in the Admin-panel in WordPress.

So I now have some of my posts geotagged and the GeoRSS Microformat embedded in my feed, but now? Does it make any sense?

First obvious idea that came to my mind was that it would be nice to have a (optional) map somewhere in my news reader showing the geographic location of the posts I’m reading. It would allow me to select, for instance, all post referring to Vienna, in addition to browse the new posts by topic, tags, author, etc. as it does already.

Mapufacture and My Local Guru are the first GeoRSS aggregators I found. They still lack of content, but IMHO they hit into the right direction.

Though it doesn’t support geotagged blog posts so far, Platial’s Today Nearby section shows nicely how various types of geotagged information can be bundled and made accessible in combination with a map.

However, until major blogging and news platforms won’t integrate GeoRSS by default it will remain as a geek toy. Flickr (and loc.alize.us) showed the huge potential of users willing to geotag their content. It all depends on how easy and usable the feature is implemented.