How-To: Google MyMaps mashups

Geek Culture

[I asked Scott Nagle, who did the great GeekDad/GoogleMap mashup yesterday, to teach us how it’s done. Here’s his answer.  –ca]

Layering content on Google Maps has been far into geek territory up until yesterday, when Google released its new MyMaps feature.

No need now to know anything about KML, the Google
Maps API
or coding. You can now create your own maps using drag and drop tools right on Google Maps interface. Placemarks (virtual pushpins), lines, shapes, embedded photos, and videos can all be added to your map. All maps have a URL that can be shared with your friends, and if you choose to make the map "public," the content you have created will be included in search results for queries on Google Maps. 

I tried the thing out yesterday to plot all the Geekdad destinations in the
San Francisco Bay Area (from here and here). Elapsed mapping time: 0.3 hr.

As Google put it in announcing the feature, it’s "so easy a caveman could do it," which means kids ought to be able to figure it out. Take a second to think about the possibilities of involving a kid in creating and sharing these sorts of maps. Plotting fun spots around town for sharing with their friends, tracing vacation routes, using it to take geographically tagged notes on schoolwork (or pleasure reading, if they’re trully geeked out)….

Geography education just got a whole lot more fun.

It’s also interesting to think what will happen if (when)
Google adds the time dimension into this space. Imagine assigning not just a physical location but also a time and duration to each item. With a pan control across the time dimension, you could watch the historical events you just read about in your history book unfold visually in front of you at whatever temporal resolution you would like. As a visual thinker, I would have had a much easier time remembering my history if I had had something like this.

Now, unless I’m missing something, the major downside of My
in its current incarnation is that it cannot…yet…be configured to allow a group of people to collaborate in creating a single map.  (Listening, Google?) In the meantime, I’ll be updating the map with the other locations referenced in GeekDad postings as they come in.


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