Making A Geospatial Web: Collaborative Cartography, Part I

[wikilike_img src=|align=thumb tcenter|width=500|caption=Woolen Map Carpet by Seyed Alavi, public art at the Sacramento Int’l Airport|url=]

I’m working through some questions related to the geospatial web. You know, the thing that some expect to arise when information that is buzzing within the data storage devices of the Internet are obtainable/searchable out the normal human physical world.. Of course, the questions get slippery and difficult to frame fairly quickly because there aren’t that many good examples of good examples of what the geospatial web might look like. Don’t talk to me about virtual sticky note apps, or movie theater time look-ups based on where you are. I mean, you can talk to me — I’m just having trouble getting excited about such things, mostly because they seem a bit forced. I like the idea of spatial annotation, although I’m not entirely sure why. And I like the idea about being able to do semantically relevant things while I’m out and about and not just sitting in front of my screen at a fixed desk.

But I’m an exception. I’m super alpha, which isn’t a boast — it’s about being weird and iconoclastic and peculiar to such a degree that no one knows what to do with me, so I just go and do what seems exciting to me. I’d say 8 out of 10 times, speaking modestly, being an iconoclast helps me make new stuff that is cool enough to be sustaining.

Of course, at the same time I want to look to the future to see what is too geeky for everybody right now, but that might anticipate new kinds of geospatial social practices.

One thing I’ve been hopped up on for awhile is the possibility for massively multiplayer collaborative mapping. Essentially, geotagging — adding geographic semantics — across the globe. What does that mean? It means providng a simple, low-barrier-to-entry mechanic to allow pretty much anyone geared up to surf the web, to add geographic semantics to any arbitrary web resource.

It’s a question — how do you do that?

Lately, I’ve been working with a friend, Will Carter, former IMD grad student, now mobile technology guy++, to develop a little theory object to help figure these questions out. It’s got the friendly neighborhood “bookmarklet” semantics of, with some Yahoo! Maps seasoning.

What’s the usage scenario? I’ll just cut to the chase:

1. Go about your web surfing business.

[wikilike_img src=|url=|caption=geotagstuff|width=500|align=thumb tcenter]

2. Huh.. Look at that.. While going about your web surfing business you found a web page that you think has some geographic relevance! Click on the “geotagstuff” bookmarket — you’re now beginning the geotagging process.

[wikilike_img src=|url=|caption=geotagstuff|width=500|align=thumb tcenter]

You’ll be taken to a lightweight page with an embedded Yahoo! Maps interface. You can do all the usual Yahoo! Maps things, like drag, zoom and double-click to identify a precise location.
You’ll probably have to “tune” the map — simply enter some geo parameters in the “tune” window, such as a street address, town and state, or even just a town, or even just a state. Enter a helpful note to further describe the web page. Now click “Add Thing” , and you’re done. Easy peasy.

3. Go back about your web surfing business.

Geotaggers of the world, unite!

Okay, like..bunches of people have geotagged lots of web resources. The web is ripening with homebrew geosemantics. It’s a bumper crop of geospatialized web stuff!

Big what?

The “so what” for “geotagstuff” is answered through access to the “geotagstuff” feeds. Yep, that’s right. Another feed. But, this one is made by you and based entirely on geographic coordinates.

What are we talking about?

[wikilike_img src=|url=|caption=get a feed link here|width=500|align=thumb tcenter]

[wikilike_img src=|url=|caption=see a feed of stuff around newport beach and jam it in your favorite aggregator|width=500|align=thumb tcenter]

You’ll be able to get a feed based on geographic coordinates. Want to find out what’s going on around Union Square in New York City? Go to the feed generator, do some Yahoo! Maps scroll abouts, and right click on the feed badge and paste it into your favorite newsaggregators subscribe-to-feed box. Want to find out what’s going on between Los Angeles and Las Vegas cause,’re road tripping this weekend? Do a multipoint click-click-click thing all along your route, right click on the feed badge and paste it into yourfavorite newsaggregator.

And we’re making “geotagstuff” smart for our favorite rich media photo sharing blogging streaming sites. If you geotag a flickr page, the image will show up in the feed. Reckon we’ll do the same for the video whatever sites. If they survive all the cease & desist mishegoss.

Why do I blog this? Cause this is another theory object. Yep. Another one. But now maybe it’s becoming clearer what those things are good for. Got some questions? Build something to help answer them. In this case, I have questions about geotagging practices — what is the geospatial web and how does it come into being? How are normal people going to participate in this? How do you geotag things without having to screen scrape every mother loving web page and hope to Christmas you find some geographic meta data? Can geotagging be homebrew? Can it be collaborative? Can it be massively multiplayer?

We’ll see, theory object style. It’s the new dot-com.

Limited beta soon, probably mid May. Ping me if you’re interested in being involved.

[julian at techkwondo dot com]

Technorati Tags: ,