I really appreciate journalism that helps me empathize with people affected by tragedy. That’s what caught me when I saw this map from NBC News:
I can read “200 square miles” in a news article and that sort of washes over me. But the map makes me stop and consider that this is going from Redford to Grosse Pointe. From Dearborn to Warren. People in the area know that is a huge swath of land. I can’t imagine being stuck in evacuation gridlock, trying to get from Hamtramck to Livonia with wildfires all around me.
Then I saw the drop down and realized there are more fires.
After the bajillionth Google Maps site it hit me: Google Maps is at its core a nifty UI widget for a common type of data. The OS doesn’t provide a widget for dealing with location data, and the web browser as a subset of OS widgets certainly doesn’t (hello combo box!). That’s like 10% of what makes Google Maps so cool, which is a lot considering how cool it is. People with location data are scrambling to put their data in a format that’s usable. Google Maps is literally changing the way people think about place.
Your homework assignment tonight is to think about what common types of data people have, and what kind of UI widget could be created specifically for browsing that data. Then create a multi-billion dollar business around your new web service. Bonus points for sucking up to my sympathetic nature towards the Semantic Web.
If you haven’t been to Google Maps yet,
- Get yourself some better RSS feeds
- Go to http://maps.google.com/
Here are some cool things I’ve noticed about Google Maps. I think this is going to be one of those posts I update a lot in a day.
- The URLs are fairly clean. You can look up an address from your location bar by putting “http://maps.google.com/maps?q=” before it. For example: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield
- They use semi-transparent PNGs for routes over street maps (do they get this to work correctly in IE?). That means they only have to dynamically generate route images, all the map images can be static.