Lately my thoughts have been running toward the value of geo-tagged information (How valuable is it? A LOT!) so I've been playing around with Google's custom maps feature and creating content for the paper/website that might have otherwise been presented as a story with a static map.
My experiment: For the past three Fridays, I've published a short "Fun 5" item on my feature page that points people toward a Google Map I've made of a road-tested local bike route. I figure that's useful for local riders, particularly interesting to visitors who might want to go for a ride, and just kinda cool. I put a little more info about the route on my Friday 5 blog, and then embed the customized Google Map in my post.
Last week's experiment involved:
- road-testing a route on Sullivan's Island;
- photographing the route;
- videotaping bits along the way;
- creating a photostream;
- adding photos to route markers;
- editing the video into a series of short clips;
- and then figuring out how best to get the video onto the map.
View Larger Map
So, the question: Considering the nature of this new medium (a video clip embedded in an interactive map pin), what will people want from map video?
My answer: Not narrative (a map is non-linear, so strip narrative out of your work), not much, and primarily illustrative. In other words, if I'm watching video on a map, I'm basically using that as a way to zoom in deeper, to see things from that spot.
Hence, much of what I've put on the map amounts to 360-pans, which are really just an extension of still photography. But here's an example of how I applied this principle to an island bar:
The problem? I couldn't figure out an elegant way to get the video from our dedicated media server out to the Google Maps interface. The solution? Geoff Marshall suggested I upload everything to YouTube so I could grab the service's embed code. Time-consuming and definitely not-elegant, but brilliant because it works.
The Google map is embedded in the Typepad blog. The YouTube video is embedded in the Google map. The photos are hosted on the Flickr photostream. But what ties it all together -- what really makes it valuable -- is the geo-tagging. Not the content, but the way every bit of content can be associated by its location, in a searchable way that associates it to every other bit of content that gets created and geo-tagged.
On the one hand, the experiment interests me because it's cross-platform: Print feeds to blog feeds to map feeds to video. On the other hand, it frustrates me because it demonstrates how unprepared my industry is for anything that deals with the "new local."
Newspapers remain convinced that they're going to make it by providing local-local-local news and information, and yet they've taken zero interest in geo-tagging their information and content. Not only have newspapers and news websites failed to see the value in what I've been talking about for almost two years (here's a hint: EVERY SINGLE LOCATION THAT IS REFERENCED IN A NEWSPAPER SHOULD HAVE AN ASSOCIATED GRID COORDINATE), but they don't even seem to grasp that while they've been ignoring that advice, Google has been utterly kicking our ass locally. While newspapers talk about local, global Google is collecting and promoting an overwhelming supply of geo-tagged and digitized local data, including commercial data. Not to mention the fact that they're providing the tools that put all this stuff together to everybody FOR FREE.
It isn't TV, or blogs, or even the power of social networks that is going to kick the stool out from underneath those teetering news organizations that refuse to innovate. The thing that's going to apply the coup de grace is geo-tagged, semi-structured data . And for those of you who dismiss that assessment as geeky and hysterical, just piss off. The future is digital, not analog, and narrative information without a semi-structured component is analog.
It's funny, because some people think video is all it takes to make news and information modern. But the video is actually the least modern part of this whole experiment.
And yes, I know: An online collection of these bike route maps would be a great little product. I've offered it to the company. If they don't want to play, I'm looking for someone who'd like to play with a mapping API so that we could get better customized performance in making this a stand-alone page. Write me if you're interested (xark AT bellsouth DOT com).
Photo: The view from the road to an unmarked, unmapped community boat landing on Sullivan's Island, by Dan Conover. Video: 1. Poe's Tavern map video short; 2. A pan of the same scene in the photo at the top of the post. Both by Dan Conover.