Corey Proctor, Technology Division GIS Chair
Any member of the general populous can create a map – The myth has been refuted as to whether an individual needs a degree or advanced coursework in Geography. Maps can now be created by novices with Internet access. This access provides users with limitless sources of mapping resources and conversion tools. The method of creating maps using various sources is known as the mashup method. Mashups are maps created by using various sources. The maps created can be used through the use of Google Earth, Microsoft Excel to Geocoding websites. Listed below are the steps with a brief description of each involved with creating a general mashup based upon address-based data:
1. Obtaining Source Data: Source data is the integral information needed to create a mashup map. The preferred data format is latitude and longitude point (GPS points). If the aforementioned points are unavailable, there are websites available that will convert addresses to GPS points (see links in the resource section and in Step 3). It is important to note that the addresses should be a physical form. If a post office box address is given—the geocoding software will place a point in the central part of a city/town. In some instances, the post office box addresses will be omitted from the map.
2. Data Clean Up: Make sure your data is divided by defined columns in Microsoft Excel or a similar product. The columns should be separated. (Avoid combining different categories).
3. Geocode Data: Cut and paste or upload information from a spreadsheet program into the geocoding tool. There are various programs available for users – Selecting a specific program is based upon your preference or style of source data. As stated in Step 1—GPS coordinates are preferred. However, there are some geocoding products that convert physical addresses into latitude and longitude. Listed below are some of the free products available online.
4. Select Map Source/Import Data: There are many platforms that can be used to display data. The most popular are Google and Yahoo. Google Maps was used to display the location of the APA Technology Members. Prior to using this software, users are encouraged to create a user account to access, edit and share the map results. The web address for Google Maps is http://maps.google.com/maps. Once you sign in, select Create Map to begin the process. You will then be asked to create a description and select a privacy setting. To import data to display, users must select,” Import” from the options.
The import file must be in the form of KML, KMZ or GeoRSS or through an URL on the Web. The data used for APA Technology Division was converted to KML using another geocode source: http://www.earthpoint.us/ExcelToKml.aspx, which converts Microsoft Excel data into KML format. The user will upload the file and have the option of either viewing in Google Earth or on the webpage. If you chose the latter, you can view errors. This option will allow you to make edits to the data. If the former is selected, it gives the option to view or save file.
5. Display Data: After the KML file has been created, it can now be imported into Google Maps. If you are still signed in, select “Import” and in the dialogue box click browse to locate the KML file. The system will then process and display the results on the map. The data is displayed with a default marker. The maker can be edited by double clicking it and selecting “Edit” in the pop-up menu. For customized markers, you must upload the desired one by browsing for it. After inputting address location into the appropriate geocoding software, the information is now displayed. Each marker represents the GPS location of the respective address. The marker displayed is usually a defaulted selection. If you want a specific icon to be displayed refer back to your spreadsheet. There you can add an Icon column and specify a URL or file name. This will display your preferred image. You will then re-import the file as stated in the previous step. The image used in this example was the logo for the APA Technology Division.
6. Share Results: To share the results, click the hyperlink icon and distribute via link or imbed in website. If the link appears to be long, select short URL.
Users can also share the current view through Google Earth by clicking on File, then selecting Email.
The tasks listed above indicate the numerous steps involved in creating a mashup. Technology has not only advanced the visual results of computer generated mapping but also increased awareness/use among those that would otherwise shy away from it. Welcome to the 21st Century where the term, “Location, Location, Location” is still used but by more than the traditional users and practitioners.
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