September 28, 2007

GIS shapefiles to KML and GeoRSS

Filed under: Government, Geotagging, Missouri Mapping Project — kirk @ 3:25 pm

I’ve been busy preparing for the Google maps / GeoRSS workshop at the Organization of Fish and Wildlife Information Managers (OFWIM) conference this past week.

All the stuff we did there you can find at the site.

There are a few tools we used at the workshop that might interest some of you wanting to use Google maps as a cheap way to provide maps to your areas (especially if your areas are for outdoor recreation).

One is a tool that will take shapefile data from GIS and provide you with both a KML and GeoRSS file as output. While the latest ESRI product now will export KML files, this tool still has merit since it provides you both with some options and a look under the hood at the conversion process.

Another item is a web page that allows you to input Google map code and execute it on the page. This served as a great tool during the tutorial on how to build Google maps.

Whether you’re involved in getting outdoor recreational activities on the map for the public or just the location of your government offices, take a moment to visit and grab some code (or supply feedback or ideas).

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August 22, 2007

Further progress on outdoor recreation spots in Google maps

Filed under: Government, Geotagging, Missouri Mapping Project — kirk @ 8:32 pm

At this point, the work on now includes the following:

  1. Information on how to mark up your areas in the recmap xml
  2. A javascript you can deploy on your own site that will read your xml file and produce a Google map with tabbed windows.
  3. Information on how to validate your xml file

I’m rather pleased with the javascript since it automatically resolves your correct domain (used when the javascript attempts to get your xml file) and it also successfully deals with IE and all other normal browsers when it comes to working with multiple namespaces in an xml document.

The next steps will be to complete the aggregator on the site. When this is complete, the site will able to periodically query the recmap xml files on community sites and pull their recreational opportunities into one central database.

While this project is geared toward Missouri outdoor recreational opportunities, the tools being developed can be used anywhere.

As always, I’m looking for any input or feedback. What do you think will make this project work better?

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August 9, 2007 a site for recreational mapping in Missouri

Filed under: Government, Geotagging — kirk @ 7:20 am

The work I’ve been doing with other folks on syndication of recreational services and facilities now can be found at This is a follow up on the Missouri mapping project I’ve talked about here (although the work can easily be used elsewhere).
The most recent post contains javascript that can pull in an xml file marked up as recmap and display the points along with tabular information.

The goal of this approach is two-fold:

  1. Small towns or parks and recreation departments can easily post a Google map of their facilities.
  2. Aggregator sites like the Missouri River Water Trails site can periodically poll these sites (subject to approval of the source) and update information relevant to the site.

Of course, we’re always looking for feedback on how to make this system work better. So stop by or drop a note here to help or to let me know if you’re using some of the code created here in your own state.

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July 20, 2007

GeoRSS, Googlemaps and outdoor recreation

Filed under: Government, Collaboration, Geotagging, Missouri Mapping Project — kirk @ 9:04 pm

Haven’t posted for awhile because I’ve been busy with a new project.

In short, I’m working with some folks to create a way that cities, non-government organizations, as well as state and federal agencies can easily syndicate information about their outdoor recreational facilities and services with each other in Missouri.

This project has two components: One is a method by which xml can be used to syndicate information between all the partners listed above. The other is the use of google maps as a low-cost solution to present that information.

The project came about in response to a common problem I’ve seen in many collaborative Web projects. Many collaborative Web projects, in my opinion, fail because of how they collect information. Usually, a collaborative site will contact many organizations and manually collect information to put in a master database. By the time that information is collected, however, some of the information is already outdated.

After the collaborative Web site is launched, how to you update the information? The traditional approaches are to either no update it, engage in a major manual update project every few years or ask agencies to come to one central Web site and help update the collaborative Web site. None of these approaches works well.

Why not create an environment where all partners in a collaborative site simply made sure that data on their own respective sites was up to date? And what if the collaborative site was able to just go to each partner site and grab the up to date information? This would allow partners to focus on keeping their own site up to date and it would automatically update the collaborative site.

That’s the idea behind what I’m currently calling the Missouri Mapping project.

I’ll be posting more information about over the next few months, but I’d like to make two points up front:

  1. This project could work for any state or country. In fact, the more states that adopt this project, the more would help this project
  2. I’m quite eager to get and use any input you have on this project, how it could be improved, and any other type of suggestion or resource you might have to help this better a better project.

My overall goal is to provide a mechanism that enables government to easily collaborate with non-government organizations or individual citizens — specifically when it comes to getting people outdoors to enjoy (and ultimately protect) our wildlife habitat.

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June 13, 2007

Google maps mashup with wildlife sounds

Filed under: Geotagging — kirk @ 7:57 pm

screen shot of wildlife sanctuary mapThe Wildlife Sanctuary has a great use for kml files. The kml file contains sound and information about various wildlife found in the world. This is a great example of what Ed Parsons has recently called use of google mapping technology to provide a sense of place.

You can read more about what Ed’s been up to in the UK, the Wildlife Sanctuary site and other things Google map related in this post by Noel Jenkins.

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June 10, 2007

Can the public help you do your job?

Filed under: Government, Collaboration, Geotagging — kirk @ 9:47 am

Short story: Check out Ed Parson’s post regarding a recent report on how social media can enable the public to help government share data. His interest in this comes from his work as Google’s geospatial technologist (i.e., he can see how Google map mashups fit into this)

Long version of the story:

You already know part of this story. You have data the public wants, but you don’t have developers to build the interface you want. Here’s the new twist on the story. Why not have your developers focus on making your data accessible via xml and turn application development over to the public? Let the public help you share information.
Crazy idea? I don’t think so. And neither does Tom Steinberg, who helped craft the Power of Information Review. They make a compelling case for the social and economic benefits to new ways of making and sharing information involving government and citizens. As one example: Sharing restaurants’ food safety information in Los Angeles led to a drop in food- borne illness of 13.3% (compared to a 3.2% increase in the wider state in the same time frame). The proportion of restaurants receiving ‘good’ scores more than doubled, with sales rising by 5.7%.

If you don’t have time to read the whole report, check out the summary provided at Comment on This. (By the way, Comment on This, itself, is a great example of how social media can help the public help the government help the public…did I get that right?..yeah..)

The UK seems to have the trick on how to get social media to work for both government and the public. One great example is the ideal government project. This project encourages government agencies to make their data accessible via xml. Then they encourage the public to figure out the best way to make this information useful. Check out their recent contest for the public to mash up public data with maps. This is a great idea because it engages the public to create the best applications to serve the public good. However, it also means that, in the not too distant future, the best place where people get your information may not be your Web site…something government agencies may have to get used to.

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May 18, 2007

Geo-tagging on UK news site will provide personalized local news

Filed under: Geotagging, syndicated media — kirk @ 8:46 pm

In the UK, one newspaper group is reworking its news feeds so that they will have geographical tagging. An article in the Press Gazette By Martin Stabeon 10 May 2007 describes the new tagging process that the Archant newsgroup will use. The clever thing is that Archant will have its news sites set so that readers can build their own localized front page — getting only news tagged within a selected mile radius of their home. If your a state agency with news scattered throughout the state, you could do the same. If each of your news postings were geographically tagged, then you could have a page dedicated to the western half of the state and another just pulling news from the eastern half of the state.

April 24, 2007

KML? GML? GeoRSS? When should you use what?

Filed under: Geotagging — kirk @ 2:11 pm

Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist of Google, has a blog post, Mass Market Standards, where he discusses what the future may hold for mass media adoption of geospatial XML standards. He invites interested parties to weigh in on the issue of when GML, KML and GeoRSS should be used. I have a few opinions, but join in the conversation.

I’m still a newcomer to this area, but this is how it would split out for me (although I’m happy to see how other’s make the split).

KML: Great for either specialized client/server applications or aggregation systems that then can present segments of the information via a centralized site. When you take the compression of KMZ files, you have a format that can syndicate large amounts of geospatial data. (one file set I work with totals out at 6MB uncompressed)

GeoRSS: My choice (at this point) for getting diverse communities to exchange geospatial information. From my experience in government, I can know that many government entities may already have RSS capabilities. If so, you can show these folks how to use GeoRSS. For groups that have little technical resources, the markup of GeoRSS provides a low level entry point to providing geospatial data.

GML: If the members of your community are GIS specialists, then I would imagine this is the XML flavor of choice. However, it would think (due to the large size of the data sets involved) its use would be limited to synchronization of data from server to server…with each server then providing stripped down data access to a Web client.

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April 22, 2007

Googlemaps now play well with GoogleEarth’s KML files

Filed under: Geotagging — kirk @ 10:47 am

In late March of 2007, Google’s Blog announced that Googlemaps now supports GeoRSS and the KML file used by GoogleEarth.

This is a great move since it opens the door for having one xml document that can be read by more than one application.

There are some limitations to this interaction, however. The Missouri Dept. of Conservation, for example, has all of their conservation areas in a KML file for use in GoogleEarth. This file contains polygon information that displays the boundary of these areas.

This makes for a hefty file (6Mb). If you try to pull a file that size into the Googlemap interface, you won’t succeed. However, I pulled a snapshot of some of the areas into my own KML file (so these results are dated as of April 20, 2007) and pulled it into an example. If you want to read more about MDC’s GoogleEarth file, you can read about it on Matt Fox’s, Google Earth Library blog (he’s got some great coverage of other issues related to syndication of map information.
Some things to note:

  1. Many KML files are quite large and are zipped as KMZ files. Googlemaps cannot read these.
  2. Googlemap will probably choke on large KML files. I don’t think this could easily be fixed since the API requires javascript grabbing the KML file.
  3. The KML files when read into Googlemaps only show the points of the areas and not the polygons showing the areas. If you made your KML files only show points, then you’ll probably have a smaller KML file and thus have an xml file that can be read by GoogleEarth and Googlemaps.

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April 14, 2007


Filed under: Geotagging — kirk @ 8:30 pm

This post uses a great little plug-in called Geotagging, built by Michaël Uyttersprot. The Wordpress plug-in adds georeferences to RSS feeds, thus allowing a tool to place them on a map.

For the sake of experiment, I’m going to tag this post from where I’m writing (Columbia Missouri). I’ll even go back and tag the Social Media Summit posts at the hotel in Chicago where the Summit was held.

With this georeference added, it’s now easy to have googlemaps read the RSS feed from this blog and put a pointer on the map for each blog post. Here’s a googlemap showing all feeds from this blog.

This is part of the experimentation I’m doing for getting georeferenced information shared between communities, state and federal agencies on recreational opportunities in Missouri…

More to come as the experiment continues.

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