Using GoogleMaps

I’ve been itching to have a play with hacking about with GoogleMaps for a while now, especially so once their coverage reached the UK.

So as an exercise I thought I’d try gluing together Norm Walsh’s Where In The World service and the myGmaps.com proxy. The former problems simple location based data such as where a given user currently is, along with who and what is nearby. The latter provides a quick way to create standalone GoogleMaps from custom XML documents.

The result was a trivial XML stylesheet that converts from one vocabulary to another. Where there are links available, e.g. about locations or homepages, I’ve included them in the description associated with the map entry.

The FOAF mbox_sha1sum’s returned by WITW are hyperlinked to FOAFnaut so you jump directly from a geographical view of a person’s location into their „FOAF space“ and view their position within a social network.

As WITW only includes basic data about nearby users (essentially just their username) I included the ability to „re-orient“ a map around a given user. This basically means you’ll switch to looking at their WITW data, their nearby locations, etc. Crude but basically effective.

If you want to try it out, use the form on this page: WITW using GoogleMaps. It redirects via a JSP page, but all that does is simply build a pipeline URL that connects together WITW -> W3C XSLT Service -> myGMaps.com Proxy. The proxy then fetches the resulting map and displays it in your browser. Not the most efficient way to achieve this, but another nice demonstration of simple HTTP GET based service integration.

The hack is obviously limited, in that WITW captures locations anywhere on the globe, whereas GoogleMaps has limited coverage (US and UK as far as I’m aware). If you’re outside of that coverage you unfortunately just see a whole bunch of broken images instead of a map, although the locations and annotations still display. However with a visualisation available, I thought it might entice more people to sign up and try out WITW, add more locations, etc.

Let me know if you can think of any improvements.

Oh, and if you’re looking at GoogleMaps hacking yourself, then this Gazetteer Protocol looks like it has potential. More information available here. I need to try and clarify the licensing of the service and data though.

And in a similar vein, it ought to be possible to transform the geourl RSS feeds, e.g. mine, which now include latitude and longitude to achieve a similar effect but showing all bloggers near your current location. Hmmm, might do that this evening, if someone doesn’t get there first… Update: I did do it, see here

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