A few weeks ago, I used Google Maps as part of the online presentation on one of my stories. I used Google Maps to plot information about sewage spills.
I came up with the idea of using Google Maps as I was pulling together information for a map showing the spills for the print edition of the paper.
I had my list of about 50 sewage spills and a printout of a map of the county. I started plugging away, drawing dots on the map.
It didn’t take long — about five dots — before I realized there had to be a better way. So I turned to my computer and gave Google Maps a shot.
Working with Google Maps frustrated the heck out of me at first. I cursed at my computer as I fumbled and failed in making it work.
Later that night, at home, I gave it another shot. Somehow being 25 miles away from the newsroom, in my quiet, dimly lit guest room, I was able to make it work. Easily.
It took a few hours to plot all the sewage spills, but the result is fantastic, if I do say so myself.
The maps are easy to use and I was able to combine data from different sources — I had one list of the spills and other documents about the fines that were levied — into each point on the map. Google Maps lets you include photos, too, which I’ll surely do next time.
Google also automatically makes links or code to embed the maps on your website. How cool is that?
So in case you didn’t see them before, here are my maps showing sewage spills in Anne Arundel County in 2009 and 2010. Go ahead and zoom in and click on the little icons, they’ll tell you about each sewage spill.
Have you seen cool applications of Google Maps, either for news or some other use? I’d love to hear about them!