Placemarks to the People

Gabriel Nagmay (@nagmay) of Portland Community College presented TPR6 where he discussed how maps are an incredible tool that combines location based data with details. After launching with a map of Mirkwood (yes, a Hobbit reference)he showed the 2010 US Census data map of Portland. Every dot on the map represented a person and it showed where different ethnic groups are concentrated in the city. Hundreds of pages of census data were understood in seconds.


However, the maps are only as valuable as the information associated with them. A wrong tag or incorrect positioning data can skew the effectiveness of the map. Plus, even if current today, how can the maps be updated and sustained?

Portland Community College is big, with three soon to be four campuses. There are over 100,000 students.  Maps are needed to help student find the campuses and navigate. Early maps of the school were flat and limited to just campus buildings, road and parking lots. Then Google maps came along with layers, but people wanted and needed more. One professor proposed a map of all the art around the campuses to allow visitors to find and view the pieces.  It worked great, at first. Once things needed to be added, or even moved when new construction started, maintaining this content was really hard. Plus other teams (ie, sustainability and accessibility) thought these maps could solve their needs to show where ramps and doors etc were located. Those conversations suggested thousands of data points needed to be added to the maps to fulfill these requests.

At that point the PCC team asked a relatively simple question: why treat map data different than every other content?  All other content can be added, edited and curated by the content creator. Nagmay opted to customize a “placemark post type” WordPress plugin that has fields for all the data needed, including tags for sorting and tracking. This is now live and being used by staff who can jump into use with very limited training.  Read more and view the slides and plugin at his website.


Photo Credit: Cobiie via Compfight cc