Tailor-Made Cartography with Google Maps Google's popular mapping service has inspired people to add their own information to maps. The resulting "mashups" are maps overlaid with clickable icons that provide a unique look at fast-food restaurant locations, crime statistics and other data sets.
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Tailor-Made Cartography with Google Maps

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Tailor-Made Cartography with Google Maps

Tailor-Made Cartography with Google Maps

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Google was not the first Web company to offer searchable online maps, but its Google maps have sure caught on. People around the world are so enamored with the maps that they're adding their own information, creating what have come to be called mashups. These maps feature digital pinpoints that mark the locations of doctors or jogging routes or a whole lot of other useful or not so useful stuff. Blogger Mike Pegg has been keeping track of the world of mashups on his Web site.

Mr. MIKE PEGG (Blogger): If I think the map is awesome, I try and convey that in the posts that I do. So, for example, one of my favorites is a mashup in Dublin, Ireland, which takes the real-time locations of a commuter train and plots it onto the map and actually shows that train moving.

SIEGEL: Well, I have logged into the--what I guess they call the DART map in the Dublin area and sure enough there are little train logos, icons. Each one looks like the little engine that could.

Mr. PEGG: That's right.

SIEGEL: And they're slowly plodding their way around Dublin.

Mr. PEGG: What's interesting about that, too, is if you click on the satellite option at the top, you can actually turn that street, highway, rail map into something that's actually a satellite view. So you can see that train moving along in what would be recognizable to you.

SIEGEL: Then there's a very ambitious project, beermapping.com.

Mr. PEGG: Yes.

SIEGEL: Who is doing what here?

Mr. PEGG: Well, basically what they're doing is taking a list of breweries or brew pubs--I think is the criteria for this mashup--they're taking that list and subdividing the country into its various regions. So there is a US brewery maps link right on the top.

SIEGEL: With blue pins for brew pubs and red pins for breweries.

Mr. PEGG: That's right.

SIEGEL: And one of the pages I can click to is called city beer maps. I'm going to click on that...

Mr. PEGG: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...and how about the Chicago beer map?

Mr. PEGG: Chicago, yeah.

SIEGEL: OK, I'm clicking on that. Well, here it is and I'm now looking at a map of Chicago. The landmarks being pointed out are all related to beer. So if I click on this it's the Goose Island Fulton Street Brewery. We've essentially here got a map of beer locations in Chicago.

Mr. PEGG: That's right.

SIEGEL: And you have this for many other American cities.

Mr. PEGG: That's right. It's something I've encouraged readers of my blog to do. If they do want to make use of the address and they're taking up any of these breweries on their free samples, they may want to give that address to a taxi driver to drive responsibly.

SIEGEL: Now here's a different kind of map that you have here which is called dig to the center of the earth.

Mr. PEGG: Yes.

SIEGEL: And there's a page comes on with a map of the world and it says, `If I dig a very deep hole, where I go to stop.'

Mr. PEGG: It's an insanely popular tool, toy, but it's as simple as using that Google maps interface, click where you live on the map or anywhere on the map and it will drill to the other side of the earth to tell you where you would end up.

SIEGEL: Well, here we are. I'm going to click on Washington, DC, is where I'm sitting right now. `Dig here' it says.

Mr. PEGG: Yeah, click on the `dig here' link...

SIEGEL: Oh, click on the `dig here' link.

Mr. PEGG: ...and it will--the map will automatically zoom to a new location.

SIEGEL: Unfortunately, I think it appears to be the middle of an ocean somewhere.

Mr. PEGG: Yeah. And if you zoom all the way out, you should see the two map points actually showing where you started from and where your hole ends.

SIEGEL: How many such map sites do you think there are now on the Web?

Mr. PEGG: Well, it's a question that's asked of Google regularly. You know, how many map keys are out there? How many people are actually creating maps? And I guess the answer to how many people are just playing would be, you know, thousands. How many of those thousands have actually created a polished mashup or a usable map? I guess if there's a mashup that's out there and it's being used by people around the Web, chances are good I've seen it or I'm linking to it or I've reviewed it. And to date--I'm within a thousand.

SIEGEL: Can you imagine the rate of this continuing? I mean, that there'll be several thousand within another couple of years.

Mr. PEGG: Absolutely.


Mr. PEGG: I think what we're looking at is we're looking at a thousand since the summertime and I don't see it stopping. So I think we're destined to see big things from this, both as the maps improve and as people's imaginations just continue to go wild with this.

SIEGEL: Well, keep us posted. If you see something super awesome let us know about it.

Mr. PEGG: I will indeed. Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Mike Pegg of Kitchner, Ontario, in Canada talking to us about Google maps mashups, digital map overlays made by people with their computers and with a lot of time on their hands. To link to his blog and to see how you can find local public radio stations using mashup technology, go to our Web site, npr.org.

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