The Longest Now


Mapping global communities
Thursday January 27th 2011, 1:41 am
Filed under: fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory,international,metrics,wikipedia

We’ve been working on a few different visualizations of the OLPC community around the world.  The most enjoyable and colorful is olpcMAP, a collaborative mashup designed by Nick Doiron that blossomed after last month’s map sprint.  (Nick is an avid map hacker and long-time OLPC volunteer who has also written the popular Map activity for offline Map-creation and -marking using XOs.)

Before this map was launched, the sorts of global visualizations we had were limited to large established groups (mapping chapters and major deployments), average statistics by region, or thousands of scattered individuals without a coherent feel.  olpcMAP combines this with personal and class projects from hackers and teachers around the world, adds search and an API for reuse, and feels above all approachable.

At the moment you can import JSON data and can choose between Google Maps and OSM layers.  The search matches both on locations on the map and on keywords used in marker descriptions. It is designed around the Google App Engine, and the growing olpcMAP API lets you request images, iframes, or KML to use this as  backend for further remixing (say, embedding a screenshot or overlay of part of the map elsewhere on the web).

You can browse the olpcMAP code and try setting up your own instance.  The framework is quite general, and it is straightforward to brand it for other communities.

I would love to see this sort of map of Wikimedians around the world, for instance — I suspect that we would see a very different picture of ourselves as a community than our current self-image.  The distribution of 10th Anniversary events this month was a first step in this direction, and was a surprise to many people.

And it would be amazing to see comparative maps of different global communities — Firefox users, Ubuntu hackers, Red Cross volunteers — using this model.   If you’ve tried to set up your own olpcMAP instance (if this becomes a general community-mapping framework, perhaps we should pick a more universal name), or have features you would love to see implemented, please let us know.


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