Monday, October 15, 2007

Mashed potatoes: mixing google earth with wikis

Riny Heijdendael has given a short introduction on how to use mash-ups
of different techniques to connect existing Wikis to Mapping tools like
Google Earth.

Milieukontakt International supports a global network of environmental
NGO's. Since 1.5 year they deployed a Wiki for their network development. They use it to connect countries and (mainly) environmental themes, exchange professional experiences and develop project proposals and intern(ation)al strategies.

Riny Heijdendael explained during a meeting what he is working on right now: One of the major problems I encountered was that more and more the network faced the problem of finding the relevant information, both on a geographic as a thematic scale.

Questions arose like these:

  • How do I know what other themes are being addressed in my region or

  • Who is working on the same theme as I am?

  • How can i quickly connect to the part the network that can enhance my strategy for my own region or theme?

  • How do I present my local knowledge to a broader audience without having to set up a "website", including all the hassle?

  • How can I setup a joint strategy with my local network about a certain case (without learning any new system)

The Milieukontakt International already used a wiki for a time, so it seemed to be good idea to try to integrate these questions with a more "visual approach". Maps perfectly fits this vacancy. Connecting the geographical oriented and visual approach of Google Earth with the existing wiki was a logical step.

For this an online database has been created, that collects locations and themes, and could be presented it in such a way that you can browse countries and themes in Google Earth and Google Maps. Once you see the selected regions or themes, you may see public information about this location. The public information is handled by the wiki, and the content is delivered by anyone in the network, mostly the people that reside in the area of this location.

But once you are a member of the network, you have the ability to use the location as a starting point for joint strategy formulation with other NGO's that operate in this region. This information though is not visible to the general public. In this way it is possible for local NGO's to both present public information about the specific location, as well as to define a joint strategy on how to deal with this location within the network.

Of course these mash ups already exist, like wikimapia and countless others. What we try to show here, is that restricting the information to a certain domain (in this case, environmental issues) and combine it with a restriction of access (general public versus network members), you can use these mash ups as a strong tool for public participation.

A concise diagram below explains how the dots connect..

A short visual on how this could look in Google Earth: Since I just chose a country and a theme, I think you'll forgive me that
this is only a sample :-)

And even as an author you have some remarks (who hasn't..):

Worldkit, an alternative mapping application framework, was my favorite because it has the opportunity to "timestamp" locations: in this way it would be possible to record issues
and locations at a certain time. As you may know, a lot of problems occur because of the history of a location like: "did you know in the 50's there used to be a chemical factory here?". Even better: for strategy formulation the knowledge about future plans is invaluable, and
this type of "future mapping" is possible as well with worldkit. I decided however (for now) to comply to KML standard, because I expect that a lot of other institutes might provide their data layers soon as well. In this way we can combine quickly environmental data from, let's say UNDP or FAO with our own data, which could provide valuable insight in causes and effects. In the future I am thinking about transforming KML to be available to Worldkit as well, hopefully by XSLT conversion.

Well thats it for now, I hope you enjoyed this explanation. Please feel free to comment to riny [ at ], and as a last remark: all this stuff is NOT about geekiness, but about

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home