Map Mashups: Collaboration

Tutorial: Map Mashups: Collaboration


Map mashups are already an important reporting tool. As news organizations expand their use of teams comprised of professionals and amateurs, map mashups provide a ready, easy way to build successful projects. Map mashup collaboration can also lead to direct engagement—with active monitoring and filtering— with the community at large.

Build a Google Map

The first step in the collaboration process is to build a Google map. For detailed instructions for building a Google map, see the Berkeley Advanced Media Institute Tutorial Google Map Basics. Make sure you name your map (1), provide a map description (2), and save your map (3), before you proceed.

Set up collaborators

After you have your base map completed, click Collaborate. Use this form to invite specific individuals to join the map collaboration team. By placing a comma after each email address, you can add multiple team members in the same form (1). Note that this form contains a direct Google URL to this map (2). When you invite team members to collaborate, add instructions that will provide details about the collaboration (3). As the owner of the base map, you can allow your collaborators to invite others to collaborate on your map project (4). After you have completed adding collaborators’ email addresses, click the Send invitations button. Note that you may use any email address to invite collaborators, but every collaborator must have a free Google account to collaborate on the map. After you click Send invitations, Google will confirm that your invitations have been sent.


This is the email that each invited collaborator receives. Note the direct link to the map. Each invited collaborator will receive an email with a link to the map. Clicking the link will open the map in Google Maps. Note the Save to My Maps link (1). Click this link to collaborate on this map. The map information (2) shows the name, creation date, and the map’s most recent edits. The information also shows the number of collaborators. The Sign in link (3) shows that the collaborator has not signed into a Google account. Click the Save to My Maps link. Sign in with the email address and password for the Google account (1), or create a free Google account (2). Click the Edit button to make changes to the map. Collaborators can now edit the Title (1), Description (2), click any point in the list (3) or point on the map to bring up a location information balloon (4), and add or edit any information in the balloon. Note that changing the balloon Title will also change the text in the List view. In the edit mode you can use the hand tool (1) to move an exiting point on the map to a new location. Use the marker tool (2) to place a new point anywhere on the map. Use the line tool (3) to draw lines or to enclose a polygon (i.e. for a fire area). To add a new marker enter the place information in the Search Field. Note that you do not always need an exact address to locate a place on the map. Google has an extensive database of businesses and major points. After you enter the location information, click the Search Maps button. The new point appears on a map—but not the ONA map. Note the map title is National Portrait Gallery (1). The marker is correct (2) and the balloon has useful information. To get the point on the ONA map, click the Save to… link (3). Select the ONA 2010 Map from the list and click the Save button. Google confirms that the location is saved to the ONA 2010 Map (1). Click the View map link (2) to see the National Portrait Gallery added to the ONA 2010 Map. This shows the National Portrait Gallery on the ONA 2010 Map along with all of the other points on the map. Each collaborator can add points through this same process. Collaborators can work on the map simultaneously. There is frequently a delay of up to one hour for collaboration points to show up on other collaborators’ maps or on the published map. This is not an error in the collaboration process but is a delay in Google’s processing.

Open Collaboration

Opening a map to general collaboration so that anyone can add locations or make modifications to the map is an interesting way to engage the community. Journalists need to use this capability with care because unfiltered material can appear on the site. Another real problem with user contributions is the posting of incomplete or inaccurate information and information that isn’t correctly formatted. A map with grossly inaccurate information is not an asset for the news organization or the community. Successful open collaboration generally requires that journalists filter and vet the information provided by the community. The actual process of creating an open collaboration map is simple. Set up the base map as in Step One of this tutorial. Bring up the invite collaborators form just as in Step Two. You can still add collaborators through email (1) and provide instructions (2). Checking the Allow anyone to edit this map checkbox (3) permits anyone with the URL to the map to make changes. If the news organization is going to promote the map, a good practice is to take the URL for the map and use a URL shortener to make typing in the address easier.

About this Tutorial

This resource guide was written and is maintained by Jerry Monti. Jerry Monti is a technology education architect & trainer at the Knight Digital Media Center. If you have suggestions or additional resources you think would be good to add to this tutorial, please email me.

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