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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Guardian puts its correspondents on the map

The Guardian has a Google map showing the locations of its staff around the world. To be fair, it's probably one of few papers with enough foreign-based staff to warrant using a world map. But still, it's a nice idea and would work just as well with a national or regional map.

My Telegraph is doing something similar, asking its members to show where they are on a world map, and then there's Twittervision which shows tweets as they happen from around the world and is surprisingly enjoyable to watch.

The value of maps as online tools came up in conversation the other day with general agreement that they were over-rated. The maps I've mentioned are pretty straightforward - all you have to do is look at them and maybe click on markers to read some text. But those small, embedded maps, where you have to zoom in and move the map about and wait for it to reload six times before you find what you want, can get annoying pretty quickly.

I was in despair yesterday trying to find a map of Hamilton to print out and stick on the wall so I could orient myself, now that I'm going to be there regularly as part of my work as Editor-in-Residence on the Wintec School of Communication journalism programme. Couldn't find any such thing, only a string of Google maps the size of a tissue. Map sellers rejoice, I'm going to go out and buy one.

I like the idea of geotagging and being able to use a map to find information relevant to where I live, work, whatever. And I really like the idea of news sites being the first place people think to look for information relevant to their area. But as a user, if technology limits mean the map slows me down I'd rather just scan some text and be on my way.