Suppose you go somewhere cool on vacation —it has to be cool enough so as to trigger show-off reflexes. Blogging about it, you’d think how nice would be that your
mother readers could click on something to have the location displayed on a mapping service (Google Maps, Yahoo Maps and the like). Let’s envision some scenarios:
- You look up your vacation spot on some of those mapping services, and link the result page from your blog. This has the drawback of denying your readers of their choice concerning mapping providers; moreover, it’s not always trivial to discover the URL to link to (hint: with Yahoo Maps, you have to copy&paste the URL from your browser’s direction box; Google Maps offers a Link to this page tool).
- Same as before, but getting (somehow) longitude and latitude and paste those in your blog. This is not trivial with both main mapping providers: coordinates are there, but they are hidden in plain sight. You have to rip them off from the result page URL:
There you are: coordinates in decimal degrees. You have more work to do if you want to show your location in a more readable format, i.e., DMS. Plus, you have to rely on your readers introducing manually the data into their mapping provider of choice, which could be more hassle than it’s worth.
- Use a geo microformat to mark up your location data. You still have to obtain geographic coordinates from somewhere, plus you have to insert appropriate HTML to compose a valid geo microformat. On the other side, your readers can benefit from having the microformat automatically parsed for them and available on their mapping tool of choice (just be sure to direct them towards the Operator Firefox extension, for instance).
There is a lot of work to be done in order to geoenable your content. For one, manually composing a microformat, even a simple one like geo, is a hassle (this example was lifted straight from microformats.org wiki):
<div class="geo"> <abbr class="latitude" title="37.408183">N 37° 24.491</abbr> <abbr class="longitude" title="-122.13855">W 122° 08.313</abbr> </div>
Then there is the issue of extracting latitude and longitude for your location-based content. This process, termed geocoding, can be automated with a high reliability level. Furthermore, there are several APIs available as services all over the Net. This begs the question: is it possible to tie up every piece together, geocoding and microformat composition? A tool to close the geo microformat lifecycle would be a boon to a wide geo microformat adoption.
Now you know what I am about to release in the next post…