Tip-of-the-hat to the Rocky Mountain News
December 27th, 2005 by JTJ

The Rocky 
took a bold swing at developing an interesting web server application
this month.  And the editor sees that this attempt is extensible.

— From Adena Schutzberg, executive editor, Directions Magazine

“Rocky Mountain News Editor: Web Mapping Isn't that Easy

“The Rocky Mountain News
gets a lot of coverage due to its strong online presence. Some 42
“hubs” cover local news and encourage citizen journalism. So, it was
quite interesting to read editor, publisher and president John Temple's
discussion of attempting an interactive map of Christmas lights in his
editorial  from December 24 higlighting the paper's accomplishments.

I hope you feel it in this newspaper and on our Web site
every day. A passion. A passion for trying new things to serve you
better. A passion for telling stories.

Take our new mapping service for Christmas light tours. This year,
instead of just printing maps in the paper, we're offering personalized
maps on our Web site.

In the newspaper, we have to give everybody the same map. On the Web, you can create the map that best suits your needs.

Go to com and click on “Holiday Lights” and you'll find an offer to “Get directions to light displays in your area.”

It will take you to a page where you can enter the address where you
want to start your tour. Click on “Find Nearest” and you'll get a
listing of the best nearby displays. In my case, there were 16 within
three miles. Choose the ones you want to visit and click on “Find
Route” and you'll get step-by-step directions and a map of the entire
route. Print it and you'll have a guide for a fun excursion.

We developed this service as an experiment with ESRI, a Boulder company
that specializes in Web mapping. We wanted to see what was possible.

It wasn't as easy as we had hoped. For example, I'd love – yes, love –
for people to be able to post their own pictures of their lights on our
Web site and to have them show up with the addresses when others call
up a map. I'd like for you to be able to e-mail the light show
creators. And, of course, you should be able to get our maps and photos
on your cell phone while you're driving, maybe even with a soundtrack
to make your journey more fun. And how about coupons or special offers
from coffee shops or gas stations for participating? But those ideas
will have to wait for future years.

This mapping effort, believe it or not, is linked to our plans to help
you decide how to vote in the 2006 election. We're going to build our
deepest election Web site ever, where just by punching in your address
you'll be able to find links to all our stories and data, such as
campaign finance reports and information about the candidates and
issues you'll find on your ballot.

We hope you'll walk into your polling place next November with a printout from as your sample ballot.

“Of course ESRI is based in Redlands, California. I'm sure that the
local office worked their butts off in developing the app. Still, he's
right – the hodgepodge of voting for lights displays (which linked to
PDF maps???), routing by RouteMap IMS, and a grid to find local displays were quite challenging to navigate.”

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