I learned a lot from my Five Nations of Facebook post, but the biggest lesson was how good maps are at telling complicated stories in a simple way. It left me wanting to build more of them, but I didn't want to code up a whole new piece of software for each one. I spent some time looking around for some applications to help me build online interactive maps, but couldn't find any that met my needs. So, I set out to build the tools I wished I had.
Six months later, I'm finally launching the first public release of OpenHeatMap. What is it? For a quick answer check out the gallery, but the long version is that there's two sides, a service for users and an open-source framework for developers. Here's what each offers.
My one-sentence description is "YouTube for maps". If you have location data in an Excel spreadsheet, you can save it out as a CSV file, upload it to OpenHeatMap and get an interactive online map that you can customize, share and embed.
OpenHeatMap is a JQuery plugin for embedding maps in your page. It will render in either Flash or Canvas to work across as many platforms as possible. I've licensed it under the GPL, the code is on github, and all of the data sources are under open-source licenses, so you should be able to use it without any of the pesky terms-of-service restrictions that come with some of the commercial solutions.
I'm still working like crazy to iron out bugs and improve the service (trying to get it working a lot more reliably on the iPhone for example), so please give it a try and let me know what you think via firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be blogging about some of my favorite maps over the next few days, so let me know if you create some that you'd like to share as well.
And finally a big thanks to everyone who's helped me get the project this far, all of the pre-release testing and feedback from my regular readers was incredibly helpful. In particular I'd like to thank:
– Steve Coast for giving me the initial drunken shove towards building this
– Peter Batty for educating a newbie on the geo world
– Michal Migurski for creating so many awesome maps, and giving early feedback
– Dan Armstrong for insightful guidance on what data analytics professionals like him really need
– Joe Kelly and Chris Hathaway for generously sharing some fascinating data sets
– Josh, Rob and Jud for their constant support and testing help