I like maps. In college, I had a fold-out map of the Adirondack Park tacked to my dorm room wall and I would mark off routes I’d driven and places my roommate and I visited in my father’s Oldsmobile. By the end of my time in the North Country, it was practically neon with all the highlighter.
How, after all, can you know who you are if you don’t know where you are?
So I was excited about Wednesday’s Web Forum Meeting where Frank Popowitch from Campus Planning demonstrated what he hopes will be the new campus mapping system. Based on GIS data, the new maps are served up through a vendor application called ArcInfo and they’re seriously cool–even if you’re not a cartography geek.
Here’s a screen shot of the basic campus map in ArcInfo:
You will no doubt notice the green dots and the orange lines. These are part of a virtual campus tour that Frank and his shop are proposing be worked into the online version of the campus map that would be (eventually) available from cornell.edu/maps. The green dots represent 360 degree pano images of locations and the red lines mark QuickTime video of driving tours.
Currently, both the panoramas and the videos are content produced by Frank’s shop that is live only to those who have access to the test server this is all living on–but it’s certainly proof of concept.
Here’s another shot of a detail on the map. In this case, it’s the Ag Quad and parts of Eastern Campus (picked at random by yours truly):
Note the window on the left that is labeled “Map Contents”. In this instance, I had all of the layers turned on, so we can see everything from bike rack locations to Accessible entrances, to Bus Stops. All of those boxes are check-able (or not) so you can customize a map to your own liking. This is also just a very small sample of the data Frank has at his disposal, so the sky is kind of the limit when it comes to what you might want to see on your map.
Bus Routes? Totally do-able. Quickest way from Kite Hill to MVR? Also possible.
My suggestion of using the chips in our staff ids to track parking agents in real time was met with laughter, but I’m reasonably sure it’s possible to know when you’re about to get a ticket. We totally have the technology.
Here’s a zoom-in on the Ag Quad itself:
[you can click all you want; it's not going to get bigger]
That red line between Roberts and Mann Library is me using the measuring tool to determine how far away from one another they are. (Answer: 731.17 feet) You can also use that tool to mark routes on campus and figure out the total distance you would cover as you move from building to building throughout the day. (Ex: Roberts to Day Hall to Snee, to Riley Rob and back.)
So. Now that you’ve seen some pretty pictures, let’s talk details.
Frank (and the OWC) is looking for any and all feedback that you might have to offer on the project. Unfortunately, the test servers are not robust enough to open it up to campus actually poking around on the new maps. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tell us what you’d like them to be able to do or what you’d like to see re: interface functionality.
Here’s my Wish List:
- “Print This Page” or “Print My Map” feature. Right now, you can print the maps, but you have to use your browser’s print functionality to do it. It would be great if there were a button that exported your map to a readable size when printed on standard paper.
- “Save My Map” Recognizing that this would require storage space out the proverbial wah-zoo, I still think it would be nice if users could save layers from visit to visit. This might also come in handy if you are holding an event on campus or just want to share some of your favorite spots with friends or family who are coming to town. When I worked for Campus Information, we did it with highlighters on the printed versions–it would be great to send someone a URL instead. Or, better yet, print them a custom map marked with the places they need to go while on campus for an admissions visit.
- A better user interface. This one is very clunky to navigate around in and not very intuitive. If such a system were put in place on cornell.edu (or elsewhere on campus sites), some work should be done to make it easier to use.
What are your fondest wishes for a new campus map?
If you are a visitor, an alum, or someone who has a more casual relationship with Cornell, please leave your feedback in comments to this post. Typically, comments close on a post 7 days after it goes live, but I will set this one to remain open through the end of December.
If you’re part of the web developer community here on campus, please take a hop over to the CU Knowledgebase and use the page we’ve set up over there to list your requirements both user-based and technology related. You will need to log-in to Confluence (use Cornell Single Sign On) to edit the page. I’ve included a copy of my list from above as well as some of the technical aspects (those that I actually understand) on that page. Please feel free to add to the specs if you know more than I do–I’m sure there are plenty of you who do.
If you have specific questions about the mapping system, drop me an email and I’ll pass them along to Frank and his crew.
You’re on your own for the folding,