Links: Imagery update, GE Boards, Geocommons update

  • Imagery update: Google Earth gets new high resolution imagery, much of it “concentrated in the U.S., Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand” according to Google Lat Long Blog. The rest of the post gives some hints as to where to look. Happy hunting.
  • GE Boards: Mickey Mellen of Google Earth Hacks has come out with yet another server side scripting wonder: GE Boards, a bulletin board system that resides entirely with Google Earth, served via network links, using Google Earth 4.2’s Flash support to let people submit or filter content from within a placemark popup. Mac and Linux users can browse the contents of the layer, but the Flash features are Windows only for now. You can read Mickey’s entire email below the fold. (Mickey made the first Google Earth-based game, GE War.)
  • GeoCommons: FortiusOne’s Geocommons — a mapping tool that can generate heatmaps from datasets — gets a major update, with new features described in the company’s Moving Past Pushpins blog.
  • Island in the news: Near-real time cartography — of Jabal al-Tayr island in the Red Sea, which recently erupted. Lovely!
  • Open House: Have a 2D floor plan? Metropix is producing 3D KML visualizations for free — at least if you are among the first 1,000. (First mentioned here.)

Mickey writes:

We’ve just released a cool new script for Google Earth that might be worth blogging about. It’s essentially a message board that is completely contained within Google Earth, using some techniques that I don’t think have been used elsewhere yet. Let me explain.

For about a year now, I thought it would be great if Google Earth had support for forms. Nothing fancy, just some basic web forms. This would allow us to create network links that let users enter text, modify options, etc. They still don’t allow forms, but the release of version 4.2 allows you to embed Flash into the description bubbles.

We built a few simple forms in Flash to test things out, and found that we could do everything we wanted. We’ve created this message board using a handful of embedded Flash scripts that allow users to:

  • Post new threads
  • Reply to threads
  • Change their viewing options (select a category). This simply changes the setting on our server for that user, which then affects their main network link the next time it’s loaded.
  • Report a problem (spam posts, etc)

It seems to work very well. Once a user loads the KML package, they can create threads anywhere they want with just a couple of clicks. Some of the other features of the boards include:

  • Users avatar is pulled from our main site.
  • User post counts are tracked and displayed.
  • Thread views are tracked and displayed (using an old-school tracking gif).
  • Threads can be bookmarked by saving them to “My Places” with a single click. This actually creates a custom network link that includes that single thread, so that the thread information (latest replies, in particular) will always be updated.
  • E-mail notification for replies.
  • Total post/thread counts are displayed at the top in an screen overlay generated on the fly.
  • Automatic pagination for long threads (10 posts per page).
  • Users can choose a category from a drop-down box when posting. This allows us to build custom icons for almost every location (company logos, usually).
  • Using another Flash interface, users can filter results by a single category. For example, this allows them to show only hotels as they browse around.
  • Lots of admin features on the back-end, including moderating, banning, etc.

In an effort to get more users to try it out, we’re giving away a SpaceNavigator to one lucky user. We’ve picked a random set of coordinates somewhere on Earth, and the user that has started a new thread nearest those coordinates by next Friday (Oct 12) is the winner. The more threads that a person creates, the greater their odds of winning.

It’s worth noting that this currently only works on Windows, as that’s the only version of GE that supports Flash. We’re hoping that Flash support finds its way to the Mac/Linux versions soon.