Using Web Tools to Map the Members

Use this forum to discuss issues that are not found in any of the other clerk and stake technology specialist forums.
joevans3
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Thanks again

Postby joevans3 » Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:11 pm

Brother Bubba, thanks again for your work on this. Google Earth question: Can I use your output kml files to create place titles (family names) that appear on each place mark? I am probably just messing something up with my settings, but I am just getting un-labeled pushpins.

RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:38 pm

joevans3 wrote:Brother Bubba, thanks again for your work on this. Google Earth question: Can I use your output kml files to create place titles (family names) that appear on each place mark? I am probably just messing something up with my settings, but I am just getting un-labeled pushpins.

I am not sure that would happen. I never rule out the possibility of a bug.

I do recall that when I first installed Google Earth it was failing to display labels on my Dell laptop. The problem was cured by updating the video drivers from Dell.

Do you see names and descriptions in the Google Earth pop-up window when you click a family icon? If so I would suspect the driver problem above.

To verify whether this is a data problem or a problem with the scripts, you can also look at the records in the KML files. The easiest way to see just one family record is to load the KML file into Google Earth, then select an icon for a single family, right-click and select Copy. Then in a text editor such as Notepad, Paste.

Each

Code: Select all

<Placemark> ... </Placemark> 
element should have within it a name element that looks like this:
[INDENT]

Code: Select all

<name>Doe, John</name>
[/INDENT]If there is not such a name element, we have a problem further upstream and will have to explore possible causes. If you can't resolve the problem please check back.

tortdog
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Postby tortdog » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:32 pm

Going to the Practical Purpose for Using Online Tools

After using a geocoder and importing our data into Google Earth, we saved the data (the KML file containing member contact information) to a GDrive so the HP and EQ leaders could access it (password protected and https access). That was our "network drive" connecting the priesthood leaders' homes to each other.

We used that data to create geographic districts. Our stake president agreed with us in slitting the ward into two parts with the EQ taking charge of one and the HP the other - due to our large geographic area. So elders would home teach HP families if they were geographically close, and vice versa.

With the districts now based purely on geopraphy ($4.00 kind of prodded this along), we used Google Maps to create the outline of the districts online - again shared but password protected. Any leader can go online and see which district a household is in and then know the district leader to call.

It's made it extremely user friendly. You don't need to be at the MLS to figure out whom to call. Just look up the member's address on Google map and see which district the house falls in. Then let the district leader follow through. It's made districts EXTREMELY relevant (as opposed to just another thing to set up).

Note: We only used Google Earth to fine tune the home teaching. Once it's done the districts were formed and we update periodically. It's usually easier to just delete people and insert individually, as opposed to doing a mass export from online membership rolls on LDS.org.

The Effect?

Home teaching used to be at about 20-25%. For the last several months following redistricting our home teaching is now at 60-65%. Granted we did other things as well - things that technology cannot bring us. But had those elders had to travel 40 miles to teach that EQ family while a high priest family was right next door, I don't think that we would have seen the gains. It would have been an impediment to our spiritual efforts.

My view, anyway.

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Postby RossEvans » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:02 pm

tortdog wrote:After using a geocoder and importing our data into Google Earth, we saved the data (the KML file containing member contact information) to a GDrive so the HP and EQ leaders could access it (password protected and https access). That was our "network drive" connecting the priesthood leaders' homes to each other..

To some that might raise policy issues having nothing to do with maps or KML files, but rather the third-party server question you were posting on in this thread http://tech.lds.org/forum/showpost.php? ... stcount=59

Here I presume the content of your KML file is name-address-phone. Right? Also HT assignments? Who has password access to the files?

By GDrive, are you referring to the Firefox PlugIn that uses Google's GMail as a generalized, virtual file system? Do they and their storage partner have a privacy policy that covers this?

I am not passing judgment on those policy interpretations, just trying to elicit the facts.

FWIW, with our bishop's approval I distribute weekly updates of our HT/VT files , as well as a general ward membership map, in KML format to a leadership list of bishopric, PEC members, clerks and RS leaders. The content of our general ward-membership KML files -- essentially the MLS ward directory plotted on a map -- is intended to be suitable for distribution to anyone in the ward who asks for a copy, but we have not yet put that distribution into effect. The only distribuiton medium we have considered would be some kind of email list. Mostly we have not gotten around to deciding that, but I don't expect it to be controversial.

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daddy-o-p40
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Postby daddy-o-p40 » Fri Aug 01, 2008 12:14 am

Kevin Ball, a early member of tech.lds.org, wrote a great tool to do this quickly. I think the politics chased him away....because he's not been back since.

His tool is a simple vb script you run on your PC which plots a map with pushpins on your computer. It's called WardMap check it out. It's pretty cool. Once the map is built you can transport the html to any computer and display the map there. We used it in my stake for emergency preparedness training.

Enjoy!
"What have I done for someone today?" Thomas Monson

RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:15 am

daddy-o wrote:Kevin Ball, a early member of tech.lds.org, wrote a great tool to do this quickly. I think the politics chased him away....because he's not been back since.

His tool is a simple vb script you run on your PC which plots a map with pushpins on your computer. It's called WardMap check it out. It's pretty cool. Once the map is built you can transport the html to any computer and display the map there. We used it in my stake for emergency preparedness training.

Enjoy!

I think that may be making a wrong assumption about Kevin. He has made only a few posts here lately, but Joel Dehlin singled him out for praise as the inspiration for the Church's own geographical applications online. I think of Kevin as one of the "Wright Brothers" of mapping in this forum. Others, including myself, later built their own versions with somewhat different functionality and architecture-- we probably all think our own ideas are better in some way -- but in a real sense we are all building on Kevin's precedent.

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daddy-o-p40
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Postby daddy-o-p40 » Fri Aug 01, 2008 8:07 am

That's a nice perspective. I just know from too much experience that many times the real innovators get turned off by all the politics. I've had a few arrows in my back which has lessened the zeal for the work.
"What have I done for someone today?" Thomas Monson

joevans3
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Postby joevans3 » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:45 pm

boomerbubba wrote:I am not sure that would happen. I never rule out the possibility of a bug.

I do recall that when I first installed Google Earth it was failing to display labels on my Dell laptop. The problem was cured by updating the video drivers from Dell.


Updating my Dell laptop driver worked! It's strange, because other placenames were displaying in Google Earth before the update. Now the pins are labeled, and I can use the converted file to print up labeled maps. Perfect! Thanks again.

RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Fri Aug 01, 2008 3:10 pm

joevans3 wrote:Now the pins are labeled, and I can use the converted file to print up labeled maps. Perfect! Thanks again.

Glad to help.

If you are going to print from Google Earth -- which is a great medium for interactive viewing on the screeen -- I will be the first to say that the application is less than optimal for this purpose. I have been experimenting with alternatives, which is too long a story to tell right now. Here are some tips:

1) To suppress all that glitzy 3D satellite photography, which just gets in the way if you want a simple street map, try loading into Google Earth an all-black overlay, covering the globe, to mask it. Attached is a short file to do that. (Download BlackOverlay.zip and rename the extension to .kmz) The effect of that file alone will be to produce white-on-black.

On top of that, create a polygon layer in Google Earth that is beige and semi-opaque. I have one that accurately maps our ward boundaries, but for your immediate purposes you could trace your boundaries with less precision for a more quick-and-dirty result. The effect of using both the black overay to mask the photography, plus the beige polygon, will be to create street maps in white over a brown background. You could experiment with different hues.

Save these two layers in your "My Places" area permanently. Then you can click them on/off at will

2) Still, the roads layer within Google Earth has basemaps that are inferior to the crisp 2D maps that you would find in the web sites of Google Maps, Yahoo, etc. It is possible to upload simplified KML files to Google Maps, although the printing of custom icons is crippled. I have been playing with that and may post some results someday.

3) The printing resolution itself is crippled within the free version of Google Earth. (This is where Google's pay-to-play business model starts to bite.) You might consider an upgrade to Google Earth Plus at $20/year. I bought that. I do not recommend the $400/year (gasp!) Google Earth Pro version.

FYI, here are the print resolutions supported by the three levels of the Google Earth product:

Low (Earth free) 134 dpi
Medium (Earth Plus or Pro) 188 dpi
High (Earth Pro only) 320 dpi

The dpi figures, corresponding to the metric most commonly quoted for printers, are my own calculation based on translating the factoid Googlespeak that the company's marketing pages quote.

4) A color printer is pretty well required for decent results.
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RossEvans
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A possible alternative for PRINTING maps

Postby RossEvans » Sat Aug 02, 2008 8:24 pm

boomerbubba wrote:If you are going to print from Google Earth -- which is a great medium for interactive viewing on the screeen -- I will be the first to say that the application is less than optimal for this purpose. I have been experimenting with alternatives, which is too long a story to tell right now..

As a followup to joevans3 and others who have a deliverabe to print ward maps, rather than view them on the screen, one alternative I have been investigating is shrink-wrapped commercial software, DeLorme Street Atlas 2009 Plus. We may end up using this product for the specific task of printing fast-offering routes, and I have just begun a 30-day-trial @ $60 plus shipping direct from the publisher.

The print capabilities seem pretty robust, and the printouts are crisp. And within some complicated limits it can import flat files, including records that have already been geocoded. (That was a key requirement for me.) The product does have a significant learning curve and a quirky interface. Because of the complexity, we're not sure if it is the best solution to hand off to the fast-offering coordinator or not. It may be so much effort to import the data each month and set up the printouts that it won't save him much time over the interactive methods he has been using with Google Maps combined with manual editing. But we have to change our procedure somehow to comply with guidance on Church policy.

Street Atlas 2009 Plus can't import or export KML files, but it can import .csv files. So it still could be driven by my geocoding scripts. The last release of these scripts added a .csv version of the output that includes the lat/lon coordinates, so it leverages the manual error- and exception-handling work done upstream by the clerks

It occurred to me while playing with the DeLorme product that it might be what joevans3 is really looking for. (Although I don't quite understand what his bishop wants with a printed map of the whole ward membership labeled. It is bound to be cluttered. Except for particular cases such as printing a fast-offering route or perhaps the home-teaching assignments for selected companionships, I think an interactive program such as Google Earth is the better medium.)

The other alternatives I am exploring to print our fast-offering maps are various methods to drive the Google Maps web site or API . I think this doable a few different ways -- some more kludgy than others.-- but I have a bit of a learning curve there myself on the HTML and javascript side. This general option also is tricky, threading the needle between Church policy on the one side and licensing and technical barriers imposed by Google on the other.


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