Posts Tagged ‘narrative’


Recently at my internship with CartoDB I’ve been helping test and document a new open-source tool called Odyssey which makes it easy for anyone to tell stories with maps. For part of the testing process I created an example story based on Darwin’s Voyage. The content comes from this Wikipedia article and the latitude & longitude coordinates for each location are from GeoHack. Odyssey makes it super easy to publish your work either through a link to a full page view, an iframe embed or by downloading the html, css, and js files to publish on your own server. I’m really looking forward to seeing what kinds of stories people will tell using this tool! Here is a link to the full story I created.


So after a lot of work I’ve arrived at the second major update for my Major Studio Two project which tells the story of my brother Mike’s thru-hike on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail through an interactive web media experience.

Major milestones include:

1. Debugging a Leaflet map interaction where the animated marker (representing my brother’s position) triggers popups to open on the stationary markers.

2. Improving the interaction between scrolling and the animated marker start and stop using the JQuery Waypoint library. Now when the user scrolls, then animated marker will only start and stop when the user passes the correct chapter chronologically. I found that users tend to scroll up and down through the site fairly quickly to get an idea of long it is. Previously this would have caused the animated marker interaction to be buggy.

3. I’ve also managed to do some user testing for the site today which has proven to be super helpful. I will admit that all the folks that have helped me out have been DT students so I will also test the site with some people outside of my program for a different perspective. Here’s some feedback I’ve received so far:

1. The title bar doesn’t stand out enough and blends in with the rest of the site too much. The url of the site would also help with the title (no url as of yet…)

2. The Alan Watts quote on the opening slide is hard to read; try masking the area behind it with a transparent fill. (fixed)

3. Initially the user has no idea who the main character is. It would be helpful to add some background about Mike and the PCT in general prior to the start of his story.

4. The map transition from overview to the start of the trail should be slightly smoother and more seamless.

5. It’s somewhat confusing where the marker is going in relation to the content. Some suggestions to improve this are to break up each chapter’s path so that the marker will travel shorter distances. Then have photos or other text blocks trigger the marker to move. This would also help connect the particulars of the content with the map. Text blocks could even be highlighted so that when the user hovers or clicks on them their location is displayed in the map. Another suggestion was to repeat each chapter title over the top of the map so that the user is aware of the connection between the area being traveled and the map chapter.

6. When the marker is moving the map tends to shake. I’m not sure if this is something I have a lot of control over but will definitely think about.

7. Add a locator map to show the regional overview (ie: the current state or entire trail) so that the user has an idea of where on the whole trail Mike is.

8. Use Lazy Loading JQuery library to load the images as the user scrolls. This will help cut down on overall loading time and improve performance of the site.

9. Possibly consider adding menu options to the title bar so that the user can jump to certain chapters. This will be somewhat tricky to implement but may be necessary. Also adding forwards and backwards arrows could be helpful with navigating chapters. Worth testing though.

Positive feedback I recieved was that the site is very readable and would make a good narrative template overall. The first image is liked by everyone I’ve tested and serves as a good introductory slide.

Lastly, some updates from a house keeping perspective are to make the site cross-browser compatible (right now I’ve only been developing it using Google’s Chrome browser) and organizing the javascript code into separate modules / files.

Looks like some more updates and then another round of user testing will be needed. Looking forward to completing this project and submitting it to the student mapping competition for NACIS this year in Pittsburg, PA.







For my major studio two class this semester I’m working on creating an interactive web piece that tells the story of my brother Mike’s epic trek across the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in 2013. My inspiration for creating this piece came from a story by the New York Times titled The Russia Left Behind which features a map that animates as the user scrolls through the content. I’m attempting a similar feel with my piece, but rather than using the D3 JavaScript library for rendering the map I’ve chosen to use a combination of Leaflet JS, a few plug-ins for Leaflet including the Animated Marker and Maki Markers plug-ins and JQuery Waypoints to tie the scrolling of the content to creating changes in the map. Last of all and perhaps most importantly the base map I’m using is courtesy of Stamen Design‘s Terrain Tiles. Stamen did a superb job of using open data from both the OpenStreetMap Project and USGS to beautifully render topography in North America. I’m taking advantage of this open-source tile set to add an important visual element to my brother’s story; the user has a detailed visual representation of the mountainous landscape my brother hiked through. In fact you can see how this plays out in the story itself when he describes “the climb”, the first of many ascents on his trip, which he mentions in the second chapter (Warner Springs to Idyllwyld).

For the content of this story I’m scraping text from my brother’s blog using a Python script that uses the beautiful soup library. The photos and videos he  has shared directly with me and generously gave me permission to use. Needless to say there’s an added editorial and curated component to this work from choosing the best photos and checking spelling and grammar. Being comfortable with editing writing from my undergraduate studies in Geography and Urban Studies is definitely helping here!

I’m almost set to do some user-testing, with the intention to get some feedback to improve the next iteration of the project. One last part I’d like to accomplish is for the animated marker to trigger pop-ups on the stationary markers as it passes them. I also have the task of editing and curating my brother’s writing which is another huge undertaking given the detail and length of writing from his blog posts.

The project in its current state can be viewed here, though at this time I have only tested it in the Chrome browser so it may not work in Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer.