At Faneuil Media we often use maps to make data more accessible to readers. Because it’s so simple and people are familiar with it, we frequently use Google’s mapping platform.
Unfortunately, Google’s API doesn’t make it easy to map shapes and areas. It’s simple to map specific points, like the location of crimes, but not areas, like neighborhoods.
To help readers really penetrate a body of geographic data, it’s often important to provide a detail-level view (specific points) AND a summary-level view (areas). But until now, we haven’t been able to do both with the Google API.
Now we can.
Last week we launched a package on Boston.com that maps campaign finance data for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates. As in the past, we’ve plotted detail-level data on the map -- in this case, campaign contributions.
But this package is special because readers can also view
summaries of the data. Readers can see that Chris Gabrieli’s contributions to
his own campaign dominate
This project stretched us further than anything else we’ve done. The data set was bigger and messier than anything we’ve worked with. Even after lots of cleanup, there were many contributions that we couldn’t find coordinates for and therefore were not able to map. Also, the layers are very resource-intensive and we spent a lot of time figuring out how to host the package.
But thanks to some amazing work on Theo’s part and a huge
amount of patience at Boston.com, we addressed these problems, and ended up
with a package that we’re very happy with. By building a deep, intuitive interface
it’s now easy – not to mention kind of fun – to see who’s contributing to
candidates. Hopefully we’ve made the election process in
Now that this has been up for a few days, we’re beginning to think about next steps. If you have any thoughts or other feedback, let me know.