by Chris Bodenner

Recently I asked readers if they had any good ideas for presenting the VFYW guesses in a cool and dynamic way.  We have received a ton of really great suggestions - thanks!  I am still testing several of them to see which works best with the Dish.  Below are some of the leading contenders.  Hopefully one might be useful for a project of your own.  A reader writes:

Not that I ever have any luck at guessing, but I do love the VFYW contests and I think I have an idea for your map. Why not get together with the great folk at WorldMapper (or even do it yourselves if you have the know-how) to develop a map that expands the area devoted based on guesses? Since I hope that you get more "close" guesses than not, the region around the correct spot would be blown up and allow people to more easily see all the close guesses. Besides, who really wants to waste all that space on the map to those of us who couldn't even get the right hemisphere.

Another:

OpenHeatMap might fit your needs. All you need to do is create a Google spreadsheet containing your guesses, and it handles the rest. (Here's a two-minute guide for journalists.) As a long-time Dish reader, I'm happy to customize it if it doesn't do exactly what you want.

Another:

I'm a longtime reader of the blog and a big fan of the VFYW contests. I work as a product manager at a web/search company and I'm a computer scientist by training. Here's one way to dynamically create markers on the map:

1. I can build you a JavaScript widget that you insert into these contest result posts.
2. The JavaScript analyzes the page's content on the fly and identifies all the place names on the page (this is not foolproof but quite easy to do)
3. It geocodes each place down to lat/long using the Google Maps API
4. It draws the map on the fly, directly into the page.

I've got a similar service that does this for food bloggers (identifies restaurant names in content and converts them to points on the map), I'd be happy to customize it for this use case if you are
interested.

Another:

Apple's iMovie has a mapping tool which creates animated "flight tracks" between geographic points you specify that you can intercut with the window photos in each location.  Of course, it's not very interactive.  Perhaps check out a geomapping program like ArcMap, where you can tag each location with the corresponding photo.  I'm pretty sure that ArcMap now has a web creation utility.

Another:

Why not save the guesses in a file readers can simply download from your website and then overlay on Google Earth?  I don't know if The Atlantic would be able to support that, but a host site shouldn't be too hard to come by.  For my job I'm always using Google Earth and have multiple files I can simply open and close at will so the map doesn't get too crowded.  You can even color code the markers if you want to get really fancy.  It takes a little work (but is not that hard once you get the hang of it) and it's an easy way those of us at home can get a good first hand feel for the guesses that week.

Another:

Google Earth is an obvious choice. You can create "virtual trips" and embed each picture at the actual point it was taken, with any added textual comments you wanted. (Here are some examples related to literature.) Then save it as a kmz file, and people could upload it to their desktop Google Earth. Though that might be more work than you (or your readers) want to do.

Another:

Use Google Charts with world maps. It is a little more work, but here is what you could do:

1. You can mark the countries with most guesses in a different color. Or use darker and lighter shades for more guesses.
2. You can still mark the locations which people guessed.
3. You can mark out different regions within the same country.

Another:

Tableau Public. This is a great, free visualization system aimed at web publishing, and for something so sophisticated it's fairly easy to use.  I think it'd be a good choice for showing geographical data like this.

Another:

There is a tool called Map Builder that lets you add markers on a map and add information on each pointer. You can see it in action here. We have also occasionally used BathGeo, which lets you paste in data from a spreadsheet and spits out a map. The former is a bit cumbersome, but useful if you want to display the various windows featured in VFYW. (For instance, if you want to link to the window.) The latter is better for a quick map.

Another:

Ushahidi builds tools for democratizing information, increasing transparency, and lowering the barriers for individuals to share their stories. It's currently used for crisis mapping and election monitoring, but can be used for anything. 

On a somewhat related note:

A couple weeks ago someone explained how they had created a VFYW fantasy league, and I was wondering if you guys have had others who've mentioned the same thing - have created leagues, were looking for other participants, etc.  I'm contemplating creating a VFYW Facebook page, but as a semi-slacker I was hoping someone else has gotten around to doing it first. In case I do create the FB page, do I have (or need) your permission do it? 

No permission needed! And a quick search of Facebook shows this group that has already started (though it appears closed to the public). Send us a link at vfywcontest@theatlantic.com if you end up creating something - on Facebook or elsewhere.

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