Mapping out data

I’m a visual person. Give me a list, and I start visualizing what I’m reading. If I’m unable to visualize, I hit a wall and either move on, or start looking for a way to chart this stuff out.

Today I started work on a project I conceived the night before I interviewed for my job at the PNJ. I want to figure out what is going on with abandoned houses around the city. The specifics will be ironed out as the story presents its self.

So I found a list of code violations on a local government website and since I’m new to the area, I hit a dead end. (Although I did see my neighbor’s house had a violation.)

So after an afternoon interview was a no-show, I sat down and tried to figure out how to map out the addresses. A google search for, “Map out a list of addresses,” turned up Map A List.

It was the PERFECT solution. It’s easy to set up and interfaces with Google documents. I dumped in a list over 700 addresses with code violations and it gave me this: (click image to visit interactive map).

It offers tons of options for displaying data and can be displayed interactively on web pages that support iframes (wordpress blogs don’t apparently).

Me and Map A List are going to get very well acquainted.

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve found a way of presenting interesting information about derelict houses and problem areas to the public absolutely free of charge. Map-a-list is free, and the list of violations are public record. With a little tweaking, I can have the violations and the addresses appear when a pin is selected.

There are lots of possibilities. I think that the future of journalism is going to be in taking the interesting bits from the torrent of information avaliable on the web, and repackaging and presenting it in a way that makes sense.

Tools like these make this possible and cheap.

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