Via@poynter: Set yourself up for success with mobile mapping projects

Published 2011-09-20

News organizations are increasingly involving the community in their reporting and trying to figure out which approaches work well.

One way to get your audience involved is to combine the ease of mobile texting with the visual appeal of a map. Throughout the past few years, I’ve launched several successful mobile mapping crowdsourcing projects for public radio stations and have found that they engaged audiences and helped advance news stories.

Drawing on my experience with these projects, I’ve come up with some tips on how to involve your audience in a successful mobile mapping project in any medium.

Jim Colgan offers five tips for encouraging audience participation when your news organization offers up a data map.

Whether it's mapping photos of a blizzard, or displaying where users say the deepest potholes are, I think Colgan's tips are spot on.

However, two stick out as being spot-on from the get go.

Speaking from experience on both sides of the equation -- the newsroom and the deployment room -- the time to build a crowd-sourced map isn't when news breaks, at least in most cases. Certainly there will be extroidinary cases when deployment for a specific breaking news event is a must, but I'm a big believer in planning and preparation, and with some practice you can have a base map ready to go, and fill in the details around the news event.

Colgan says pretty much the same thing when he says, "But we needed to be ready with the tools way before this."

As for the latter tip, I believe we can make it easier for users to decide whether they want to participate by uploading photos. And I'm not talking technological tools. I simply mean we can get out of the way, and make it clear what we would like them to do. If a map requires a user to hunt and peck for what we're displaying, they're likely on to the next link.