Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Adventures with Geotagging

Edits - After I first posted this I discovered one statement I made was flat out wrong and there were a couple of other things I should have included. Edits from the original post are shown in red and blue.

A few days ago Blogger announced a new feature: Geotagging. I thought this would be great for geneabloggers and in my case specifically I could use it to tag the locations mentioned in my family's letters. The Graveyard Rabbit's could certainly make good use of this too. So on Friday I started playing with it.

This new feature is available only in Blogger in Draft, which I had stopped using some time ago when I became frustrated with the way it uploads pictures.

There is a new "add location" link below the post editor box, just to the left of Labels.When you click on it a box pops up and you simply enter the location you for your post. If it can't find the location you entered it asks you to try a new query. So when I entered "Phoenix Rural Cemetery, Phoenix, NY" I got the try a new query message but putting in the street address, "Chestnut St, Phoenix, NY" brought up the map. After you publish your post there is now a link which takes you to the map at Google Maps. Easy enough!

There are a few of drawbacks that I've found. You can only tag a single location for each post so I can only tag either where a letter was written or where it was sent to but not both. Once you add a location you can change it but you cannot delete it. [Edited- You can change the location in the post editor, however after you republish it still will show the original location entered!!!] If you decide you do not want a post tagged after all or you want to change a location, you must copy your post and recreate it as a new post and delete the post you originally tagged. So be very sure you have the location as you want it before adding it! I have also had some frustration with the map search feature bringing up the wrong place. When I entered Buchanan, MI I got a map for Buchanan, MO. Sarah Ann's letters were written from Noble, MI. Sometimes using the MI abbreviation works just fine but once I got a map for Finland. On one post (and only one) I enter Noble, Michigan, it shows the same map as for the other posts but the tag that shows up for the post is for Branch, MI which is the county that Noble is in! Technically correct but not consistent. Spelling out the name of the state seems to help.

Whenever I try something new in Blogger I try it first on a test blog I have created. After playing there I felt the new feature worked well enough to try here. I went back to the beginning of the latest series of letters and tagged away. After tagging several I went and looked at the republished posts and the location information was not showing up at the end of the posts as it had on the test blog. This caused a string of very unladylike invective!

When I decided I wanted a three column blog I found one I liked at Blogcrowds. Pure laziness on my part. Back when the embedded comment feature came out I switched and no one could comment because I was using a modified template. This notice is on the Blogger Geotagging post:
If you have a customized template and you don't see the "Location:" byline, you may need to reset your blog's widget template.
I am not willing to reset my widget template to the default for fear it will mess up something else. But wait! It worked perfectly on my test blog, which has the same template!

Have I mentioned that looking at lines of code makes my head hurt? If I had more than half a clue as to what I was looking for it would have taken much less time to figure out. The new feature adds a new line 3 to the post-footer. On the test blog it installed correctly but on this blog, for reasons still unclear to me, it added the line with no directions. By copying the correct code from the test blog and pasting it over the abbreviated code here I was able to get it to work correctly. If you are html challenged like me and need the correct code let me know.

There is also a widget you can add to show a map of your locations on your sidebar. Again my results varied between the two blogs. On the test blog everything worked just as it should, the map showed multiple locations and I decided to go ahead and add it here. Here is the map I got.
I tried several different things to get it to show the locations I had entered and got very frustrated. So frustrated that I gave up and went to bed. In the morning it showed the locations just as it should. I think the difference was that I have my feed here through FeedBurner and it just took longer to update.

When you mouse over the map or click on a pin it shows you the name of the post represented by the pin and provides a link to the specific post. That's great but the problem for me is that many posts are tagged for the same location but there is only one link for each location. (I didn't tag them in any specific order but I think it shows the one you tagged first for each location.) So if you go back and tag posts think carefully about which post you tag first if you have several for the same location. I wish I had tagged my post introducing the series of letters first. This would be OK if you have lots of different locations.

I have not been able to bring up my map at Google Maps, there is some issue with the GeoRss that is beyond me but if they work it out it would be great to add it to "My Maps." I also cannot embed the map as as part of a post, at least I don't think I can.

Having a location and map link on each post is good in and of itself but I would really like someone to be able to find my posts through the geotag, after all that is the point of tagging, isn't it? If someone can explain how that is done I'd be most grateful.

If you like experimenting with new things go ahead and play with this. Otherwise tread carefully and know that there may be other glitches I have yet to discover. I have heard from other bloggers that are having difficulty with this and I hope to do a follow up in the future. 


Thomas MacEntee said...

Great post Apple - I'd like to have this info posted over on Facebook Bootcamp for Genea-Bloggers since there are so many Blogger users there.

I can have you write the post (I'll make you an Author of the blog) or I can write it and reference your post - I just want to make sure you get the credit for this find!

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I'm not help, I'm afraid. I don't use Blogger and I tend to go as simple as pie with my own blog due to being done with code and design by the time I get home from work! :D

I hope you manage to figure it out (or somebody helps you to!).

Kathryn Doyle said...

Thanks so much for sharing this information. I haven't looked at Blogger in Draft since they made scheduling a regular feature of Blogger. I'm so glad that Thomas wants to include this on the Bootcamp blog. I'm off to check to see if you or he have put it up there.

Thomas MacEntee said...


I emailed Apple and said that after I experimented with geotagging in Blogger in Draft that the concept is great but the reality might still be too soon. I could not get the location to display on my post and I could not get the widget to behave. I kept having to enter the url of DAF to display the map.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I think as more people experiment with this I will find some of the answers.

After Thomas emailed me I played around a little more and I have some additional concerns. I would wait to use this until some of the problems get ironed out or you may face having to delete and then republish a bunch of posts to get it right. I think it will be great once they work out some of the glitches and we understand better how it works. As I play with it and make mistakes I will jot them down and see what I can put together as a follow-up either here or at Bootcamp.

I had trouble with both of the things you mention and will send you a fix by email but you may want to just wait until you're back to your regular template.

Miriam Robbins said...

Apple, thanks for doing such a great review. I updated my original post with a link to this one.

Andy said...

They just have to add one single attribute to one XML tag in the feed, and it will work in Google Maps. I have taken the feed from my travel blog, added that small piece, and the resulting map can be seen embedded in my blog. Once they fix this small bug, you just need to fill the URL of your feed in the Search box on Google Maps and it will show the map for your blog directly.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...


Thanks for stopping by! This works beautifully on your blog and I'm hoping that as they work out the glitches that it will be a great tool for family history bloggers too.

Lissandro Dittmar said...

I've got a new tool for blogger-geotagging... It works nice. If someone wants to test it, here is the link

Citylist for Geotagging-Posts

It is german, but easy to understand ;-)

Chris Myles said...

Hi Apple,

I haven't seen the issues you describe WRT changing the location. I can change it with no problem, although I think they may have changed a couple of things since the initial release (The location text string may remain the same). If you aren't seeing the mapped location change, it may be due to a delay in feedburner. If you are having a hard time with the location search try geocoding outside Blogger and then add the Lat/Lng result directly.

Here are some BlurbBits for your GeoBlog.

Interactive Blog Navigation Map. If you select or mouseover a post from the list (top right) you'll see the post location even if it is overlapped with another.

Embedded BlurbBit options click i (Info) for details

GeoBlog Photo Album (with the geotagged post mapped). AND

GeoBlog map.

We also have a dynamic GeoBlog map that you can add that will change based on your pages content.

You can also view your Picasa Albums and we have various filtering options to match your photos to your blog content or location (via labels, albums).

I'd be interested in your feedback.

BTW. The georss spec that everyone uses only allows one geotag per item (in this case the blog post). I use the last location of a trip for travel posts but sometimes detail the route or starting location within a BlurbBit map inside the post as well.