Dynamic Mapping
January 25, 2007 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Coding a custom Google Maps or MS VirtualEarth project for a 501(c)(3) charity web site.

The CIO of the non-profit for which I work would like to have a Google Map of North America (or MS Virtual Earth, either is OK) displayed on our site. The site is a public-facing Sharepoint 2007 site.

He would like to have a list where the user could select one (or more) sponsor(s) from a list of our corporate sponsors, and the sponsor's store locations would pop up on the map. For the sake of argument let's say the user selects Sears and Burger King, the map would populate with all Sears and Burger King locations in the U.S. and Canada.

The sponsor list is around 100 corporations, with anywhere from a few dozen locations each to as many as several thousand.

The tables we would be drawing the locations from are in an MSSQL 2005 database. The tables contain sponsor name, store number, address, city, state, country, postal code, and may contain latitude/longitude shortly (depends on how well another project comes off).

1) Is this possible?
2) How long might it take?
3) What might something like this cost us?
posted by mr_crash_davis to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, it is possible, I've done this on a smaller-scale. If the sponsors really are of the Burger King / Sears size, be aware that plotting all locations for 100 sponsors across the country at once will eat memory, and likely bring IE to its knees. [Disclaimer: This may no longer be true in light of the recently released marker manager.] Consider localizing the locations displayed.

That said, it shouldn't take too terribly long if you provide the lat / longs and get a good programmer.
posted by adamkempa at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2007

There's an Open Source slippy map client called OpenLayers that you might find useful for this http://openlayers.org

OSGeo http://www.osgeo.org might also give you some ideas for software that would be helpful, depending on what all exactly you need to do.
posted by hobu at 2:06 PM on January 25, 2007

Best answer: Just to let you know in advance, the map will get very cluttered!

Think about the number of McDonald's in Los Angeles, CA -- then the entire US. McDonald's exaggerates the point I'm trying to make...

There could be dozens of locations per pixel on a map that shows the continental US and Canada, you're going to run into some visibility issues.

A suggestion, if you're able, is to translate the user's IP address to a location, center the map around them (at a decent zoom level) and then show the sponsors in that area. (Or maybe N miles from the user's zipcode?)

It's not terribly difficult to do - Google Maps API is very well documented (even if you don't get the LatLong there are lots of places that do free geocoding).

Hope this helps!
posted by bofe at 5:10 PM on January 25, 2007

I second bofe's comment about visibility. This is going to be practically useless for businesses with >1000 locations.

I'm unclear as to goal the organization has for this map. Are they using it as a "thank you" to their sponsors, in an effort to drive viewers' business to the sponsor's nearest location? If so, it makes more sense to have the viewer input their zip code and find the n locations nearest them, rather than attempting to view the entire continent.

If, on the other hand, the organization is attempting to show that their sponsors come from all across the continent (Look how wide our reach is!), then what I would do is provide a chloropleth map of the continent that would show the sponsor's density by state/province. If the viewer wants a list of locations in THEIR state/province, they can click on it, and drill down.

In any case, it's important to know your audience and what you're trying to communicate before attempting something of this magnitude. Otherwise you throw it online and it's unusable.

FYI, there's a discounted software site for 501c3's, but the name escapes me at the moment. I'd call ESRI and see if they would give you a discount for some good PR.
posted by desjardins at 10:12 AM on January 26, 2007

Response by poster: 'I'm unclear as to goal the organization has for this map. Are they using it as a "thank you" to their sponsors, in an effort to drive viewers' business to the sponsor's nearest location?'

Not exactly, but close. The site viewers will be sponsors (who give money) and the recipients of said money. The point of the map is for recipients to be able to find their nearest sponsors' locations. The 'enter your zip' and 'map user by IP to a narrower focus' are excellent suggestions, which I will pass on.

"This is going to be practically useless for businesses with >1000 locations"

I do appreciate the complexity of a huge number of markers on the map at one time, believe me, and have argued against it at every opportunity - but I have been effectively overruled at this time. I will continue to bring it up, and hopefully when it goes out for bid the responses it receives will support that position.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:50 AM on January 26, 2007

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