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OnTheOtherHand

Idea for WikiMapHistory

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I would appreciate some advice on how to find or create a Geographic Information System (GIS) for presenting local historical information.

1. The primary navigation/geographical interface would be through a current map or aerial view of the area. This would be from Wikimapia, google, or some similar map that allows moving around and zooming in and out.

2. The user could click on a box to get a list of all of the historical maps of the area (each with a box that could be clicked to turn the map on or off). These would be scaled so that they could be superimposed over each other.

3. The user could click a box to reveal links to photos. The links would then appear on the map at the location where the photo was taken identified with a date and an arrow showing the direction the photo looks. Ideally, current photos could be taken to compare with historic ones taken at the same location.

4. The user could click a box to reveal links to site histories. This would expose links on the map with information related to particular sites such as buildings. The links could have brief descriptions or detailed websites. The link activation might be triggered by the dates of the selected maps (information on building wouldn't appear on maps prior to the building

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There is already a Houston wiki available through this site. Wiki's are not difficult to maintain and operate. I don't know about the mapping features. You would need a team of developers to implement all the other features you mention, videos, blogs, pics, etc. and lots of volunteers for the information. Plus, probably some permissions to use copyrighted material for the site.

Not that it all has to be done at one time. I haven't seen much info in the current Houston wiki, even though the HAIF forum is rich in information. Sounds like an interesting project, but you need a lot of time and some resources. Such as a domain, a hosted site, LOTS of time, etc.

;)

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I think it's a great idea, but roym is correct -- there are a number of hurdles ahead of you.

I'd say the biggest one is the interface. To do what you're proposing you're going to need some web site developers who really know what they're doing. There are packages that will serve each of the ideas you have, but there is no unified way to tie them together at this point -- that's why you're going to need some extremely talented people to do the visuals, and even more talented people to handle the database integration on the back end.

The HAIF Houston wiki was doing pretty good for a little while, then interest fell off. Like most internet sites, people get out of it what they put into it, but as a percentage of visitors, very few people are willing to contribute to a wiki. Wikis were designed with simple language to make it easy for anyone to participate, but most people don't know the difference between writing on a wiki and writing a web page and assume one is as hard as the other so they never try. The problem is that the people who are tech-savvy generally aren't the ones with the knowledge of history and geography, while those who do know these things generally can barely navigate HAIF.

What you propose is far from a one-man operation. At this point I have my hands full with the sites I currently operate. But if you have any specific questions, feel free to PM me and I'll give you what advice I can offer.

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^My first thoughts were something like Wikimapia (an internet obsession of mine) or communitywalk.com

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Could a site like wikimapia work for something like this?

It could, but the problem is that Wikimapia is too general. It is focused on things that presently exist, while the project described above looks for more historical and anecdotal content. Wikimapia is, unfortunately, patrolled in a manner similar to Wikipedia, which means that someone with no knowledge of a particular topic thousands of miles away can decide that a particular story about a particular Houston location isn't worthy of publication and delete it.

Most of my contributions to Wikipedia have been erased by people in other countries who were not there to witness events that I witnessed as a journalist but somehow consider themselves experts on what happened. It's why I've given up on contributing to Wikipedia.

If there was a smart HAIFer who knew how to combine Google maps with the Wikipedia engine and restrict the geography to just the Houston area, I'd be happy to integrate the whole shebang into the Towrs wiki. Or maybe there's another way to do it without Google maps...

Hmm.... (mental wheels turning).

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One thing that would be really cool would be able to change the maps by decade let's say, then click on locations of interest and link to any existing articles that may be have been contributed. Add the ability for each topic/point of interest to have it's own forum or comment section and that would be really awesome. Next, add the capability to overlay maps.

The possibilities are endless.... :D

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Yeah, layered time periods would be neat - that is *sort of* happening on Wikimapia in places like MainPlace where the demolished buildings are there as well as the new...

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If there was a smart HAIFer who knew how to combine Google maps with the Wikipedia engine and restrict the geography to just the Houston area, I'd be happy to integrate the whole shebang into the Towrs wiki. Or maybe there's another way to do it without Google maps...

Hmm.... (mental wheels turning).

Well, the low-tech approach would be to add links to high-level scans of Houston maps. I'm thinking they could almost be the variety you see in tourist brochures. It almost seems like complete high scale maps, ala Mapquest or something, is overkill as the primary focus as I understand it is on the history of the area and not necessarily the desire to map yourself some directions to the local movie theatre in 1958... ;)

You could fake a mapquest feature by showing a map, providing an address field and search a database on the backend to see of the wiki contains any info for that location, then pinpoint general area on the high level map if found.

Not that high-level map scans couldn't be provided in the archive.

Again, is everyone beginning to sense the large amount of work this all requires?? :D

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Again, is everyone beginning to sense the large amount of work this all requires?? :D

Great idea, but my thought, as well. I've often thought of how nice a paper & reference chart/layout of early Houston neighborhoods would be...thought of it as "thesis" work. And a chart of downtown bldgs. (past and present) including info. on what previously stood before the newly constructed ones.

Edited by NenaE

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