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Understanding geographic data

From: Drupal 6: Online Presentation of Data

Video: Understanding geographic data

Earlier, we used address book entries as an example of a simple data structure, but an address has actually two kinds of information. It's the numbers and letters that define it, and the actual place that it defines on a map. That second kind of locational information moves an address into an area of geographic data that's highly valuable in ways that can affect lives directly. That was the case in the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, which Edward Tufte made famous in his 1983 book, 'The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.' People throughout that city were dying, but nobody could figure out why, until Sewer engineer Edmund Cooper and later the Dr. John Snow, decided to plot the deaths on a map.

Understanding geographic data

Earlier, we used address book entries as an example of a simple data structure, but an address has actually two kinds of information. It's the numbers and letters that define it, and the actual place that it defines on a map. That second kind of locational information moves an address into an area of geographic data that's highly valuable in ways that can affect lives directly. That was the case in the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, which Edward Tufte made famous in his 1983 book, 'The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.' People throughout that city were dying, but nobody could figure out why, until Sewer engineer Edmund Cooper and later the Dr. John Snow, decided to plot the deaths on a map.

Obvious patterns became clear immediately and the cause was pinpointed to a specific water pump that the victims used. So that's the background in an understanding of how this information can be especially useful, but let's get back to Drupal. We showed some Drupal sites that turned data into maps and the video touring examples of data presentation. This video shows how Drupal turns street addresses into points that can be plotted on a map, while two other videos explain how to use the location and the GMap modules to plot those points. I should mention that some of these mapping examples that I'm showing you right now were actually created using a different pair of modules, called Geo and Nice Map, but the fundamentals are still the same. Here's how it works.

The earth is divided into an imaginary grid formed by lines of latitude, which is north and south, and longitude, which is east and west. When you have two coordinates, one for latitude and one for longitude, it's a simple matter of math to plot the exact location that they describe on a globe. But first you have to turn that location data, such as, a street address, into those two points. That's a process that's known as Geocoding. There are several options for online Geocoding. The best known is Google Maps at Maps. Google.com. There are also other sources, such as, those from Yahoo and the US government. But we're going to focus on Google Maps, because it's currently the easiest and fastest way to get started mapping locations in Drupal.

Here is how locations get geocoded in a very simple example. Let's take an address. 1 South Main Street, Oberlin, Ohio. And there we go, we see the location, but where exactly is that in latitude and longitude? To find out, click the Link button here and then copy the link that it gives you. I'm going to put that link into a Text Editor, and then break it up a little bit so that you can see where the latitude and longitude information is. I'll switch over my Text Editor. Here I'll paste that link into the Text Editor and then find the Ampersand and Return it. Very good. Here you can see your latitude and longitude as 41.292157 and -82. 217388. So Google Maps has geocoded that address.

However, that's only a very limited use, because it's a single address. What if you wanted many addresses geocoded through your own Drupal site rather than having to go to Google site? Fortunately, Google permits that in a limited way through its Application Programming Interface or API. On the Google Maps API page, if you click on Docs, you can learn all about how to integrate Google Maps into whatever program you're designing. The good news is there are already modules written that will integrate this API into Drupal, so you don't have to know exactly how the API works. You just have to be able to give it an address and Google Maps will turn that into the latitude and longitude you need, and place that point on a map.

I think mapping is an incredibly valuable kind of data presentation form to add to your site, because it becomes so much clearer when you see things on a map. Mapping, in general, is a big subject and we're only going to scratch the surface by showing you the fastest way to implement maps in Drupal. There are some mapping tasks that the GMap module can't fulfill though. For example, it forces you to display maps in their format and color scheme. So those unusual graphic styles we saw on some of our examples, required another solution. They, in fact, use the different pair of modules as I mentioned, Geo and Nice Map, which are amazing. But as I record this video, they're unfortunately not quite ready for public use. They maybe, by the time you see this video, however, and maybe worth looking up.

As always, your best source for information that will take you beyond what you learned here is Drupal.org, and specifically, the mapping discussion group at Groups.Drupal.org/Mapping.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Drupal 6: Online Presentation of Data
Drupal 6: Online Presentation of Data

50 video lessons · 11243 viewers

Tom Geller
Author

 
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  1. 12m 56s
    1. Welcome
      1m 12s
    2. Reviewing requirements
      3m 35s
    3. Using the exercise files
      3m 11s
    4. Touring examples of data visualization
      4m 58s
  2. 27m 56s
    1. Planning data structure
      8m 26s
    2. Importing and manipulating data
      6m 40s
    3. Looking at Drupal's database
      6m 13s
    4. Deciding whether to store personal data as nodes or users
      6m 37s
  3. 1h 13m
    1. Understanding the Content Construction Kit (CCK)
      4m 57s
    2. Creating new content types with CCK
      7m 26s
    3. Hiding the Body field
      2m 46s
    4. Reflecting CCK field data in the Title field
      7m 28s
    5. Managing CCK field placement
      7m 34s
    6. Exploring CCK's other features
      8m 22s
    7. Using other CCK field types
      3m 25s
    8. Adding date information as a CCK field
      8m 43s
    9. Including images as CCK fields
      10m 23s
    10. Connecting content to existing nodes
      5m 58s
    11. Using taxonomies to categorize and group data
      5m 59s
  4. 53m 54s
    1. Understanding why views are useful
      6m 12s
    2. Using SimpleViews to create basic content views
      5m 49s
    3. Diving into the Views interface
      11m 16s
    4. Adding fields to a view
      7m 12s
    5. Understanding iconic controls in the Views interface
      7m 15s
    6. Surveying the Sort, Filter, and Field options in Views
      5m 40s
    7. Adding view displays as pages, blocks, and RSS feeds
      10m 30s
  5. 43m 34s
    1. Overriding default settings on view displays
      8m 56s
    2. Attaching more information to views
      10m 57s
    3. Improving view appearances with grid, list, and table formatting
      9m 20s
    4. Surveying other basic display settings in Views
      11m 3s
    5. Altering a view's appearance through CSS
      3m 18s
  6. 55m 8s
    1. Importing, exporting, and cloning views
      6m 9s
    2. Controlling access to views
      7m 19s
    3. Learning from built-in views
      5m 52s
    4. Creating views that aren't based on nodes
      10m 6s
    5. Extending views with arguments
      10m 17s
    6. Extending views with relationships
      7m 2s
    7. Going further with relationships
      8m 23s
  7. 46m 40s
    1. Understanding geographic data
      4m 26s
    2. Setting up the Location module
      16m 20s
    3. Entering geographic data with the Location module
      10m 10s
    4. Displaying basic maps with the GMap module
      6m 43s
    5. Integrating the GMap module with Views
      9m 1s
  8. 54m 21s
    1. Exporting data in tabular form
      11m 25s
    2. Planning with the calendar modules
      11m 31s
    3. Using the Charts module and Google Charts
      7m 11s
    4. Graphing data with Open Flash Chart
      4m 50s
    5. Making important data pop out with tag clouds
      7m 46s
    6. Putting it all together in an attractive package
      11m 38s
  9. 36s
    1. Conclusion
      36s

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