Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The great holiday lights map -- again: Instagram maps, rated C-

This is a screen shot. Not an embeddable, interactive map. Don't get excited. 

Last year, we were honored to receive a Digital First award for our coverage of holiday lights.

This year, I'm working with one of my favorite digital reporters, Whitney Bryen, at the Longmont Times-Call, to try to come up with a new solution.

THE TASK: Find a new way to plot holiday lights around Boulder County with photos and addresses on a map using smartphones. Ideally, we wanted an app that would automatically populate a map that readers could follow, and also a map that would be embeddable and look good in print.

Last year, we used Geospike. It worked well, but we wanted to see if there was a new way to do it better.

IDEA #1: Instagram maps
The pluses:
- Seamless integration with Instagram, allowing us to also add reader submissions.
- Easy ability to create a "best of" Storify to run in an online package.
- Already using Instagram, it's popular, it's easy.

The problems: 
- Couldn't figure out how to share a map between different posters, without creating a separate new account.
- Couldn't figure out a way to embed maps onto our webpage.
- Couldn't figure out a way to create a separate map only of holiday lights; instead, we were left with Instagram mapping basically every single photo we've ever taken in one big massive map. (Not sure how that is useful for anyone other than world travelers.)
- Couldn't figure out a way to even view the maps online.
- We emailed Instagram for help but received no timely response so we had to ditch it.

Final verdict: Instagram maps is an OK but mostly gratuitous feature that lacks personalization and meaningful organization options. I rated it a C- because it is Instagram, so it's got some cred, but for my purposes, it's just not going to cut it.

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