Getting Closer to a Social Mapping Definition

Social mapping is an awkward buzz phrase. Right now, a search on Wikipedia will yield “social map.” It’s definition has a cartographic orientation. It also has marketing’s application of the phrase. There is another term as well: “Corporate Social Map.” The material is sparse, and the article called for additional citations . . . in August of 2008.

No social mapping definition yet on Wikipedia.

Defining “social mapping” is difficult. Anybody got a World Book?

Social mapping has yielded at least one billion dollar tech acquisition, but no Wikipedia entry apparently.

Social Mapping in The Wild

After months of testing, development, observation and hand-wringing, I documented some of our findings on the social mapping space while building the Whitepoint framework. You can now read them in a paper for Museums and the Web Asia 2013.

The museum space is the perfect arena for a social mapping discussion, because the concepts are easily illustrated in that environment. Museums and the arts also have much to gain from the associated technologies.

The paper identifies common qualities of social mapping technologies – including social, discovery, navigation, and the mapping of data points. It also discusses shifting user expectations with regard to aerial versus point of view perspective.

What’s In a Name?

Because of the rate that technology changes, we may one day find that nailing down a definition of social mapping was futile. However, right now, the concept is an important one. I’m convinced of this, because the ways in which we capture, consume, and process information is fundamentally changing.

Terminology has been thrown around that indicated the trend years ago. Virtual tour, virtual reality, augmented reality, wearable technologies . . . What comes next? The concepts and qualities of social mapping technology can help us all get our brains around what we’re capable of doing today and what we’ll be expecting tomorrow.

Adoption

As evidenced with various technologies and attempts at engaging users, immediate adoption is – of course -another story.

In 2002, I used – and loved – the HP Compaq Tablet PC TC1000. It had a stylus and a keyboard that you would conveniently hide away. It was compact, ran Windows, and was surprisingly reliable.

In 2010, Apple introduced the iPad. By then, any idea of a Windows tablet was forgotten and even laughable.

On what device are you reading this blog? Maybe you’re reading it on your phone or a Surface.

Do you disagree or agree with this take on social mapping? I’d love to hear from you. Reply below or tweet @WhitepointMobi.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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A Free and Easy WordPress Plugin for Linking Virtual Tours

Need a WordPress plugin that will make including virtual tours for your web site easier? You’re in the right place.

We’ve built a free WordPress plugin that helps you easily link smarter virtual tours built with the Whitepoint framework to your WordPress posts. You can find the plugin in the WordPress plugin directory, but here are some additional details to help in using it.

First off, yes, our WordPress plugin is free. And, come to think of it, the WordPress content management system is free too. Not a bad deal, all in all.

Here’s the link: ScapeViewer for WordPress.

Why is There a WordPress Plugin for Whitepoint?

The Whitepoint framework helps you build and manage more intelligent virtual tours. Like WordPress, Whitepoint is at its core a content management system. WordPress and Whitepoint utilize a similar approach to the process of managing content. It makes sense that WordPress users would also be interested in linking scapes (Whitepoint tours) or building their own scapes.

In addition to mobile display of smarter virtual tours, Whitepoint offers the ability for those tours to be viewed on desktops.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of a Whitepoint scape, take a look at this post with a short scape demonstration (which was built with the help of said WordPress plugin).

Until now, there were some issues in getting WordPress to include the necessary code in posts for a clean user experience while opening and viewing Whitepoint scapes. The WordPress plugin takes any required coding out of the picture altogether and makes it a lot easier to quickly link up a Whitepoint tour.

And, What Does Whitepoint’s WordPress Plugin “Do” Exactly?

As mentioned above, the WordPress plugin will insert the necessary JavaScript automatically. That alone takes the biggest headaches out of the WordPress integration process.

A virtual tour built with Whitepoint linked in a WordPress post

When you embed a scape link using the WordPress plugin, you have multiple options including alignment. In the above example, the graphic link to the scape is aligned right.

The plugin includes a shortcode generator that asks a few simple questions before providing the shortcode that’s needed to insert the link to the scape. All you have to do as a WordPress author is copy and paste that code into your post.

You will need to know the scape ID of the scape that you want to link up. That’s easy. If you are a Whitepoint author, you can find the scape ID in the “Team Scapes” or “Personal Scapes” link in Whitepoint’s Authoring Panel.

So, What’s an Example of How Someone Could Use This?

Let’s say you operate a real estate web site and need to link up multiple properties to a WordPress blog or web site. Maybe you link up a virtual tour to a daily blog post.

As a Whitepoint author (you will need to have an authoring account), you build out your scape, then using the WordPress plugin, you provide the scape ID. You insert a shortcode into your WordPress page and you’re done.

Finding Another Author’s Whitepoint Scape ID

Even if you’re not a Whitepoint author, you can link up the scape or virtual tour that another Whitepoint author has built. Just have them provide the scape ID.

Or, visit their scape from a desktop and take a look at the address bar:

Virtual Tour Link for Whitepoint WordPress Plugin

Here’s an example of a web address for a scape. Using the WordPress plugin and scape ID of 24, you could link up your WordPress post to this virtual tour.

The number you see is the scape ID. In the above example, it’s 24.

Questions? Insights? Ideas on how you can use this?

Meanwhile, happy #whitepointing.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Of Course! A Look at the PGA Tour App

The PGA tour app has about 500,000+ downloads for Android alone. Now, that’s a successful app. Most organizations would kill to have this kind of marketing tool (and following). While development of a tour app on this scale isn’t practical for most, there are ways to get similar results.

Just About Everything a PGA Audience Wants

Mobile content in main screen of PGA Tour app.

Lots of mobile content in the PGA Tour app will keep gold fans engaged. Screenshot from Google Play.

The main PGA tour app tab provides up-to-the-minute stats and standings, news, highlights, and links to interviews.

It even provides weather information for the course. As this is being written, it is 68° in Lake Forest, IL: The home Conway Farms Golf Club and host of the BMW Championship.

There is an impressive amount of relevant content. It gives golf fans what they want – and lots of it.

The PGA Tour App’s Live Mobile Map

The app’s live mobile map of courses on the tour utilizes Google Maps to provide the classic map view connecting the tee and the green at each hole. And, layers are available to help visitors navigate – locating everything from ATMs to restrooms.

The mobile maps are a strength of the PGA tour app, but it begs two questions:

Launch a top down map view perspective in PGA Tour app.

You can launch a top down map view perspective of each hole in the PGA Tour app. Screenshot taken from Google Play.

  1. How does the mapping perform while on site? It is safe to assume that clogged bandwidth would be an issue if maps aren’t stored locally.
  2. Google Maps is pretty limiting in this instance both in perspective (more about this below) and directions on how exactly you get to that ATM or restroom.It gives you a decent idea of about where . . . but, good luck finding that restroom in a crowd. With a full bladder.

You’re Not Sponsored by Nike Golf?

Needless to say we’re talking about a pretty strong marketing budget that produces the PGA Tour app. It’s presented by Nike Golf.

What does it take for an app like this? You’re looking at countless hours of development and ongoing maintenance of the app. And, don’t forget content. After all, it has a use and relevance almost all year round.

An app and development of this scale isn’t necessary for 99% of businesses and nonprofits. But, there is much to be learned by smaller organizations from the way it’s done and what information it provides.

So, you don’t need a PGA tour app, but you need something in terms of an app . . . just what is that something?

  • Relevant, up-to-date information – The PGA Tour app does this really well with multiple feeds of high quality content. But, they’re not the only ones that have or can access fresh content. What content is your audience interested in? How regularly is it generated?
  • Ability to interact, explore, and discover – The PGA Tour app provides jumping off points for more detail and information about the things people care about. It’s useful. Your organization probably has similar resources that can be easily linked or called upon.
  • Relevant information to visitors, whether they are physically there or not – For visitors that need to find an ATM or restroom, the PGA Tour app can help. For audience that isn’t, they get a decent overview of the course and surroundings. What have you found in your organization that customers and visitors care most about? What do they need most when on site? It might be as simple as the fact that your restrooms have diaper changing tables. Parents, you understand this.

Never forget that what you care about and what your audience cares about aren’t always the same thing.

Different Perspectives

A view of a space – be it a golf course or museum – is important to visitors and attractive to those that might visit in the future. The live mobile map aspect of the PGA Tour app is of particular interest here at Whitepoint, because it illustrates the difference in perspectives in mapping and navigation.

Rather than the traditional top down map view of a space, maybe you should provide users a point-of-view perspective. How interesting would the mobile maps of the PGA courses be from that viewpoint?

Golden Gate Whitepoint Tour App Point of View

Here’s a point of view perspective in Whitepoint of the visitor plaza at the Golden Gate Bridge. A top down map view just wouldn’t be as effective.

In a smaller museum space, rather than a top down view of the facility, how about the point of view walking through the space? What you see in the app is what you see in your visit. This perspective is easily captured with a smartphone camera, or from more advanced camera equipment if you wish.

The free Whitepoint framework provides this option in perspective for building your mobile tour.

Details. Details. Details.

Finally, as mapping evolves and the demand for apps like the PGA Tour app grows, users are becoming hungrier for details. For example, what’s the historical significance of that hole on that course? What are pointers that pro golfers could recommend about a particular sandtrap?

Your organization has similar areas of interest. The pieces in a museum exhibition are an easy example. But, think of retail items in a store or the nutritional content of items on a menu. What can you share with users and visitors that will make their experience more compelling and encourage them to share it with others?

Detail is important. It’s becoming a part of generating quality content. And, it can make decent images far more compelling. Luckily, you don’t have to have the PGA Tour app budget to make it happen.

What’s your perspective on the above? Let us know with a comment below. And, to get started with a mobile tour experience, visit Whitepoint’s Getting Started page.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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A Low Cost Android Tablet Recommendation

Android was the recommended OS in our previous blog post on providing a self guided tour app.

We actually have been digging a little deeper into the topic for some time. To test how much hardware life one could expect at what price point, we gave a toddler a low cost Android tablet.

The thinking was that the toddler would be the worst case scenario in terms of letting a museum visitor or tourist run off with a tablet.  (Insert your industry specific joke here.)

Our Low Cost Android Subject

We settled on the Zeepad 7.0 Allwinner, 7″ single camera Android tablet for our extended evaluation. This unit was – at the time of writing – available on Amazon.com for $59.99.

Zeepad tablet running Android - complete with Whitepoint app

Zeepad tablet running Android – complete with Whitepoint app, gel skin, and dirty screen protector.

We also added a screen protector. Be sure you get a custom fit one – not one you have to cut to fit. This mistake will cost you time and a headache. Our Zeepad shipped with a custom fit screen protector, but the . . . er, toddler screwed ours up.

Finally, we added an “almost-Whitepoint-red gel skin. This was money well spent at about $10 – $15. We highly recommend this for public applications.

Here’s what we found:

  • First off, the Whitepoint app ran beautifully on the Jelly Bean version of the OS shipping with the Zeepad.
  • Even with erratic toddler turn on / turn off behavior, there have been no issues charging, powering up, or powering down.
  • Wifi connectivity and setup has been flawless.

Here are our two complaints:

  • The power button seems cheap and flimsy, though we (including the toddler) have had no related issues even after several months.
  • The gel skin we bought for the tablet hinders the power adapter plugging in smoothly. We just pull the skin back and plug it in to charge.

When you think about a per tablet investment total of less than $70, even this price point for a self guided tour app roll-out would work for many non-profits. And, like those silly handheld audio tours, a museum or walking tour could charge a small amount to use the Android self guided tour.

Or, Spend a Little More for Your Android Device

For more money, you can get an even more solid Android hardware device. We have experience with the Toshiba Thrive and Samsung tablets, for example. These are a great value and still come in at a lower price point than using an iPad for your self guided tour.

Custom Brand Your Android Tablet

You also have the option to use a custom branded Android tablet. These can be surprisingly economical.

Interested? Let us know how we can help you with tracking down a custom branded tablet for your self guided tour app installation. You can email us at info -at- whitepoint.mobi or on Twitter @WhitepointMobi.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Death in Photos: The Demise of Point-and-Shoot?

Photos are being consumed, and captured, in different ways now. If you’ve been faced with using a film camera recently, it may have been a disorienting experience. That’s even before you go and have the pictures “developed.”

Event digital point-and-shoot digital cameras are feeling the heat. In a recent article by Herb Greenberg (@HerbGreenberg), he stated that the digital camera was without a doubt “going the way of the Polaroid” based on industry numbers.

We could debate this topic all day long with hobbyists and professional photographers. However, what we’re interested in here at Whitepoint is what this tells us about the resulting photos and the ways in which people share and consume photos and related content.

The Quality Versus Relevance of Photos

There is no question that better quality photos can be had with DSLRs or point-and-shoots  than smartphones – though some smartphones can admittedly come close to the untrained eye. But, what are web users looking for? If image quality was first and foremost, this wouldn’t even be up for debate.

Photo of sunset at Key Largo, FL

This photo of a Key Largo sunset was taken with an older Droid4 smartphone. No effects were added.
Does the photo work well for browsers and apps? Yes.

Furthermore, the technical aspects of photo capturing, sharing, and consumption can’t be ignored. The screens of computers and mobile devices simply don’t require the resolutions that DSLRs and now even point-and-shoots can provide. Back in the day, 72dpi was enough for a computer screen. Even now with higher resolution displays, smartphones are more than capable of providing the necessary resolution when capturing a photo.

For the untrained eye, the filters or effects applied to photos may matter more than resolution when viewing those photos on the web. The content of those photos is of course the primary concern.

Photos Versus Photography

This whole debate boils down to user or viewer expectations, and this can be an uncomfortable topic in certain circles.

Professional photographers are no doubt helpful – or even necessary – when designing something for print.

But, are professional photographers required for building a mobile or virtual tour for online delivery? To put it nicely, it’s doubtful.

Why? More and more, it’s about relevance, timeliness, and quantity of photos. Take a look at the adoption of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – “quality” and the art of capturing images have necessarily taken a backseat.

As people who appreciate photography, not just photos, this is painful to admit. However,   it’s a real truth of the marketplace and state of the technology.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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