Google My Maps: Functionality and Uses

Posted by celyn

Jason has asked me to look into Google’s My Maps in order to geographically map out the Reading Series’ readers to maximize connections and our understanding of the Series.


I have already sent everyone “Invitations” to become Collaborators on the map, but the link is here also.  The Test Map was done through my personal Google account, so we would have to set up Google account for Spoken Web so that it’s accessible to all as Creators rather than Collaborators. We can also set up a Spoken Web Google Profile so that viewers can find out more about our work, links etc.


Before I list the functions and issues I found with the map, I’ll explain what I have mapped in the Test Map. I chose a few poets (Atwood, Kiyooka, Hecht, MacEwen, Jones and Ginsberg) and mapped out their Birth Places. Each is posted at a location (which is largely inaccurate because I’m not choosing street addresses) within a city. In the Location’s Title, I included Name & Birth Place Location (eg. Anthony Hecht Birth Place: New York City). Then, in the description I copied what was included in our Introductions of the transcript (Bio, etc). I mapped out three options for Roy Kiyooka: Birth place, place associated with and time spent in Montreal. We can choose to use a photo or a graphic icon (pin point) to mark the location. I’ve used photos on my Test Map for Poets’ locations, and pin points for Campus locations and points of interest. As you can see, using photos is visually more interesting, but can become problematic if there are several points in close proximity to each other. See test kittens and puppies in the west end of Montreal. Your input would be largely appreciated before I begin creating the ‘real’ maps.


Google Maps says that there are options to add video but I’ve been having technical difficulties and can’t seem to embed video. It would be great to get Youtube videos of poets reading at different times, but not essential at this point. No option to add audio, though Matt or Jared might have a better idea about embedding Sound Cloud clips.


I also added a few “areas” like Concordia’s Campus etc.



  • Map title, descriptions: can be Plain Text, Rich Text of HTML
  • Public/ Private (unlisted); however unlisted just means unlisted, it is still a public URL, it’s just not searchable.
  • User Profiles
  • Routes w/ icons
  • Draw Shapes around areas w/ descriptions
  • Can Add photos to locations: Must be done through Google’s PicasaWeb or a photo online that has a URL. If this photo is removed from the user or the site it was taken from goes down, the photo will not show up on Maps.
  • Icons for specific places
  • Videos to areas (Youtube or Google Video only) No information about adding audio.
  • Can link map to website (basic: link, advanced: shows  the map on your site)
  • Can also import KML or GeoRSS to the map
  • Invite others to collaborate on your map, or enable anyone to edit the map.
  • Sharing map: through URL, Email
  • Able to overlay other information like photos, weather, public transit, real estate or hotel bookings. (Check the Add Content setting). Possibility of creating content (using third-party developers) by contacting google.
  • Also able to sort ‘order’ of icons in left-hand tool bar
  • IPhone etc. accessible
  • Specific locations on the map can be emailed, however the email shows the icon in its location (eg. DeMaisonneuve and Guy) but not any of the metadata, until you click the link and it shows on google maps.
  • Can add Photo as an “Icon” by finding a jpg or similar file already online and


Potential issues:

  • Can’t add both video and text in the description. One or the other, because a video is embedded in the HTML format and recognizes regular text as html (or doesn’t recognize it). Perhaps Matt can take a look at posting a video because perhaps I am embedding the wrong code, etc.


Google’s Instructions for adding video:

Adding videos

You can add Google Video and YouTube videos to your map.

To add videos:

  1. Create or open a map.
  2. Click the appropriate placemark, line, or shape. The info window appears.
  3. Click Edit.
  4. Choose Edit HTML.
  5. Find the video you want on YouTube or Google Video. Copy the snippet of code that lets you embed the video into a website or blog.
    • On Google Video, the snippet looks like this:
      <embed style=”width:400px; height:326px;” src=”” flashvars=””> </embed>
    • On YouTube, the snippet looks like:
      <object width=”425″ height=”350″><param value=””></param><param value=”transparent”></param><embed src=”” wmode=”transparent” width=”425″ height=”350″></embed></object>
  6. Paste the snippet of code into the description field of your placemark, line or shape.
  7. Click OK to save your changes.


When I follow these steps, the video does not appear and the text is not there anymore. ??


  • While I was editing the map, the server said that Google was having technical difficulties. (Error Code 22)…


  • I also ‘lost’ one of my icons after I had saved the information. If it hadn’t been an Allen Ginsberg icon, which I looked for after, I may not have noticed. Notes about how many icons are on the map when editing the map might be helpful to take to ensure this won’t happen again.


  • Unable to ‘download’ the map and insert in eg. Powerpoint or Word doc. Screen shots suffice for now, but because the maps are so interactive, downloading data and turning into another form of document is not possible at the moment.


One other thing to note is that we are using a current map to show events that happened 40 years ago. Issues like SGWU now being Concordia, etc, may need to be taken into consideration when setting up Icon descriptions and place location descriptions.


Maps should be as simple as possible, and labels or titles need to be as clear as possible. Otherwise, like in the Test map, when several criteria are included in one map, the connections between readings and readers could be less clear and more muddled.


My line of thinking is that we should have several maps, though the option to layer maps to find new connections would be interesting, I’m concerned about clarity first.


  1. Birth Place Map
  2. Location that the author is most associated with (eg. Vancouver Renaissance, Black Mountain etc.)
  3. Time spent in Montreal: This is a lot more tricky in terms of grouping many icons spatially and might be better as a timeline, but we can test it out.



Any other suggestions? I’ll keep posting as I go along and create ‘real’ maps.


UPDATE POST: April 13, 2010

Created gmail account:

I have the password, but won’t post it here.


I have completed the first map, using poets’ Birthplaces. When perusing it, make sure to be patient. There is a lot of data and it takes a few seconds to load. The link is here:,-97.15369&sspn=16.71875,56.536561&ll=49.891235,-97.15369&spn=26.054149,75.146484&t=h&z=4


I decided to use poets’ photos because it’s visually more interesting, though I don’t have permission to use them. I’ve cited where the photo was taken from. They are still a bit obtuse to use because they get bigger as you zoom out and crowd over each other. Perhaps after looking over the map we can discuss whether the photos are working or not.


I was able to link to the SoundCloud recording, which is a really neat feature. The link takes you to the SoundCloud site, and plays the recording.


I’ll keep updating as I add more maps and run into other issues/ observations.

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