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CommunityWalk Blog

Friday, September 30, 2005

Safari Support

I've noticed some grumblings around the internet about the fact that CommunityWalk crashes Safari. I'd like to take this time to clarify things as well as ask for some help if any exists.

1) It is enormously important for me to get Safari working. I feel quite embarrassed that CommunityWalk is actually crashing some browsers out there (I have tried running CommunityWalk on some Safari browsers here at work and they do not crash - they are all running version 1.3v312m, which I think is the latest, so maybe earlier versions crash ???)

2) I don't actually own a mac or have easy access to one. I can poke around on one at work, but there are some fairly serious problems with CommunityWalk on Safari so I would really need to get a mac to bring home and test against before I can get these issues resolved.

Clarifications aside, I apologize tremendously if CommunityWalk crashed your browser or if Safari is your main browser and it really annoys you that you can't use CommunityWalk on it. I really do want to get it fixed asap.

So if you are a safari js expert or know of one and want to lend a hand to getting this problem fixed please let me know ( ). I'm not exactly sure how I would work it, but I could probably give you ftp access to the test environment so that you could try to fix these problems. If there are no takers, then I should be able to get to it myself in the near future. In the meantime I apologize for the inconvenience.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Google Maps Hacks

A couple of months ago O'Reilly was generous enough to invite me to the Where 2.0 conference based on my prototype for CommunityWalk. While there I met Schuyler Erle and Rich Gibson, who liked the idea behind CommunityWalk and asked me to write a chapter for their upcoming book, Google Maps Hacks. Well I did and I have had it confirmed that my article will be in chapter 5 of the book which is already on sale at Amazon.

It's been a while since I've seen the article, actually, and CommunityWalk has come a long way since then, so hopefully the article isn't too out of sync with reality. Still it's kind of exciting to be in a book :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Next Couple of Weeks

Over the next few weeks, with my current priorities, I am going to be working on the following enhancements:

1) Few more performance enhancements
2) Quicktime/Flash integration into the infowindows
3) Flickr integration
4) Email enhancements to notify users of changes to their communities (eg. someone left a comment)
4) Smaller icon option (for larger communities) with roll-over effects
5) Bulk adding of locations
6) Line drawing capabilities

Those are my current priorities (I think). If anyone wants to suggest anything else please let me know. I also know that front page needs some serious work. I am constantly thinking about how to make the experience for people who come to explore CommunityWalk better. I want to have geographical browsing/searching of communities (eg. maps showing where communities and locations are located), categorical browsing of communities, general searching of communities, last updated, etc. I might try to make incremental changes as time goes on or maybe hire a design firm for some help. I'm not really sure.

I am also not sure what the timeframe for all of this is, and the priorities might change, so stay tuned to this blog for updates. Also check the comments of this post for any changes I might make to the prioritization.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More Problems With Site Stability

The site has been having some problems with stability today. I am working with my hosting company to resolve the issues. Hopefully it will be more stable tomorrow. Very frustrating.

Yah Mahn, We Be Streaming


This has been bugging me for some time now and I almost gave up before I finally figured out a means to stream in the location data in smaller chunks so as to speed up the loading time without seriously affecting other aspects of the user experience or the general performance of the site. Also the techniques I used will help me speed up the tab loading process as well, which is currently a large part of any remaining slowness.

Check out the new streaming functionality on one of the larger Communities:

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Let There Be More Locations

Just finished creating a couple hundred more location markers. There are 323 per color now, with more to come. I am adding them incrementally to make sure that there aren't any serious performance issues with these maps containing hundreds of locations.

In order to avoid some performance issues I put into place a performance enhancement that should speed up the initial map loading process. I have a number of other performance enhancements in mind that I will be implementing over the coming weeks as well.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Creating Location Bug

I accidentally released a bug that prevented people from creating a new location on CommunityWalk today around 3pm PST. The bug was there for about an hour while I fixed it. It is fixed now. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused anyone.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

More Positive Feedback

The reviews of CommunityWalk have been slowly trickling in over the past week or so and have been very positive. I am going to work many of these comments into the new homepage when it is done (it's going to be a little while though). In the meantime I just wanted to share a couple.

From Linda in Colorado:

... also, you may NEVER close this ........ charge, do whatever you need to do ... this is an amazing service.

best regards, and again, this is FABULOUS!!!!

From Dave in Cleveland

Absolutely Fantastic Product!!!! ...I absolutely love your product

From Weston (location unknown)

Very Nice Website, I have been looking for something like this for a while!

Please keep the feedback coming in, good and bad!

Number 5 Is Alive

(Short Circuit -- Great Movie)

Why the odd title you might ask. I was just reminded of this little quote when I saw the latest post about CommunityWalk on the GoogleMapsMania blog, comes to life. As usual Mike and his fellow bloggers are right on top of everything . If you are interested in all of the mashups that are being created using GoogleMaps and you don't already subscribe to GoogleMapsMania I highly recommend checking it out. It is currently my primary source of information about this stuff.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hurricane Ophelia Pics

One of my close friends lives in North Carolina and is now dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ophelia. Although it is a far cry from the damage wrought by Katrina or, potentially, Rita, there was still quite a bit of flooding going on down there in their sleepy little beach town. He's created a map showing pictures of his surrounding area and how it was affected. The map puts the pictures in a context that can really help you understand what you are looking at.

Check it out!

Now Tracking Community Modifications

Taking a small step towards the complete overhaul of the CommunityWalk Home Page I changed it a bit today to display the last modification date for each community. The list of public communities is now sorted by the last modification date as well, so you can tell which communities have recently been changed. Hopefully this will make it a little easier to find new communities to explore. I plan on really expanding on this functionality, creating search functionality, rss functionality, a map to show where all communities and locations are, organizing by category, etc. etc. It is really important to me to create an intuitive interface for finding communities based on any number of criteria.

Note: CommunityWalk started tracking the modification date as of tonight (9/20/05), so any changes made previously were not recorded. If a community has not changed since tonight then it will display its create date.

Design Help

I have decided to look for some design help for CommunityWalk. If anyone knows a good designer that can communicate well, has a great sense of design, is technically competent, and would be interested in this project please let me know.

I am beginning to think about the challenges surrounding the user's experience trying to find a community. Right now it is not easy for someone to find a recently updated community, a community that is located in a geographic area, a community that is about a specific subject, a community that has a certain number of locations, that is popular, etc.

As CommunityWalk grows this is going to become increasingly important so I want to get on it now. If done well then CommunityWalk will become a very quality product for people that want to find out information about an area they are traveling to, moving to, or just want to explore. It will allow people to better plan trips, locate people and things, highlight their organizations that are spread out across the world, etc. It will also be a great tool for learning about and exploring the world around us from the ground level, from the perspectives of people that live locally. The possibilities are endless, but will be worthless unless I can put together a good design for finding the community you want when you want it.

This is a significant creative challenge that I have been wrestling with for some time, so if someone knows someone that would be up for the challenge please let me know. It would be a bonus if he or she was good with ruby on rails and javascript.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Good Business Sense?

This probably doesn't make the most sense from a business sense, and it may lead to me needing to pay more for hosting, but I just can't stand people who are creating interesting communities stopping because they've hit the limit on locations or photos. So I've bumped everyone up to 50 locations and 6 photos by default. Have fun with it and please donate if you can.

Communities From All Parts Of The World

I was exploring the site today and came across a new community created from the Bay of Paranagua. As an American I feel terribly uneducated about some parts of the world (yes, I admit it is a significant problem). Seeing a map of distant places with pictures taken from people that live in those places is really magical (corny I know, but true, at least for me).

In any case you can check it out here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Keep 'Em Coming

I have really enjoyed looking at all the communities people are creating and I want to encourage people to create more. So I've increased the number of communities that people can create before donating to 4. Potentially, if I can find an advertising solution that works I will remove the donation restrictions completely. I'd really love to do that, but currently CommunityWalk is not making any money and I can't afford any significant hosting costs. Hence the donation restrictions in general.

Publicize! It'll Do Wonders For Your Love Life!

For all you Community creators out there I have a simple request. If it is at all possible, publicize your communities. It is currently really quite difficult to find a community that has not been publicized and I know there are some fantastic maps out there that have been created but not publicized. It really enhances the visiting user's experience if there are more publicized communities to explore.

So Publicize 'Em!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Some Planned Enhancements

- Flickr Integration (Enter username or email and date range) and just select your pics. It will automatically generate a link to your Flickr page.

- Adjust the style on the photos to eliminate white space on smaller photos.

- Allow users to view photos in a smaller size so that the whole infowindow fits on a smaller screen. This would be a link that toggles between the current photo infowindow and the smaller one.

- Allow users to show flash and quicktime in the photo infowindow. (Inspired by the London Panoramics)

- New advertising scheme. I would love to allow people to place advertisements on their own communities. Would this interest anyone.

- New Tab called "Recent" that will show all locations in the order they were added/modified. This is good for evolving communities such as the MMPG Community.

- Many more tutorials

- Much more...

Please let me know if you have suggestions.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Highlighting Two Useful Communities

There are two communities that a number of people are finding useful.

The first details the area in and around Bar Harbor Maine, including Acadia National Park.

The second shows where a number of companies that produce Massive Multi-Player Online Games are head-quartered.

Both of these communities are fairly complete in their coverage of their respective topics and are worth checking out.


The Bar Harbor community was created by my father. I'm not mentioning it because of that, though, it really is a very complete map of Bar Harbor and the sights around there and in Acadia. It's a beautiful place to visit.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Site Stability Issues

For the last day or so the site has been going down every hour on the hour. The site is always back up within a minute or two, but it is still very frustrating.

I am working with my hosting company to resolve the issue. It is getting a little frustrating. I am not quite ready to give up on my hosting provider, Planet Argon, as Robby Russell, who runs the company has been instrumental in getting CommunityWalk up and running despite my general naivete with regard to hosting a web application. If anyone knows about a reliable hosting service with great customer service that can host a ruby on rails application,though, I would love to hear about it.

Very Cool Community

Just wanted to take an opportunity to highlight a great community map that Dr Andrew Hudson-Smith created showing a number of panoramic views of London from his blog. The pictures are really spectacular and, placed on a map to show the geographic context, make for an interesting exploration. This is a fantastic use of CommunityWalk. To see the full panoramas you'll need quicktime I believe. To see them just click on the title of each location and the panorama will load in a new window.

Check it out!

Here is a sample panorama showing Westminster Abbey. Really neat.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Unable To Deselect Options On The Configuration Page

I just discovered a bug that prevents people from deselecting any option on the "My Communities" page. I have fixed this bug. So if you tried to remove your community from the list of Public Communities and were unable to do so, you should be fine now.

Friday, September 09, 2005


Wow, intense morning. I had to do an emergency patch to fix a bug I had introduced last night. Of course I didn't realize that it was there until a half an hour after GoogleMapsMania had released their post on the site. The bug killed the application for IE users as soon as they clicked on a link in a description -- brutal.

Well I've got it fixed not, but not without some headache. I've got to be more careful about testing patches completely before releasing them. It kills me to think that I might have given some people a bad impression of the site because of a simple bug.


GoogleMapsMania did a great piece on the site this morning and it has been drawing a number of hits. Already I have been receiving some feedback like this from Dave in Cleveland:

I just wanted to send you some quick feedback and also let you know that I absoluately love your product This is the product that Google Maps needs in order for non-programmers to leverage its power. Great Job.

Hopefully more people will find the site useful as well.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Create A Community" Button Bug Resolved

Yikes, the "Create A Community" Button on the home page was not working. I just noticed it tonight and have resolved it already. Scary that I can miss something so obvious though! I really need to implement some more automated testing!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Site Down

The site has been having intermittent downtimes that I am working hard to correct for. In the meantime if the site appears to be down give it a couple of minutes and try again, hopefully it will be back up.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Single Digit Icons

I cleaned up the single digit icons to remove the slight white border around them. They take a bit longer to load but are much cleaner looking. I debated whether or not to do it and suffer the performance hit, but decided that the performance hit did not outweight the appearance improvement.

New Icons

I updated the icons last night. There are more caregories (18) as well as more icons per category now (currently 71 although I can easily expand that up to around 1000 or so if necessary) and they look cleaner. I did notice that there is a slight white border around them that I will need to clean up, other than that I think they are going to be fairly permanent.