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CommunityWalk Blog

Saturday, October 29, 2005

It's Like You're There!

I just finished some significant enhancements to the Google Earth integration in CommunityWalk, and, if I do say so myself, they're pretty cool!

The enhancements integrate all of the location information, including photos and comments into Google Earth so you can see all of your information from within Google Earth. The Google Earth view also now simulates the CommunityWalk view, providing an easily recognizable starting point.

A good example is the map my girlfriend made of a trip we took to Yosemite National Park with her parents. You can see the map on CommunityWalk here.

Once the map loads you can click "Share" in the bottom right corner and then "Google Earth". You must have Google Earth installed to do this, but it is a free download that you can find here.

Here is a screenshot of the map in CommunityWalk.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Here is a screenshot of the same map in Google Earth. Notice how it looks very much the same as it looks in CommunityWalk. This is how it looks when it is first loaded.

Click on the image for a larger version.

With some manipulation of Google Earth, though, we can see this map in a whole new way, with 3d images of Yosemite Valley to really make it come alive!

Click on the image for a larger version.

Want to see it for yourself? Just goto the CommunityWalk Map, click "Share" in the bottom right corner, and click "Google Earth".

You might have to familiarize yourself a bit with the controls of Google Earth before you can enjoy the full experience. More information and instruction on using Google Earth can be found here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

WooHoo! CommunityWalk Crashed My Safari

Finally, I have gotten hold of a mac and updated it to the latest and greatest version of Safari. Low and behold, CommunityWalk crashed it. I clicked once on the map and bye bye Safari! This is great news. I can now finally fix it and improve my standings among the many people out there who rely on Safari as their primary browser!

Now I just have to fix it...

Cool New Functionality (At Least I Think So)

So I just finished up an enhancement that provides code to put your community onto your own website. A lot of people have been taking screenshots to include on their own websites, so hopefully they will like this functionality. The map that is included is a "lite" version that is meant to refer people back to CommunityWalk. I am fully open to feedback on this and hope that I get some, so please let me know what you think.

Here is an example of the first sample community I ever created:

You can get the code for your own iframe map on your "My Communities" page just below where you enter in the description for the community. The content of the frame is also customizable and I did my best to provide instructions on how to customize it there as well.

Interestingly enough if you just go to the source of the iframe you get a cool full screen map:


P.S. I realize that it is hard to figure out the extra params for customizing your iframe. It is difficult to determine the zoom level and basically impossible to easily figure out the latitude and longitude if you want to customize that. I am working on a better solution for this. Sorry about the inconvenience in the meantime.

Friday, October 21, 2005

CommunityWalk Helping Save Lives

Kathryn Cramer, of the previously mention Pakistan Earthquake CommunityWalk Map, has been doing some amazing work helping the relief situation in Pakistan. She was instrumental in getting a ban on satellite imagery of the affected areas removed. She and I were both recently interviewed by Clark Boyd of an international news program called The World that is co-produced by the BBC World Service and WGBH Public Radio in Boston.

You can listen to the interview here:
(warning this is a windows media file)

Keep up the great work, Kathryn!

CommunityWalk Will Change The World

Well maybe not, but some people think it has potential to produce some significant change :) Check out this article and be sure to email the author to let him know what you think about CommunityWalk!

Disruptive Start-Ups on ZDNet

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Good User Feedback

I got a note today from Jim in Harlem, NYC, who did not like the fact that people were required to log in to add to his community.

The difficulty with requiring that each participant in
an online community 'register' when she first clicks
on any 'link' to CommunityWalk is that the sequence of
registration screens (which includes waiting for an
confirming E-mail) does not 'now' lead one back to the
original community.

The registrant is left with a generic screen with no
instruction to re-access the original url.

Its necessary that the participant 're-link' to the
original url, then login with the new ID and PW after
discovering the 'login is necessary..' label at the
bottom of the screen. Then she is presented with the
HarlemHomes Screen.

I suspect this procedure will discourage many
participants from adding a new address to the map.

I think this is great feedback and a good point. I hadn't really considered that particular workflow. I've decided to implement a username/password scheme that will be generated for each community that the owner of the community can give out, providing people with an easy way to add to their maps, but discouraging spam.

It'll be a little while before this enhancement is in place, but it is high on the list. I just wanted to take a moment to highlight this feedback. I don't get enough feedback and really want to encourage people to send me any information like this that could help improve the product.

Thanks Jim!

Downtime and Wierd Issues

CommunityWalk has been experiencing some more chronic downtime to the point that I've decided to upgrade the server software. Please let me know if you see any bugs with the new software as I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to test it. Also for the next couple of hours there might be some more downtime as we get this ironed out...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Fantastic News - Site Redesign On The Way

Over the past few weeks I have been increasingly frustrated with the terrible looking frontpage and the total lack of search/explore/browse functionality for CommunityWalk. People have been adding great content and there is no design to help you find that content at all besides the little effort I put into the front page. In general I have been looking to put together a complete redesign of the front page with extensive search/explore/browse functionality underneath. Unfortunately I haven't had the time.

Well my saving grace has come along. I've just worked out a deal with Ideacodes, a strategic design firm in San Francisco run by Emily Chang and Max Kiesler who put together the popular eHub site, to help me with the redesign. I've already met with them and they are very excited about the project and have a lot of ideas about the design of the site.

It's still going to be a lot of work on my side, so it'll be some time before anything is in place, but at least now things are on track to put a redesign in place. I really think this has the potential to make CommunityWalk a very legitimate, useful, and fun to explore website. Most importantly, though, it will better highlight all of the amazing content people have been putting on the site, sharing their communities and general perspectives on the world!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Smaller Icons, Roll-Over Effects

So I released an enhancement last night that lets people have more control over the type of icon displayed on their community. For some larger communities a smaller icon makes more sense to display. Also there is now roll-over functionality that displays the title of the marker when you roll your mouse over it. I am constantly looking for ways to make the maps as informative and easy to use as possible, and, so far, I am happy with the result of this enhancement.

There are a couple of issues that I have been noticing since the release. If you are also seeing bugs please let me know so that I can properly address them.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Looking For A Partner Or Two

I'm coming to the conclusion that I need to find someone to work with on this project. So I am now actively looking for a partner in crime. The most important criteria is that the person must be an absolutely passionate (bordering on obsessive) entrepreneur who is fun to work with and has technical abilities that can help this project. CommunityWalk has been developed using Ruby On Rails, Javascript, DHtml, and MySQL. In general I would love to find someone who I can build a true company with, using CommunityWalk, client work, and other reasonably sized projects to generate revenue. Already CommunityWalk is showing considerable promise and has attracted attention from a couple of places that I will be announcing on this blog in the coming weeks.

Oh and it would be best if the person were located in San Francisco.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

User Testing From Mexico

So I've been in Mexico for the last few days, checking on CommunityWalk from internet cafes. It's been a great experience and has given me some great insights into a user's experience that does not have as fast a connection, as powerful a computer or as large of a screen as I have at home. I hope to make some significant improvements with regard to these factors soon.

I was also able to take quite a few pictures down here of the fantastic little city of Guanajuato and I will be putting together a CommunityWalk map of it as soon as possible. It also made me realize that I need to make larger more vibrant pictures available, so as soon as I can I am going to start capturing larger pictures as well as smaller, more compressed pictures.

Lots of exciting stuff to come!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Islamabad Earthquake

So I have been in Mexico visiting friends for the Columbus day weekend. Little did I know that a significant earthquake had hit Islamabad. Well Kathryn Cramer quickly put together a map showing the affected areas allowing people to see some first hand account photos and locations of the earthquake and its aftershocks.

I wish I was in the States, at my computer so that I could help more with the effort, but at the very least the system is holding up well.

Thanks Kathryn for putting that together. I'm very happy that CommunityWalk allowed you to put together such an informative map in such a short amount of time.

Friday, October 07, 2005

More Performance Enhancements

I am constantly trying to get CommunityWalk to be as fast and responsive as possible. My latest effort is to break up the information a bit and display markers on the map right away and then go back and fill them in with more information as that information is received. The result may be confusing a bit, but I hope not. If people this to be too confusing please let me know. To see the effect you may have to view one of the larger communities, like the community.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

CommunityWalk's First Donation

Well CommunityWalk hasn't quite generated enough money through advertising and donations to justify any significant donation so I just went ahead and donated $50 to the Katrina relief efforts. It's not much, but, just as with donating to CommunityWalk, every little bit helps.

I probably won't be making these donations monthly until CommunityWalk has a more significant cash flow, but I will make them regularly. In the future I will not be disclosing the amount as I don't want CommunityWalk's financials to be public knowledge, but in this case, as the amount does not reflect CommunityWalk's actual financial situation, I thought it would be ok.

CommunityWalk Featured On eHub

CommunityWalk just got a little more press on a new site, eHub, in the form on an interview. The site details a number of Web 2.0 applications and the people behind them. In general it really feels like there is some momentum building here. Hopefully CommunityWalk will be able to take advantage of this momentum, allowing me to work full-time on it or even bring on some help.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Back Up And Running

Well it was a hectic morning, but I finally got through to the Google Maps Team and they helped me get back up and running. In general they are going to look towards providing more of a staging ground for these changes so that developers like myself won't wake up to find their applications broken. I hope it didn't cause anyone too many problems.

Google Just Broke CommunityWalk

Last night Google released a significant change to their maps. You can see the difference on This change has completely broken parts of CommunityWalk. I am working hard to fix these problems and I apologize for any inconvenience.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Sahweeet Flickr Integration

I just released an enhancement that integrates CommunityWalk with Flickr! So far it lets you see your public recent photos or photos that are in photosets. It is not as fast as I would like and is a little rough around the edges, but it's pretty slick nonetheless.

To try it out just go through the process of adding photos like you normally would, but when the photo upload page displays click "Grab Photos From Flickr". This will display a new page that lets you enter your Flickr username or email and will pull up your photos for you, including the title, description and an automatic link back to Flickr.

And yes, I realize this sort of makes CommunityWalk the bastard child of Google and Yahoo, but it makes CommunityWalk a better application, so there wasn't much of a choice.

Hope you all enjoy.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Web 2.0 Hype

So the Web 2.0 conference is going to be taking place in San Francisco this week and seems to be generating a lot of buzz. In particular people are debating all over the place what Web 2.0 means.

A lot of people call it an empty buzz word. It is obviously a buzz word, but I think there is some meat behind it and that the value of a definition lies in helping people who have never heard of most of these new technologies understand what is going on.

Personally if I were to try and explain it to my mother then I would simply say this:

Web 2.0 is simply people beginning to harness the power of the web as a communication and collaboration tool, enabling the efficient sharing of information from person to person, person to computer, and computer to computer.

Just my thoughts on it.