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Data Preparation Guide[edit]

This section exists to help you successfully prepare data that you ultimately want to upload into and create StoryLayers. We will walk you through the data formats that MapStory accepts, how to structure your time information, and common mistakes to avoid. We also provide a set of example datasets that you can use as a guide.

The kinds of data MapStory supports[edit]

Currently users can upload the following types of data files: CSV and Shapefile. No matter what kind of format you use to upload data, or what type of information is captured by your data, you will need to have three basic bits of information for each of your features: Latitude, Longitude and Time.

Uploading CSVs[edit]

CSV files are a great option if your StoryLayer will just be a set of points. The easiest way to prepare a dataset as a CSV is to use Microsoft Excel, or a Google Spreadsheet. First, open up Excel and start a new Worksheet. Next you'll want to create column headers for every type of "attribute" you want in your StoryLayer. At a minimum, you will need these three columns in your spreadsheet: Latitude, Longitude and Time. Here's a video to help you get your spreadsheet in the right format for upload, with geocoded Latitude and Longitude coordinates:

Here's links to three .CSV spreadsheets that are ready to be uploaded to as a StoryLayer:

Example dataset 1
Example datatset 2
Example dataset 3

As you prepare your spreadsheet, avoid some of these common mistakes:

  • Make sure to save your spreadsheet in the .CSV format (rather then .xl for example).
  • Don't leave any spaces in your column headers. For example, if your heading is two words enter it like this: "Two_words" rather than like this: "Two words".
  • Don't leave any cells empty. If you have missing information for a cell, you will need to enter some placeholder value, or delete the row for that cell altogether
  • Make sure your time information all follows a supported time format. Currently the MapStory uploader supports the following time formats:
Jun 2012—MMM-y

Uploading Shapefiles[edit]

The shapefile format is a popular geospatial vector data format for geographic information system (GIS) software. It is developed and regulated by Esri as a (mostly) open specification for data interoperability among Esri and other GIS software products. The shapefile format can spatially describe vector features: points, lines, and polygons, representing, for example, water wells, rivers, and lakes. Each item usually has attributes that describe it, such as name or temperature.

Here are links to example shapefiles that you can download and examine:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

How to Structure Time Information[edit]

Time information in MapStory can be represented by instantanous or continuous events.

Instantaneous Events

An instantaneous (or simple) event occurs in a unique point in time. In uploading StoryLayers with instantaneous events, MapStory only requires one data column to describe the time of such occurrences.

Continuous Events

A continuous event occurs in a prolonged span of time, therefore it has start and end times. In uploading StoryLaters with continuous events, MapStory requires two columns with time attributes, one specifying the start time and the other for end time.

Whether you have instantaneous or continuous events, you will need to make sure your time information is in a format that MapStory will understand. Currently the uploader supports the following time formats:

Jun 2012—MMM-y

Map Projection[edit]

Commonly, a map projection is a systematic transformation of the latitudes and longitudes of locations on the surface of a sphere into a flat map. Map projections are necessary for creating maps. All map projections distort the surface in some fashion. Depending on the purpose of the map, some distortions are acceptable and others are not; therefore, different map projections exist in order to preserve some properties of the sphere-like body at the expense of other properties. There is no limit to the number of possible map projections. Currently, all StoryLayers on MapStory are projected using the WGS84 projection. If you have data in a different projection that you would like to upload and are having trouble, submit a UserSnap ticket.

Creating StoryLayers Guide[edit]

Using the CREATE LAYER wizard[edit]

If you don't have data to upload into MapStory, you can still add new StoryLayers by using the "Create StoryLayer" widget, which is accessible from the website header under Create>Create StoryLayers. The Create StoryLayer tool is great for initiating community editing projects on difficult topics for which its hard to find existing data. Its also great for situations where you know all the information you want to map in your head already, and just need a place to put it down with a few clicks.

Grab create.jpg

Just like as in the regular Upload process, you'll be asked to give your StoryLayer a name. Then, you will be asked to indicate the Type of StoryLayer you are creating. By Type, we are looking for the type of features that you will want to create in your StoryLayer (i.e. points, lines polygons). Third, you'll be asked to define the Attributes that you will collect about your features. For example, if you are going to create a StoryLayer intended to show the spread of Italian restaurants in your town, your Attributes might be things like "Restaurant_Name", "Date_Opened", "Owners_Name", "Capacity_Seating", etc. You should think hard on this step, because once your StoryLayer is created you won't be able to add or change your attributes later. As you create your attributes, you'll also be asked to determine what kind of data will be inputed (such as text, numbers or a date). Finally, you'll set your permission settings, indicating whether this StoryLayer should be public or private and whether it should be open to editing by the community or just by you. And then you're ready to Create!

Once your StoryLayer is created, just like with regular imports you will be taken to the StoryLayer Settings modal and be asked to complete your metadata. Once you've done this, your likely next step is ti start adding features to your StoryLayer, since it will have been created without any features to show.

Adding Metadata for new StoryLayers[edit]

Metadata means simply the "data about the data". It is like the ISBN number or Dewey Decimal assignment that you might see on a book you check out from a library. Completing metadata allows MapStory to organize content in a coherent way and empower curators to review the quality and accuracy of the sources upon which StoryLayers and MapStories are produced. Any time you upload new data into MapStory to create a StoryLayer, you will be asked to complete a set of metadata fields that sit in the StoryLayer Settings modal accessible from the StoryLayer details page.


The title should make it clear what the MapStory is about. It is also appropriate to include the start and end dates for the MapStory. Take this title for example: "Contiguous US Population by County (1790-Present)".


The Summary is where you provide a brief description of your MapStory, so that the reader will quickly understand what your MapStory is about.


Add as many keywords to the metadata of StoryLayers and MapStories as you can think of. Keywords will help other Storytellers find your MapStory. Furthermore, even include keywords that may only apply to a subset of your StoryLayer, because sometimes Storytellers will want to take a small part of your MapStory and use that for their own story. For example, a StoryTeller may be looking for a StoryLayer on the breakup on Sudan in 2011. There is no independent StoryLayer on this, but this is included in a global border changes StoryLayer. The StoryTeller can cut the relevant features out of the global data that only apply to Sudan, South Sudan and Abyei. Therefore, the keywords of the global borders changes StoryLayer and MapStory should be lengthy like this:

borders Montenegro states East Timor Annual Serbia boundaries Sudan North Yemen Yugoslavia world global West Germany Ethiopia Countries Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Croatia administrative country South Sudan Germany level 0 Kosovo USSR South Yemen Eritrea Indonesia East Germany


Select the Categories that most correspond to the StoryLayer and MapStory. These categories help with finding MapStories and building StoryTeller communities around certain topics. For now, we have settled on the following eight categories: Biography, Crisis, Culture & Ideas, Geopolitics, Health, Human Settlement, Nature & Environment, Science & Industry. We believe these eight encompass most all of what Storytellers will represent in MapStory. If you would like to suggest a new category, or challenge an existing one, write to us at


Under purpose, write why you created this StoryLayer. This is important because this will help StoryTellers learn whether they can use their StoryLayer for their own. Sometimes StoryLayers are relevant, but are formatted for specific tasks. It is important to know this before using it in order to avoid frustration. For example, a StoryLayer on global border changes year by year should not be used as is to tell the story of the independence struggle of East Timor for two reasons. The border has been smoothed and simplified (i.e. the border becomes less accurate the more you zoom in) and only shows change year by year when a StoryLayer on independence should be at least precise to the level of months. Therefore, the purpose for the StoryLayer should look something like this:

This data was created specifically for Storylayers that look at global change year by year, like annual oil exports and failed states index.

Data Source

Write where you got your data here. Include hyperlinks to the original data source if available.

Here is an example of a data source statement, which was used for a StoryLayer on global border changes:

The Humanitarian Information Unit in the Department of State provided Simplified World Polygons at

Statistische Ämter des Bunder und der Länder (Statistical Offices of the Federation and the States) in Germany provided Administrative Boundaries at These boundaries were used to construct the old West and East Germany.

The Ministry of Public Health & Population of Yemen (with help from USAID) provided districts of Yemen at These district boundaries were used to reconstruct the old North Yemen and South Yemen.

The author consulted the Wikipedia article on "List of national border changes since World War I" in order to determine when new countries appear and others lost territory. Some changes were ignored and a complete list of recorded changes follows in the data quality statement.

Data Quality Statement

This is where you should discuss what your data includes beyond the viewing screen, limitations of the data, licensing and terms of use, and explain the names of columns in the attribute table.

Here is an example of a data quality statement, which was used for a StoryLayer on global border changes:

In an attempt to get a Storylayer with as few polygons as possible while retaining a global geography, the Storylayer was created by extracting as few polygons per country as possible (largely ignoring small islands).

When changes happened during a year, the country polygon is represented as changed for the whole year. For example when South Sudan gained independence during July of 2011, it's polygon appear in 2011. By recording the dates as years and not months and days, the dataset avoided showing many different polygons for the USSR as it broke up in 1991.

If a place is in dispute between two countries, the name field is just filled in with the name of the place, like ABYEI (and not the name of any of the disputant countries). Therefore, some names were changed from the original State Department shapefile.

The division of Berlin is not included in this shapefile as the West/East division was determined using the German Administrative divisions shapefile that always kept Berlin in the same administrative unit at multiple administrative levels.

The border changes that were recorded follows and the text comes from the Wikipedia article cited in Supplemental Information: "1990 May 22 — North Yemen unites with South Yemen. 1990 — East Germany reunites with West Germany on October 3 1991 — With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the USSR is split up into 15 independent states, including the European states of Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine. All the former Soviet republics had their independence recognized by December 26. Slovenia (June 25), Croatia (June 25), and the Republic of Macedonia (September 8) all declare their independence from Yugoslavia. 1992 — Bosnia and Herzegovina declares independence from Yugoslavia on March 1 and is formally recognized on April 6. The remaining rump of Yugoslavia becomes the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (renamed Serbia and Montenegro in 2003). 1993 January 1 — Czechoslovakia is dissolved into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the "Velvet Divorce". 1993 May 24 — Eritrea breaks off from Ethiopia. 2002 May 20 - East Timor gains independence from Indonesia. 2006 June 8 — The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro is dissolved. Montenegro and Serbia each become independent states. 2008 February 17 — Kosovo declares independence from Serbia and is recognized by a number of countries including the United States and western European states, Turkey, and Canada, though its independence is not recognized by Serbia, Greece, Spain, Russia, the People's Republic of China, and a majority of the countries in the world. 2011 July 9 — South Sudan formally obtains independence from The Republic of Sudan."

Normal English names of places are used like North Korea and this dataset is definitely not supposed to be used for a detailed demonstration of border changes and official nomenclature, but rather a simple dataset to show global changes over the last couple decades. Names were chosen for ease of joining tables and not for any other reason.

Editor's Guide[edit]

The goal of editing in MapStory is to make the content you see more complete and accurate. In general, editing focuses on StoryLayers more than MapStories. StoryLayers are the objective fact sets for a given topic. Think of them like a Wikipedia article in the form of a spatio-temporal visualization. MapStories, on the other hand are more of a creative work by a storyteller - more like a YouTube video or a blog post. MapStories are supposed to be subjective and interpretive, while StoryLayers are supposed to be accurate.

In this guide we will specify whether we are talking about editing actions focused on StoryLayers or MapStories, but as a general rule StoryLayers are the important thing when it comes to editing.

Step 1: Make an Account[edit]

To become an editor, you have to be logged in as a registered user.

Step 2: Review our Core Values[edit]

Every member of the MapStory community abides by our Core Values. Before you begin editing, you should take time to review the Core Values and ensure you can agree to them as part of your editing activity.

Step 3: Examine StoryLayers and MapStories you like[edit]

Before you start doing any editing of your own, we encourage you to take a few minutes to explore MapStory and examine StoryLayers and MapStories that you find to be interesting or excellent. Ask yourself, what is it about them that you like? This will help you get a sense of what you're looking for once you start editing.

Step 4: Review the Metadata Standards[edit]

The most important part of any StoryLayer is the metadata that goes with it. Metadata just means "data about the data". Its sort of like the card catalog information we used to have for all books in a library. Metadata helps you find content, categorize it, and get a sense of its origin and quality. Read more about what Metadata means for MapStory here.

Step 5: Start off simple with rating and tagging[edit]

The simplest editing actions you can take are adding overall ratings to StoryLayers, and adding tags to both StoryLayers and MapStories.

Rating StoryLayers

Rating StoryLayers happens on a 5-star scale. A 1-star rating means the StoryLayer is extremely incomplete and inaccurate. A 5 star rating means the StoryLayer is extremely complete and accurate. To apply a rating, just click on the stars you see next to any StoryLayer.

Tagging StoryLayers and MapStories

Tagging can happen for both StoryLayers and MapStories. Simply click inside the tag window, type in your tag, and hit enter. The more tags a StoryLayer or MapStory has, the more likely it is to show up in the search results.

Step 6: Flag StoryLayers[edit]

Flagging StoryLayers is something you do if you feel that the content violates MapStory's Core Values somehow. Perhaps the StoryLayer violates a copyright, and thus violates our Core Value of legality. Or, perhaps the StoryLayer is somehow intends to malign and embarrass a living individual, thus violating our Core Value of civility. Or, perhaps the StoryLayer is just broken and you want to make sure someone is aware of this. To submit a flag, just click on the Flag icon, indicate the reason for your flag and any additional comments. Once you submit your flag, an Administrator will be notified. The notification to the Administrator will include details of who submitted the flag, so ideally the Administrator will respond to you with any questions and an update once the issue is resolved.

Step 7: Add public comments[edit]

Adding threaded public comments is a great way for the entire user community to aware of what you'd like to share about a given StoryLayer or MapStory. To submit a comment, just click inside the Comment box, start typing, and click "Post". Make sure your comments abide by the Core Value of civility!

Step 8: Send private messages[edit]

Private messaging works just like it does in many other social platforms. To send another storyteller a message, just go to their profile page and hit "message". Any messages you send or receive will be tracked for you on your user profile.

Step 9: Edit features in a StoryLayer[edit]

To begin editing a StoryLayer, click the edit button on a StoryLayer detail page. This will launch an editing interface. In the editing interface, you'll see buttons that let you add new features, edit existing features, view all features in the StoryLayer as a table view, and view the edit history of the StoryLayer. Once you make an edit, you will see it reflected in the Edit History. You can also click on edits made by others in the Edit History and click to zoom to the edit on the map. If you feel it is incorrect, you can "Revert" the edit. Doing so will send a notification to the storyteller that created the edit, who may want to engage in an editing dispute with you. Disputes that cannot be resolved will be adjudicated by an administrator.

Step 10: Add lots of features to a StoryLayer at once[edit]

If you have a large number of edits you'd like to make to a StoryLayer, you may want to Append them rather than add them one by one. To Append edits to a StoryLayer, go to the detail page for the StoryLayer you want to append to:

Grab append.jpg

Clicking Append will launch a modal that looks similar to the Upload and Create modals. The concept with append is that you will essentially be "uploading" a set of features, but instead of creating a new StoryLayer, these features will be added to an existing StoryLayer and show up in the edit history as edits.

Step 1 in this process is to download a raw schema for the StoryLayer, so you know exactly how to organize your features in order to have them append successfully to the new StoryLayer. If you are appending a set of points, you will download a .CSV file that can be opened in a program like Microsoft Excel. If you are appending a set of polygons (lines or shapes), you will download a blank .SHP file that can be opened in a program like QGIS or ArcMap. Once you have added your features to the blank schema, you can return to the StoryLayer detail page and hit "Append" again. This time you can proceed from step to step to Append your features to the StoryLayer.

Once your append successfully completes, your features will be added to the StoryLayer and a new edit will appear in the StoryLayers edit history showing that you added a certain number of features.

Step 11: Set your notifications[edit]

Email notifications can help you stay engaged with content you want to track and edit. To customize your notifications, click on your user name at the top right of the MapStory website, and click "notification settings". We currently offer the following 13 notification options:

  • Whenever you receive a message to your MapStory inbox
  • Whenever a Journal entry you authored is commented on
  • Whenever you update your password
  • Whenever a StoryLayer you own is commented on.
  • Whenever a StoryLayer you own receives a star rating
  • Whenever a StoryLayer you own is favorited by another user
  • Whenever a StoryLayer you own is flagged for an issue
  • Whenever a StoryLayer you own is downloaded by another user
  • Whenever a StoryLayer you own is used by another user for a MapStory
  • Whenever a MapStory you composed is commented on
  • Whenever a MapStory you own receives a star rating
  • Whenever a MapStory you own is favorited by another user
  • Whenever a MapStory you own is flagged for an issue

Step 12: Step up, and apply to be an Administrator[edit]

MapStory Administrators are a subset of the general community that resolve edit disputes and flagged content. Administrators have the power to freeze user accounts and StoryLayers and un-publish StoryLayers and MapStories. To become an Administrator, you must email your request to At least two recommenders must also email on your behalf, verifying your identity and supporting your case for earning Administrator status. Your application will be reviewed as soon as possible by an Editor-in-Chief. Once you're named an administrator, you will remain one until you request to be removed, or an Editor-In-Chief has determined that your access should be determined. This is always decided at the discretion of an Editor-in-Chief.

If administrators cannot forge consensus on an edit dispute or decide what to do about a flagged StoryLayer, MapStory or user account, the issue will rise to an Editor-in-Chief. MapStory has three Editors-in-Chief. One is elected every two years by the active Administrators. The other is appointed by vote of the MapStory Foundation Board of Trustees. The third is the Editor-for-Life, Dr. Christopher Tucker, the original founder of MapStory.

Composing MapStories Guide[edit]

Outlining your MapStory[edit]

Before you begin composing a new MapStory, you should first take a moment to pause and reflect on a few questions:

  • What point are you trying to make? Just like any story, a MapStory should strive to make a point, not just depict data.
  • What data will the MapStory require? The building block of a MapStory is the StoryLayer data it is based upon. Will the MapStory you want to compose require you to collect new data, or are there already StoryLayers in MapStory that you can use? If you need to collect new data, do you have the time and skills to achieve this yourself or will you need help?
  • Has another storyteller already made a similar MapStory? Before you begin your MapStory, you should check and see if a similar one to what you envision already exists. If so, ask yourself how yours will differ, or how you seek to improve upon the existing MapStory. If you use the existing MapStory as a reference, make sure to credit it in your metadata!

Launch the Composer[edit]

You can launch the "MapStory Composer" from the MapStory header, from the Homepage link, or from your Profile page. You can also launch a new MapStory by going directly to a StoryLayer you want to use in your MapStory and clicking "compose mapstory". Using this link will launch composer with that particular StoryLayer included in Chapter 1.

Once you enter into composer, you'll be greeted by a pop-up that invites you to either begin composing your MapStory, or to take a tour to help familiarize yourself with the composer. If this is your first time, its a good idea to take the tour! Once you've done this, you're ready to really begin composing your story. We'll walk you through how to do this in 6 steps:

  • Start and save your draft
  • Create Chapters and Chapter Summaries
  • Add StoryLayers
  • Style StoryLayers
  • Deepen your narrative with StoryBoxes, StoryPins
  • Publish with the World

Start and Save Your Draft[edit]

The very first step in creating a MapStory is providing the basic "metadata" that will allow viewers to find your MapStory later, once its published. Metadata includes a title, a summary, the "category" you feel best fits your MapStory, tags you want to associate with your story, and the country that best fits your MapStory. You can always change this metadata later, but we need a first draft of it to get your MapStory started.

Create Chapters and Chapter Summaries[edit]

Next, you'll want to start dividing your MapStory up into "Chapters". Just like in a paper book, Chapters are a way for you to divide your overall narrative into smaller bits, based on a theme, or a timeperiod, or a geography...whatever makes sense for your story.You may not know all the chapters that you want to include in your MapStory yet, but its a good practice to at least create any chapters you know you'll want to create.

Note, don't worry about the order of your chapters. In the MapStory composer, you can simply click and drag any Chapter to a different spot in the order!

Creating a chapter involves two steps: 1) giving your chapter a title, and 2) adding Chapter Summary content. The Chapter Summary content is what the viewer will see when they play back your finished MapStory. After you have a Chapter Title and Summary Info, you can start filling up your chapter with StoryLayers and other narrative elements (i.e. StoryBoxes and StoryPins). We'll explain more shortly. In general, it might help to think of each of your chapters as an empty bucket that, once created, needs to be filled up.

Add StoryLayers[edit]

StoryLayers form the foundation of your Chapters. A StoryLayer can really be about anything - from the spread of buildings in a city to the history of nuclear bomb tests in the world throughout history. To add StoryLayers to your MapStory, click "Add StoryLayers", and a window will pop up where you can browse StoryLayers by keywords, or filter for the StoryLayers that belong to you or the ones you've identified as a Favorite.

If the StoryLayers you need aren't already in MapStory, then you will need to upload them yourselves. For help uploading new StoryLayers, go to the Creating StoryLayers Guide

As you add your StoryLayers, you'll notice them starting to populate the map interface in the chapter. Just like you can re-arrange your Chapter order, at any time you can click and drag these StoryLayers around to decide how you want to overlay them on top of one another.

Style StoryLayers[edit]

The Composer gives you the ability to change the appearance of your StoryLayers on the map using different styles. In general, there are four main types of styles available: simple, unique values, choropleth and graduated. The properties of these styles vary slightly depending on the geometry of the StoryLayer being styled. These styles dictate the appearance of the feature geometries in your map like symbol shape, line width, polygon color, among others. There are three types of geometries used in showing features on a map -- points, lines and polygons.

Parts feature.png

Symbol is the representation of a point on the map. It is positioned based on the Latitude and Longitude attributes specified in your input dataset.
For line geometry, stroke is the representation of a line on the map. For point and polygon geometries, it represents the border surrounding the feature geometry.
Label is an alphanumeric string positioned next to the feature geometry that is commonly used to identify the particular feature.


With Simple style, all aspects (size, width, color and shape) of the symbol are uniform on all features of the StoryLayer. This style is often used if features don't necessarily have to be differentiated from one another.

Unique Values

If features can be grouped into categories, Unique Values style is the best way to draw the StoryLayer. Unique Values represents features based on the values listed on a particular attribute. Although it can take text and number formats, it is more practical to use text attributes for Unique Values. However, you should also the keep an eye on the number of unique cases the map would generate because too many cases might slow down the Composer.


With Choropleth style, StoryLayer features can be represented based on the magnitude of a particular numerical attribute using the colors included in a specific color ramp. A color ramp or gradient specifies a range of available options between two fixed colors. For example, a color gradient between yellow and blue could include colors like yellow-green, green, blue-green, among others. The advantage of using choropleth is that it gives a smooth transition from one value to another unlike


Like the Choropleth style, Graduated style are based on the numerical attributes of the StoryLayer features. While Choropleth styles the features using a range of colors from a gradient, Graduated style uses a range lot symbol radii/ stroke width to represent the magnitude of a particular attribute. In general, features with lower values are represented by smaller symbols or thinner lines, while features with higher values are represented by bigger symbols or thicker lines. Because polygon features have fixed geographic areas, Graduated style is not available for polygon features.


Geometry: Point
StoryLayer: Earthquakes Epicenters
Attributes: latitude, longitude, date, magnitude, type

Simple Unique Values Choropleth Graduated
Simple point.png Unique point.png Choropleth point.png Graduated point.png
All points, regardless of their [magnitude] or [type], are represented by red dots on the map. Based on the attribute [type], points are classified into [type= underground] or [type= underwater].

Red dots: [type= underground]
Yellow dots: [type= underwater]
Based on the attribute [magnitude], points are styled using a light-orange to dark-orange color ramp.

Light orange dots: 0 < [magnitude] < 4
Medium orange dots: 4 < [magnitude] < 7
Dark orange: 7 < [magnitude] < 10
Based on the attribute [magnitude], points are styled using dots with width from 10 to 20 pixels.

Small red dots: 0 < [magnitude] < 4
Medium red dots: 4 < [magnitude] < 7
Big red dots: 7 < [magnitude] < 10

Geometry: Line
StoryLayer: Subway lines
Attributes: line color, year constructed, average daily volume

Simple Unique Values Choropleth Graduated
Simple line.png Unique line.png Choropleth line.png Graduated line.png

Geometry: Polygon
StoryLayer: Obesity per US state
Attributes: state name, obesity level, year

Simple Unique Values Choropleth
Simple polygon.png Unique polygon.png Choropleth polygon.png


Once you have a Style that you like for a StoryLayer, you can also "Mask" the layer name and the attributes in your StoryLayer. Masking is our word for creating your own unique text that will appear when a viewer watches your MapStory. So, for example, you might use a StoryLayer in your MapStory that someone else titled "States123". This won't make much sense to your viewer, so you might mask it with "States in the USA". Also, each StoryLayer you use will have attributes that will appear when a viewer clicks a feature to look at the InfoBox. With Masking, if there are attributes you don't want to appear, or those you do but want to rename, you can do so.

Deepen your narrative with StoryPins and StoryBoxes[edit]

Once you have your Chapters created and StoryLayers added and styled, you can now begin to deepen your MapStory narrative with StoryBoxes and StoryPins. First, lets start with StoryPins.


StoryPins are exactly what they sound like - a pin on the map. While StoryLayers provide a quantitative foundation for your MapStory, StoryPins let you add more qualitative information that doesn't quite make sense as part of the StoryLayer. For example, perhaps you want a pin with a newspaper article that was important, or you want to pin a video that helps explain what the viewer is seeing in your MapStory. StoryPins have three components: 1) the StoryPin content 2) the geographic location and 3) the temporal extent.

You can add StoryPins to your MapStory in two ways - either one at a time or by "bulk uploading" several at the same time.

To add a single StoryPin you will use the add Storypin form on composer. Your "content" can either be simple text or embedded media such as a video, audio file or photo. MapStory currently supports simple link embedding for StoryPins from the following nine services: YouTube, Twitter, Imgur, SoundCloud, Flickr, Instagram, Vimeo, and Vine.

Once you have your content, you can add your StoryPin on the map where you would like it to appear, and enter a start and end time to control when it appears on the MapStory playback. In the StoryPin settings you can also decide if you want your StoryPin to pop up to the viewer automatically, or requiring a click by the user. The default behavior is to require the viewer to click on the StoryPin in order for content to appear.

If you have several StoryPins you'd like to create all at once, you can do that with bulk upload. On the StoryPin form, you will see a downloadable .CSV file template that you will add your StoryPin feature information to and upload back into composer after which point your StoryPins will appear.

StoryPin with an embeded photo


StoryBoxes simply let you set the zoom level on the map that you want at various moments in time. For example, maybe you have a StoryLayer that shows the spread of an invasive species across North America. Rather than have the map zoomed out to show the entire continent the whole time, perhaps you want to focus in on southeast United States for a few years, and then move the map to focus on the west coast a few years later. StoryBoxes let you set those preferences automatically. To create a StoryBox, you will navigate to the StoryBoxes tab and define a geographic extent and start time and end time for your StoryBox. Obviously, your StoryBoxes shouldn't overlap in time.

Preview and Publish[edit]

If you've gotten to the point where your Chapters are made and filled up with StoryLayers, StoryBoxes and Storypins, then you're ready to publish your MapStory for the world to enjoy. Before you hit the publish button, make sure you're Summary information is as complete as you can get it, with keywords, a category, and a primary location. This will help others find your MapStory in Explore. Once published, your MapStory will be accessible from the Explore or on your Profile. If you'd like to host it on your own website or blog, you can do so with an embed link:

Grab mapstory.jpg

Journal Guide[edit]

Adding a journal entry is easy! Just go to the Journal link on the header of any page on and click the "write an entry" link. You will be taken to a page where you can author your post and publish when ready. To style your text (i.e. adding bold, italics, hyperlinks) you will use simple text markup language commands. Once your post is published, you will set it on the journal, as well as under the Journal Entries tab of your own personal profile.