Platform Status & Roadmap
For the current Roadmap that is guiding active software development, visit the Roadmap on our Github page. Below is a general discussion of future areas we hope to work in coming months and years, funding permitting:
- 1 Advanced Storytelling Features
- 2 Advanced Social Features
- 3 Mobile
- 4 Temporal imagery exploitation
- 5 Distributed versioned editing
- 6 tools.mapstory.org
- 7 Longitudinal gazetteer
- 8 Security
- 9 Geo-Statistics on Dynamic Borders
- 10 2D Dynamic Cartography
- 11 4D Overhaul
- 12 Analysis and Dynamic Web Processing
- 13 Conclusion
Advanced Storytelling Features
In its inaugural year, MapStory had only the most basic annotation capabilities for MapStorytelling beyond the core StoryLayers you selected for use. We plan significant enhancements to the ‘MapStorytelling Toolkit’. Multi-media enabled annotations are already in development, along with options for pausing MapStories as annotation multi-media features “play”. As users introduce us to their ideas for using events, annotations, and related concepts, we hope to refine the annotation capabilities to support their ideas. Ultimately, we intend to enable complete multi-screen support where value-added multi-media content can scroll by as the timeline goes by, and charting/graphing widgets can help quantify some of the changes being observed within the evolving MapStory.
One of the biggest challenges on our list is the implementation of what we call “XYT Frames”. In effect, this will let MapStorytellers publish a narrative that spans multiple geographies over time, panning and zooming as necessary, offering smooth and graceful transitions. While these are common mechanisms within the Adobe Flash world, they have never been implemented with web mapping technology. The addition of XYT Frames will give MapStorytellers commonly accepted tools that will help them communicate their visions with the world.
Advanced Social Features
MapStory was intentionally built on the GeoNode because of its social features. Threaded comments, star rating, and integration with Google+ and Facebook were early features. However, there are many additional social features that we hope to include in the platform in order to ensure that the global community of MapStorytellers can continually interact over their content, improving its completeness, precision, accuracy, and overall veracity. We intend to enable better collaboration by enabling users to edit each others’ MapStory and StoryLayer titles, metadata, thumbs, etc. We also have a vision for enabling threaded discussion and ratings at the individual feature level. We anticipate challenges with scalability, and even with usability, but a number of users have expressed their interest in social feedback at this level of granularity.
At MapStory, we recognize that there are more mobile computing devices out there than desktop and laptop computing devices, and that this is the wave of the future. As such, we are already working to ensure that core MapStory functionality translates into mobile and tablet environments. Our first priority, of course, is to ensure that MapStory resources can be discovered, viewed and interacted with from mobile and tablet devices – especially location-aware devices – so users can experience the past while physically moving through it. Second, we intend to empower users to make versioned edits while mobile. Third, we will explore the feasibility and ergonomics of mobile MapStory authoring. Fourth, as we move forward with full 4D support, we intend to push this all the way to the mobile device. In all cases, we are very concerned about mobile users in scenarios where they are “network challenged.” We are already very focused on technical mechanisms that allow mobile platforms to cache data offline, which are coming along quickly.
Temporal imagery exploitation
At the beginning of 2013, we will be kicking off a new development spiral that will enable users to upload time-sequenced collections of raster imagery (more exactly, gridded coverages) over a given location. Sometimes this will be historical aerial imagery. Sometimes it will be historical maps. Sometimes it will be broad coverage by satellites, or even gridded outputs from computational models – such as the Gridded Population of the World. We will begin with limited raster data format support, and will expand as resources allow. We will also be providing a rubbersheeting application at tools.mapstory.org that will enable you to geo-rectify historic maps and aerial imagery that you have scanned in. This effort will enable smart tile generation to support high performance over the Web.
Distributed versioned editing
As part of this same engineering spiral, MapStory will enable users to create new feature types, digitize features from the imagery, and transact them into a new StoryLayer. This will be full-on distributed versioned editing of geographic features, offering a directly analogous implementation of the Wikipedia editing workflow. This versioned editing will be connected to the existing “activity feed” capability within MapStory, so that every edit you make is disclosed on your page, and every person whose data is edited receives notifications. Users will be able to monitor changes by others, and potentially roll back these changes. Users will be able to apply this editing capability to all existing feature-based (e.g. vector) StoryLayers.
As mentioned above, we will be launching tools.mapstory.org as a place that can host a wide array of online tools that help people prepare their data for loading into MapStory. Geospatial data can be really ugly, funky, and icky, and often must be heavily massaged before it is useful. The tools will include the rubbersheeter mentioned above, geocoders, Flash vector extractors, Google Translate utilities, etc. Ultimately, we hope to host tools contributed by the global MapStory community that you think may be useful to others in our community.
Gazetteers are commonly requested tools, since people are often interested in determining the location of places by their names. However, place names change over time. For instance, as the famous song says, “Istanbul was once Constantinople”. Users want to know the name of places long ago, and how they have evolved. They want to observe the ebb and flow of different cultures over the global landscape, and one of the best ways to do that is to watch the spread of place names in different languages and scripts.
We intend to extend our security model to support OAuth so that users can login to MapStory using their identities on sister platforms, but also so that we can federate resources hosted on different infrastructures. This is needed in order to integrated the rubbersheeter hosted on tools.mapstory.org with the main MapStory.org site.
Many users have expressed a need to establish private workgroups where teams can collaborate on the creation of StoryLayers and MapStories before making them public. While MapStory already supports the concept of “MapStories in Progress”, and lets users set privacy settings on StoryLayers, these settings cannot yet be shared with a defined group. Collaborative security settings are clearly a part of the MapStory vision. We will have to manage how these group security settings might be married to the existing “Organization Page” concept (e.g., www.mapstory.org/organizationpage) which may be the preferred outlet for publishing the group’s work.
Geo-Statistics on Dynamic Borders
Mankind has collected statistics by geography since the emergence of counting. The Roman’s census is literally Biblical. However, the longitudinal collection of statistical data has long been challenged by the continual evolution of administrative boundaries. Even country level statistical data has little continuity prior to WWII. Making sense of long term change with geo-statistics is a huge challenge that we at MapStory hope to hammer out. It will begin by loading evolving political borders at a national and subnational level. It will continue by providing users templates for loading up statistical data against these continually evolving political entities and their borders. The development challenges are only partially clear at this point, meaning that we must take this challenge on iteratively, and not be scared of muddling through.
2D Dynamic Cartography
While MapStory currently has a variety of cartographic or rendering options for its users, they are not presented as a series of palettes and best practices that those of us who are less cartographically-adept can use. Even worse, the dynamic nature of MapStory challenges even the static cartographic conventions. As such, there is a huge need for high quality dynamic palettes and rendering options for different kinds of data. We look forward to collaborating with anyone and everyone in the community who may have a willingness to work on this issue.
MapStory is ultimately committed to full 4D (X,Y,Z, T) integration. Engineering for 4D has already begun at every level of the MapStory stack (e.g., database, web service, web client), but lots of work is yet to come. Right now, the bulk of the work is in fully supporting 2.5D plus time, where the 2.5D addresses the vertically-extruded spatial envelope of a more complex polyhedral surface. In 2013, there will be significant effort to fully support 3D polyhedral surfaces composed of vertices, edges, facets and an incidence relationship on them. Our goal is to fully support CityGML (www.cityGML.org) and Collada, and allow these complex structural features to evolve over time. We will also allow the terrain surface to evolve over time.
Analysis and Dynamic Web Processing
We at the MapStory Foundation are still struggling to determine how we want to harness all of the innovation being presented by the revolution in online web processing. Providing users with simple analytical tools such as dynamic “heat map” generation seems obvious enough, as it really enhances their ability to communicate visually. However, the OpenGeo software stack on which MapStory is built already has 92 different analytical models, and this only promises to grow. In the end, these models will not just be 2D, but 2D plus time, 2.5D plus time, and then full 4D. Such models will require very little development effort to integrate, but lots of effort in order to make them lay accessible.
We encourage those within the MapStory community who are passionate on these issues to be vocal, and to help us define a vision that is feasible and which provides the greatest number of participants the greatest amount of value. We look forward to your comments as we move forward on this front.
There is no real conclusion to this Roadmap. MapStory will no doubt be a living, breathing thing that will evolve continuously. Even if we implement every feature discussed above, it will hardly be the end of history! Technology frontiers continuously advance, creating new technological opportunities for MapStory to meet latent user needs. We intend to continuously monitor the fast changing technological environment, and to think creatively about how new and emerging technologies could benefit MapStorytellers and the process of MapStorytelling. We look forward to hearing from the global MapStory community for both their technological insights and their thoughts on new functionality. Please speak up and let us how we can improve the MapStory platform.