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Mapping the news

John Walton | 12:39 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

"Great idea...and computing technology at its best," on the one hand and on the other: "Don't like it. Too fussy and can't really see the relevance."

These are two of the e-mails we've had from our users commenting on the usefulness, or otherwise, of the dynamic maps we've started to publish on the BBC News website over the last few weeks using Microsoft Virtual Earth and an editing system set up by Airlock.


The maps give us a new way to set out our content and have also helped to give a sense of location or a sense of scale to stories from the G20 in London, the Italian earthquake disaster, to the Indian elections. Most, but by no means all, of the feedback has been complementary but for all we think these maps have added to our news coverage, we are aware that they are still only a work in progress.

Ease of navigation was a major concern for many readers, and more is already being done behind the scenes by colleagues in FM&T to improve the presentation and navigation of the BBC content we place on the maps.

But there was one surprise that stood out from the feedback.

So far all the maps have been produced using Microsoft Virtual Earth and many readers assumed that the BBC was responsible for the maps themselves not just the editorial content placed on top of them - which was a tiny bit unfortunate when some of those who saw the G20 map pointed out that "Waterloo Strain Station" (see image above) isn't really that bad a place...

But we're glad to have dipped our toes in the water of dynamic mapping and already have a raft of ideas of what we'd like to do with them next.


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