I hope you feel it in this newspaper and on our Web site every day. A passion. A passion for trying new things to serve you better. A passion for telling stories.
Take our new mapping service for Christmas light tours. This year, instead of just printing maps in the paper, we’re offering personalized maps on our Web site.
In the newspaper, we have to give everybody the same map. On the Web, you can create the map that best suits your needs.
Go to com and click on “Holiday Lights” and you’ll find an offer to “Get directions to light displays in your area.”
It will take you to a page where you can enter the address where you want to start your tour. Click on “Find Nearest” and you’ll get a listing of the best nearby displays. In my case, there were 16 within three miles. Choose the ones you want to visit and click on “Find Route” and you’ll get step-by-step directions and a map of the entire route. Print it and you’ll have a guide for a fun excursion.
We developed this service as an experiment with ESRI, a Boulder company that specializes in Web mapping. We wanted to see what was possible.
It wasn’t as easy as we had hoped. For example, I’d love - yes, love - for people to be able to post their own pictures of their lights on our Web site and to have them show up with the addresses when others call up a map. I’d like for you to be able to e-mail the light show creators. And, of course, you should be able to get our maps and photos on your cell phone while you’re driving, maybe even with a soundtrack to make your journey more fun. And how about coupons or special offers from coffee shops or gas stations for participating? But those ideas will have to wait for future years.
This mapping effort, believe it or not, is linked to our plans to help you decide how to vote in the 2006 election. We’re going to build our deepest election Web site ever, where just by punching in your address you’ll be able to find links to all our stories and data, such as campaign finance reports and information about the candidates and issues you’ll find on your ballot.
We hope you’ll walk into your polling place next November with a printout from RockyMountainNews.com as your sample ballot.
Of course ESRI is based in Redlands, California. I’m sure that the local office worked their butts off in developing the app. Still, he’s right - the hodgepodge of voting for lights displays (which linked to PDF maps???), routing by RouteMap IMS, and a grid to find local displays were quite challenging to navigate.