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So we build cool mobile apps. We have a mix of technically savvy geospatial experts and business focused personnel. All very different, and yet the same. We are all either geographers, or have a love of the geospatial world. Take me; a physical geography degree from London University, then Masters degree in GIS. My love of geography has always revolved around process; how did ice form that U shaped valley, how do thunderstorms form?

Learning computer programming helped some of us to take our geospatial training and apply it in the real world. Those who went the business route, took this knowledge and are helping clients understand how geography can be used to improve their business. We love that geography is now both properly recognized, and used in so many areas of business, of life.

That said, Jack Dangermond has been a wonderful advocate of geography. Love ESRI or hate them, Jack has helped promote geography and the benefits of its application. The idea of web maps which tell stories we just love. It takes me back to the days when I was a kid, learning that geography answered so many questions about the world outside my window.

The below is a reprint of some background on so called story maps from an ESRI Q&A.

Story Maps

In 2011 we established a team, led by Allen Carroll, the former chief cartographer for National Geographic, to create and share useful online maps that demonstrate how to tell important and informative stories about our world. Esri is illustrating best practices for online mapping – practices and approaches that really work –to help our users to publish and share their own powerful maps and apps that leverage their strong geospatial content and tell their own stories. Story Maps is an online mapping resource created and hosted by Esri.

Story maps are interactive maps combined with text and other content to tell stories about the world. Typically story maps are designed for non-technical audiences. They’re information products that utilize maps as their primary organizing component. Story maps include all the elements required to tell a story: map services, text, multimedia content, and the functionalities that enable users to navigate through the story.

Story maps bring the power of geography and spatial analysis to large audiences. They can be built not only by graphic designers and journalists, but by GIS users, web developers, and anyone with a basic familiarity with web and mobile platforms.

Esri publishes story maps every week or two at storymaps.esri.com. Our goals in doing this are to:

· Spread the word about the power of geography and GIS,

· Demonstrate that ArcGIS is an effective communication platform, and

· Enable ArcGIS users to create their own web maps through examples, templates, and best practice documents.

Why are story maps important?

Even the most skillfully designed map may not fully tell a story. Often other elements are required to make a map fully useful as an information product. What is the purpose of the map? What do the colors and patterns on the map mean? What process or trend is being represented? What is the relationship of a symbol or polygon on a map to the real world? It’s in dealing with issues like these that web maps do their job. Web maps provide the elements that enable an audience to make sense of geographic information and, one hopes, to have fun in the process.

What are the main components of a web map?

Most web maps have two primary components: web maps and apps or templates. Web maps, published on ArcGIS Online, combine one or more of these elements: a basemap, thematic maps, points derived from spreadsheets, and popups. Web maps aren’t fully enabled until they’re published into websites, applications, or templates that provide other key storytelling components, including titles, descriptions, and functionalities such as swipe tools and time sliders. The Storytelling with Maps group on ArcGIS Online includes a selection of web maps that have been published into apps and templates. Perusing the maps and stories in this group will give you a sense of how these two components can work together seamlessly in a successful story map.

How do I build a story map?

The first step in building a geography-based story is to think about the story itself: What is the story I need to tell? To whom am I telling it? How can I go about engaging my audience and helping them understand my story?

The second step it to produce a map—or several maps. Maps may be custom-built in ArcGIS, or they may be mashed up from a variety of sources. The map or maps are published on ArcGIS Online as web maps or map services. Popups are an important component of web maps; configuring them to support your story and to filter out unnecessary information is key.

The third step is to publish your web map or maps into a storytelling template. Some templates are available in configurable form via the “Share” function on ArcGIS Online. Configurable templates allow you to quickly publish your map without having to do any web programming. Additional templates are available in our template gallery. You can download the source code for these templates and make as many changes or refinements as you’d like. You can then publish your web maps using your customized template.

Our “Workflows and Best Practices” document provides step-by-step instructions on creating a web map and publishing it as a story map.

What kinds of stories can I tell with maps?

Maps tell myriad stories. They may depict a single geographic feature or phenomenon. They may show geographic change over time. They may compare two or more related issues. They may predict, or they may summarize a past event. Esri has published a “Telling Stories with Maps” white paper that describes these and other types of stories.

Esri’s map stories team is continuing to explore map-based storytelling by producing an ongoing series of web maps. When it makes sense to do so, the team works to turn its storytelling formats into templates that enable others to tell similar stories. For example, after it published a story called “A Walk on the High Line,” the team refined its format into a JavaScript template that it used to publish a “Walking Tour of the National Mall.” Others are now using the same template to create their own place-based narratives.

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