My vision for Fitzroyalty is this: when readers in the immediate Fitzroy area view Fitzroyalty on their mobile devices, they will be able to view the geotagged content ordered by its distance from the position of the viewer, closest first, as an optional alternative to viewing it in the usual chronological order.
The user experience would be something like this:
- Open Fitzroyalty in browser
- A prompt asks ‘Would you like to share your location with this site?’
- If no, then site loads the homepage, where posts are listed in reverse chronological order
- If yes, the device’s GPS is used to determine the user’s location. This is read by WordPress and stored (temporarily) in the database
- The user’s location is compared to the locations of all the geotagged posts in the database
- The geotagged posts are sorted by relative distance, nearest first, from the location of the user
- The site loads a different version of the homepage, where the posts are listed by relative distance, thus providing a unique experience for each reader.
The problem is I’m not a developer. I’m a writer, editor, publisher, content manager and designer of information architectures, taxonomies and user experiences. I’m a website conceptual artist and I rely on others to make the more complex things I imagine – the things that cannot be made with plug and play tools like WordPress plugins.
Consequently, I cannot make this system and seek advice and recommendations from developers about how to achieve these functions:
- Geotag posts – currently achieved using the Geo Mashup plugin
- Request user location – ?
- Store user location in database – ?
- Compare location of user with locations of geotagged posts – ?
- Output list of posts ordered by their relative distance from the user’s location – ?
- Render a map showing the user in the centre and pins identifying geotagged posts within a particular radius – ?
To the best of my knowledge all these functions exist and are already in use in complex software like Google maps, but simple tools do not yet exist to allow users to harness the power of the software. Such a tool should abide by the W3C Geolocation API.
WordPress’ current documentation about geo data is sparse. Geo Mashup appears to have more functionality than is adequately explained in the documentation. For example, it says that its ‘Geo Search widget enables searching for content by distance from a search location‘. I’ve tried the Geo Mashup search widget and nothing seems to happen. It doesn’t use GPS and doesn’t seem to locate any content based on the location a user manually inputs.
The GEO my WordPress plugin claims to be able to ‘Use auto locator to get user’s current location’ and to ‘Use the auto locator to automatically display results near user’s location’. This is exactly what I need. A Geo Data Store plugin exists to facilitate the storage of the data. Another plugin also claims to be able to detect a user’s location.
I’ve been working on this idea for five years, and am genuinely surprised that no one else has similarly thought that such tools would be useful enough that they would create them. Imagine a website for a high street traders’ association that maps the locations of all its members. Such a site would enable shoppers to explore an area with a live interactive map on their phone that shows them what is nearby and guides them to the businesses they are interested in visiting.
There are already some tools available that achieve some of these functions. An iPhone app, for example, delivers most of what I seek to achieve. However, this is not a suitable implementation of the functionality for my site’s users as it is device dependent. The functionality is needs to be device and browser independent so all website users can enjoy it.
Software that handles the location request is available, and could possibly be made into a WordPress plugin. Melbourne developer Peter Shaw’s LocalHero local news aggregator site does most of these things. As Fitzroyalty exports its geodata in its RSS feed, LocalHero includes Fitzroyalty as one of its many content sources. But he has not (yet) published the software in WordPress plugin form.
Ideally someone would create a WordPress plugin that worked with existing geotagging plugins like Geo Mashup to achieve all these functions. Alternatively, do plugins exist that can achieve parts of the process? I would appreciate your suggestions.