I want to produce maps from a set of government data for my local website. But I don't write code and don't think I should have to. So I am experimenting with simple ways of producing a map from a real data set. First off Google Fusion Tables.
Noise is a big problem in an urban area and Westminster City Council has published via FOI a list of commercial noise complaints with approximate locations (they take the street numbers off for some reason). It's at Whatdotheyknow.com I downloaded the spreadsheet of data and tidied it up a tiny bit, putting the word 'London' where it was missing from each address field.
Then i uploaded it to Google Docs and imported it into Google Fusion Tables a Google Labs product that has been around for a year. I hit Edit, Modify Columns to tell the sheet what was in each column and then I hit the Visualize menu and selected - Map. The following emerged, just like that:
There's a small snag for me - I couldn't figure out how to configure the simple weblink to show a particular level of zoom in a map. If you get an embeddable link then this will give you zoom control - but you can't use iframes in wordpress.com the popular publishing platform. There is a KML option but practically no corporate desktops nor government departments run google earth - this diminishes the use of the data to achive social impact.
Pretty good all in all - quick and simple with no techno stuff, the help page was useful. It isn't perfect, but it's easy. If you can use a spreadsheet you can take some real public data and make a map to make a point. Any suggestions for other visualisation services i could try with no coding required are welcome.
This small post was just done for my own benefit and i wasn't expecting it to get the traffic it has. If you have suddenly landed here from the Guardian or elsewhere then you should know that I run a small business, talk about local with 4IP and Screen West Midlands funding to help people get a voice online. I am also on the Local Public Data panel for CLG to advise them on freeing up data from local government. If you are reading this from Google and also hadn't heard of Fusion Tables then feel free to send me some corporate bumf for the free publicity - some cupcakes maybe or a fetching jacket (XL).