Building a Better Map

Discussions about the Maps Tool on lds.org.
jbrannellyjr
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Building a Better Map

Postby jbrannellyjr » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:54 pm

I am the ward mission leader in a Utah ward, which means smaller geographical area.

To support the ward mission effort, I maintain a database and corresponding map (not linked) of every household within our ward boundaries. If a household contains members of record, they are assigned home teachers and visiting teachers.

If a household contains Non-Members, they are signed a "point of contact" which is a nearby ward member that remains generally aware of that households status and needs.

For some time, I have envisioned a tool, a web based map, that would be populated with information about the households within the ward geographic boundaries. Using my LDS login credentials, the map would automatically be populated with member information. The nonmember information would be entered manually by ward missionaries and members of the ward council. In this way, the ward mission leader or the bishop (or any member of the ward council) can edit as well as view, real time information about the households within The ward boundaries.

I am very interested in developing this tool. If anyone guide me to talent resources that could give me guidance and assistance? I am willing to hire if necessary to get it done.

Jack
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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:38 pm

This is an interesting idea, and I've also had the wish that such a tool existed (I also currently live in Utah). Here are some issues you might want to be aware of:

  • It is against Church policy for any third-party application to use the LDS Account for authentication.
  • Such a tool relies on information only available in Church databases, so you would have to build on the existing Maps application.
  • Of course, such a tool would be rather unwieldy for any area that doesn't have a rather dense LDS population.
  • There are significant privacy concerns when you are storing information (outside of publicly available information) about people who have not given their permission. I'm not saying you would be storing such information, but it's something to be wary of.
It seems like it would be very challenging to accomplish this as a third-party application, so your best route is to convince the Church that they should provide this capability.
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rontilby
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Postby rontilby » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:48 pm

aebrown wrote:It is against Church policy for any third-party application to use the LDS Account for authentication.

There are multiple third-party genealogy applications that use the LDS Account for authentication to interact with New FamilySearch (NFS).

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:10 pm

rontilby wrote:There are multiple third-party genealogy applications that use the LDS Account for authentication to interact with New FamilySearch (NFS).


Good point. However, that's for FamilySearch and only for those who have signed agreements with Family History.

As far as dealing with data for the church/non-FamilySearch side, you'd be on new ground. No guarantee that you'd be successful.
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RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:19 am

I estimate the chances that the church would build such an app online to be nil. Even if the thorny issues of privacy policy were resolved, I can't see programming resources being applied to mapping non-member households while there is such a large backlog of online map features still needed for members -- for whom the church is already capturing data. And as aebrown explained, there are policy barriers to building such an online app yourself. So if I were you I would stop dreaming about such a web app.

However, you can do much of this locally with desktop tools and share the files privately among leaders with a need to know. The easiest thing to do would just be to download the geocoded ward roster from maps.lds.org as a CSV file and convert it to a KML file for Google Earth. Then you as ward mission leader could use Google Earth to create another KML file of the non-member families (or investigator families) that you wish to map. It would be a snap to visualize the two KML files together interactively within Google Earth. Or you could use other desktop mapping tools to display all the family names together on printed maps or PDFs.

jbrannellyjr
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Postby jbrannellyjr » Tue Jun 12, 2012 9:21 pm

Thank you very much for your input. I also thought that third-party genealogy applications that use the LDS Account for authentication to interact with NFS would allow it, but I guess there are different policies agreed to with NFS.

Can you suggest a resource for learning the whole KML thing?

RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:08 am

jbrannellyjr wrote:Can you suggest a resource for learning the whole KML thing?


The best introduction to KML is probably Google's documentation. KML is just an XML-based markup language that is used to display maps in Google Earth and some other software. Download the free version of Google Earth, which is pretty intuitive. It is not an all-encompassing geographic information system, just a limited tool for visualizing maps data, which is all you really are seeking to do. Technically you also can create, upload/download and display KML files on the Google Maps website, although that gets problematical with membership data because of church policy issues. (The big advantage of Google Earth is that your data is all local.)

But I'm not sure that you really have to get deeply into writing your own KML code, although you certainly can and it helps to understand it. What you are seeking to do does not seem very complex. For example, there are lots of utilities out there for converting simple CSV files to simple KML, several of which have been named the same thing (csv2kml) by their authors. And to create the KML files manually for each nonmember family address you identify, you don't have to write code. Just use Google Earth itself interactively to plot each point. It can save the results as a KML file. BTW, your ward boundary files are already created by the church as downloadable KMZ files, which are just zip-compressed KML.


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