Making maps to challenge readers with UMapper

I’m not normally a big fan of verbing words but today I’ve been Umapping. Or, to be more specific, I discovered a mapping tool that has a neat little online game you can make,to send users clicking  against the clock, trying to answer questions on a global or local scale.
My UMapper map – imaginatively titled How Well Do You Know Liverpool? poses questions such as ‘Where was John Lennon born’, ‘Can you find Paddy’s Wigwam‘ and – of course – where Liverpool FC and Everton FC play their home games.

The GeoDart game produced by UMapper can be as big and as clever as you want it to be. I signed up for the free basic account, and selected theGeoDart game option, using Bing Maps (which I opted for – I could also have used Google, Yahoo, or OpenStreet Maps among others) like so…

Then I gave it a name, added a description that included a summary of the rules and started adding placemarks like this:

The name of the placemark (in this case Menlove Avenue) actually displays as the answer, the question (Where was John Lennon born?) is added in the description bubble and flashes across the top of the screen as the countdown starts, like this:

As a player you then click on the map where you think John Lennon’s childhood home was, and you get points for how near you are, and how fast you are. I put this map together fairly quickly, adding placemarks to roads but not – in some cases – to the exact spot on the road where, say, a Beatle was born, but it still works well. You can also use latitude and longitude if you need absolute pinpoint accuracy.

Anyway, once completed, the map quiz looks like this and I’ve also added an embed (which you can resize as needed but I found it worked best when I played it fullscreen, rather than trying to move the map around).

It has a competitive element too; final scores are given and those who log in can save their score, challenge others via email, and compete for the top of the leaderboard.

So much for the GeoDart game; there are other reasons to love UMapper though.
I set the permissions on this to allow only myself to edit, but I could have added named editors or thrown it open to the wisdom of the crowd.
Although I only signed up for the free backage, you can upgrde to premium (own ads, custom templates, ad revenue-share) and to white label which offers an improved map editor among other options. It supports map manipultaion via the API and has a WordPress plugin (so I’m really happy I’m on Blogger, obviously) and there’s also a Drupal module.

Browsing the public maps, I found ones that collect tweets about Walla Walla , that chart something called Minimelts in Canada and where Manchester Airport-bound travellers were stranded by the volcanic ashcloud. Loads of interesting data (well, maybe not Minithingies but you know what I mean) is being collated by users, some of whom use it for sharing information, others as part of a livestreaming collection. I even found an open-edit ‘supermarkets in the Bronx’ roundup, which is excellent hyperlocal stuff.

So, UMapper is a new favourite for me; I can think of lots more GeoDart games newspapers could make, and with video, audio and still image options also available (which I didn’t use in this one)  could make it a really good, sticky, valuable tool.

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About Alison Gow

I'm a journalist, particularly interested in story-telling, networks and digital innovation.
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