I was first introduced to UMapper in college, when a friend of mine mentioned it in my advanced online journalism class. I found the mapping capabilities extremely fascinating, and began playing around it.
Fast forward a year later: For my online skill, I chose to teach UMapper to the fine staffers at the Heritage West office. I created a slideshow, going over the basics in how to use UMapper, which I’ve embedded below:
The basic concept of UMapper can be to mark where events are happening, or to map a series of events. It could be used to mark special locations in a story, such as mapping locations of break-ins to show trends, or could be used to pinpoint where all the summer festivals are happening around your coverage area.
It also allows map creators to create a “Geo-dart” game, which can be used to quiz viewers on specific knowledge on the map. Here’s a link to one I created for demonstration purposes that asks where everyone at Heritage West works.
It also allows you to create weather maps (a function I’m not the greatest fan of, I would prefer this method when using weather maps. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sure beats UMapper’s function).
One of the cooler applications was the Twitter map. During our training in Saline, we used the term “Ian Jenkins” to search for on Twitter, the name of the hockey prospect who died earlier this week. When we set the radius over Milan, the town he died in, we could see tweets announcing the time and date of his funeral, as well as the memorial hockey game being played in his honor. It’s a great way to keep up on the buzz over certain terms in your community.
UMapper is a great tool to use for reporting. I constructed a map for area Census data for Washtenaw County, and published that on a Heritage blog. It can be used for all sorts of data aggregation, especially for a company like Heritage that has such a wide geographic base for regional stories.