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I have managed to steer largely clear of instant messaging (IM) for some time. This owes mainly to the lack of collaborators (beyond some family members) that are among the initiated. Well, it turns out that IM is pretty darn useful for communicating with colleagues,  particularly when you are both riveted to your computer screens working on a related topic (ideally, a geologic one). I have drowned in the Google Kool-Aid, so I obviously use Google Talk for this process. Recently, I had a friendly exchange with a colleague about getting some served imagery online. This has also been quite handy for quick, but mandatory queries about other topics with other collaborators. Sometimes a phone call takes too long and sometimes email languishes for days, why not try IM for some brief and instant results?

Fruitful IM Exchange about Geologic Mapping

Fruitful IM Exchange about Geologic Mapping

I added the Google Talk app to my Blackberry (yes)  in addition to a Google Map app that can show high-res satellite imagery keyed to my location (and, yes, I have used it in the field).  Recently someone at Google took the obvious step to approximate the combination of these two applications and developed Google Latitude. This application makes it possible (following a bit of setup) to make your location visible to a select group of collaborators. This has some pretty cool implications for mapping with a group. For one, if you are in an area with good coverage (and have an amenable provider) you can keep track of a mapping team and converse about what you may be checking out at the time. Of even greater interest is being able to remotely track a colleague who is in the field while you are in the office.

Google Latitude in my Neighborhood

Google Latitude in my Neighborhood

I recently approximated this approach with a combination of sms (text-messaging) and Google Maps. My geopal was down in southern Nevada looking for some key map units I had described. She sent me a text message requesting some coordinates. I was in my car more than 400 miles away, but headed to a coffee shop to log on to Google Maps, loaded the satellite view in the area and began to send key coordinates (decimal degrees if it matters) of key outcrops in the area as inferred from the imagery.  She hit the outcrops, took photos, geotagged them, and uploaded them to Picasa web albums that night. I checked them out the next morning. A sweet virtual mapping experience was had by all. Next time, we will try to directly incorporate Google Latitude into this process. We ran into coverage issues in this case, but it was still a success.

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4 Comments

  1. This is inspiring. Awesome work — and thanks for sharing!

  2. I am certain that some braniac at Google or the like can put together an api to make this work even better. Latitude has great potential for more than just meeting at the same bar!

  3. I can see this *really* helping for field mapping courses. Let the teacher see where all of the students are, making it easier to get from one group to the next–let the students ask questions of teacher and classmates while they are at different outcrops. Combine with an ability to upload photos of features in question…

  4. This does have great potential for mapping courses. (Though I’ve had trouble getting any cell signal at all in many field areas. I haven’t taught field camp in several years, though, and maybe the situation has improved. For anyone working the traditional field camp areas near Durango, the cell service is now pretty good.)


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