Mastering Layers: the Ushahidi Cooker of Newscoop

Micz Flor
Micz Flor of Sourcefabric

This is a guest blogpost from our developer community, written by Micz Flor.
Micz is a media developer, writer and project manager based in Berlin. Since 1995 he has been knee-deep in Internet, organising a variety of events, net projects, magazines and temporary media labs. In 2000 Micz began work as a media developer for Eastern Europe and Asia at the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF), where he met his fellow Sourcefabric co-founders.

My introduction into developing for Ushahidi was accidental. While I was developing templates explaining the Newscoop CMS mapping feature, I was looking for a valid KML-feed. Our community manager Jakub Górnicki sent me an XML-file from his recent Ushahidi crisis map covering “Heavy Snow in Poland”. He had used this as a layer on the map. The same day, I started abusing Ushahidi layers as a KML-feed validator (I know, that’s not what it was developed for…). Once we put two and two together, the Ushahidi Cooker was born. Ushahidi layers is a really great feature which (in my opinion) is generally underused.

What does the Ushahidi Cooker do?

The Ushahidi Cooker provides a directory of maps and KML-feeds. Or to be more precise: a tool to easily create and manage libraries of maps. These maps are stored by categories and cities, like “Hospitals in Berlin” or “Airports in Indonesia” – anything you like. These maps come with a valid KML feed. And this feed can be called into a Ushahidi map as a layer, providing additional content on the map for the users of your site. Below you can see a video illustrating the process of creating an Ushahidi layer from Newscoop’s Ushahidi Cooker as well as a link to a demo site where you can try the KML-feeds.

Why is this useful?

1.
Using Ushahidi Cooker means that your map is really your map. It is not a Google Map, or in other words: Google’s map. Similar to Ushahidi, Newscoop provides different ways to render your maps. You don’t have to lock your data into a map provider.

2.
With the Ushahidi Cooker you can prepare maps in the background – and call them into different Ushahidi installations when needed. “Bridges in Iceland” could be of interest on a tourist map as well as a crisis map after a volcano eruption. With Newscoop, you can make a copy of any map you have in stock and then make alterations, give it a new name and use it in a new context.

3.
Newscoop is a fully fledged and open CMS for professional journalism. Tying Newscoop into your Ushahidi map gives you the tools in the background to manage articles and other content around the subject of your map.

Try it out and help improve the Ushahidi Cooker

I would be interested to see this tested in a real life situation. Try it out and tell us what you think. If you need it for a crisis situation, we can also help you out with support. If you are interested, contact our community manager Jakub Górnicki (jakub.gornicki at sourcefabric dot org).

Having been “in the field” as a media developer myself, I know that tools which seem to work at first sight only really work once you broke them a few times – and improve them on the way. The Ushahidi Cooker and the Newscoop CMS are free and open source.

The video tutorials show the Ushahidi Cooker in action. Covering the entire process, the installation in Newscoop, creating maps and adding layers in Ushahidi, the total running time is roughly 17 minutes, so it is really very straight forward.

All Video Tutorials:

Ushahidi Cooker test install
http://ushahidicooker.templates.sourcefabric.org
More information is available on the help page:

Community / Newscoop support
http://forum.sourcefabric.org

Downloads
Download Newscoop
http://www.sourcefabric.org/en/products/newscoop_download/

Download the Ushahidi Cooker for Newscoop
http://www.sourcefabric.org/en/products/newscoop_templates/

2 Responses to “Mastering Layers: the Ushahidi Cooker of Newscoop”

  1. Nice to see your connection Micz Flor with Ushahidi, I think we connected back in 199 something about the MetaMute magazine