I briefly mentioned this feature are in a rundown of new stuff in the latest Live Search maps, but wanted to provide some more detail and an example of how to use it.
Our Local search platform is currently crawling the web for geo data in a variety of formats like GeoRSS and KML. When combined with the Collection data created on Live Maps over the past year and half, it all adds up to quite a large library of user contributed content; little bits of local knowledge contributed by people all over the world that in aggregate become a tremendous atlas of information. We often refer to this data as the GeoWeb. In this release of Live Search maps we have added 2 tools to help you mine information from this data - Collection Search and Collection Explore. Lets have a look at how they can be used together to answer some difficult location based questions and lead you to information on the web like a good search platform should.
This summer I wanted to find information about the fountain featured in Fellini's La Dolce Vita. More exactly, I wanted to explore the area around the fountain, but first i had to find the fountain itself. This is a pretty common research scenario for most of us which historically you would start with a few general web searches, then cut n paste a location name into your map search. As the Geoweb grows, increasingly you'll find it easier to complete search and explore tasks like this entirely from a map based interface. I began with this Collection query for Dolce Vita in Rome, Italy.* The results were pretty good, and after poking through a few I found the tie i was looking for to the Trevi Fountain. This entry point to my research is still best answered by a traditional web query, but the fact I could get decent results at all on the GeoWeb is impressive and things should only get better as more and more people migrate from 'just' consuming to contributing.
I zoomed in to the indicated location of the fountain and did this follow up query for 'Trevi Fountain'. the map lit up with results aggregated form Live Maps Collections and KML files from around the web. To completely submerge in the 'What is it like there' experience I turned on Birds Eye view as well as 'Explore' mode. To turn on Explore, go to the Collections menu as shown at the right. This turns on a continuous layer of user contributed content pulled from the same sources used by search. As you drag the map the layer refreshes automatically. You can sort your results by distance from map center, most recently contributed, or relevance. Relevance is the default as it is most interesting - we calculate a static rank of each contribution based on popularity, rating, and quality - the best results should bubble up to the top of the list with this sort. You can also filter results by tag using the dropdown list of popular tags in the region.
Among the results were many amazing links that completed my research by taking me to geo-referenced content on the web; the Rome honeymoon Collection lead me to this great photo of the fountain and this KML file from Google's keyhole BBS lead me to this stunning Panorama of the area.
I hope this brief overview helps get you started with this new feature in Live search maps. I find it to be one of the most fun and useful (I'm biased as I work on the VE Collections team), and when combined with other features like 3D Birds eye navigation the line between research and leisurely exploration get pretty blurry
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