Chicago Crime Scene Maps

Elizabeth Goodman (who will be speaking at Where 2.0) has an interesting analysis of where the Chicago Crime site built on Google Maps isn’t doing as good a job of representing information as the Chicago Police Department’s ICAM site. It boils down to the designers of the Police Department site doing a better job of representing the information the user needs: different types of crime and different time periods.

That’s not to slam the Chicago Crime site–it’s beautiful and very cleverly built. It’s more a note to API designers: flexibility is important, because visualizations are an interface between data and human that must take into account the needs of the human and the uses of the data. Let me pick my icons and change their size and colour to indicate attributes of my data. Give me as many ways to make my data useful to my users as possible. Simply having an API where I can plot points is better than having no API at all (see what an improvement Yahoo! SmartView is over maps with no layers). But there are many more improvements to offer, just as Microsoft’s MSN Virtual Earth shows us how much better than Google Maps’ current incarnation local search can be.