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Analysis of Interactive Features In WaPo’s Inauguration Timeline Map

Posted by on Jan 25, 2009 in Blog, web | No Comments

The Climax of New Media and Obamamania

Many have argued that Obama’s candidacy would have been less successful if it had not been for the support of candidates who were mobilized and brought together by digital and social media technologies. Then, it makes sense that a lot of buzz surrounded the role of new and social media when covering President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Some posts I recommend that I found online looking at the issue:

The Washington Post’s Interactive Map
(Get me to the analysis already!)

But one of the best features I saw, which in the interest of full disclosure I should say I found via MediaShift, was this interactive map from the Washington Post:.

screenshot of Post coverage

A Detailed Analysis


What I liked about this site
The map solidly integrates video, photos and articles, giving the user a lot of freedom in choosing how to interact with the site.

  1. A sliding timeline allows the user to look at what was going on at a specific point during the day. A line graph shows which of these time segments has the most content.
  2. Content is broken down by subject (“president”) or type (“video”), again giving the user a great amount of control
  3. User sees aesthetically pleasing animation as various items pop in and out of the screen as the user changes the timeline. It’s pretty, but not too distracting.
  4. Special features allow user to track the presidential parade route. This allows the user to feel as if they are right there, and put context to places they might have seen in video.
  5. Perhaps most valuable as a way to use traditional content in a non-traditional way, the geographic location of stories done by the Post are marked when and where they happen with a Post logo. When clicked on once, there is a summary on the story. Click on that, and the user gets to an actual article that opens in a new window or tab, so as not to disrupt the map experience.
What this site could have done better
  1. I would have liked to see user photos and videos integrated into the page. If the web producer was afraid of info overload, there could have been a filter to just display Post content, and user content could be filtered by where people are from, or other categories.
  2. Search bar, share and full screen buttons are difficult to see. They could have been made larger, or contrast between their color and the map could have been increased.
  3. It would be better to limit time the user is look at to less than four hours. True, there aren’t many between 1 and 5 a.m., but around noon the content gets almost overwhelming.
  4. Summaries that come up when the user clicks on a Post icon are just half of the lede. It would be better if reporters or web producers had come up with solid one-sentence blurbs or summaries.
Other ways the inauguration could have been covered
  1. 360 degree panorama views of certain intersections that were around the inauguration. Again, this is to give the sense of the news consumer being there. I remember these panorama shots from the late ’90s, I’m often surpirsed we don’t see them much anymore.
  2. I would have liked to see more video and audio of the man on the street interviews where attendees express why they came out, why it’s important to them to be there
  3. Updates to this map would be helpful, where does the President sign legislation? What does that area look like? Political stories could continue to be linked to this map, but it’s static, the same as it was at the end of Inauguration Day. In contrast, twitter.com’s “coverage,” or topic stream was updated 5 times in 10 minutes during a randomly sampled time between 9:00 and 9:10 p.m. on Sun, Jan. 25.
  4. One interactive way to cover the inauguration that I didn’t see would be a broader map showing what people were doing to celebrate outside of D.C. I thought one of the most interesting stories I saw was a short TV news spot on the inauguration celebration on Kenya. They don’t all have to be that far afield, but the way it was celebrated in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and smaller towns and villages in America would have been interesting.

A Comparison with Other Media

Washington Post twitter.com Chicago Tribune
content from professional organization, but user has great deal of flexibility interacting with it runs solely on user contribution content only from professionals, not a lot of flexibility in interactivity
uses photo, audio, video and minimal text only text, with external links to a variety of multimedia mostly text, some photo galleries, types of content not well integrated
uses map to place user in DC no map here no map here
updates have stopped still being updated no more updates

*This is doubling as a post and an assignment for my Interactive Storytelling class at Medill.
It’s interesting to see the quirks of WordPress working with HTML. Note to self: style for the background in the template overrides background color designated on an individual page. Is there any way to override the template? Also, ordered lists were converted into un-ordered lists inside the table. Hmmmmmm, all part of the learning process.

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