I’ve had some time over the weekend and decided to put some finishing touches on a couple of mashups that I started a few months ago but never completed. The first of these is the GeoRSS Maker which is something I dreamed up when I was making a GeoRSS file for my F1 circuit guide. At that time the process I uses was to first make a GeoRSS template file with a bunch of empty item elements before manually looking up the geographical coordinates of each individual racetrack(usually available on wikipedia) and entering the data into the template. This process was painful enough that I decided to build an automated way to extract coordinates from Wikipedia and insert them into a GeoRSS file.
After a little bit of searching I found the Geonames.org website which is a “geographical database is available for download free of charge under a creative commons attribution license. It contains over eight million geographical names and consists of 6.5 million unique features…”. The data is accessible through a webservice which allows you to send in a query sting and they will return a list of locations that match the query string. Now this is excellent when it comes to names of cities and towns but unfortunately their database does not yet include information about smaller features within a city such as racetracks. Fortunately they have realized this and have a second webservice that allows you to do a full text search of geocoded Wikipedia articles to extract the locations such as Silverstone circuit or Brands Hatch.
When the user enters a search term and presses the “Search” button, GeoRSS maker contacts the Geonames webservice and returns the top 5 results that match the users query. If there are no results it searches Wikipedia for geocoded articles that match the search term. All results are shown along with links to the originating website as well as Google and Yahoo maps of that location. Once the user has verified the location from the description and links, he/she can hit the “Add (Item)” button to add the item to the GeoRSS displayed on the bottom of the page. The user can do multiple searches and once all the required items are added he/she can just copy and paste the GeoRSS to save it as a separate text file. Advanced users can enter text to the category field if they want to set the category on the output GeoRSS items (this was mainly done because TagMaps uses the category field as a size parameter). The “Clear” button will erase all the search results as well as reset the GeoRSS output.
Head on over to the GeoRSS Maker webpage to try it out for yourself. As always this is a mashup with no guarantees – use at you own risk.