How to geomap story locations across East Africa






Here are all the locations we’ve collected stories for January to June of 2011 (about 4500 stories so far):

Click for interactive map

The numbers represent unique locations within a city, not numbers of stories.

I tried pumping those 1500 story locations mapped into BatchGeo ( – the results are not totally accurate, but not bad for an automatic process that doesn’t even support Kenya or Uganda from it’s web interface.

I also ran each Story “Neighborhood”, city, and Country through 44 thousand locations in the GeoNames service. Specifically you can download the list and use it offline or in your own database instead of the API. Here is what Google Fusion Tables does when provided with latitude and longitude values that match via Geonames:

I can tell it misses a lot in Nairobi and Kisumu – where local names are used. The BatchGeo version shows that there are 666 locations (and 3000 stories) within nairobi, but Geonames appears to have missed these:

Following the adage that you get what you pay for, my research assistant Dennis has been manually assigning coordinates to the most common story locations. If someone told a story as part of the GlobalGiving Storytelling project and gave a location that has been used 5 times now (out of 5000 stories), then it appears correctly on this map (which checks our custom Geo-tagging list first, then check

And finally – a more accurate big picture of where stories are coming from:

So which method works best?

These three methods (Geonames, Google Fusion Tables, Batch Geo) have their relative strengths and weaknesses, depending on how much time you want to spend, compared with how important precise locations are to you. For my, the best approach was Geonames because I could combine it with my own custom lookup table for slums which appear on none of these maps.

If you are trying to put people on the map in Africa for the first time, no automated geocoding method will work. If you just want things in the right country, but no the right town, then any of these will work (but Batch Geo limits you to 2500 points).

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