Tracking Maps

Google Map

I’ve had a few people ask how I create the maps showing where I’ve been recently, so here’s a quick tutorial on the process.

I’ve got Google Latitude installed on my phone, and it runs constantly tracking my location, and the data is saved to Google’s servers. (Note: If you’re paranoid about being tracked, you can stop reading now.)

Google Latitude

Every now and then I log into using my desktop browser, click on ‘View location History’ to get a map of my travels, and then choose the date and a time frame.


I’ll often do the last 30 days (which is the maximum) but for this map I did just two days to show all the traveling I did over a weekend. (Minneapolis and back!)

Once you’ve got the date and time frame set, you’ll see your map. Just resize it, position it, and do a screen capture, and you’re all set!

Wikipedia has a good write-up about Google Latitude.

Update: It seems Latitude will be shut down on August 9th, 2013. Sorry, kids! I’ll be investigating other ways of doing this.


More Tracking (Please!)


Remember last year when I wrote about how your iPhone tracks your location? (Sort of.) Some people find this stuff creepy, but I’m a fan of geo-tracking, and I want more of this data. It’s part of the reason I use things like Foursquare and Google Latitude. A fellow Milwaukee Makerspace member is even working on a device to seamlessly let your office mates know which office you are in. (See Marco.)

Last 30 Days
Last 30 days of tracking, via Google Latitude

The fact that Google Latitude only shows the last 30 days is (to me) a bug, not a feature, and it means that if I want to save that data, I probably need to dig into the API and write my own code to do it. I wrote some code to grab and save all my Foursquare data, and it worked great until they deprecated the API. I haven’t upgrade my code to use new API because it’s an OAuthMess, which I haven’t wanted to deal with yet.

A sad list of choices for hardcore geo-nerds

I understand that many (most?) people don’t want this data public, or shared, or kept, or all of those things. I mean, look at the options: Show timestamps, Export to KML, Delete history from this time period, Delete all history. Half of your choices involve deleting data.

When I look at some of the mapping crazy-geo stuff that Aaron has done… I’m floored by it, and I want to see more of that, not less. Again, it’s not for everyone, but for the people who want their own data, or the ability to share/republish their own data, there’s some good potential there… and I hope to see more of it in the future.


Your iPhone is tracking you!

Oh yeah, time to freak out, because your iPhone is tracking you! Well, it’s tracking itself, or cell towers, or wifi access points, or… something of interest, but sadly, it’s not doing a great job at it.

For some people, this is “Big Brother” type of scare… and for others (fans of geo-tracking) it’s not quite good enough.

I grabbed iPhone Tracker, and dug through some of my files, and took a look at the SQLite database, and was fascinated by the data (I tend to get fascinated by data) but I didn’t feel like alerting the media about it…

Will Clarke has a nice blog post about this as well. It’s worth a read.

Here’s some data that was marked 2010-12-29. I’m not sure what that date refers to, but this seems to show my trip taken on 2011-01-01. I find it interesting to see this data. Back in mid-2010 I wrote some code to make an archive of my Foursquare data, with the thought I would map it all out at some point. Sadly, I’ve collected a lot of data, but haven’t done anything useful with it yet. Maybe it would make more sense for me to just get my geo-data directly from my iPhone. I mean, I don’t even have to check in and it knows (roughly) where I’ve been!

This seems to do a poor job of showing where I was. I mean, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in all of these location. Maybe it was just my phone connecting to towers in all of these locations…

A nice table view of some of the geo-data the iPhone records. Now to figure out how to use it for something good. Or bad. Or somewhere in-between.


Here or There…

Here or There...

When you want to see things happen where you are, and they aren’t happening, or they aren’t happening fast enough… I think you have two choices:

1. Go to where things are happening, and try to join in with the people making things happen, and be a part of the things that are happening.

2. Make things happen.*

* Option #2 may require you to work your ass off. Don’t let that stop you.


Foursquare Fun – Who is Here?

Foursquare I had this idea for Foursquare… I thought it might be cool for a venue to have a screen showing who recently checked in. So I dug into the API a bit to see if that could be done. Here’s what I got.

I fired up FoursquareX and saw that old pal tapps was at MOCT, which happens to be a bar/nightclub. (I know this because I’ve been there once… though it was a paid gig and I was operating a camera.) Anyway… I needed the venue ID (vid) for MOCT, which you can get from the URL: Once I had that, I did this:

curl -u [USERNAME]:[PASSWORD]-o moct.xml ''

(You’ll need to substitute your own Foursquare username for [USERNAME] and your Foursquare password for [PASSWORD]. Also, your username is your email address, not what displays as your name on Foursquare. )

This gave me a file called ‘moct.xml’ containing the data I needed. (Note that this API call requires authentication… without it you’ll get venue info, but not the list of people checked in.)

I won’t show you the entire file, but here’s the first part to look at, the stats:

        <homecity>Milwaukee, WI</homecity>

You can see the important bits are: checkins, herenow, and mayor. The herenow tells you how many people are there right now. (I believe “right now” means, they have checked in within the last 3 hours.)

So here’s the info for tapps:

      <created>Wed, 20 Oct 10 23:17:23 +0000</created>
        <homecity>Milwaukee, WI</homecity>

And here’s a user named “Ty S.” who I do not know…

      <created>Thu, 21 Oct 10 00:20:45 +0000</created>
        <homecity>Milwaukee, WI</homecity>

We can construct the URL to his Foursquare page using the id:, and if the user has a username set, it will redirect to custom URL. (At least, it will if you are logged in with your browser.) We can also see their photo, so you could do something interesting with that as well. (There are no access controls on the images, you should be able to see any of those.) You can also see their homecity and their gender. I’m sure you can come up with an interesting Boys vs. Girls display using that data… And for a nightclub, well, it just seems fitting.

OK, well that’s all the time we have for now, keep on hacking… and if you build anything interesting with this info, please let me know.

Update: I probably should have linked to the API docs as well: