image Perhaps you've noticed that I've added a little (non-Virtual Earth) map to my blog. Well, as the story goes...I'm always crawling the web for maps. Obviously, I have some kind of passion (read as obsession) with online mapping. So, I come across this little map with dots on it that is appearing on a lot of the blogs. Yes, I'm aware of ClustrMaps. What was most interesting is that as I was discovering this whole WorldMaps/ClustrMaps thing this guy from inside Microsoft was talking about WorldMaps on one of the internal aliases. So, I emailed him and said, "DUDE! You're Microsoft. Why don't you use Virtual Earth maps?!?" Well, that was a good idea so he did it. And, now WorldMaps is available in both his static map and Virtual Earth map views. Money.

That "he" is Brian Hitney, a Microsoft Developer Evangelist out of North Carolina who runs the Structure Too Big site. The service is free to sign up and all you need to do is drop a little map image (some HTML) on your page and his service will track all of the IPs requesting the image and produce a report for you. You can see this report by clicking on the map image itself (go ahead, click the map image). The map image even gives you a little ranking against other WorldMaps users. I'm currently 51, but was 79 just 4 days ago! Eh-hem, anyway, the report shows you on a map where your usage is coming from around the world and how many hits you're getting from those respective countries, cities, states, where ever the IP is originating.

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The blue icon indicates where I am (Redmond, WA). Green, yellow and red icons depict traffic levels. What this tells me is that at this zoom level there are a lot of people from the respective locations reading the blog. If you zoom in you can see that there are areas with green icons and just one IP making a single connection to the blog. Like my single reader in Namibia! You're my boy, Blue! Anyway, the tool is super useful for tracking where my readers are coming from. Also, seeing this correlates to the people who are interested in Virtual Earth - what I'm going chalk up as good aerial/map coverage vs. bad coverage. We have crappy maps in most of Africa, so people in Africa aren't really going to be to interested in Virtual Earth until we do have good maps. Although, MapCruncher can always be a solution for that and the GoVE program will help if you have imagery you want us to use for you. So, get WorldMaps and slap it on your web site(s). It's free. And, yes, I've told Brian about setting the BGCOLOR for the maps so they match. And, he said he'd work on a setting so the Virtual Earth map was the default instead of his static map. Thanks Brian!

CP