It all started with a meeting invite: "Discuss idea of presenting Tom Denniss' run around the world as an infographic for print and online." It sounded innocent enough. I clicked Accept.
That was in June 2014. We published our presentation the following March. In the months between were hundreds – maybe even thousands – of hours spent working on the project.
Now, almost another year later, the presentation has resurfaced again: Runner's World has been nominated as a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the Multimedia category. That's kind of a big deal. Ellies, as they're called, are pretty much the Oscars for the magazine industry. We'll find out at a fancy awards dinner in NYC on Monday night whether we won or not.
The biggest hurdle was making sense of all the data. I was given a dump of XML files from Tom's GPS watches and had to write scripts to parse it and store it in a more manageable database. Once that was done, figuring out how to display the coordinates was the next big challenge. I had dabbled in the Google Maps API before, but never on something this huge. The sloppy loops that'll work when plotting a couple of markers don't cut it when you're dealing with over 3 million data points. Eventually I figured it out. (A post featured on Google's Geo Developers Blog explains how.)
But that wasn't even close to the end of the project. There were hundreds of photos, videos, audio clips, and quotes to be added in. And it had to work on mobile. And it had to look amazing.
Lucky for me, I was working with a stellar team. Christine Fennessy sifted through insane amounts of data, albums of photos, and a year's worth of blog posts to pull out the gems that we included. And then she polished those gems.
Dan Fuehrer added the nifty animated intro and helped to style the map. After all, a cool map isn't really cool unless it looks good. He's the one who made it look good. He also put together the bonus presentation – that easily could have been its own presentation – of fun stats and tidbits from the epic run.
None of this could have happened if Rachel Swaby hadn't gone out and gathered all the data. Our video guys, David Graf and Derek Call, did a fantastic job with the video and audio that was included. And, finally, our editors Chris Kraft and David Willey kept pushing us to make this thing a little bit better.
Now, all that's left is to wait until Monday and hope that the judges pick us. There's some really tough competition within the category, but I think we have a chance. We created something really unique and ambitious when we created "40 Million Steps Around the World."
This post was published on January 29th, 2016 by Robert James Reese.