Friday, October 9, 2009

Climate Change Tours by Google

Close followers of this blog may have spotted that my favourite application of Google Earth and the GeoWeb more generally is advocating action on climate change. So I'm excited to see that Google (and it seems to be my friends in Google Outreach) have released a series of tours to publicise the Copenhagen talks on climate change. I've pasted in the introductory video above.

They first published the site just as tours in the Google Earth plugin. However, I notice that they have now changed the web page to show YouTube videos of the GEarth tours with links to view the tours in Google Earth. I guess that this was because they looked at the hit logs and discovered a significant proportion of hits were from people who didn't have the Google Earth plugin and that these people then left rather than wait to download it and view the tours.

Whether this is the case or not I thought it worth discussing the pros and cons of publishing a Google Earth tour as a video rather than within Google Earth.

  1. No GE plugin: Avoid losing users who don't have the GEarth plugin installed
  2. Downloading Elements: In a GEarth tour its possible for the tour to play without a model (say) downloading properly, this leads to the model not rendering properly the first play through. In a video you avoid this.
  3. Simple Controls: Very simple controls to work a video that most users understand, in GEarth complex controls may confuse users
  1. More hassle to produce: you do the tour and then have to record it and upload it in the right format etc. etc. HowTo video a tour.
  2. Editing Problems: If you want to edit the tour you have to re-record the whole tour and repeat any video processing you did, in GEarth you just edit and upload again.
  3. Exploring Impossible: In Google Earth you can pause a tour and let people explore themselves. This isn't possible in a video. More detail on this idea in this post.
Video if you expect lots of Hits: I think the major influence on choice is about the audience size you expect. If you are expecting lots of users its probably worth recording the tour as a video as you get all the pros while you can live with the cons as they apply to the author, not the user. The exception to this is con [3].

Best of Both Worlds: In fact what Google have done is a bit of both worlds, they've provided the videos on the landing page and link through to tours within Google Earth. A nice solution but, of course, it takes more time to put together.

More Commentary coming: I have written a review of the tours already but since they've gone and changed them it will need redoing, I'll publish it soon.


Rupert Breheny said...

Hey, thanks for your feedback. I was the webmaster on the project, and you absolutely nailed the thought process. Analytics is a great tool, and certainly helps us implement the "release early, release often" philosophy. Given that we were offering many of our users a "plugin not installed" page, it made sense to focus on the most universally accessible method of getting this content across, and video seemed to fit the bill.

Had this been an Earth plugin campaign then it would probably have been fine to leave it as it was, but we felt the gravity of the subject merited the extra work to allow the user their choice of format. And of course, leading with video has the added benefit of a faster initial page-load which is never a bad thing.

More tours to come, so I hope you keep checking back.

Rich Treves said...

Hi Rupert,

Yup, there was a video advantage I missed - fast initial page load.

Glad I guessed right about the logs, release early and often is what I'd do much more if I had the time for redoing things!

I really think GEarth comes into its own re climate change so I'll be watching the tours as they come out.