Geotag Icon

There has been a meme floating around about the new "Geotag Icon" that was originally proposed here and now has an officious site: Geotag Icon Project

There has been a lot of dialog. Sean discusses a lot of his thoughts about semantic interoperability and formats. There has also been a number of discussions on the design itself - everything from the color, to the pushpin being indicative of points only - maybe reinforcing the "red dot fever" that plagues many maps.

These are really minor quibbles. Overall I think it's a decent design that gives some simple meaning to what the icon conveys. However, the problem I do have is the Usage guidelines & examples. Essentially, they are saying it should be used for all geospatial formats.

Example from the site:

Home of the Geotag Icon Project | Usage guidelines & examples-1.jpg

Bruce defends this:

Whereas the Geotag Icon describes a general concept ('This item is geotagged') the KML icon and GeoRSS favicon each proclaim a file format. This is analogous to the Feed Icon: can you imagine having a different orange icon for each web feed format? There's no reason why the Geotag Icon can't sit side-by-side with file format icons if that's what folk wish to do. But a well-recognized Geotag Icon (in time!) adjacent to the text description 'Download KML file (opens in Google Earth)' could well be more informative to the majority users than what is otherwise sure to be a growing set of vaguely-related file format icons with which to become familiar. The power of de facto standard icons is in instant recognition'”and the fewer the merrier!

I disagree, he's proposing this one icon should be used for a multitude of different formats that each have different capabilities and uses. It's not like the difference between RSS and Atom, it's the difference between HTML and RSS or CSS. Or a Video and a Photo. Sure, they're both images, but they're also very different in what they do.

He's creating additional confusion by using the Geotag icon for GeoRSS. GeoRSS isn't even a file format, it's an extension to another file format: RSS / Atom, and they already have a recognizable icon that has meaning to users. I wouldn't want to put yet another icon in front of them that meant something slightly different. And KML is a visualization format, similar to HTML + CSS. GPX is a very specific format that works for handheld GPS units and PND's. I'm surprised the Geotag Icon wasn't proposed to be used for Geo and Adr Microformats, since it matches this formula of all things geo.

This is the follie of the greater GIS community - assuming something is primarily geo first, and general information second. I'm surprised this is idea is also followed by people outside the GIS world.

So I only ask that the Usage guidelines of the Geotag icon be scaled back. It's interesting that it's been incorporated into Minimap Sidebar - good idea, but perhaps again confusing application with format? Using it in a photograph or video is nice because it's clear to me that the format is a video (and I don't care if it's mov, fla, et al.) and useful to be alerted that it has geocoded content inside. I also think it could be useful as a link to a page of Geospatial formats. Why not even use it like the Share this on... on the Geotag project page itself?

Geotag IconMap this with KML IconKML, RSS IconGeoRSS, GPX IconGPX

GPX icon is from Garmin's Communicator Plugin. You could optionally replace the format names (like KML) with suggestion applications, but I find this a little to vendor specific. Don't you dislike it when people say things like "I opened the Internet Explorer page..."?

I think this set of links is how I would do it in GeoPress. But don't suggest that Geotag Icon become the over-arching marker for other formats that happen to contain geo-data. Otherwise, I'll be suggesting a family of icons like Timetag IconTimetag, and Titletag IconTitletag.

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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.