|Exhibit A: When you first go to add a location to a box, |
you'll see a page like this one.
First, I'd like to note that these instructions apply anywhere you can add or edit locations, whether it's letterbox locations, event locations, virtual locations. Whether it's a custom location for yourself that can override the owner's listed location or whether you're listing the locations that others will see--all of this revolves around the same core piece of code, so they all work identically. Since the vast majority of locations are associated with letterboxes, however, I'll refer to those. Just know that this information applies to events and virtuals as well.
Now, let's take a look at Exhibit A. That's the kind of page you'll see when you first have to enter a location. Ours is empty since we have yet to add any location information, but we'll fix that. The important thing to remember about this page is that it's the geocoder page. A geocoder, to refresh your memory, is a system that converts an address or other human-readable location into latitude and longitude coordinates. Anything you type in here will be run through one or more geocoders in an attempt to figure out precisely where your location is.
|Exhibit B: Let the geocoder chew on Seattle, WA.|
Also note the small question mark in the blue circle next to the word 'Location.' Whenever you see that icon, clicking on it will take you a relevant entry in the help pages of Atlas Quest. If you're not sure about something, that's always a good thing to check.
So let's type in a location. Because I live in Seattle, we'll use that, and I type in "seattle, wa" because I'm too lazy to capitalize properly. =)
When I click 'Store', the text is sent to one or more geocoders, and it returns the following results:
|Exhibit C: The geocoder results.|
Now this is pretty darned cool! (At least I think so!) The geocoder found one result that it believes matches your location--a town called Seattle, located in King County, in Washington state, which is located in the United States, and even plots a map marking the location so you can verify it's latitude and longitude coordinates.
This is the best case scenario. It's exactly what we wanted, and we can click the 'Next Page' button and continue adding details about our box.
Unfortunately, the results aren't always this clean. Sometimes, the geocoders might find more than one location that appears to match your location. For instance, if we try searching for the location named "Portland", we'll get these results:
|Exhibit D: Wow, there certainly are a lot of Portlands out there!|
In this case, Portland, Oregon, gets first billing, and Portland, Maine, gets the second billing. Those two are also the two that most people can name right off the top of their heads, so it's nice to see that the geocoder gave those two the two top slots.
The numbers in the list correspond with the numbered markers on the map, so we can easily see their relative locations. Assuming we wanted to use the Portland in Maine, we can get there either by adding Maine to the text box to narrow down the result, or by clicking the second item in the list. I click the second item on the list then "Store," and wind up with this view:
|Exhibit E: Portland, Maine--there you are!|
That was mostly a contrived example--I knew that there were a lot of Portlands and could force that "error" to happen. Here's a real example that I fell into purely by accident:
|Exhibit F: A real-life scenario of multiple matches when I tried entering a location for "cerro san luis, san luis obispo, ca."|
When Geocoders FailThe worst situation is when the geocoders can't figure out your location at all. Take a look below at Exhibit G.
|Exhibit G: The geocoder failed to find our location|
The only time you usually see Cerro San Luis Obispo (or Cerro San Luis) used is in newspapers and other media that like to be officially correct in such matters.
But long story short, the geocoders were unable to figure out where Madonna Mountain was located because it officially doesn't exist. AQ was able to match the city where you said the mountain was located, and it gives you that as an option, but if you want to pin-point the location better than that, you have two choices:
- Use the official name of Cerro San Luis Obispo (assuming you knew that to begin with, though, why didn't you just use that as the location?)
- Create a custom location
Adding Custom LocationsTo get out from under the geocoders, which clearly have no idea what Madonna Mountain is, click that "Edit Custom Location" link at the bottom of the list. That's your 'escape hatch' from the geocoders. I click it, which takes us to Exhibit H:
|Exhibit H: We've escaped the geocoders into the Custom Location page|
Most of this page is self-explanatory. The name of the location we want to add is "Madonna Mountain," so we enter that as the "Park Name, Business Name, Etc." section. I don't have an address for that mountain, so I'll leave that blank. (If you know the address for the trailhead, however, it might be a good thing to include.) The city, county, state, and country area already correct, so I'll leave them be.
The coordinates are pretty straight-forward. The peak of Madonna Mountain, which I can look up from Google Maps, is at 35.282741024156, -120.68038151502. (If you have a GPS, you could also have recorded this information when you planted the letterbox.)
Then there's the radius. This is entirely new since the update. AQ now tracks the relative sizes of a given location. A park is usually much smaller than a city, and a city is usually much smaller than a state, and a state is usually much smaller than a country, and now AQ knows this! Which is very useful information for providing accurate search results.
There's a lot of information about the radius if you click the 'help' link for radius, but in a nutshell, it's the distance from the center point of your location to the outer edge of your location, as the crow flies. Assuming your preferences are set to use miles, the distance is in miles. (If your preferences are set for kilometers, you'll have to enter kilometers instead.) The only way to figure this out is to pull out a map--real or online--and measure the distance. For Madonna Mountain, the radius is 0.681 miles.
|Exhibit I: Adding a custom location|
When I'm done, I click 'Store', and AQ takes me back to the geocoder page, displaying my custom location:
|Exhibit J: Madonna Mountain, our custom location, now supported by the geocoders.|
And we're on our merry way again.
Adding a custom location can be a bit of a pain--figuring out the coordinates and radius and all that--and if you can make a location work without it, it'll save you a lot of extra effort.
And that's it for now. There's a lot more I want to talk about on that custom location page, but I'll save that for another day.....