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Online tools: Resources to create cool multimedia for The Rapidian

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From The Rapidian staff

Each week, a Rapidian staffer will publish a piece related to goings-on at The Rapidian, developments in the world of citizen journalism and tips for making the most of the site. Click here for past editorials.

From The Rapidian staff: It's astonishing how easy it is to create interactive media with free tools right at your fingertips (literally)—that is, if you know where to look. We covered a couple tools in a previous editorial, but here are a few more to chew on:



Google Maps - Google is always rolling out intuitive tools that you didn't even know you needed and, chances are, you didn't know were available to you. One of the oft-overlooked tools is Google maps. If you have a Google account, you can create a public or private map and perforate it with your own pinpoints and notes on hotspots.

Maps has text fields to provide a description of your map, associate text and images using their text editor (HTML is also an option) and draw shapes and paths over the map.

Once you've finished making your map, you can embed it on The Rapidian with the code that Google provides. For an example on The Rapidian, check out Midtown Neighborhood Association's piece on subneighborhood plaques.

American Visualizer - First they mail us, then they show up on our porch. What happens to all that census data? A few years after collection, the data is published into comprehensible sets. Comprehensible, that is, to statisticians. Enter American Visualizer, which parses census data into infographics for the city of your choice. It's in alpha mode with more data sets to come, but if you want to include an infographic in your piece, just take a screenshot!


Ustream/Livestream - Hosting a musical or lecture guest? Ustream and Livestream are popular choices for displaying video live over the Internet. Users of either service can create channels for their content. Once live recording is finished, users can change settings so viewers can always access an archived version of the recording. Each allow for a multicamera set-up and have many other features specific to their services.

Stroome - Video editing software is not only expensive, it's a power hog on computers. Devices like the Flip camera or iPhone make it easy to take video, but a hassle to download software or edit on a small touch screen. Stroome realized the value of being able to port a video project anywhere you go and edit it on any browser. This video editing platform is a collaborative social network, offering revision histories and intuitive editing tools.



CRIdata - The Johnson Center's Community Research Institute melts census data down to the neighborhood level. Browse by neighborhood to find demographic information about voting participation and home ownership, among many others. Each data set is available in a summary or detailed report, both complete with numbers and charts.
CRIdata is also home to MAPAS, a mapping tool that enables users to create custom, color-coded maps that interlace census data with community institutions, from congregations to nonprofits.

Grand Rapids crime mapping - If you're curious about crime in Grand Rapids, you can zoom all the way down to the block level with crime mapping. You can sort by date, crime type, process detailed reports and trend analyses, and sign up to receive alerts in your area.


There are countless Internet tools such as the ones shared in this editorial. We'll share more in the future, but this should be enough to get you started. Create! Experiment! Rapidian staffers will be on hand to help you translate your mashups into articles.

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