Mapcial is a location based social mapping application. It allows you to subscribe to Google map based Events. These events can show route and POI information, exactly as entered in My Maps (or as it is now, My Places).
This post is a guide to the features of Mapcial.
Mapcial requires that you register before you use the application.
To register, firstly acknowledge the statement that Mapcial will share your current location with other people. There is no opt-out for this and it is a requirement of using Mapcial. Whilst the Mapcial servers will store your location data, we only share this location with Mapcial users and, in the free version, with Google’s Ad-Mob team for location based advertising. (Hopefully this will produce adverts of more interest).
Mapcial allows you to enter a 5 to 14 character alias. Whilst this alias could be your real name, it is recommended that you choose a nickname or other non-identifying name.
Once you have entered an alias, press ‘Create’ to register this alias with the Mapcial servers. Alias’ must be unique so you may need to enter an alternative if your first choice is already taken.
The Mapcial Screen
The main part of the screen is taken up with the standard Google Maps view. This view allows you to scroll around the map and zoom in and out using the zoom toolbar that appears at the base of the view when you tap the screen.
At the top of the screen is an advert banner. This only appears on the free version.
Below the advert banner, is the title bar that contains the application name, and a scrolling marquee showing status information.
The next two icons are for Autofollow and Messages respectively. These will be covered later in this document.
The map screen should also show two icons:
- A man symbol. This is your avatar which should be positioned at your current location, assuming that your device can lock onto a GPS signal.
- A Flag. This shows the location of ‘My Place’, which is the position other users will see when you are subscribed to events, but not actively using the application.
The user avatars show the user alias in a rounded name plate under the avatar. Your alias name is coloured yellow, whilst other users are coloured white. The translucency or opaqueness of the avatar is related to the time the user was last active. A fully opaque avatar indicates the user was seen recently, whereas a transparent avatar indicates the user has not been seen for a day. The avatars of users who have not been active for more than a day are not shown.
All the icons are touch sensitive and will show any associated contextual information if you press them. This information appears in a pop-up known as an info-bubble.
Pressing on your avatar will show an info-bubble with the accuracy of your location, as shown in the diagram on the left.
Pressing on the ‘My Place’ icon will show information explaining the concept of ‘My Place’.
Info-bubbles will centre themselves on the screen and automatically adjust to wrap their content. Large info-bubbles may fill virtually the whole map view.
To close an info-bubble, tap the title bar; you do not have to tap the close icon (cross in a grey circle). Furthermore, you do not have to close an info-bubble to open another one, you can just tap another icon and it will close the open info-bubble whilst opening the next one.
There are two types of info bubbles:
- User based info-bubbles. These are text based info bubbles but can also contain some application specific links, such as messaging.
- POI based info-bubbles. These info-bubbles can contain embedded browsers that allow you to navigate HTML links into the web, such as browsing for associated information from Wikipedia. You can use the back button to navigate back to the previous page. There is no facility to navigate forward to page you have just left. When you have navigated back to the first page and press the back button, there will be a slight vibration to indicate that you have reached the first page and to avoid you accidently exiting the application.
As mentioned previously, there are two toolbar icons, one for Autofollow and one for Messaging.
The Autofollow icon is a picture of a hiker following a trail. Pressing this icon toggles the Autofollow mode. In Autofollow mode, the map will always remain centred on your current postion. This is useful when you require to see your current position on the map. The bold icon indicates that you are in Autofollow mode, whilst the faded icon indicates you are out of Autofollow mode.
Some things to be aware of in Autofollow mode:
- The screen will not dim in Autofollow mode, so your power requirements will be higher.
- The GPS is continually enabled which also increases your power requirements
- The frequency at which your location is updated to the server is not changed by using Autofollow mode.
- If you open an info-bubble whilst in Autofollow mode, Autofollow is temporarily suspended until the info-bubble is closed
The envelope toolbar icon is the messaging icon. The closed envelope icon indicates that you have no messages, whilst the open envelope with letter icon indicates that you do have messages. The server is checked every five minutes for messages whilst you are using the application. There is a small rotational animation that is shown after a check if you have messages. Press the Message icon at any time to go to the message screen.
The message screen shows you all the messages you have. New messages have an asterisk indicator at the end, e.g. (*).
Pressing a message will open a window that shows the message detail which includes:
- Who the message was from
- Who the message was too (this should always be you!)
- The times the message was sent and read
- The text of the message
The message window also contains three option buttons:
- Reply: Sends a reply to the sender of the message. If the sender of the message has not been active for one day, then this will be the only way of replying, as they will no longer be visible on the map screen.
- Delete: Deletes the message from the device and server.
- Cancel: Cancels the dialog and returns you back to the ‘All Messages’ window.
To return to the Map view, press the back button.
There are two ways to send a message, either by replying to a message you have received, or by touching another user’s avatar and pressing the ‘Leave a Message’ link.
Either method shows the ‘Send Message’ screen. You cannot change the name of the alias you are sending to, as this is derived from the avatar you pressed or the message you are replying to.
Enter the message in the provided space.
Press ‘Send’ to send the message and return, or press ‘Cancel’ to cancel sending the message. Any text you have entered will be lost if you cancel.
The messaging facility is there to be used to send ‘hellos’ to other users. If people do not respond to a hello, then don’t continually message them, they are more than likely not interested.
Be polite, be courteous.
Also be aware of passing any personal information in a message to other subscribers of public events. The recipient is an unknown and should be treated with caution.
Ignoring Other Users
Mapcial now supports ignoring other users. If there are some people you’d rather not receive messages off, or even see on your screen, then you can ignore that user. They people you ignore will not know that you have ignored them, it is totally anonymous.
There are two ways to ignore a user:
- You can press on their avatar and then press the ‘Ignore this user’ link.
- You can long-press on any message
Both mechanisms take you to the ‘Ignored Users’ screen where you can add the user’s alias to a list of ignored users. Note that you cannot change the alias name field, it is pre-populated from the message or avatar.
If you later decide you do not want to ignore a user, you can access the Ignored Users screen from the Menu. See below for details.
There are eight menu options which are, from left to right, top to bottom:
- My place
- My location
- Find user
- Satellite/Map mode
- Select events
- Manage ignored users
Each of these options are covered below:
MENU: My Place
My place allows you to set a location that will be shown when you are not actively using the application, i.e. you have navigated away from the Map View.
To set ‘My Place’, center the map screen on the location you would like to use, then press the Menu button and touch the ‘My Place’ menu option.
This will then plant the flag at your new ‘My Place’ location and open the info-bubble for ‘My Place’
It is recommended for privacy reasons that you set ‘My Place’ to a location other than your real location. The application defaults to Google’s headquarters at Mountain View, although you may prefer to change this to, say, Buckingham Palace and stay with the Queen.
MENU: My Location
Pressing the ‘My location’ menu option will move and zoom the map to your current location on the map.
MENU: Find User
The ‘Find user’ menu option will display a window showing of all the users who are subscribed to any of the same events as you. Pressing a user will zoom and move the map to their current location.
MENU: Satellite/Map mode
Pressing the map mode icon will toggle the map from displaying a satellite view to a map view, and vice-versa.
MENU: Select Events
Pressing the ‘Select events’ menu option will display a window showing all the public events that are registered with the server. You can choose which events you are interested in subscribing to.
The free version of the application will restrict you to selecting one event only. However in the Beta, this restriction has been relaxed and, like the paid version, you can choose a number of events. Please be aware that whilst we have taken measures to keep the performance level high, subscribing to a large number of events will cause a large number of POI and route data to be shown. For example, subscribing to the current 13 events will load 14 routes with 743 POIs and 26476 line-points. Note that there will also be an increase in the number of user avatars shown as you subscribe to more events.
Press ‘Save’ to save your selections or ‘Cancel’ to leave them as they were. If you have changed your selections, the details for the new events will be downloaded and shown as an overlay on the map. This may take some time depending upon the complexity of the event.
The settings menu gives you finer control over the GPS aspects of the application. From here, you can choose to continually update your location without being required to have the application open or even to have the device switched on. This is achieved by running the GPS and location updates as a service.
Running the application as a service is useful when you want to impart your location to other event subscribers. For instance, you are taking part in a outdoor event and would like to update other event subscribers of your progress in the event. It could be a bicycle race or a long distance walk.
If you enable the tracking service, then it will continue to run until you re-enter the Mapcial settings screen and toggle it off.
The other option in the settings menu is the GPS check frequency. This is a closely related setting that controls how often the Mapcial service will check the location. GPS checking can be a power hungry activity and for longer events you may want to increase the time between checks. If you plan to use this feature, then please perform some trials before the actual event to see what is the best setting for power usage and update frequency. There are currently no checks of your battery levels and Mapcial will happily run until you have no charge left in your battery.
MENU: Manage ignored users
Th Ignored Users screen is where you can see all the users you have ignored. If you press on an Ignored User alias they will no longer be ignored. Note that you cannot directly add a user from here, as the ‘alias’ field is disabled. To add a user to the ignored list, either press on the avatar and follow the ‘Ignore this user’ link or long-press on any message they have sent.
Presents details of the application including its version number. You should include this version number in any bug-reporting correspondence.
The about screen also shows some statistical information on the number of items on the screen, including:
- Users. The number of combined users shown in all the events you have subscribed to, including yourself.
- Events. The number of events you are subscribed to.
- Routes. The number of routes that are displayed. Note that an event may have more than one route associated with it.
- POIs. The total number of Points of Interest shown for all routes.
- Points. The total number of points that described the lines and polygons used in all the routes that are shown.
My Maps Integration
Google’s My Maps allows you to create overlays for Google Maps. These overlays can contain POI and route information with a choice of icon styles and line colours. There is a very good article here on how to create your own map overlays.
The core feature of Mapcial is it’s ability to display the My Maps overlays on your device. Mapcial will represent all the styles and icons that you have selected and even display the POI content when you touch a POI.
It is intended that the paid-version of Mapcial will allow you to register your events on the Mapcial server and that these are then visible to other Mapcial users, unless the event is marked private.
This feature is not available and in the meantime SoftWyer will accept any My Maps URL you send us for inclusion in the list of Mapcial events. Just email us the My Map information, using the ‘Send’ button to mapcial @ softwyer.com
Frequently Asked Questions
The Mapcial download is available from the Android Market. You can use this link to direct you to the market.
Feel free to leave comments and please inform us of any problems. We’ll do our best to resolve them.
Note that ignoring a user works off their current alias. If this user chooses to register under another alias, then you will see them and receive messages. In this instance, you can request that the user be banned and we will block any Mapcial alias created on the same device. We won’t be able to block them on other devices that they may use until they have registered on those devices.
For SoftWyer to ban a user you must present us with compelling evidence that the user needs to be banned. The best evidence is any messages you may have received from them, so please keep these messages and do not delete them. We will not be able to retrieve any messages you delete.
To start an investigation on any user, send us an email at mapcial.abuse @ softwyer.com giving us your alias and the alias of the user you would like to have banned. Please give us all the details of why this user should be banned and we will investigate, including reviewing any messages they may have posted. We may, depending upon the severity of abuse, decide that a warning is initially required. We will do this through the messaging system warning the user that they behaviour has been noted and they should take action to follow our Acceptable Usage Policy. This will be done through a standard message form that does not mention any other user.
If they still continue to act in an anti-social manner, then we will ban them from using Mapcial on that device and any others we subsequently find them using.
Acceptable Usage Policy
The Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) is very simple:
- Be courteous to other users.
- Do not spam other users.
What constitutes spamming? Sending the same message to multiple users with a view to selling goods or services. Also, continually sending messages to the same recipient who has expressed a preference not to receive messages from you.