Inside Power Map’s Latest Update
The team was small, but each member was excited about what we were building. I had spent a lot of time exploring the different kinds of functionality for what the product should do by using the visual-experience engine that powered the WorldWide Telescope. It was extremely useful for me to be able to show specifically how a feature could work with different representations and data types, which made it easier for everyone to have a shared understanding of a feature. That enabled the program managers to gain a deep understanding of the features when writing a spec and helped the development team understand the best way to build it.
As with any project with time and budget constraints, we would prioritize features based on importance to core functionality and the required level of work to build it. Sometimes, my favorite features would get pushed out because we just didn’t have time in the schedule, and it would just have to get saved for a future release.
It’s been almost six months since I left being “embedded” in the Power Map team when it “graduated” from being an incubation team to be fully integrated within the Office Excel team. I’ve returned to Microsoft Research to continue doing more exploration of ideas, helping the future of products, such as Power Map, evolve. It’s been particularly exciting to see how that extremely talented team has been able to execute on enhancing each of the core pillars of the product in my absence and deliver some of my favorite features that once looked like they wouldn’t make it into the product.
These new updates have added functionality around discovering insights. The Power Map team always has monitored closely early feedback from customers and used that to examine potential points of confusion or suggest needed enhancements. A popular requested feature is geopolitical regions—ZIP code, county, state, country/region—which is now available. The geocoding of regions such as postal codes or counties is done automatically, and the geographic boundaries make it easy to visualize and compare data for each region. A big shout out to Bing Maps for providing the data behind this and being a great collaborator with this project for years and an exemplar of the One Microsoft goal long before the mantra took hold. That team has done terrific work and contributed to the beautiful Earth style guides in Power Map.
The Power Map goal of sharing stories now has expanded by enabling the creation of beautiful videos of a guided tour by just clicking one button, Create Video, which gives you a choice of three resolutions, ranging from full HD to tablet-sized SD, at a resolution appropriate for mobile devices. These videos can be posted to social-media sites and shared so everyone can see the beautiful work that you’ve done. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another application that can do all of these things as easily or as beautifully. Kudos to the Power Map team for what it has been able to accomplish. The members of that team have gone way beyond what I ever thought was possible in this first release, but that’s totally because of the talent and dedication of each and every person on that team. It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of that, and I can’t wait for the final release!