PATAT 2010: Googlemaps and Multimaps

In an earlier PATAT conference blog I described the multi-objective methodology that I used. I finished by saying that in basing any methodology on travel distances between football clubs you have to somehow calcuate the distances between all the clubs (or at least those in the same division).

When I first started collecting all this data I decided to use one of the motoring organisation web sites. The three main contenders were the AA, the RAC and Green Flag. All of these web sites enable you to enter a start and end postcode (zip code if you are stateside) and they return various information such as a map of the route, the distance and the estimated time that it will take you to drive between the two locations. Of course, I was particularly interested in the distance.

To collect all the data I finally decided to use Green Flag. This was simply because when you enter the two postcodes and hit the “Find Route” button this information is stored in the URL that is shown in the address bar. The other two (the AA and RAC) did not do this. As none of these services had an API, being able to use a URL that contains this information was very useful, else collecting the data would have been even more labourious than it was (even so, it was still labour intensive). Being able to use the URL meant that you could build up the URL using something like Excel (which is what I did) and then upload that to a web site. It was now a case of simply clicking each link and recording the information. It was still a very long process, but not as long as having to type in each postcode separately.

I needed a better method, especially as I wanted to collect data each season and as the current (very manual) process takes me many hours I typically delayed doing it.

The candidates were essentially googlemaps or multimap (which loos like they have now been taken over by Bing); at least they offered both and API and are free. Of course, there are many paid services around but they tend to be very expensive.

In a future blog(s), I’ll let you know how these work and what use I made of them.

Other posts about PATAT can be seen here.