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How to best map multiple variables associated with the same locations

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How to best map multiple variables associated with the same locations RL276 5/8/12 12:38 PM
I have a dataset of ~700 locations geocoded in latitude and longitude. Each location is a store and has 4 variables attached to it that can be answered "yes," "no," or "unknown." Right now these answers are in Excel, with each row serving as a separate store. I've already used Earth Point to map all of these stores, so I do already have all of the store locations on Google Earth. The next step, however, is to map the stores by variable so that the viewer can see which stores answered yes/no/unknown to each of the four variables. The only way I can think of doing this is to create 4 different Lists (one for each variable) with sub-options of yes/no/unknown, so users can check/uncheck the answer choices. Each answer choice would have a different colored icon for viewing ease.

The problem I'm thinking about, however, is that then viewers can only really see one variable at a time without the map getting too messy because locations would be overlapping themselves when the boxes for more than one variable are checked. Is there a way to merge the 4 variables? Or is the way I'm envisioning the lay out the best possible way of displaying multiple variables for the same locations? Really, any advice on mapping multiple variables associated with the same location would be helpful.

I realize this explanation may not be clear so I'm happy to provide more detail as needed.

Re: How to best map multiple variables associated with the same locations barryhunter 5/9/12 7:26 AM
In general I don't think the is a 'ideal' answer to this. Mapping multiple dimensions is hard. ("dimension" are a common name for what you are calling 'variable' - ie a specific detail) 

So your idea of seperate lists is good for starters. 

In fact you are already mapping 3 dimensions. Using x and y coordinates, the location is 2, and then particular variable is the 3rd. You are using colour to represent the 3rd dimension. Three dimensions can be a lot to visually comprehend already

To add more dimensions, one way would be to use a different concept for each. Say different colours for the 1st (non x/y) dimension, size of icon for the 2nd, and altitude above ground (which is possible in GE) for the 3rd. The forth would be something arbitary like icon rotation!?!

the problem with this is 1) your discreet choices y/n/u dont really map well to say altititude or size. Looking at a map of different size icons doesnt like a good way to visually comprehend y/n style choice. (where as say red/green/gray icons makes more 'sense') 
2) trying to comprehend multiple dimensions on one map like this would be hard. Very confusing. 

A slightly more viable method, is to use in effect 4 icons for each location. Each represent a different dimension. In practical sense this can be done with a single physical icon divided into segments. Each corner can be a different colour, probably a circle or a square. With a bit of patience, should be able to look at this map and comprehend patterns, but it wont be very clear.