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County uses GIS software to crowdsource holiday lights map

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Douglas County, Kansas uses GIS to highlight outdoor holiday light displays

’Tis the season — and Douglas County, Kan. is getting in the spirit of the holidays by launching a web-based mapping application that allows residents to share their outdoor holiday decorations and view other displays. The geographic information systems (GIS) division of Douglas County is leveraging a recent enhancement to its existing web GIS software to power this new app at no additional cost to the county.

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Holiday light display map

“Local government doesn’t always have to be about stuffy property assessments,” said Amy Roust, senior GIS analyst at Douglas County. “We’re fun people.”

Residents can view a map of outdoor holiday displays or if they have a holiday display, can add theirs to the map.

Roust said she got the idea to use it after seeing a new template from the GIS mapping software company the county uses. “I think it came out this summer,” she said. She began to think about ways to crowdsource information.

The county got the word out to residents about mapping their displays on the county Facebook page, on Twitter and in a news release. The local newspaper featured the new map in a story. Roust said she saw a spike in traffic to the site after word got out.

Residents can add a location to the map by clicking on a “participate” button and either sign in with a social media account or continue as a guest, and uploading a photo of their decorations. The county reviews all submissions before they go live. When anyone signs on with a social media account, they can come back later to update their entry.

Residents can see other holiday displays by clicking on the “explore map” button to see the full list. Clicking on a picture in the menu on the right side will give you details on each location.

Crowdsourcing applications are useful to government entities to engage with the public. Many local governments around the country already use crowdsourcing applications to solicit feedback from the public, engage them in issues of broad interest and even have them help identify infrastructure problems such as reporting downed signs or bad roads.

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