A Streamlined “Add a Tree” Process in Yesterday’s New OpenTreeMap.org Release

Azavea practices Agile/Scrum software development, and our Civic Apps team (which works on OpenTreeMap.org among our other civic software projects) organizes work into 2-week Sprints. Accordingly, every couple of weeks we test and release to production a new set of features and enhancements to the OpenTreeMap cloud platform. Yesterday was one of those deployment days, with a new version of the software behind OpenTreeMap.org going live to all our users!

Sometimes, complex features are “in the works” for several Sprints in a row before they are released; often though, new OTM releases include smaller enhancements and bug fixes. Over time, these smaller improvements can add up to be quite significant. And these continuous releases of new enhancements are a key advantage of Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”, aka “cloud”) offerings like OTM, ensuring our users always have the latest version of the software.

The Civic Apps team has been working for a while now on features both small and large related to adding green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) support to the OTM platform.  The recently released TreeMap LA and our fabulous client TreePeople‘s goal of tracking green infrastructure in the Los Angeles area has been a key driver of this recent push for us. Trees are already “green stormwater infrastructure” because they infiltrate water and reduce stormwater runoff load.  But we’re extending OTM to support other GSI, such as green roofs, bioswales and rain gardens.  In this release, one of the small enhancements we’ve pushed live is a redesigned, three step, multi-panel “add a tree” process. This new multi-step design paves the way for us to also add in the workflow for users to add GSI elements like green roofs in an upcoming release. See what I mean about small improvements adding up quickly?!

If you have access to your own tree map on OpenTreeMap.org, or if you live near Los Angeles and want to add some trees in your neighborhood on TreeMap LA, here’s a run-down of the new workflow!

Step 1: Set the Tree’s Location

The first panel in our new three-step add a tree workflow.

The first panel in our new three-step add a tree workflow.

Hit the big, inviting “Add a Tree” button at the top right of your map, and you’ll see the the first step appear in the sidebar where the “Yearly Eco Benefits” calculations normally display. You can either click a point on the map to drop the Tree placemark there, or type in a street address in the general vicinity of the tree, or if you’re “in the field” on a GPS-enabled tablet, hit the “Use Current Location” link to automatically drop the pin right where you’re standing. Once you do one of these three things, you’ll see a Google StreetView inset (please note that Google StreetView is only available if you are using GoogleMaps as the base map) pop up on the map of that location to give you more context:

The Streetview window in the Add Tree process.

The Streetview window in the Add Tree process.

When you’re ready and sure of the location you want to place your tree, hit the “Next” button in the bottom right of the sidebar.

Step 2: Add Species and Additional Info

On the step 2 panel, we can add species information and trunk circumference/diameter.

On the step 2 panel, we can add species information and trunk circumference/diameter.

Watch mesmerized as the Step 1 panel gracefully slides away, to reveal our species and measurement input panel! Inputting the tree’s species and trunk diameter or circumference (we’ll compute either one from the other) information is what enables OpenTreeMap to calculate ecosystem benefits for your tree. If you don’t know either of these – maybe you need to brush up on your tree identification skills or you don’t have a tape measure handy – that’s fine, you can still add your tree. And if you only know one, enter it anyway! In the spirit of crowdsourcing, other tree map users can come by later and use the advanced search filters for trees missing diameter or species to come by and fill in the gaps where you left off. (Incidentally, the advanced search filter styling was another improvement we made in this release!)

Also, if your Latin is a little rusty and you can’t remember how to spell “Fraxinus quadrangulata” (that’s a “Blue Ash” to the rest of us…), no need to worry. OpenTreeMap will give you species suggestions (correctly spelled!) from the list of possible species for your tree map as you type. When you get close, just click one to auto-fill the rest of the name.

Right now, adding a tree height has no impact on the ecosystem benefits calculated for the tree. But if you’re able to measure it, by all means enter it to give your city’s urban foresters a clearer picture of the trees out there.

Once you’re good with your selections, hit the “Next” button to move on to our last step!

Step 3: Finalize This Tree!

On the last panel, you can review your tree location and species, and decide if you want to add more details or finish!

On the last panel, you can review your tree location and species, and decide if you want to add more details or finish!

With your tree’s location set and species and other basic information entered, Step 3 gives you a chance to review your work. Often, tree map owners have enabled lots of other data fields on each tree and planting site you can edit that aren’t accessible through this “quick add” process in the map sidebar. If you’d like to add more information about this tree, click the “Continue editing this tree” box to be taken to the tree’s more extensive detail page.

If there’s another tree near this one with the same species or a similar trunk size, it might make sense to check the “Add another tree with these details” box, to keep some of your data pre-filled and start this quick add workflow again. The “Add another tree with new details” box will also start the process over again, but you’ll have a clean set of fields to edit.

Or maybe you’re done with your editing for the moment! Either way, check the appropriate box and hit the “Done” button. Congratulations, you’ve just added a tree to your local tree map!

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