CartoDB’s Odyssey.js Is An Open-Source Tool For Telling Stories With Interactive Maps

Everything happens somewhere. That’s the logic behind Odyssey.js, an open-source tool that utilizes maps to help turn data into interactive multimedia stories without the user needing coding skills.

With a $35,000 grant from the Knight Prototype Fund, creators of the cloud-computing platform CartoDB have released a beta of the open-source tool today.

CartoDB hopes the tool will push the art of storytelling into new bounds, rather than the traditional form of text, photos and videos.

The Knight Prototype Fund was established about a year-and-a-half ago, says Chris Barr, media innovation associate at the Knight Foundation. The fund looks to help experiments move forward to keep up with the pace of technology and innovation. The Knight Foundation funds about $100 million worth of grants per year, $30 million to $40 million of which goes toward the journalism and media innovation program.

Barr, who heads the prototype fund, said the foundation wanted to speed up its grant-making cycle to rapidly create new tools for journalists and publishers to use.

“I think the public is going to want more and more of these kinds of experiences that help us make sense of the large amount of information and data that we have at our disposal,” he said.

CartoDB builds mapmaking technologies, such as its interactive map to help visualize tweets about an event or a brand. This map looks at tweets during the opening game of Brazil v. Croatia in the World Cup.

Barr said CartoDB wanted to enrich the experience of telling a story with the use of maps, and so using text-to-HTML tool Markdown and JavaScript, they created Odyssey.js with the grant from the Knight Foundation.

CartoDB made the tool easy to embed within a content-management system, so that publishers can add interactive maps to their websites to tell their stories. The JavaScript library is also available for anyone to use.

The goal is to bring greater media innovation, says Barr. By straying away from the traditional form of storytelling, perhaps CartoDB can help increase readership and capture readers’ attention with the new Odyssey.js library.