The Maya Townsend interview has generated interest in live-link mapping – as well as questions about how to do it and what one should know. This post is in response to those questions.

What you ought to know before starting

First – you should have a working familiarity with sumApp and be able to run a simple project before you commit to live mapping.

Second – you should be able to visualize the data in Kumu to your satisfaction. Data visualization in Kumu can run from super-simple (just showing the nodes & connections) to super-complex (with myriad views highlighting your whole range of data points in all kinds of cool ways). If you’re a Kumu beginner, be ok with that & know that if your vision is greater than your ability to implement, you’ll probably be the only one with thoughts of what is missing.

That said – it’s probably best to start with a simple project – not too complex a survey, not too complex a set of viz requirements – unless or until you really know what you’re doing. If you need help with either sumApp or Kumu – contact us. We can hook you up with a support team.

But a live map demonstration is the perfect context for a very basic map, as you’re mainly just introducing concepts – it’s usually not the kind of context where you want or need to enable others to do their own deep dives and analytics.

Considerations to keep in mind

The live-link is great for a live event, teaching about networks & introducing concepts. And it’s great for birthing a longer-term evolving social system map, because the instant results help generate energy for the project. At the same time, there are trade-offs that can make it a less-than-perfect option in a long-term map.

But luckily, you don’t have to settle on one approach up front. You can live-link until the constraints become a problem for you, and then you can switch methods of data-transfer.

So what are the trade-offs?

The biggest trade-off is that the live link is read-only. This creates limitations such as:

  • Can’t change any data in Kumu
  • Can’t shorten or re-word questions or options
  • Can’t time-tag
  • Can’t change types of elements or connections
  • Can’t pin clusters
  • (the upside is that if these things don’t mean anything to you, you probably won’t care)

Because it’s read-only – you also can’t merge sumApp data with other data sources in your Kumu map.

  • However, if you have the chops, you could live link into a google sheet instead & use java-script to merge the data there. But that’s beyond most of our user’s skill-sets and far beyond the scope within which we can offer advice – so unless you already know how to do what I suggested, pretend I never said this.

It also means that If sumApp is down for any reason, your map is also down. Which, given our current developmental phase happens periodically, albeit briefly (you might want to let us know when you plan to present, in case we can forestall a conflicting down-time moment).

And finally – if you change the sumApp survey at all, you’ll need to remove & re-instate the live link from your map (a 5 minute process).

None of those is a big deal – until they become a big deal. And when that happens, that’s a good sign – it means your membership wants their map to be more sophisticated. Which probably means they’re using it – and that’s the ultimate goal! So – retiring your live-link is a good problem to have.

How to do it

Overall process & set-up

  • Your entire sumApp project should be set up ahead of time (survey, connection options, email templates, settings).
  • You should run a small pilot or generate a few dummy responses ahead of time.
  • Once you have some pilot/dummy-data, link the project to Kumu and get Kumu to do what you want with your data ahead of time. (see how to do this below)
  • Load as many of your names & emails addresses as you can before the event.
  • Have a plan for gathering new names and emails (a google survey works well) and for getting that list into sumApp in the midst of your event activities.
    • If you use an online form, you could even have someone load your data from a distance. You’d just need to clarify the process together and set a time schedule or use an IM service to communicate about when to download & import names. We can help you find someone who could support you.
  • If your map is going to be private, figure out how you’re going to share it with the group
    • Will you just show it on a projector? Or do you need to embed it in a password protected page?
  • Don’t forget to put your map in ‘Preview’ mode when you present it – for the best viewing experience.


How to insert the live link into Kumu

To make a map with a live JSON link follow these steps:

  • Go into Kumu and make a new project (you can’t do this with a project that already has data, so start fresh)
  • Copy the following bit of code directly from here into a text editor somewhere (google doc, notepad, etc.) – this will become your live link code:
    • Workflows.setCurrentMapSource(“MY JSON LINK”);
  • In sumApp, go to ‘Launch’ then ‘Data Download’ to get the live link.

  • Copy the JSON link from sumApp.
  • Paste your JSON link where it says MY JSON LINK in the code above (which you put into your text editor).
    • It goes between the quote marks (keep the quote marks – keep the semicolon at the end too).
    • This is your unique live-link code, which now needs to be inserted into your Kumu project.

It should look like this:

Or this:

Paste your code and click Import JSON.

Your map should now be live – Yayy!!!

That’s all there is to it!

Good luck!

Ping us in our Slack team if you have questions (you get an invite when you sign up for a free sumApp trial – the token is ‘sum-app-slack’).  

Let us know how your experiments work out – we’d love to gather more stories!

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