Monday, April 7, 2008

Mapping the news

Above is a map I built with Yahoo Pipes that takes news feeds (for this sample it's the International and US news feeds from Google News), scrapes the feeds for geographic information and plots that information on a map. As a result, it creates on-the-fly a map of the world's news.

It's not right all of the time (and when it's wrong, it's pretty comical, like the story on Princess Di's death which has hopped from Alaska to South America to the middle of the ocean during my time in building the system). But it's a powerful proof-of-concept that took a matter of minutes to build instead of a matter of days.

This type of dynamic geospatial presentation used to be the domain of programmers and computer scientists, most of whom didn't care enough about the news to try it. But now, with tools that can be quickly learned, it's possible to create sophisticated new ways of interpreting and presenting news.

These type of free tools allow the creation of a class of hacker-journalists, people able to leverage technology to help tell stories people need to hear. As people write about the downfall of traditional journalism, due to the destruction of newspapers, they tend to overlook the new types of journalists that are only beginning to emerge.