Why geocoding is very exciting for news and travel

everyblockOver at Grauniad Towers, I recently put together another galllery and map from the Geo-tagged Flickr group on the British summer. This group only accepts images that have location information (geotags) on them, which means you can see where all 933 (and counting) images were taken on this automatically generated pool map.  Location is something I’m a little obsessed with at the moment.

Locating where pictures were taken is fun, but the really powerful stuff is when you start locating everything. Paul Carvill and others at the Guardian have been playing around with geo-tagging Guardian content for a while, and in May we put together the first travel-orientated interactive; a guide to boutique hostels around the world, using code fixed on a Google spreadsheet with geo-tagged information. Since then an alternative festival guide has been rolled out, a pub guide, and today Guardian Travel released another: an interactive guide to UK hotels. There’s a lot more of this to come.

Location-specific media content is going to grow and grow. There’s no reason why whole interfaces can’t be toggled with a map – breaking news, travel articles, and so on. There are an increasing number of tools to play with – recent arrivals include Yahoo’s placemaker,  and GeoMaker, which was unveiled last week. But the most exciting recent development is the opening of Everyblock‘s source, the site that, so far, is the prettiest integration of local news and location. The implications are discussed in this Poynter Online article:

“There’s nothing stopping a news org from taking it directly or tailoring it to what they want to do…. [the] goals are that news organizations, other organizations, anybody, uses it in ways or applications or processes that [we] haven’t even thought of yet.

It’s a big step towards media organisations being able to map huge data pools at the click of a button. As yet, there doesn’t seem to be anything that can totally – and perfectly – contextualise copy or urls, and work out what should be tagged and what shouldn’t; for now we still need the spreadsheets to get it spot on. As Keir Clarke at Google Maps Mania recently tweeted at me, geo-coding is still very hit and miss -indeed there are over 14 Londons in the US.

But someone will crack it, and once they do… news and travel websites could start looking very different.

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One response to “Why geocoding is very exciting for news and travel

  1. Thanks for the mention Benji. Are The Guardian willing to share the data in these maps?

    The Guardian’s use of Google Spreadsheets as the data source for the maps means that anyone can easily access your data and clone your spreadsheets. Obviously that is fine if you don’t mind others sharing your data.

    If that is the case maybe The Guardian should ask people to attribute the source.

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