Google Earth and News: Make Your Own Street Views (and More)

A render of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado...
The Flatirons of Boulder, CO, as rendered by Google Earth. (Image via Wikipedia)

Recently Frank Taylor blogged about a cool Google Earth trick that could be an intriguing visual online news tool: homemade street views.

The example he cites is from Taiwan, where developer Steven Ho lives. Taylor wrote:

“[Ho] has been waiting for signs Google would bring Street View to Taiwan, but finally couldn’t wait any longer. So, he spent a few days making his own Street View panoramas for National Taiwan University campus. It turns out March is the month when the Indian azalea bloom, so he decided to take his street view photos along the famous Royal Palm boulevard. Steven took the time to not only take 150 panoramas, but also process his KML [Keyhole markup language, which is to Google Earth what HTML is to Web browsers] so it looks and acts just like Google Earth’s Street View imagery. He also added in some 3D buildings for the campus and the palm trees.”

The result is impressive. If you have Google Earth installed (and I recommend upgrading to Google Earth 5.0, which was released in February), then download Ho’s Taiwan street view and open that file in Google Earth. After it zooms in on Taiwan, click on any of the camera icons to start your visual wandering of the campus.

If you don’t have Google Earth, here’s a video screencast of what the experience looks like:

This made me think: What if a news organization offered this kind of immersive experience related to a news story or ongoing topic?…

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What got really wrong about social media and Mumbai attacks

On Nov. 28, published a story by Ki Mae Huessner called Social Media a Lifeline, Also a Threat? about the role of Twitter and other social media in the coverage of, and public discourse about, last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Huessner interviewed me for this story because I’ve been blogging about it on and on E-Media Tidbits. She chose to include a few highly edited and interpreted quotes from me that I think grossly misrepresent my own views and the character of our conversation.

Yeah, being a journalist, I know that no one is ever completely happy with their quotes. I’ve been misquoted plenty in the past, and normally I just roll with it. But this particular case is an especially teachable moment for my journalist colleagues in mainstream media about understanding and covering the role of social media in today’s media landscape.

Today’s a pretty busy day for me, but I didn’t want to let this go unsaid any longer. So I made a little Seesmic video response to this story. Here I am speaking strictly for myself — not on behalf of any of my clients or colleagues. Yes, I am very emphatic here and somewhat critical. Please understand that my frustration is borne of seeing this particular problem over and over again.

Following Mumbai Attacks via Social Media

Right now, the Indian city of Mumbai is reeling under coordinated terrorist attacks. In addition to mainstream news coverage from India and around the world, Internet users are sharing news and information — including people in Mumbai, some of whom are at or near the attack scenes.

Here’s a quick roundup of social media to check for updates and reactions. Some of this information is produced by professional news orgs and journalists, most is not. Use your own judgment regarding which to trust…

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The Stereogram Approach to Finding the Meaning of Life

Gary W. Priester (Click image to enlarge.)
Often, the first challenge in life is simply to see the target.

I really used to hate stereograms.

When they became popular in the early 1990s, they often reduced me to serious frustration and headaches. I would stare at them — glare at them, really — trying to will their embedded 3D images to leap out. Everyone else seemed to enjoy these hidden illusions with ease. But my eyes and brain stubbornly refused to do the trick.

Then one day, I realized that I was looking at a dolphin. I just glanced at the cover of a book of stereogram art, and there it was. I was delighted to discover that the image wasn’t “leaping out” at me — rather, I was “seeing into” it. I wasn’t even sure how I’d started to see the hidden picture. All of the sudden, and quietly, it just worked.

Years later, I’ve come to realize that whenever I’ve identified a key mission or purpose I should pursue, it’s emerged (very much like that dolphin) from the background of the world around me. I get a sense that some vision is waiting to be seen, and I prepare my mind to be open to it. Then eventually I see it, and it feels like I always should have seen it.

In contrast, whenever I’ve tried the top-down, primarily rational (rather than intuitive) approach to choosing a course in life, I usually end up not really wanting what I’ve been working for, or liking what I’ve done — which is frustrating and demoralizing on many levels.

I’ve been quiet on this blog lately, mostly because I’ve been spending more time conversing, research, reading, and journaling. To be honest, I’ve been searching for purpose. For a couple of years now — although I’ve been doing a lot of interesting work, meeting a lot of interesting people, and learning a lot of interesting things — privately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been flailing around, seeking direction and purpose.

Finally, I feel like the picture is starting to emerge. Here is the outline so far…
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Following Chinese Earthquake via Social Media

I just posted this item to Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits by our correspondent in Shanghai, Fons Tuinstra (who blogs at China Herald) about the surprisingly important role Twitter is playing in the unfolding coverage of today’s major quake in southern China. Check out Fons’ post

Also read what UK Tidbits correspondent Paul Bradshaw has to say about this phenomenon on his Online Journalism Blog. He offers a ton of links to places where social media-based coverage and analysis of the quake is happening

Meanwhile, from Seesmic’s Newspod video alerts I heard that there’s a lot of on-the-spot video happening on YouTube. Here are a couple of videos I found…

News is going to be more and more like this, I think…

Dale Willman on radio in Indonesia

Dale Willman
Borobudur, a Buddhist temple on the island of Java.

For a change of pace, here’s an audio podcast. My good friend and environmental journalism colleague Dale Willman just got back from a three-week trip to Indonesia where he was training radio journalists there how to do an environmental radio show — and just how to do radio production, period.

Yesterday Dale and I had a fun conversation about his trip, the state of media in Indonesia, and why text messaging is so popular there.

Listen now! (Or right-click to download)

Dale Willman
In the studio: One of the Indonesian radio journalists Dale helped to train.

Bhutto Assassination News via Blogs, Twitter

The Teeth announcement on Twitter of Bhutto’s assassination, viewed via Snitter.

This morning as I was making tea, I learned via NPR that Pakistani opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at a campaign rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Google News already offers a slew of mainstream news coverage of the assassination — based almost entirely on reporting done outside Pakistan, since tight restrictions on journalists remain in force in Pakistan even though President Pervez Musharraf lifted lifted six weeks of emergency rule on Dec. 15. (More on that country’s press restrictions from the International Federation of Journalists and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.)

Given the current dearth of available professional journalism from within Pakistan, the country’s lively blogosphere — much of it in English — has become a key source of original and diverse news, analysis, commentary, and context from around that troubled nation. Today especially would be a good time to start paying close attention to Pakistani blogs.

One of the easiest places to get started is a blog aggregator with the unlikely name of Teeth Maestro

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Barcelona is great, my Macbook is not

Just a quick update — I’m greatly enjoying my brief vacation in Barcelona. Last night a friend and I enjoyed tapas, tempranillo, and an AWESOME flamenco fusion trio in the courtyard of a Catalonian cafe. Here are some photos I took in Barcelona and at the seaside town of Vilanova i la Geltru.

However, my Macbook is not doing so well. Something went wrong with the power system and I can’t charge it. Most likely the electrical outlet adaptor I’d been using fried out and took with it either my laptop’s power adaptor or battery. I don’t think the hard drive or motherboard is fried because the machine worked until the charge ran out completely. But I cannot charge my machine at all right now, that’ll have to wait until I’m stateside. Sunday or Monday I’ll be visiting an Apple store in the states to diagnose the problem, replace the components, or replace the machine.

I’m just accepting this as a backhand blessing from the Goddess of Serendipity, who continues to smile upon me (or laugh at me, I’m not sure which sometimes). It’s good for me to take an enforced online vacation. I’ll live.

Anyway, Barcelona ROCKS! Come here if you can. Meanwhile I’m off to tour a Gothic Cathedral, followed by more tapas. I could live like this, I think — although I would need a functioning computer as some point or my head might implode.

I’m Twittering the Spanish Digital Journalism Seminar

Following on Steve Outing’s Tidbits post about using Twitter to cover breaking news…

Right now I’m attending the second day of the Seminari Internacional de Periodisme Digital, held at the chic modern Neapolis center at Vilanova i la Geltru, on the Spanish coast of the Mediterranean. I’m posting highlights from my notes via Twitter. If you want to follow me there, I’m agahran on Twitter.

The session about to begin now: Citizen journalist case studies. Pau Llop of the citJ site Bottup (“Bottom Up”), and Marta Torres and Laura Rahoa of BdeBarna.