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?…

Continue reading

MediaCloud: Tracking How Stories Spread

Last week, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society launched Media Cloud, an intriguing tool that could help researches and others understand how stories spread through mainstream media and blogs.

According to Nieman Lab, “Media Cloud is a massive data set of news — compiled from newspapers, other established news organizations, and blogs — and a set of tools for analyzing those data.

Here’s what Berkman’s Ethan Zuckerman had to say about Media Cloud:


Ethan Zuckerman on Media Cloud from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

Some of the kinds of questions Media Cloud could eventually help answer:

  • How do specific stories evolve over time? What path do they take when they travel among blogs, newspapers, cable TV, or other sources?
  • What specific story topics won’t you hear about in [News Source X], at least compared to its competitors?
  • When [News Source Y] writes about Sarah Palin [or Pakistan, or school vouchers], what’s the context of their discussion? What are the words and phrases they surround that topic with?”

The obvious use of this project is to compare coverage by different types of media. But I think a deeper purpose may be served here: By tracking patterns of words used in news stories and blog posts, Media Cloud may illuminate how context and influence shape public understanding — in other words, how media and news affect people and communities.

This is important, because news and media do not exist for their own sake. It seems to me that the more we learn about how people are affected by — and affect — media, the better we’ll be able to craft effective media for the future.

(NOTE: I originally published this article in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Fun interactive visual tools: Why should journalists care?

Last week I wrote a lot about various interactive visual tools that can help people connect differently or more deeply with news and information. This was for a session I led at a Knight Digital Media Center seminar for the leaders of the News21 project.

Yeah, so what? Why should journalists and news organizations care about these tools? How can this help their communities, journalism, and (most critical right now) business opportunities? What’s in it for journos and news brands?

That’s what Meabh Ritchie, a reporter for the U.K. Press Gazette asked me to clarify. She’s writing a story on this, and I’ll link to it when it’s up in February 2009. The short answer is: This stuff is effective and (more importantly) FUN! — for journalists and news audiences.

But here’s the full version of my answer…

Continue reading

What could news look like? Cool visual tools

A picture is worth 10,000 words… especially if you can play with it! This week I’m in Los Angeles, where I’ll be leading a group presentation on online interactive and visual tools that can make news, stories, and context more vivid and compelling than ever. Also presenting are:

  • Mark S. Luckie, the multimedia journalist behind the killer blog 10000words.net. He’s also associate producer for EW.com/Entertainment Weekly and former online producer for the Los Angeles Times and Contra Costa Times.
  • Don Wittekind, assistant professor in the visual communication sequence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Our session is part of American Tapestry: Covering a Changing America” — an event at the Knight Digital Media Center for the leaders of the News21 project. The participants are mostly journalism educators who use this project to give new journalists multimedia experience. Our goal in this session is to show them cutting-edge and unusual tools to spark their — and their students’ — imaginations.

Here’s what we’ll cover…
Continue reading

Silobreaker: Making meaning out of news via the semantic web

From the perspective of people who need news, the real point of the news isn’t merely to discover what’s happening. Rather, it is about discerning what it all might mean — especially, to YOU!

And in an age of information overload, the challenge for journalists is no longer just to provide more news content. Rather, our value lies in supporting relevance, insight, and (ultimately) meaning.

This is why, lately, I’ve been intrigued by Silobreaker. This Europe-based news aggregator site uses semantic web technology (Including visual interfaces) to make news more relevant — and thus, more compelling and useful.

This is pretty important because, since relevance has inherent value, it can be the basis of business models…

Continue reading

Many Eyes: Turning data into pictures

Data is a key part of many stories. IBM’s Many Eyes is a free online library of tools that give you options for visually exploring all kinds of data — even for analyzing text documents. It also lets you share and embed your visualizations.

You can upload your dataset to Many Eyes and apply various visualization types to that data — kind of like using filters on images in Photoshop. You can customize your display.

Many Eyes is a useful tool not just for publishing information, but also for analyzing information to see what the story might be, or where the anomalies are.

Here’s an interactive visualization I just created:

Earlier on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits I wrote about how you can use some Many Eyes tools like word tree for document analysis.

Many Eyes meet the New York Times: On Oct. 27 NYTimes.com launched its Visualization Lab, where anyone can create and share visual representations of selected datasets and information used by Times reporters.

Many Eyes is just one of the projects from IBM’s Visual Communication Lab.