Wednesday, December 26, 2007

IntoPittsburgh: Burgh Diaspora Schmap

You might notice a third-party widget to the right of the blog posts. I've agreed to allow Schmap to test it here and I've also promised to send along any feedback I receive. I will get some publicity out of the deal, but I'm more interested in the potential utility. While Schmap can better connect businesses with Steelers Nation, I'd like to use this technology to better network the Burgh Diaspora.

Dan Schultz continues to explore (here and here) the potential of geotagging as a way to better personalize information (something Schmap is doing), most importantly news of interest. Mr. Schultz puts together "where" the news happens with "what" is happening as a means to further filter the content we receive:

It's times like that where I would want a way to more effectively filter that news; readers should be able to get specific kinds of news for specific locations. Geotagging does the location side of things, but it doesn't help with "type." And so we see why Geotagging is not a substitute for topical tagging. As I always say in this kind of situation, the two are not mutually exclusive. For those of that don't speak nerd, that is just an obnoxious way of saying that you can (and probably should) use both options.

If news is also tagged by topic and those topics are categorized into broader groups, then we can still get all the benefits of traditional sections. Also, we can add topical filtering on top of the existent geo-filtering. The result is more powerful than the combination of its parts; it is much more powerful for a reader to be able to request news about "New York's garbage system" than it would be for that reader to say "I want to see news about New York" or "I want to see news about garbage systems."

One can do such a query, rather crudely, via Google News. I rather liked using LexisNexis when I had regular access. Scale is a bit of problem, thanks to the limits of geographic restriction (state level is the smallest scale), but I've found ample work-arounds by targeting the local news sources for a given city or town. However, my fine tuned search protocol is still quite labor intensive. I doubt refining geotagged news would save me much time.

I've turned the problem on its head wondering about the possibility of geotagging people interested in Pittsburgh economic development, migration, or immigration news. Where are the sources of the specific news queries located? Something that message board communities do well is socializing information exchange. I could ask people who don't live in or near Pittsburgh to post stories about the Burgh that appear in their local news sources. But finding the right people or even the most useful message board is also a time-suck.

Public databases, such as, are the solution Dan Schultz is seeking. Geotag the user and the links. I'd love to know who else out there obsesses Pittsburgh from beyond the pale of the Rust Belt. The trick is to get enough users to input the information and share their finds in a searchable format. The general idea to connect people interested in the same news and then share the workload, saving precious time.

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