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    Geotagged News and Drupal: Why Wait?

    by Benjamin Melançon
    November 29, 2007

    A week or so ago Dan Schultz posted here about the potential for geotagging.

    Technically, the basics of geotagging is coming along: the Drupal shop Development Seed announced today “We Will Geocode Anything,” using a news-tagging service and a Python script to add locations to news stories. (This is part of their larger project Managing News.)

    Dan, however, outlined a list of things he needed for geotagging news to be exciting. A commenter on his blog reiterated that the ability to geographically tag things by region or a shape drawn on the map (and defined by multiple pairs of coordinates) was necessary.

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    My question: why wait? What’s to stop us from doing cool things with geotagged news with Drupal or other existing free software tools?

    I look forward to Dan elaborating on each of his points. (These were: users’ areas of interest, regions, non-geographic news, topical organization, multiple location news, and a great interface.) And I hope he will give his thoughts on additions like Paul Lamb’s – user-contributed news – or my own – make it democratic! But I really hope Dan will also engage directly with what new tools available to all, like Development Seed’s Managing News, and let us know how they stack up. (In other words, to do my Agaric-related Drupal research for me. But don’t tell him that.)

    Drupal can do most everything on Dan’s list, if having shapes is a frill (and Drupal’s working on that), so let’s start thinking about what kind of communities we want our technology to foster- and even start doing it.

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    Tagged: drupal geotag geotagging news
    • Dan Schultz

      Ben,
      I’m really glad you liked the post (another should hopefully be up by tonight…) and I also found the “we will Geocode anything” article to be very interesting. Good food for thought.

      As for your question – I would say there’s no reason not to push forward with the technology now. I’m a little wary of looking at Drupal’s capacity and calling the problem solved simply because not everyone uses it – nor should everyone use it, different projects call for different solutions. That being said three cheers for Drupal supporting it all. Do you know of any tools (open or closed source) that might be helpful for organizations trying to find a way to implement this sort of functionality?

      Oh, and I just sent an email to try to get into the beta of ManagingNews – I may well help you do your research yet;)

      – Dan

    • Frequently both stakeholders and software developers will pile on requirements that just really aren’t required. That’s how we wind up with irritating “features” like Facebook’s insistence of quizzing me about how and why I am a “friend” of someone. Who cares?

      Demanding that a geocoding system support gerrymander shapes is such a “requirement.” It’s overkill.

      The real barriers to geotagging news are not related to the perfectability of the zoning model, but rather the practical problems associated with workflow and manpower implications.

      So long as content creators (professional or amateur) have to think and act in order to geocode information, it’s not going to happen consistently.

      So I think the most valuable contributions are going to be in tools that are transparent to the user. The Drupal location.module is more than “good enough” for its defined purpose; what we need is filters that detect and microformat addresses, map concepts (perhaps taxonomy terms) to locations, etc. Make it easy.

      Human beings are pretty good at discarding a reasonable amount of “noise” that creeps through an imperfect automated system. Google isn’t great because it’s perfect; Google is great because it’s adequate/

    • Dan Schultz

      Steve,
      I agree with you that requirements shouldn’t be put out there without seriously considering the usability tradeoffs (which is why I’m going to be devoting posts to each of those items). I’m not sure if you are saying that the other pieces of functionality on that list are superfluous or if you were just targeting the shapes thing, so I’ll leave it at that for now (For the record, I never said anything about shapes!)

    • I definitely don’t think the problem is solved, and Drupal’s famous Location module is certainly not the solution by itself. (In fact, on the World Social Forum call to local action 2008, Agaric Design Collective supplemented Location with a taxonomy of places with latitude and longitude.) Yet another Drupal module seeks to add precisely the plotting of arbitrary areas on a map, including the calculation of what’s in these areas.

      We do, I think, have the tools to start trying to implement solutions. The solution will never be in the tools; the solution will always be in their use.

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