geoTwitter and news and more

Twitter announced a geolocation API today and it set my mind to spinning with implications that I tweeted like a Gatling gun:

* For news, it would be possible to verify that witnesses reporting what they see are where they say they are. Twitpics can be geotagged.

* Local news organizations should build apps to track surges of activity around any address. Could be a news event. Could be hipsters congregating (telling one where hippness happens).

* News orgs could also use it as a reporting tool: the fabled pothole report via Twitter.

* A hyperlocal blog could set up a feed of your neighbors’ tweets all around town.

* Over time, the geoTwitter enables what I’ve been thinking of as the annotation layer atop the real world: diners create simple reviews of a restaurant simply around location, anyone annotating any location.

* I wonder about the commercial applications: subscribing to tweet ads near me.

The live web, the social web, and the geo web come together.

Now there are caveats aplenty. Foursquare is similar and hasn’t yet burned up the world and neither has Google Latitude. Laptops need geolocation. There are privacy concerns that may stop people from switching on geolocation (the default is off). There are dangers; geolocation could have made tweets from Iran more credible but also more perilous for the authors. I wonder why Twitter is choosing to erase geo data after time; this diminishes the value of the annotation layer.

But still, a simple API like this can make the mind spin. Now combine geoTwitter with my recent obsession, Google Wave, and imagine how live and collaborative content can be enhanced with geography. Or add geography to Marissa Mayer’s vision of the hyperpersonal news stream. The possibilities are endless.

: LATER: PaidContent sees potential for geotargeted ads. And TechCrunch writes about Foursquare’s alerts to nearby deals.

  • Whenever I fiddle with a geo-aware service like BrightKite or TwitterRide’s proximity search, I just want to find interesting people nearby. Usually I’m out of luck; it’s rare I even find anyone in driving distance. Maybe if everyone is geolocated this will work better.

    • RIght. It’s all about critical mass and new applications haven’t reached it yet. That’s perhaps why I’m jazzed about this: it can ride atop a very large base.

  • As the executive producer of an online department at a major broadcaster this is an incredibly exciting development and I can’t wait to see this really take off next time there’s a major breaking news event.

    When it came to the Iranian uprising I was constantly challenged by TV reporters/producers as to the veracity of what was being posted on Twitter & YouTube (they ran it because they had nothing else).

    But this development (along with Google Wave – yes I’m excited too) can change the face of newsgathering… I just hope media organisation grab the opportunity with both hands!

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  • Hi Jeff,
    This is really great news that the live web, the social web, and the geo web come together.
    I am also agree with Valerio Veo.This is really nice post.

  • Ben

    Hey Jeff,
    Re: Fabled Pothole Tracker. If you have twitterific you can tweet potholes or other community concerns at seeclickfix with a photo and their gmaps link. try it out with @seeclickfix

  • Ad money will always follow eyeballs in both time and space. How about the development of an ad negotiation system (marketplace) that auctions ad placement on websites based on what people are looking at (and where they are when they are looking at it) in real time, thus capturing the fast-appearing, fast-dying elusive trends that advertisers want so badly (and sites will benefit from)?

    For example, a site gets a “blank” api space from this broker, who provides a dashboard of current (fluctuating) ad prices (like the stock market) to advertisers to bid on placement there for price per time.

  • Wallace

    You folks are truly a bunch of geeks! Do any of you have a life? Family? Kids?

    Ever consider how all this technology is destroying the better parts of our culture?

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  • Like you, Jeff, I’m convinced that this functionality will eventually reach critical mass and change the world. That said, I feel the need to point out that it’s been around for quite a while and has always run into social or economic roadblocks. Back in the late 90’s, I worked for a consulting firm that pitched targeted ads to cellphones based on triangulated cell towers.

    Think text messages from the gym you belong to about how you’re driving right by the gym now and haven’t been there in a while. For the most part, people read them as invasions of privacy, and so they never caught on.

    Then there were the instant-coupons – text messages to the cellphone as you walk by a retail store (come in now and we’ll take 10% off the price). Some people liked it, but the majority thought it was spam (most people that walk by a store have no intention of going in).

    Twitter’s a new approach, in that it’s many-to-many communication, rather than the traditional “hub & spoke” model of old-time publsihing. Let’s see if that makes all the difference…

  • kat

    i’m all for establishing credibility for those of us actually reporting from the location we state, but i’m against anything that breaches my privacy, increases spam or sends more ads.

    • Easy: the default is opt out. You opt in only if you want. No cause for privacy fears. It’s in your control.

  • I like the fact that the default is opt-out. Powerful stuff (potentially) but also lots of groundwork for privacy abuse too.

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  • Jon steinberg

    Jeff- check out my site Will blow your mind. Foursquare powered restaurant/bar rankings.

  • This is a great post. I share your fascination with the potential implications. Those creating products that leverage these services may need to carefully balance utility vs. privacy. The implications for marketers are also staggering – and a bit scary.


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  • The possibilities for hyperlocal services are endless, you name a few of them right off the bat. One intrigued me–“subscribing to tweet ads near me.” This type of reality is on the way.

    I first discovered you, Jeff Jarvis, about a year and a half ago while cutting a promotion piece for a company called Nixle. I’d recently been hired there. I used some footage from your Frontline interview on the NewsWar episode. You have some great quotes in that show. At the time, “hyperlocal” was a new term and a new idea for me, but you made it succinctly understandable.

    I picked your blog to begin my Nixle campaign because I respect your acumen as a writer and your diligence as a forward thinker. You may have heard of Nixle ( They are currently tackling the public safety set of location based information. The company plans on using this as a foundation for a comprehensive set of location based information, which will be the core of Nixle throughout the world.

    Your “tweet ads” comment reminded me of some ideas that Nixle threw around years ago. Check them out.

    And keep blogging!

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