It took a while to get here and many news sites and hackers have put together lesser implementations along the way, but Geosearch News is finally here.
MetaCarta’s “demo” provides what may be the best geographic search tool for the largest changing digital data database of unstructured content on the planet. The site offers search by content and geography. And while at the smallest scales just AP and Reuters stories are offered, as you “zoom in” (either via map or keying in geography) more and more sources’ stories appear on the map (some 1400 at last count). And, remember this is MetaCarta’s “smart” geospatial searching, so it relies on extracting location information outside the first sentence and distinguishing Paris, France from Paris, Texas. It also know about “points of interest.” That means each story can be “located” in more than one place. It also means that stories seemingly in unrelated geographies may pop up in a search.
I searched on my city, outside Boston and “run” hoping to find stories on running races in the last 24 hours. (You can set time parameters for up to month into the past.) I found a story from the Asbury Park Press (AP) about “State Police chief goes to Harvard.” Why? The keyword “place” is noted as Kennedy School of Government as noted in this sentence: “The head of the New Jersey State Police, Col. Rick Fuentes, was among a select group of law enforcement professionals chosen for the Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety, a three-year working group that started this year.” And, this sentence has the word “run”: “Any time you run a major institution like the State Police, there is no question you have problems and concerns,” Milgram said. “I hope Col. Fuentes and I will be measured against how we respond to those problems and concerns.” In short, you need to be a good searcher to get what you want. But, that’s true of any sort of search.
The source of each story is noted in the list of articles returned from a search. But sometimes those sources are quite cryptic such as “feeds.feedburner.com.” I had to click through to the story to learn the source. Another challenge, be careful about searching too far back in time; some articles are “no longer available.“One more challenge: there’s limited help available - just an FAQ.
Still, there are some goodies hidden within! If you stay at the small scale and click on AP and Reuters articles, the full text appears in a new tab, in the app. And, there’s a bonus with the AP/Reuters stories: every location in the article is put on a summary map called “Places in this Article” below which other stories from those wire services for those geographies appear. MetaCarta has a formal relationship with these wire services. Article from other sources, with which MetaCarta does not have such relationships, such as the New Jersey paper above, open in a new browser window without those goodies.
The app uses Google Maps as a front end, but any renderer could be used. Last time I saw it, it used Virtual Earth.
MetaCarta offers GeoSearch News to show off its technology and perhaps, to become the center of news searches. This is a quite powerful app, with lots of sources. Still, it takes some time to master.