What’s Going On In Your Hood?

From SH, Intro to GIS

State: District of Columbia
Neighborhood: Logan Circle-shaw
Date: November 22, 2008

“Malia and Sasha Obama Will Go To Sidwell Friends School” – Logan Circle NW
“D.C. Churches Hope to Attract First Family” – 16th Street and M Street NW
“Grinch Opened at Hippodrome” – 9th Street NW
“Judging Restaurants- El Sol” –1930 9th Street NW

As GIS students, we know that location matters; things that are located closer to you carry more weight than things are far away from you. YourStreet has simply applied this fundamental principle to the arena of News by connecting people to stories that are most likely going to impact their lives the most– stories from their own backyards.

YourStreet recently launched their new layout:

The mechanics behind YourStreet is a very sophisticated algorithm that is able to extract key locational words from city names and neighborhoods right down streets addresses. And with a little help from the entities database put together by the U.S. Geological Survey, the algorithm is also able to recognize words that are associated with public places within a particular region such as Churches, Schools, and Stadiums. In fact, it is this precision that sets YourStreet apart from its major competitors. The system then proceeds to geo-code the article according to longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates and plots it on a map. The site covers stories from over 50,000 locations throughout the United States (unfortunately, the service is not yet available for Canada) and collects its news from tens of thousands newspapers, local blogs, and RRS feeds, all of which the algorithms scans daily. As James Nicholson, the founder of YourStreet, points out, this is another aspect that sets it apart from other hyper-local news sites, as they do not heavily depend on their users as news sources.

After reading all this new innovative stuff about YourStreet I decided to give it a try. My experience with Yourstreet began with a geographical search by City, ZipCode, or Neighborhood. Once that was done I was prompted a Google Map, along with its friendly user interface that enables pan and zoom functions, of my search area filled with a myriad of pinpoints displaying news items from all categories from robberies to school plays to politics. However, if you register and sign in as a member, YourStreet apparently shows the general region you are located automatically by a search of your IP address I am assuming. Pinpoints on the map were comprised of three groups: News, Member Profiles, and Stories and Discussions, each of which is a separate layer that the user can turn on or off. News items featured whether on the map or in a list form are merely teasers, which you can click to be linked back to the original source, just in case you wanted to read the full articles. A cool aspect of YourStreet is that any member can point to any location on the map and start a discussion: review restaurants, voice your opinions on local affairs, or even publicize your hosted events. Further, Members Profiles lets you know who and where your possible neighbors are. One major downfall I experienced was that I was often unable to access the full news articles I was wanted to read because I did not have subscriptions to the online source. I think this really detracts from the main purpose of YourStreet unless it is willing to become just a big advertising block for newspaper subscriptions. Nevertheless, I feel YourStreet have much room to grow and does offer a different kind of social networking worth checking out. It not only has the potential to motivate community solidarity but also provide an interactive and visual experience of local news.

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