Wednesday, 13 February 2008

GeoRSS : because the 'where' matters

The 5 W's golden rule ... everyone once involved in journalistic or news editing tasks already eard about it. This states that any good piece of information must start by answering to 5 questions - 'who', 'when', 'what', 'where' and 'why' - before any further development. The ways we are broadcasting and consuming information are constantly changing with technology evolution, but the good old 5W golden rule is still valid. More than ever, I would say.

As I like smart and simple ways to empower creativity, I rapidly became a fan of the GeoRSS approach. The idea is indeed very simple, but has a huge potential. Here follows some definitions and example that shows how to see information on their spatial context with GeoRSS.

At these times where Web 2.0 has became an heavy trend - if not the main stream - you should not ignore what RSS is. Yes, you do? So, said very shortly, an RSS feed is a lightweigt way to broadcast small information pieces generated periodically (like news items, blog entries, events, etc.). An RSS feed provides, as a response to an URL (e.g., a structured file that a third party page or software - a so-called RSS reader - can understand and render. Every item in the feed has a title, a description, an URL to follow for more information, etc.

A GeoRSS feed does more than a classic RSS feed : it includes for any item the 'where' information, typically in the form of a geographical point (latitude and longitude). And this changes drastically the way us, as information broacasters or consumers, we percieve the informations! Thanks to GeoRSS and similar approaches, you can browse the latest news or the future events directly on a map!

But let's see some examples. I personnally strated to be an RSS consumer while I created my netvibes (similar as igoogle) startpage. Every regular internet user should have a netvibes startpage: it allows you to have, in a single eyesight, access to the last e-mail you recieved, the headlines of your prefered news papers, last posts of the blogs of your interest, weather info, etc. This is why I created my GeoRSS Reader example both on netvibes (using UWA standard) and on igoogle platform (using Google Gadgets API specs.). This is how it looks like:

Use the Edit button on the top right to set the source of the GeoRSS. (by the way, it works also with KML files, if they are stored on a publicly available web server)

My opinion is that there are presently too few good GeoRSS feeds available on the web, and these are not enough advertised. There are some examples:

This just shows a small part of the potential of GeoRSS to better integrate the 'where' aspect of any possible application. I expect you to add more as comments of this post!