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February 24 2014

May 31 2013

Billions of Geotagged Tweets Visualized in Twitter's Amazing Maps

Ever wonder what it would look like to plot every single geotagged tweet since 2009 on a map? Twitter has done just that.

Twitter posted these maps of Europe, New York City, Tokyo and Istanbul on its blog Friday. They use billions of geotagged tweets: Every dot represents a tweet, with the brighter colors showing a higher concentration of tweets. It's pretty amazing how the mapped-out tweets clearly match with population centers, highways and the like — though perhaps that's obvious.

1. Europe

2. New York City

3. Istanbul

4. Tokyo

More of Twitter's geotagged maps are available on Flickr. What do these maps reveal to you? Share in the comments. Read more...

More about Twitter, Geotagging, Maps, Social Media, and Us

April 05 2013

Take a Bike Ride Through NYC Without Leaving Your Couch

If seasonal allergies have you avoiding the great outdoors this spring, you can actually enjoy a bike ride through New York City without stepping outside.

Dutch startup Cyclodeo mashes together biking and video to create a digital resource for cycling enthusiasts and casual travelers alike. The startup has captured video of actual bike rides and synchronized it with GPS data for close to 150 kilometers (or about 93 miles) through New York City. On Cyclodeo's site, you can take a "ride" through Central Park or along the Hudson River Greenway.

While you could visit Cyclodeo solely for a virtual bike ride, it's certainly a nifty resource if you're planning a real bike ride through any of the covered cities. In addition to New York, the site currently covers Copenhagen and parts of the southern Netherlands. The videos are all plotted out on Google Maps, meaning you can pinpoint an exact location to see what it might be like to bike there (think Street View, but from a cyclist's perspective). Read more...

More about Travel, Bicycle, Geotagging, Cycling, and Biking

January 27 2012

September 22 2010

How Universities Can Win Big With Location-Based Apps

Books Image

Dan Klamm is the Outreach & Marketing Coordinator at Syracuse University Career Services. This post was co-authored by Kelly Lux who is the Social Media Manager at Syracuse University’s iSchool. Connect with them on Twitter @DanKlamm and @KellyLux.

Location-based apps aren’t just for badges and discounts. Geolocation can have a real effect on education at the University level by building relationships with prospective students and families, engaging students with their course materials, and strengthening alumni bonds.

Universities are always looking for ways to strengthen ties within their communities and many higher education institutions have already implemented social media plans to help them carry out that end. Location-based services are the next step in creating meaningful relationships with prospective students, the current student body, and alums.

Here, we explore some ways that universities can leverage location-based services with tips, advice, and some schools that have already successfully implemented them.

Create a Special Visitor Experience

harvard image

Prospective students often cite their campus tour as a major factor in their choice of colleges, so why not make their first visit to campus extra special? Using a location-based service like Foursquare, schools can leave tips around campus to ensure visitors have a rich, vibrant experience.

Point out cool traditions and little-known facts that are tied to locations. Post information about buildings, landmarks and statues. Address frequently asked questions about safety, walkability, and navigating the campus. For prospective students and their parents, these quick tips are immensely helpful in learning about their surroundings and discovering campus culture — whether they’re walking with a guided tour group or exploring on their own.

Similarly, schools can leave tips that pertain to alumni. As alums swarm back to their alma mater for Homecoming, it might be refreshing to hear about things that have changed around campus since their last visit. Seeing a new science building on the site of a former football field can be jarring, but a Foursquare tip identifying when the change occurred can provide some context while respecting the history of the location.

Harvard, at the forefront of Foursquare usage among universities, offers a blend of historical information and things to do around campus on their Foursquare page.

Foster School Spirit

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Innovative universities can encourage students to explore their campus and participate in events by offering rewards to those who check in to a particular set of venues. Through Foursquare or Gowalla, schools can offer rewards or badges which students unlock by visiting set locations — lecture halls, the quad, the sports stadium, the campus bookstore, or any location with a story behind it.

This can be particularly beneficial in engaging students who are new to campus and exposing them to the traditions of the school. In August, the University of Oregon used Foursquare as part of its Welcome Week.

Enhance the Event Experience

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From freshman move-in to alumni weekend to graduation — not to mention all of the concerts, sports games, and lectures in between — schools are jam-packed with events. To add another layer of engagement to these events, universities can tap into location-based technologies like Whrrl. This network lets users not only check in to a specific location, but upload photos and messages to that venue so that they can share the experience with all of the people around them.

Can you imagine a student going to a campus concert and being able to see photos and commentary from the perspective of dozens of other attendees in real time? Or an alum returning home from Alumni Weekend to view images from events of the momentous weekend as captured by hundreds of fellow alumni, neatly organized in one location? Location-based services like these have tremendous potential for universities.

In May 2010, St. Edwards University used Whrrl to commemorate its graduation ceremony.

Drive Revenue with Promotions and Specials

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Colleges and universities can offer specials, promotions and discounts at retail locations such as bookstores and campus cafes. Location-based services are quickly becoming the new loyalty card of the mobile world. Gowalla, Foursquare and Loopt have teamed up with nationwide retailers to offer discounts for consumers who check in at their locations. Universities can do the same. By offering small prizes or perks to those who become mayor of a location, you can incentivize just dropping in to browse. Students and other customers can be driven by the competition to check in on a regular basis.

Customer loyalty can also be developed by offering incentives for accumulating checkins. If there are several choices of lunch spot, for example, a student might be enticed to visit the same location regularly, knowing they will receive a free soda or dessert every 10th visit.

Infuse the University’s Culture Beyond Campus

Location-based services can also be beneficial in helping universities engender engagement off-campus. Schools wishing to push their students to explore the broader community can provide rewards for those who venture beyond campus boundaries and engage with local businesses. They can also leave tips around the geographic region so that students receive friendly and helpful notes from their school as they explore new places.

Universities with satellite offices or study abroad locations should consider peppering their cities with tips. Students interning in a large and unfamiliar city can receive advice from their school’s alumni and those spending the semester abroad can read suggestions from knowledgeable program staff. These are just a few examples of how schools can spread their culture (and a helping hand) through location-based services.


With more students coming to campus with smartphones, it is important to create opportunities for them in a medium they understand. The mobile culture of colleges is the perfect setting for location-based services. Consider going to the places where students congregate and providing training. While many students have the technology, not all are aware of the applications that they can use on campus, and more importantly, what’s in it for them.

The more students at a university use location-based services, the more valuable it becomes to the institution in terms of data collection. Universities can see demographics, determine whether certain events are more popular than others, make choices based on tips (good and bad) left at campus locations, see trends in usage of various facilities like Health Centers and more. Eventually, using location-based data will become part of the culture of data collection that already exists in higher education. Campuses that transition early will be at the forefront of the wave of location-based technology that is about to emerge, and poised to reap its many benefits.

More Location Resources from Mashable:

- Top 16 Unusual Foursquare Badges
- How Non-Profits Can Maximize a Foursquare Account
- Beyond the Checkin: Where Location-Based Social Networks Should Go Next
- 7 Ways Journalists Can Use Foursquare
- Why the Fashion Industry Loves Foursquare

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, bioraven

Reviews: Foursquare, Gowalla, iStockphoto

More About: alum, alumni, foursquare, geolocation, geotagging, gowalla, location, loopt, Mobile 2.0, phone, smartphone, students, universities, university

For more Mobile coverage:

August 16 2010

Why Location-Based Social Media Needs to Get “Passive” Aggressive

Location Apps

Jesse Thomas is the CEO and Founder of JESS3, a Creative Interactive Agency. JESS3 designs products and experiences for brands like Google, Nike, Facebook, MySpace, C-SPAN, Microsoft and NASA.

Ten years ago, Seth Godin predicted the demise of “interruption marketing” and the rise of “permission marketing.” His idea was that intrusive advertising, like traditional television commercials, were on the way out, and that inclusive methods were on the rise — not just product placements, but customer loyalty programs, rewards and quid pro quo agreements that required some level of trust between the business and customer. He’s been right.

But we’re still being interrupted in new ways, and one I’ve been thinking about lately is Foursquare. And I’d like to predict the demise of “interruption checkins” and the rise of “permission checkins.”

Stopping whatever you’re doing to check-in when you arrive at a location is just lame. If you’re arriving at a happy hour, you might lose a conversation while you’re busy tapping away. If you visit a store, you’ll be standing just outside or inside and getting in the way until you’ve checked-in. The active checkin requirement is one thing holding back location-based social networks (also called “geosocial” networks) from widespread adoption. (According to Forrester, only 4% of Internet users have ever used them.)

Passive Checkins: Are We Excited Yet?

GPS technology, as it currently works, can determine where I am, accurate to about my current neighborhood. But let’s say you’re in the Empire State Building, with many stories above or below. It doesn’t know whether I’m on the first floor or the 100th.

Other technologies are trying to solve this problem. Cell tower triangulation probably won’t, but in big cities, wifi triangulation might. No matter the solution, one is necessary for smart, passive checkins. More advanced systems could also guard against “cheating” because they would keep you honest: Your phone is like your IP address. If we can find smart ways to stop fictional checkins, this in turn will make rewards and prizes for loyalty more relevant.

One of the main obstacles in Foursquare’s usability is that it actually takes a while to update. If you were to be “OnGrid,” you would be checked-in or asked to be checked-in if you are at a place for more than 15 minutes, but could tweak whether you wanted to be “findable” or not. The next step, once you have approved the checkin, would be whether you would push this information to Facebook and/or Twitter. The option would of course exist to be easily “OffGrid,” if you don’t want to be found.

This feature would also make a lot of sense for “swarming.” A swarm is a proactive thing, one of the cornerstones of social networking and a real payoff for geosocial. If a predictive system was implemented, the service could then know when to expect a swarm and how many people would likely be there — data that would be extremely valuable for a variety of businesses.

What we want is a passive geosocial experience, and we don’t care who brings it to us. Foursquare is a big player here now, but alone they don’t have all the pieces to make a truly useful and satisfying service. That’s why other startups are trying to fill the gap, such as Future Checkin and Shopkick. These companies and others may hold pieces of the puzzle, but they’ll only be role players in the overall solution.

Who Can Play?

Facebook and Google have a real opportunity here, as does Microsoft. Facebook seems to have the best ecosystem of companies with locations, though they currently lack a location system. But let us propose that they give everyone a “Locations” tab, and any time someone checks into a geosocial service, whether it’s an eventual Facebook-native service or not, this information is pushed to Facebook.

Any future service along these lines should look something like Dopplr — an early and unappreciated entrant into geosocial networking that helps you plan trips in advance. If a Dopplr-like service was part of your Facebook Locations tab, that location would be pre-saved and pop up when you are in proximity to it to facilitate checking in.

Checkins: The Game of Strategic Conquest

Facebook can’t be a player in this game without a major partnership. They certainly have the best social graph in the business, and it’s absolutely the company’s most valuable asset. But to make this work, Facebook needs a mapping service, and through their existing partnership with Microsoft, they may have one available.

Because this kind of service works especially well for live events like concerts, there is a very real opportunity for MySpace to get in on this, as well. Twitter has also started to geotag tweets, and a future version of the service may have tweets mixed with geosocial checkins, plus a tab to show just geosocial check-ins.

The part of the equation that could help both Google and Facebook (with the help of their Microsoft partnership) change the geosocial game is the use of content-rich maps. Google had the right idea with Latitude, although it was certainly ahead of its time. Maps are an important part of the war and will be a key weapon in the arsenal of whichever geosocial model comes out on top.

Although Google has taken its knocks for having trouble in the social space, they are the only player with a sophisticated social graph (Gmail, Buzz) and the ability to place social information on a map (Maps, Local and Latitude).

And when they do, it should be built on your Google account — that is, your Gmail address. If this sounds like Buzz, which was poorly received, you’re thinking too narrowly about these tools. It’s not always about sharing information with your friends; it’s also about organizing information about your friends. What’s important here is not that others see your social graph, but that you have access to a more powerful social graph — that is to say, your address book.

The Future is (Almost) Here

This post is based in part on a slideshow I produced about the failings of Foursquare and the missed potential of geosocial services. Since publishing it, several new mobile players have appeared that address some of the issues I have discussed above.

August 06 2010

5 Terrific Twitter Mapping Tools

Twitter is undeniably useful as a standalone service, but it becomes so much more fun when you start factoring in all the cool tools and awesome apps available.

We’ve previously brought you various Twitter visualization services, but now we’re taking a look at mapping tools that work with the microblogging site.

Whether you want to see where you’ve tweeted from in the past, what others around you are saying, or get a global overview of a hashtag, read on for some fun tools that can help.

1. TrendsMap

This service offers real-time mapping of Twitter trends across the world. They are displayed as hashtags, @mentions or keywords superimposed over a world map. You can click on any word to see a real-time stream of relevant tweets to, in the words of the site, “see what the global, collective mass of humanity are discussing right now.”

This is a really nice visual version of looking at Twitter’s trending topics but if you want to go into more detail, you can select to view trends from various cities, or focus in on a trending topic to see where in the world it’s being mentioned.

2. Tweography

The fantastically-named Tweography has an interesting function — it maps where your tweets have been sent from. If you have a geo-location-enabled Twitter account, you can sign in to see your tweets plotted on a map, which will probably be more interesting for jet-setters than anyone who stays within a few miles of home. If you’re signed into the service, you can do the same for other Twitter users’ recent tweets to see where they’ve been of late.

3. TwitterMap.tv

Similar to the excellent TwitterVision site, TwitterMap.tv gives you a real-time global view of tweets across the world. However, if you’d prefer to see region-specific tweets, you can head to TwitterMap.us for America or TwitterMap.eu for Europe.

All its sites work the same way. To use the service on its most basic setting, just hit “play” to see random tweets pop up across the map. There are also more advanced options. If you search via keyword, you can see all its related tweets play out automatically across the region map, or even narrow it down to a city. You can also search for a Twitter name to see all its mentions.

The service provides a nice level of detail — as tweets pop up, you can see the profile pic of the tweeter as well as basic info about him or her, such as location and follower/following counts.

4. Stweet

This experimental service mashes up Twitter with Google Street View, providing a location-based look at neighborhood tweets. You can look at certain cities across the globe from the drop-down menu or enter a location into the search bar. Then just sit back and wait as the page reloads with tweets and Street Views (the satellite view pop up when street views are unavailable). It’s not a full-fledged offering just yet, but it’s worth a glance next time you’ve got a few spare minutes to explore.

5. MMMeeja’s Twitter Google Map

Ever wonder what your Twitter contacts look like mapped out? MMMeeja’s Google Maps mashup will show you the people you follow on Twitter (if they have supplied their locations) as points on a map. You can zoom in and hover over the pins to see who is where, which is quite fascinating if you haven’t thought of a particular person tweeting from a geographical context. The service is available as an embed, so you can add it to a blog, site, etc., to share with others.

BONUS: Bing Local Twitter Trends Map

And of course, don’t forget to check out Mashable’s Twitter Trends Map, powered by Bing, that helps you discover the top 10 most tweeted terms in major cities — both in the U.S. and internationally.

More Twitter Resources from Mashable:

- Top 20 Sites to Improve Your Twitter Experience
- 5 Fab Twitter Follower Visualization Tools
- 10 Free and Fun Twitter Bird Icons for your Website
- 5 Free Ways to Never Miss a Twitter @reply
- The Origin of Twitter’s “Fail Whale”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

Reviews: Bing, Google, Tweography, Twitter, iStockphoto

More About: bing, geotagging, Google Maps, List, Lists, location-based, stweet, Trendsmap, tweography, twitter, twitter tools

For more Social Media coverage:

July 01 2010

Beyond the Checkin: Where Location-Based Social Networks Should Go Next

Yan-David Erlich is the founder & CEO of photography app Mopho. He was also the founder and CEO of Social.im and a product manager in the digital media consumer web group at Google.

Location-based social networks are currently enjoying a great deal of attention, and companies are rushing to get in on new services like checkins and geo-location. But before we all jump on the bandwagon, we need to ask ourselves what we really want to accomplish with social media.

While location is a major part of navigation and mapping services like Google Maps, social networking’s real purpose is to get users to create, share and communicate. Adding location data to social networks can enhance these experiences, but it is not the end goal.

Location — the “where” of a social experience — is not the most important characteristic of social media. In order to create lasting value, location-aware social networks need to look at what motivates their users to share with one another and make it central to the app’s design and user experience.

Location is a Supporting Attribute

Most location-based services have already figured out that simply checking-in is not enough to keep users engaged. Companies are adding new and evolving features in order to remain competitive and interesting.

Foursquare uses checkins to give users new information and award badges. These can then translate into special deals or privileges. Similarly, Gowalla users can check-in to leave their own tips, trips, and photos.

But those companies — and others in the same space, such as Loopt and Brightkite — have got their priorities backwards. They’ve tried to tack a sense of purpose onto an action (checking in) that is essentially uninteresting. Their services are built around the checkin.

Instead, these companies should focus on the reverse. Features and services should come first, and checking-in should be viewed as an accessory. We have to move from creating services that are location-based to those that are “location-enhanced.”

Why We Share

Whether an application is intended to capture the smile on your mother’s face, give you a competitive challenge, or help you snag a free cup of coffee, it should provide real-world value.

Location-enhanced services need to put the “why” at the forefront of their user experience. When I take out my phone to snap a picture, it’s because I want to capture a moment that is meaningful and share it with others. The main purpose of that photo is to share an experience. The ability to geo-tag that photo should be an afterthought.

Several emerging companies have figured this out and are using location as an enhancement, rather than a purpose. For example, location awareness can facilitate or augment the experience of listening to live music (Superglued), networking and attending events (SitBy.Us), making payments (TabbedOut), using personal reminders and alerts (Plerts), and taking photos. Booyah’s MyTown is another great application that puts the game playing first, and includes location as an interesting (but secondary) attribute of that experience.

While their specific functions are wildly different, all of these services have one important thing in common: They understand why their users pull their phone out of their pockets in the first place.

Life Is Not A Trivial Game

In my opinion, checkins will never appeal to the mainstream. Checking-in is viewed by non-adopters as a trivial game, gratuitous to both the unique experiences and daily drudge of the places we visit. The relentless chore of updating one’s location has even spawned a new phrase: “Checkin fatigue.”

If checking-in isn’t compelling to most people, then why do so many apps still make it a central to their user experience? Perhaps these companies think it’s too late to rethink the basics, or they’re afraid of veering away from what has given them a small trending foothold.

In fact, Foursquare recently released their own app store in an attempt to solidify “location” as a feature on which developers can build a variety of services, enticing big brands like Nabisco to jump in on the trend.

What’s Next?

Ultimately, the location-based social networks that will thrive in the long-term are the ones that design their user experiences around users’ real motivations. The checkin, as a stand-alone act, is fundamentally empty. It begs to be put into context.

As part of a more comprehensive experience instead of a contrived first act, location can provide an intrinsically rich layer to social experiences. By itself, the checkin faces fatigue, or worse.

More Location Resources From Mashable:

- What Twitter Places Means for the Future of Location
- What the Future Holds for the Checkin
- 3 Key Location Trends for Moms
- Are Location-Based Services All Hype?
- 7 Ways Journalists Can Use Foursquare

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: check-ins, foursquare, geo-location, geotagging, gowalla, location, location-based, social media

For more Social Media coverage:

April 14 2010

Twitter Launching “Points of Interest” to Tie Tweets to Places

Earlier this year we predicted that Twitter would use geotagging to identify physical places via Twitter, and today Evan Williams announced at the Chirp conference that the company is doing just that with its new Points of Interest feature.

The feature doesn’t appear to be live yet, but soon users will have the ability to click on a place name — included in geotagged tweets — to view the particular place on a map. Next to the map, Twitter users will see a stream of nearby tweets, giving them a real-time view of what’s happening in a particular place at a particular time.

Evan Williams asserts that Points of Interest is not meant to “duplicate the functionality of Foursquare or Gowalla,” but instead to “make those services work better with Twitter … What we really care about is the content happening at that place.”

So while Twitter has no plans to get into the checkin business per se, Points of Interest will make it easier for third party applications to support that type of functionality and it will enable Twitter to aggregate location-specific tweets.

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter

Tags: checkins, geotagging, location, twitter

March 30 2010

SimpleGeo Launches As an iTunes for Geo-Data

SimpleGeo — which launches out of private beta today — offers a suite of sophisticated geo-data products for purchase. The service targets individual developers and businesses who want to immediately build or enhance location-based applications in minutes, and picks up where GeoAPI (acquired by Twitter) left off.

At launch, SimpleGeo will offer two distinct products — the SimpleGeo Storage Engine and a Marketplace — for companies and developers looking to capitalize on the location trend with less resource investment upfront. Down the road SimpleGeo plans to add comprehensive visualization and analytics tools to their offerings.

The SimpleGeo marketplace — which is akin to an “iTunes for geo-data,” according to CEO Mark Galligan (formerly of Socialthing) — will sell geo-data from their six launch partners, and partners will share profits with SimpleGeo on a 70/30 split.

One of the more impressive data offerings comes via SpotRank, a product of SimpleGeo’s partnership with Skyhook Wireless. The SpotRank technology uses real-time location data from all GPS-aware devices (think iPhones) to map out location trends for “Spots.” SpotRank factors time and place into the equation to gather worldwide, local, city, and trending ranks for locales. For example, the image below highlights location request frequency at 2pm PDT on a Saturday in San Francisco, and is an example of the data which is now accessible to developers.

SimpleGeo is banking that their geo-data fees are reasonable and will be in high demand. The company’s just-add-water solution for those looking to avoid the investment of building their own geo-rich applications doesn’t come cheap. In terms of pricing, there is a limited free version, though users with larger needs will need to pay per user or per month, and fees could run upwards of $10,000 per month depending on needs.

As for what this means to the average consumer, we can expect to see more developers apply or improve location data in their applications for unique purposes. Both Stickybits for barcode geo-tagging and Vicarious.ly for real-time location-based streams are already employing SimpleGeo services and showcase the significance of the platform.

Tags: geotagging, location-aware, simplegeo

November 19 2009

Now You Can Tell Twitter Where You Are

twitter-api-locTwitter announced it would be adding locations to your tweets back in August, and they’ve been making changes to their API to enable the functionality since late September. The geolocation functionality is now complete, and a number of developers of third-party apps who have been working on building location support into their applications should begin rolling out the new features soon.

As we reported earlier, all of the location information is completely opt-in. To enable it and allow Twitter to attach geographic information to your tweets, head to the Account section of your Twitter settings and scroll down to the location section. There’s a checkbox for enabling the geotagging, and a button that will allow you to delete all the historical location data from your tweets if you want to erase your tracks.

Along with enabling the geolocation support, Twitter tweaked its privacy policy to explicitly include geotagging and to remind users that what they post to Twitter is (unless protected) public in nature. In a world where tweeting can get you robbed or sued, it’s a not superfluous reminder that we should participate in our own sensible privacy policies when using social media tools.

Will you be turning on geolocation support for your tweets? Let us know in the comments.

Reviews: Twitter

Tags: geolocation, geotagging, lbs, location, privacy, twitter

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