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Twitter mashups, and Poly9 FreeEarth

A look at Twittervision and other cool Twitter applications

By , Network World
October 15, 2007 09:20 AM ET
Gibbs

Network World - Earlier this year I wrote about Twitter, which I described as “blogging for people with a short attention span.” Despite my off-the-cuff sounding description I wasn’t dismissing the service – as I noted, “Twitter definitely has some very cool features and applications.”

My prediction has come true – Twitter has been used in a remarkable number of mashups, some of which can be fairly described as fascinating.

One of my favorites is Twittervision, which combines the content and geographic location of Twitter postings with Google Maps to create a continuously updated map showing the last effectively random “tweet” from the previous 15 or 20 seconds.

The default display is a flat map projection, but the killer presentation is the 3-D globe view that rotates to bring each selected tweet to front center. This view is actually a service provided by yet another site (making Twittervision a mashup based on a mashup) named Poly9 FreeEarth a cross-browser, cross-platform 3-D globe that has, in its own right, spawned dozens of mashups (one of my favorites is the UFO sightings map).

Poly9 FreeEarth is, as its name implies, free. You can add FreeEarth to your Web site through some simple JavaScript and, at present, no API key is required.

A related Twitter mashup is Twittermap. Again, this service is all about mapping Tweets, but the focus here is localizing. There are two parts to TwitterMap; where you are and the area you select to view.

You document the places you are by sending Tweets in the form “L:office=1 Electricity Street, Erewhon, XX 11111” (that is, a location name followed by an address, but curiously latitude and longitude coordinates aren’t supported). Twittermap records all public location Tweets along with your Twitter name so that after the first time you specify a location you can simply reuse it with the name of the a previous location Tweet (e.g. “L:office”).

The other part, the area you want to view, is selected through the usual Google Maps presentation via the Twittermap mashup and you can pan and zoom to the location you’re interested in. The map will show you markers for the last 100 Tweets for that area and clicking on one will show you Twitter user name and the actual text.

I find the whole Twitter universe fascinating because I have yet to understand why it is so popular and for that matter why I like it. What is definite is that Twitter is a service to watch, and its mashups could turn out to be some of the most innovative Web applications available.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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