Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I should have been a programmer...

How cool is Adrian Holovaty? This guy never seems to run out of ideas. Lucky for him (and us), Holovaty has been blessed with the endless curiosity of a journalist and the technical know-how of a programmer. He already made a name for himself with his Chicago Crime Google Maps mash-up (which plots recent crimes reported by the Chicago Police Department on a Google Map and sorts them by type, date, street, etc.), and his latest project is potentially even cooler.

EveryBlock is a site devoted to telling you more about your neighborhood than you ever knew you wanted to know. Currently unleashed on Chicago, San Francisco and New York City, the site aggregates location-specific (er, city block-specific) data, news and online activity from a variety of disparate sources and organizes it all by neighborhood.

As a journalist, a new media enthusiast and a Chicagoan, I am slightly in awe of this. With the proliferation of innovative online methods for sharing news, opinions and information, EveryBlock wants to serve as both a compass and an EKG machine: Point it toward a neighborhood and it delivers the pulse through a combination of news, data and the latest geo-tagged Flickr photos. What a phenomenal idea!

In his introductory statements about EveryBlock, Holovaty offers a new definition of "news" that is potentially shocking to old school newspapermen, but perhaps quite prescient given the shifts that are occurring in the media industry today.

We like to toss around the word "news" to describe all of this, and that might surprise you at first. Isn't news what appears on the front page of the New York Times? Isn't news something produced by professional journalists?

Well, it can be -- and we include as much of that on EveryBlock as possible. But, in our minds, "news" at the neighborhood or block level means a lot more. On EveryBlock, "Somebody reviewed the new Italian restaurant down the street on Yelp" is news. "Somebody took a photo of that cool house on your block and posted it to Flickr" is news. "The NYPD posted its weekly crime report for your neighborhood" is news. If it's in your neighborhood and it happened recently, it's news on EveryBlock.

At the very least, Holovaty's latest innovation gives whole new meaning to the phrase "citizen journalism" and this could be the start of something big. Stay tuned.

And as long as we're on the subject of programmer-journalists, I definitely should have studied the technology first and then learned how to report. It would have been so much cheaper that way...


AnaliaRose said...

You have a blog with actual posts again! That's news! Well, I guess you've probably been writing this blog since July, according to the post archives, but I just managed to find it off of my Google Reader, another great technical invention!

You really like embedding links, don't you. I would embed the link to my blog except, well, you can't do that in comments. Oh well!

Anonymous said...

You can!