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Jamais Cascio, 30 Mar 04

If you're an info-junkie like me, one of the top bookmarks on your browser is Google News. Collecting and collating stories from newssites around the world, Google News is a useful way of keeping one's finger on the pulse of what's going on in the world. Structurally, though, it's a set of headlines broken up into a handful of broad categories, hardly an example of good information design.

Fortunately, now there's newsmap.

Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

The size of news elements reflects how many different sources are reporting on the subject; the color indicates category; the shade indicates how recently the story's been updated. Unlike the regular Google News page, you can shut off feeds from categories in which you have little interest (so long, sports & entertainment news!). You can also pull in feeds from the Google News versions from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK, although the more you add, the harder it becomes to read.

Newsmap isn't perfect. The algorithms it uses to decide how to break up words in headlines and whether to use vertical or horizontal text are crude, at best. Unlike regular Google News, it doesn't seem to auto-refresh, so it loses some value as a digital early warning system. Still, newsmap now sits in my bookmark bar right next to Google News, and I can readily imagine it becoming my first choice for keeping track of the day's events.

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Related way of presenting news:

It's quite old now and needs a bit more polish, but it's a good way of checking for hotspots

Posted by: Ronan Cremin on 31 Mar 04

Thanks, Ronan. I have had that in my bookmark list for awhile now, and keep hoping that they'll update it. Right now, it's more interesting in theory than useful in practice.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 31 Mar 04



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