Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More stuff to be uneasy about

Previously I mentioned a couple of attempts to mine the Twitterverse for signs of what's going on in the world.  It's also perfectly possible to mine the conventional media.  One such effort is, a "global display of terrorism and other suspicious events".

Global Incident Report gathers together news stories and plots their locations on a global map using eye-catchingly garish icons.  There are several categories of incident, such as disease outbreaks, gang-related activity, drug interdictions and terrorist threats (you'll need to establish an account to view those and a couple of other categories, which seems reasonable).  Basically everything that makes your local TV news the angst-fest it is, right there in one handy web site.

Comparing this to Twitter, I'd say the geo-tagging is more accurate (though the site seems to think Miami, OK is on the Kansas-Missouri state line) and of course the information is more reliable.  Sorry, Web 2.0 fans, but I've been up and down this one.  Mainstream media have their own problems, but I'll take "rush-job vetting and curation aimed at selling ads" over no vetting and curation at all.

There's a clear sampling bias.  Since the reports are all in English, incidents tend to cluster in the US, UK and India.  Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the Commonwealth are sparser, but they're also generally less populated.  Beyond the bias toward English, it's not clear which feeds the site samples, which it self will be a subset of which feeds are made available.  So, definitely, caveat lector.

Even with the caveats, it's an interesting effort.  The mapped incidents link directly to primary sources -- transparency is good -- and the global view lets you get the big picture of what's going on.  Or at least what's being reported.  And tracked by the site ... anyway, still interesting.

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