Presenting…..Geon! (and 100 posts!)

Well it may be late on a Sunday afternoon but here it is, my 100th blog post! It’s been quite a fun exercise for me and I’m hoping to bring you many more posts in the future. Hopefully they will all be interesting, but I can guarantee that ;). The past 7 months have seen many changes in both my personal and professional life and I feel that this blog has reflected that. I’ve been able to craft my thoughts much more succinctly after writing so much, and my spelling has definitely improved. It’s also introduced me to the wonderful world of web applications, something that I’ve kept away from in the past. All of this would be for nothing if it wasn’t for you, my readers. I just want to say thanks for coming back day after day and reading and commenting on my site, it really does mean a lot when people care about what you have to say :)

As promised I have been working on something secretly in the background, and today marks it’s 1.0 release to the public. It’s a hacky, cobbled together web application that will form the basis of a future application that I want to develop. For now I’ll be working on it under the code name Geon which stands for Geological Information, although the final product will be a lot more then that.

For a taste hop on over to here. Also available from the Geon link in The Lab. Click around, see what you think it’s supposed to do then come on back here. If you can write down your impressions of it before you read on, I want to see what everyone thinks about it before I mess your perception with my ideas :)

In essence the application is part of a framework for real time information feed based upon location. Right now it gets content from Twitter, Flickr and additionally everyone in the same city (roughly) can talk to each other. The Flickr and Twitter buttons will bring up markers at your location, whilst clicking directly on the map will bring up Flickr pictures and Twitter posts that are located within that area. When you begin chatting it will start to do live updates from your area with other people who are chatting, you can disable this by unchecking the box (you’ll see why you might want to do this in a sec). You can change your user name to, the random string of numbers is mostly me being lazy and no implementing a full user database, that’s on the cards for the future.

Currently it will only return the first 10 Twitter posts but it will return all the Flickr pictures in the area. I wanted to get the chats popping up there as well for this release however I haven’t found a way to get the info windows to update dynamically, I believe this is a limitation of the api wrapper I’m using. Also if you’re chatting any information from outside your area will probably be cleared when it next refreshes. This seems to be a fun bit of AJAX that isn’t supposed to happen, but any partial post back triggers the map to update itself.

Here’s what I think is wrong with it so far (in terms of bugs):

  • Internet Explorer doesn’t work properly. The click event handler seems to report a wildly different location in IE then it does in Firefox/Chrome. For now, IE is unsupported and I’ll recommend Firefox for anyone who’s having trouble using it.
  • The chat inserts new lines at the top rather then at the bottom. This is because ASP doesn’t have a clean way to put the chat messages at the bottom and keep the scroll bar there. To save everyone scrolling down whenever they post a message or when it updates I thought it best to put them at the top.
  • Live updates kill any information on the map that wasn’t added in a certain way. For some reason any partial render of the screen causes the map to think it has to do a postback to. I haven’t been able to disable this but when you use the buttons at the bottom this information won’t be wiped. The functions are basically identical, but I can’t get information from clicking on the map to be persistent. I’ve wrote to the author of the wrapper about this, we’ll see what he says.

So what’s the big idea for all this? Well what I wanted to make was an application where you could zoom in on an area and see what’s going on there. This application does most of that now but what I’m looking to do is to build in a request information section and then anyone who’s on Geon (it will be available on mobiles….one day!) can submit pictures/text/whatever back up. I thought this would be amazing for breaking news events as long as there was enough users of course :)

I’d love to hear what everyone thinks about it and what you believe would be great to add in. I’ve already got a Google Wave integration idea in the works which I’m sure everyone will like. Experience has shown me that your users are the ones who matter, so I’m opening up the floodgates for you guys to craft the direction Geon takes over the coming months.

8 Comments

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  1. I think that the idea is good, however without more exact geolocation data (with most of it in Australia only going to the city level) it may be hard to filter twitter posts down to a managable/readable feed.

    However, if you were able to get it down to say, the suburb level, this kind of data feed could be very useful.

  2. You’re right, and that’s unfortunately a limitation of the Twitter search API. It doesn’t technically have full co-ordinates in it and this makes filtering on it impossible. There are however some bright sparks out there using the tag #ll with the lat and lng following, which I could definitely use to pinpoint the tweets.

    http://www.vcarrer.com/2009/05/geo-twitter-ll.html

    That all depends on the users however and was the main reason I only retrieved the first 10 tweets.

    Now you’ve got me thinking…. :D

  3. hey i just noticed this post dave..

    i really like this idea, especially seeing as i just got an iphone and i’ve been playing with the apps. A lot of the newer apps have ‘my location’ integration in them, which would work perfectly with this idea..

    If you could make it so all tweets coming from the app carried the ‘my location’ information somehow (maybe using that #ll tag) then displayed them directly on the map as little speech bubbles, that would be really cool..

    p.s. offtopic: i had a quick go at a theme change for your blog but it didnt work out so well, ive been pretty busy with work etc recently so havent had heaps of time.. I’ll get back to it soon i promise! (i even put it on my ‘to do list’ iphone application!)

  4. I’ve resigned myself to buying an iPhone + Macbook Pro sometime before I go on the honeymoon in September so that I can develop an iPhone application to work with the Geon framework. I started work on the mobile version on the weekend and it’s going to take a bit of wrangling to get the Windows Mobile version running but I’m sure I can do it. The iPhone is the next logical step, since it’s the next biggest potential market (Android is another, but I have a better reason to get an iPhone + Macbook at the moment).

    As for the website stuff that’s all good mate :) I was more looking forward to seeing what you could do then anything else, I love watching creative people work. I might get someone else to do the business cards in the mean time, so just let me know if you still want to do them before I hand it off.

  5. oh yeah, sorry i forgot you asked for a business card.. i’m hoping my iphone will help me remember to do things, its slowly becoming an extension to my brain.

    I’ll have to have a chat with you some time about exactly what you’re after.

    Chris.

  6. Twitter does have some location information in it although it’s not particularly fantastic. Basically when you sign up to Twitter you set your location and then all tweets you make are tagged with that location. So if I was in Berlin and tweeting with my current account it would say they’re coming from Canberra. The only way to get accurate data is to have people tag it, like you can do with photos on Flickr.

    So yes I believe we’re using the same API. Although Geon uses it in a bit of a funny way (uses an RSS feed reader to get the posts instead of some of the api wrappers I’ve seen around).

  7. i use an app called twiterific on the iphone
    it has 2 options in the menu under privacy, ‘Use Location’ and ‘Exact Coordinates’.
    I think the way it works is by updating your twitter profile with your location as you move around..
    im not sure how it works, is it possible that the twitter profile supports coordinates?

    this app has a ‘nearby’ function, where it lists a bunch of tweets.. but there’s no way to view them on a map which would be really interesting..

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