It’s that time again! I’ve updated my Geon application to version 1.1 and this brings along with it a UI change, a shift in focus for some things and of course new features. This time around though I thought I’d give you a walk through of what Geon can do and how you can go about using it. This will also give me a chance to explain away any problems that you’ll see, since this is still technically what I’d call a beta (because it’s far from feature complete).

Opening up the Geon page will greet you with a slightly more usable interface than the previous version. It’s now a 3 column layout with statically set widths for most of the items. It’s best viewed at 1680 x 1050 but it’s still usable at lower resolutions. The left column has a set of check boxes for choosing what information you want to see and a filter box at the bottom. The center column is a map that when clicked will change your current location to where you clicked, so you can view an information feed from another area. The right column is for part of a future release that will allow you to send requests to other Geon users in that area for pictures/video/text, and also allow you to respond to requests. For now the right column will only notify you when you change your location, but soon it will display all the recent Geon requests and responses for your area.

Ticking any of the boxes will bring up information from that source. For Twitter, News and Blogs this will appear in the left column as text and links. For Flickr  Should you wish to apply a filter for it, say for the rally that took place in Sydney on the weekend, you can put your filter terms in the box below. This is handy if you want to see an information stream for an event that might not be hitting the front page news, as most of it gets drowned out by the headlines. Geon will initially retrieve a maximum of 15 results for each of the services regardless of time frame and will attempt live updates after that. One thing I have noticed is that blog posts and news items will usually be at the bottom due to their publishing time. Tweets, as per their nature, will usually be at the top. The pause check box shows whether or not the feed is attempting to live update, and similar to the last Geon release there are a few reasons why you’d want to stop it (want to read your feed without the scroll bar snapping back up to the top is one).

Now for the juicy bit. Scroll to some location on the map that you’d like to see news for and single click. After a short delay you’ll notice in the response box a message telling you that you have moved to a new location. Your information feed will now start to update from this new area. If you had information from another location open previously it will slot the information in chronologically. If you want to clear your information view before switching location just untick all the boxes and it will clear the feed list for you. I’ve noticed that if you’re viewing a busy area then switch to a quieter one (say from Sydney to Canberra) the new information will be buried in the midst of the old, which is probably not entirely useful.

And now for the all important bugs/known issues:

  • Internet Explorer is still unsupported: For the most part everything seems to work ok except for when you click the map. There’s still a wide discrepancy between where you click on the map and where it thinks you clicked. Firefox and Chrome appear fine and this could just be an IE8 issue however I haven’t taken the time to test IE6/7, mainly because I have no idea why an ASP.NET application would be having troubles in IE and not Firefox.
  • The Pause checkbox is a little iffy: For the most part it works fine but there are times when clicking it will not change the state of the timer on the page, and it will keep trundling along as if nothing happened. I’ve just thought of a way to fix it (GARGH why didn’t I see that yesterday) so I’ll fix it up when I get home.
  • Feed updates are delayed by about 30~90 seconds: Anyone following me on Twitter will have noticed me tweeting to test my live updates. Since the design is based off reading a RSS feed from Twitter and other various sources it should show up as soon as the feed is updated (which appears to be real time). However it sometimes takes a minute or two to update. I’ve got a feeling this is due to some caching my RSS client library does, so I’ll have to work on that one.
  • Feeds in busy places shuffle themselves around: If you’re watching a busy place like New York you might notice the feed rearranging itself. This is because I sort the feed based on the date and if they’re the same (which happens a lot with tweets) it arbitrarily arranges them. This makes the feed shuffle around a bit and is currently the best solution to the problem which initially was that the feed was completely random.

What’s in scope for 1.2? I’m glad you asked (even if you didn’t ;)):

  • Implement the request/respond function: This will probably take the better part of a weekend to get done. I had it planned for this release but it got dropped since I had other things to do other than just coding.
  • Make it pretty: Right now it’s dull as dishwater to look at. It needs to be made a little better looking and if anyone out there is interested in some design/development work in order to make Geon look better feel free to contact me. You will be paid for your services.
  • Add in an information timeline: Much like Google Wave’s slider bar that allows you to see how information evolved over a period of time I want to implement something similar in Geon.

So that’s about it. I’m still taking all feature requests/ideas for Geon so if you think something would be cool or useful just leave a comment or give me an email.

About the Author

David Klemke

David is an avid gamer and technology enthusiast in Australia. He got his first taste for both of those passions when his father, a radio engineer from the University of Melbourne, gave him an old DOS box to play games on.

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