Peekaboo, I see you!

For a bit of voyeuristic fun, you might like to take a peek at one, or all, of these sites… Twittervision, Flickrvision and Wikipediavision. There is a strange fascination watching them do their thing.

All of these sites tap into the Google Maps API. I mentioned in a previous post about Twitter how an API (Application Programming Interface) can be used to give programmers backdoor access to a particular web app, enabling them to connect into them with another service or application that may or may not have ever been deigned to do so. Think of apps which have open APIs as Lego blocks that can be easily joined together, where the output of one app can be seamlessly plugged into the input of another, so that they talk to each and share data very nicely.

Google Maps in particular have had plenty of interesting uses made of their very open API, and these three examples show you that in action. By using the data coming out of Twitter (the Tweets being made by people), or Flickr (the photos being uploaded by people) or Wikipedia (the edits being made by people) and then feeding that data into the Google mapping API, those events can be made to appear on the map, in near real time. Neat huh? And quite compelling to sit and watch. And just in case you were wondering if it really is “near real time”, I’ve had Twittervision running on one machine while I Twittered on another, and yes, it does appear within a few seconds. Mind you, each event shown on the map is taken as a random selection from all the events that happened in the last few seconds, shown as the number (I assume) indicated at the top of the map…

One of the scarier uses of the Google mapping service is the Florida Sexual Predator service. I’m having trouble getting it to load right now so maybe they’ve pulled it, or maybe it’s just under load, but it’s a pretty controversial use of the API. Apparently someone has managed to plug the Google Mapping API into a database of known sexual predators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The result is a map of the Florida area which clearly marks the exact location where all these sex predators live. Clicking on each marker reveals a full bio of these scary looking dudes. It’s quite chilling, and is a great conversation starter with kids when you begin to talk about how data can be used and where the lines might be between ethical and unethical uses of data. I’d certainly hope the database is kept up to date though, because I’m not sure how I’d feel if I moved into an apartment where the previous inhabitant was one of these guys and the database was not yet updated…  no wonder the neighbours are looking at me strangely!

It’s an interesting world we live in…

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Peekaboo, I see you! by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

2 Replies to “Peekaboo, I see you!”

  1. Cool- the Wikipediavison was a new one… I included a batch of this in a presentation under “I Like to Watch” as places you can see the internet expand in almost real time. Others:

    Blogger Play Watch images just published to blogger sites

    Live Marks Watch sites being bookmarked in del.icio.us

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