Newsmap Brings the Heat to Google News

    May 5, 2005

We all love how Google News lets us see the top news stories at a glance. But, a clever programmer named Marcos Weskamp has created an even better way to see-actually, to visualize-these news stories.

It’s called Newsmap. The best way to describe it is to call it a heat map. News headlines are presented to fit on one page, with the news items that are more important in larger type. Stories that are fresher have backgrounds of brighter color. The best way is to show you a page. The following image shows a small section of a news page, and if you click it you’ll get a full size, full page image to review in another window while you read the rest of the article:

As you can see, the page is divided into the seven categories of news-World, Nation, Business, Technology, Sports, Entertainment and Health. Each section has its own area on the page, which is easily identified by a color scheme.

For example World News is red, National News is Orange and Business News is blue. Within each section there are three shades of the color. These indicate how recently a story has been written up-the brightest the most recent (less than 10 minutes ago) and the darkest the least recent (more than an hour ago).

The type size of the headline indicates importance, and seems to be based on the number of “related articles” for the story. The following legend section of the page describes the color scheme:

You can click on the top row of this legend to fill the screen with just news items of one of the seven categories. For example, by clicking on Business, the blue business section will be enlarged to fill the screen. This will also make it easier to read the smaller stories.

Another way to read the text of the smaller text-sized stories is to move your mouse over the area. This will pop up a box with the title of the story, the first line of the article and the number of related articles.

The default for the map is the U.S. Google News page data. But if you look at the very top line of the page you’ll see that you can select another country’s news page as source. The countries include, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. There is also a tab to include all countries, but I don’t recommend this as it takes a long time and it crams too much information on one page and most of it is unreadable.

Possibly of interest to you, here is the concept as described by the program author: “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. Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator.

It’s objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news, on the contrary it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it. ”

EDIT TO ADD: Cool! Just noticed something else. If you click on the check marks for the news sections at the bottom, you can toggle the inclusion of that section in the news page. That was a great feature for me because I couldn’t give a damn about the sports info.

Learn more about Marcos Weskamp

Mark Fleming is the founder of a new blog called Google Tutor & Advisor. Google Tutor & Advisor offers in-depth Tips, Techniques and Advice for Google Users.

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