Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Washington Post launches a year in news à la Spotify Wrapped
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Oct. 19, 2011, 12:30 p.m.

Tool of the day: Google’s “Follow Your World” feature

A web app lets you track satellite and aerial imagery over time.

Google has a cool feature: an app, Follow Your World, that allows you to track satellite images of locations you specify within Google Maps and Google Earth. Each time Google updates its satellite and aerial imagery for the areas you’ve selected, it’ll send you a notification letting you know about the new info.

The feature’s been around since January; today, it’s expanding into 43 additional languages, from Arabic to Estonian, Serbian to Vietnamese. And while the app is a nifty thing overall — you could use it, say, to track changes in the neighborhood you grew up in, or on your college campus, or at the town you’ll be vacationing in this winter — the feature also provides potentially useful data for reporters. (Particularly in combination with Google Earth’s Historical Imagery showcase, which lets you compare satellite images as they’ve changed over time.) Think of, say, reporting on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project. Or following the effects of the Gulf oil spill. Or visualizing the destruction and reconstruction that followed Haiti’s devastating earthquake.

“Whether journalists are covering their local communities or global events, aerial imagery often plays an essential role in shaping and sharing their stories,” Sean Carlson, manager of news industry relations at Google, told me in an email. “You might think of this feature like a Google Alert for the places that are important to you.”

But don’t expect your inbox to be flooded with updates. As the FAQ notes:

Imagery updates in any particular area can take months and even years. We’re continuously working to make this time span shorter, but we can’t guarantee a specific timeline for an update. Whenever we update your interested area, we’ll send you a notification email.

POSTED     Oct. 19, 2011, 12:30 p.m.
Show tags
 
Join the 60,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Washington Post launches a year in news à la Spotify Wrapped
“We initially built a ‘look-back’ experience but pivoted when we learned that our readers are more interested in insights that center on their reading ‘personality’ and content discovery rather than revisiting news from the past.”
How risky is it for journalists to cover protests?
Plus: Exploring why women leave the news industry, the effects of opinion labels, and susceptibility to disinformation.
Coming to a Hawaii library near you: Honolulu Civil Beat is hosting pop-up newsrooms around the state
“We learned that people have an interest if they can get to us.”