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Data Art with BBC Backstage

News Globe

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News Globe lets you search the BBC News & Sport website and see the results mapped to the geographic location of the story on an animated globe which can be rotated to enable navigation of the results. It uses a customised RSS feed from BBC News.

This geo-visualization, connects you in a very immediate way to the location of the news story by providing further contextual information about it. For example, if we search for “FIFA World Cup” we find the majority of the BBC news stories originating in Europe or South Africa and very few in North America. So not only has News Globe produced a range of different news topics for us to read, it has also given us an indication of the level of interest in the topic across different cultures. 

How to use it

News Globe is available immediately for use, either dive straight in, follow the instructions below, or watch the accompanying video that gives an overview of its different functions. You must have Adobe Flash player installed to use the project, it can be downloaded here.

Launch News Globe //

Instructions //

  • Launch the application using the red button above.
  • Type in a search term in the search box at the top right of the visualisation.
  • Click on the submit button
  • Rotate the globe by clicking and dragging on it.
  • Position your mouse over the red markers to see a preview of the information about the news article plotted.
  • Click on the red markers to take you to the news article on bbc.co.uk.

Video walkthrough //

This video was created with screen capture software and shows the application being used.


How it was built //

The search results are returned in the form of an RSS feed from BBC News.

The contents of the Title tags in the rss xml are then sent off to Yahoo's geocoding API
http://local.yahooapis.com/MapsService/V1/geocode

If any place names are recognised by Yahoo it sends back the longitude and latitude co-ordinates. (It often gets confused and you'll find lots of mistakes, usually placed in North America). We originally tried to create this app using Atom feeds from BBC iPlayer but there were too few place names and Yahoo was making some really bad guesses with the data.

Meanwhile a rotating globe with moon (please don't complain that the moon's position is wrong, it's only there for effect) was created using the Alpha version of Papervision 3D 2 (Great White).

An algorithm converts the Cartesian co-ordinates returned by Yahoo and converts them into spherical co-ordinates and it's then easy to use papervision to plot a marker on the correct spot on the map.

Rolling over the markers give you some information about the news article plotted.

Clicking on the markers will take you to the news article on bbc.co.uk.

While this all looks pretty cool lots of the work was done by other people:

Most notably Mark Waters and his excellent article on Geocoding in Flash. The majority of the Papervision code was taken from his Flex source files.

Credit should also go to the programmers who created Papervision 3d, the authors of the tweener class, the authors of the AS3 tool tips component, the AS3 preloader class written by Marco Di Giuseppe, and http://planetpixelemporium.com who created the earth texture map.

What we like about this project is the fact that is uses so many resources from the web (mostly in the form of AS3 classes) and shows how visualisations can be created in a modular way with code from all over the place.

Example XML returned by Yahoo Geocoding API //

This is the XML returned from Yahoo when a sentence containing the word London was was parsed through it.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<ResultSet xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xmlns="urn:yahoo:maps" xsi:schemaLocation="urn:yahoo:maps http://api.local.yahoo.com/MapsService/V1/GeocodeResponse.xsd">
<Result precision="zip">
<Latitude>51.506321</Latitude>
<Longitude>-0.127140</Longitude>
<Address></Address>
<City>London</City>
<State>United Kingdom</State>
<Zip></Zip>
<Country>GB</Country>
</Result>
</ResultSet>
<!-- ws04.ydn.ac4.yahoo.com compressed/chunked Mon Dec 21 10:58:36 PST 2009 -->

Sourcecode //

Download the source code for the Flash project here newsglobe.zip.

Credit to NASA for the earth and moon images in the Flash file, see the terms of use.