I was flipping through my RSS feeds earlier this week when I came across an article that discussed some of the Historical Google Maps Mashups. It was intriguing to see how something as modern as Google Maps could benefit from images of the past by using historical mashups like HistoryPin. It created a new layer of importance not only for Google Maps, but also brought relevance of an artifact to light in a way that compares the past to the present. As I sat there reading the review, and scanning through some of the images, I got to thinking about another way that mashing up two loosely related pieces of data could make for a new way of looking at each piece. Of course, being a legal researcher, I immediate started wondering if it would be possible to combine case law references to specific locations and Google Maps. Could we create a ‘legal history pin’?

As with the historical pictures, imagine being able to link out from a case you are researching directly to a map showing that location, and the surrounding area. Or, imagine doing this in reverse… looking at a map and seeing links to cases that discuss the location. I’m not sure if there is a significant legal usage for such a linking of two pieces of distinct information, but it sure sounds like it would be fun trying.

I brought this idea up with Ed Walters of Fastcase and we had an interesting discussion (or as Ed called it, “a geeky discussion”) of this type of Legal “Goggles” version of location, cases and history. How cool would it be to see references to case law as you are walking along the avenue? Ed specifically mentioned a Washington DC building with a significant legal history, so I thought I’d just randomly pick a location and see how a mashup might work.

Let’s say you’re looking at a map of N. Western Ave. in Chicago, or even better, let’s say you’ve pulled up your Google Maps app on your mobile device while walking along the 300 block of N. Western Ave. You see a building that’s boarded up, but when you mash it up with legal history, you can see some of the history that lives in that building. A pin would show up on the map and you now see that it was the old Jewel Paint and Varnish Company, and you get a link to read about the case involving this building.

It’s probably a stretch to show how this would have any significant legal usage, but who says that cases should be limited to the courthouse? Just as the pictures of a bygone era help bring old data and new data together, so could the ability to link physical locations to the legal information available about that location. As an architect, historian or genealogist, it would seem that adding legal details to a location might connect them with pieces of information they may not have otherwise uncovered. Such as the obituary of the owner of Jewel Paint and Varnish Company in 1997.

At a minimum, it would be cool to be able to stand in a location and pull up legal references related to that spot. Who knows… perhaps viewing this type of information in a whole new way might bring out new legal arguments on present legal matters.

The Twitter Times is perhaps one of the best formatted mashups of Twitter posts I’ve seen. This jewel is the brainchild of Russian genius Maxim Griniv and combines the power of information provided in the Twitter community with the aesthetic comfort of a newspaper style format. In my opinion, this might be one of the best Twitter resources since TweetDeck (and I love TweetDeck!!) I immediately jumped on this little product and created my own personal Twitter Times.

The idea behind The Twitter Times [TwtTimes] is to take your first and second level Twitter friends and compile the information that the people you are following are “tweeting,” by pulling it all together in a format that helps you quickly see “What’s Hot” and the “Top News History.” The result is a wonderful display of text and pictures that look very much like a newspaper website. In a couple of minutes, you can quickly scan the information and catch up on the major discussions your Twitter friends (and their friends) are discussing.
I shot Maxim an email a few days ago suggesting that he should expand TwtTimes to include “Twitter Lists” as well as generic twitter user profiles. The idea I had behind the “Twitter Lists” option was that it would allow the end users to narrow the topics displayed on TwtTimes based on the lists. In other words, if I have a list of people who are focused on “law libraries” or “competitive intelligence” then the topics of TwtTimes would (hopefully) fit those more narrow topics. In its current form, The Twitter Times tends to pick up the Twitter “biggies” (e.g., ReadWriteWeb, Guy Kawasaki, WSJBlog, etc.) This isn’t saying that the current form is bad (because it isn’t), I was just hoping to guide the iteration of TwtTimes to take advantage of the Twitter Lists and be a much more flexible resource.
Maxim responded that the idea of handling Twitter Lists would mean TwtTimes would “have to support more newspapers for a single user and, consequently, [would] need more computers to handle them.” In other words, it would cost more money and equipment than TwtTimes is able to handle at this time. To off-set the costs, Maxim asked if he thought people would pay for the service. If there is one thing I know about my social media friends… they will not pay for anything “social media” related. So, that idea is definitely DOA. Combine that with a comment that (3 Geek member) Lisa gave me when I asked her to take a look at TwtTimes…

Mashup of Twitter Trends and TweetDeck notifications and Google Reader? Hmm. Not sure I have room on my social media platter …

…you’ll see that not only are my social media friends cheap… they are also burning out on all the available social media resources. If TwtTimes can support this with ads, then I think people will be fine. But, no one that I know would want to pay for a social media resource… no matter how useful it might be.
So here’s the situation. We have a great product, with a lot to offer, but in a market that is completely being overwhelmed by one social media resource after another. For all of you that are reaching your saturation point on social media tools, my suggestion is to take a look at TwtTimes and try it for a week or two. If need be, click the “mark all as read” button on your Google Reader from time to time to make room on your “social media platter.” I think you’ll find this product will be pretty tasty. Who knows… something like this could end up in the Google stable someday (hint, hint Google!!)
I may be a little late to this party, but I’m truly, truly enjoying the trend in making conferences and specialized presentations available using real-time video feeds. In fact, just today I was able to watch two outstanding presentations — all from the comfort of my office chair. The Berkman Center at Harvard University’s Law School presented Lokman Tsui’s “Beyond Objectivity: Global Voices and the Future of Journalism.” At the same time, I was also monitoring the Computers Freedom & Privacy Conference 2009.
As much as I enjoyed (actually, as I’m writing this.. ‘am enjoying’) the presentations, it was actually the “process” of how these video conferences were being presented that really got the gears in my mind to churning. There were some subtle differences that I noticed between Berkman’s proprietary and more established presentation model versus the UStream or Twazzup’s generic model. In fact, I’m so excited about the potential of using online video streaming and mashup sites, that I’m going to see if I can get some of the organizations that I’m a member of to try this type of presentation in the near future.
Berkman Center Model:
The Berkman Center’s method of presentation is an older and more established method of presenting video on the Web. I haven’t talked with anyone at the Berkman Center on what they use for their video presentations, but it is pretty apparent they are using Macs and Quicktime on the backend. They also allow you to ‘chat’ via IRC (and if you know what IRC is, you probably also have a copy of Led Zepplin IV on real-to-real). And, for the true uber-techie… you can also jump into your Second Life character and interact with others watching the presentation.
The Berkman model is one that many of us have seen for years. Although they’ve included the IRC and Second Life methods of chatting with other online watchers, but overall this is the standard model we’ve known as online video feeds.
The UStream or Twazzup Model:
The ‘newer’ model of mashing up video and web 2.0 tools used by UStream is a method that really appeals to my idea of what an online presentation can be. You not only get the video and audio feed of the presentation, you also get some value added products from the others watching the feed, and a chance to chime in with your comments or questions. I specifically like the Twazzup model which combines the Twitter comments (via designated hash tag), additional ‘keywords’, data on the speakers, the popular links that people are adding to their tweets, and who are the people contributing the most to the conference twitter feed.
I’ve noticed that the CFP09 conference did an excellent job of making the audience go up to the mic to ask their questions, and also made a good effort to answer or comment on questions that came in via Twitter. One thing that I’d like to see from conferences use streaming video, is an additional window that shows the overhead information that is projected on the screen behind the speakers. UStream also places advertising from time to time at the bottom of the video feed.
I took a few screenshots of the Berkman and UStream presentations to show some of the esthetic differences. Also, take a look at a related post we did a few weeks ago on the dilution of message using these presentation methods.
The Berkman Presentation

The Berkman Presentation Video w/i PPT Presentation

The “Oblong” Table Discussion (note the blogging & twittering!)

The Questions *no mics for audience*

The Answers
The UStream or Twazzup Model

Video Feed

Twitter Search w/Trending Words

Real-Time Tweets

Speaker Info (I’m not sure this really works!)

Links that people are Tweeting

Twitter Contributors

Questions from the Audience (notice the mic!)

Ads!! (Hey, UStream has to make money, right?)