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This article was published on June 13, 2012

TNW Pick of the Day: iWitness filters Twitter and Flickr content by time and location

TNW Pick of the Day: iWitness filters Twitter and Flickr content by time and location
Paul Sawers
Story by

Paul Sawers

Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.

iWitness is a new Web app from New Context, in partnership with designers Adaptive Path, that displays updates from Twitter and Flickr by time and location.

iWitness taps the public’s geo-location data to pinpoint the location of a tweet, photo, or video. It allows users to see content from a particular location in real-time, or by specifying a time range.

The good people behind the new app say that it expects this will be of particular use to reporters or even the public during emergencies, when people are looking to share eyewitness accounts of events.

First up, iWitness only works on WebKit-based browsers such as Google Chrome and Safari, so no Firefox compatibility for now. That minor inconvenience aside, what iWitness brings to the table is a very visually-pleasing app that does what it claims to do.

One small gripe – some of the buttons weren’t as responsive as they perhaps could’ve been. For example, when I attempted to switch Flickr/Twitter options on and off, it took about 5 seconds for my selection to register – by which time, I’d clicked again and accidentally reversed my original action.

Moving on, iWitness was beta tested in the field during its development phase by the news desks of five US national and regional newspapers, with reporters tapping iWitness daily to identify what was useful, what was not and what else was needed. New Context worked closely with Adaptive Path to synthesize that feedback and incorporate it into the design we see today, reeling in new features and shaping the final design.

“iWitness could be one of the most important tools during a breaking news event,” says Sona Patel, social media producer for The Seattle Times. “Newsrooms are always turning to Twitter to find initial reports from the scene of breaking news and iWitness lets you find those key tweets and photos.”

iWitness was designed and built with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, after Adaptive Path submitted the idea to the Knight News Challenge, an open competition for media innovation projects. Indeed, iWitness isn’t the first winner we’ve covered here on The Next Web.

As with most good apps, the beauty of iWitness is in its simplicity. No messing around – it instantly gives you a stream of information from your locale.

Of course, if this is to prove a useful tool for hacks – or anyone for that matter – there has to be a filter option. You can choose to narrow things down by keywords, here I selected ‘Football’ because, well, it’s the first word that came to mind:

You can also choose to just view content from Twitter, or Flickr…if it’s visual media you’re specifically looking for. And to help the investigative process along, you can narrow down the timeframe and timezone to search for tweets and images posted at certain moments, which will be useful during key news events.

iWitness is a really neat Web app – well constructed, aesthetically pleasing and, ultimately, useful. “This has been a fascinating project to work on and we are very excited to see how it will start to influence the news agendas and news reporting,” says Mike Doel of New Context. “By using agile methods we have been able to work closely with Adaptive Path and the end user to ensure that iWitness does exactly what they need it to do.”

I’d also like to see integration with other social channels, such as YouTube, which would be great for bringing in locally-captured clips from the Web’s preeminent video platform.

Meanwhile, you can view the official iWitness promo video below, and feel free to check out all our other TNW Pick of the Day selections.


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