Twitter to add support for geogtagging tweet locations

August 21st, 2009

Twitter is adding support for geotagging tweets to their API which will make Twitter a richer source of real-time news. The Twitter blog reports:

“Twitter platform developers have been doing innovative work with location for some time despite having access to only a rudimentary level of API support. Most of the location-based projects we see are built using the simple, account-level location field folks can fill out as part of their profile. Since anything can be written in this field, it’s interesting but not very dependable.

We’re gearing up to launch a new feature which makes Twitter truly location-aware. A new API will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet. Folks will need to activate this new feature by choice because it will be off by default and the exact location data won’t be stored for an extended period of time. However, if people do opt-in to sharing location on a tweet-by-tweet basis, compelling context will be added to each burst of information.”

This opens up lots of interesting opportunities but there is still room for geotagging from conent. There are more than one relationship between a Tweet (or any utterance) and a location. They include both were the tweeter was when it was issued but also the location of the event or object that’s the tweet’s subject.

For example, the Baltimore police use twitter to inform the press and public about about significant crimes, major traffic problems and other events. There are 10-15 tweets a day in this stream, all sent by an officer in the BPD Public Affairs department. The majority of the tweets mention a location (e.g., “Shooting on Lafayette Ave, Suspect in Police custody, handgun recovered.”) but are, I assume, sent from Public Affairs office. Baltimore city covers a large area, more than 80 square miles. Many residents or reporters will be interested only in events in or effecting the neighborhoods where they live, work or pass through when commuting.

I also wonder if there are more opportunities for Twitter to add semantic metadata to Tweets via their API.

See also: Bits Blog, O’Reilly.