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Tag "Flickr"

Flickr has newly introduced a feature to automatically limit geographical details of photographs based on criteria. The so called geofence is introduced on the Flickr blog and is a defined area within which the location of photographs is not shown. Furthermore, different groups can be assigned to be included and the lover level to be excluded.

Basically users can set up a parameter around their favorite public park and choose only their friends tag as the group family to be able to see the exact location of the picture taken. Since the groups are arranged, similar to Facebook groups, hierarchically, the other groups anyone, contact and friends will not be able to see the location.


The new setting is very good implemented and easy to use. You either search for a location by name or directly on the map. The marker can be draged around to mark the spot and the adjusted in size between 50 to 10000 metter. Interestingly flickr doesn’t say whether this is diameter or radius so the feature is basically a visual one. You have to decide according to what feels about right. But it is the radius that is the parameter.

However, it is less the exact distance that is important, rather it is the number of other possibilities. If there is only one house within the fenced area you could still guess that someone must be living there. And on the other hand if a fifty meter radius in a dense street can cover already


Flickr sais to have more than 300 million geotagged photos and videos on its site. the service has also been blamed to be very slow with updating and adjusting its privacy settings in the past, not offering many sharing options. With this new addition it definitely updates these settings in a rather radical and probably industry changing way. Through out the comunity this change has been received very positive, ars technica, wired, mashable

As Wired describes the problem: “It means you can snap a picture of your awesome 42″ plasma TV or your kid’s fun run day, without worrying about burglars and perverts from examining the photo’s geographical metadata and making a beeline for your hometown.”

It is very likely that other services will follow and offer similar options. So that in the future users can draw these geofences around their tweets and Facebook messages, hide Foursquare checkins and so on. It is hard to see the point of geo referencing in this scenario, but it seems that this is the tool the user groups currently want to be able to ave in their hands.


To some extend this is understandable because the overwhelming dominance and power the service provider has over the user making it a very difficult relationship to build up some trust. The services like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, can just change their policies and rules or conditions of use at any point without consulting the user base. Furthermore they have such a monopoli of use and information that it does look scary to the individual user.

However, maybe the problem has to be fond and addressed elsewhere than the user end. This feature is mainly enabling the user to limit himself. What the service does really is providing a tool to limit the users options, but it is self inflicted rather than superimposed. With this the provider is distancing it self from the problem. But the user end is suffering the consequences of being excluded from the location sharing benefits. This is, because the service is built on the principle, the more you share the better the service is.

Nevertheless, it is already good to see the option being implemented. Together with he option to assign groups to the exclusion zone some flexibility is there too. In the long term it would however be better to see a shift in the way location information is handed and processed, eliminating the problems associated with knowing where one is. Currently the trend of sharing positions of everything everywhere at anytime is big and is going to be even bigger in the very near future. With it growing and extending to any sort of information the management on the user end wil become impossible and geofencing the Flickr photographs wi be the least of the problems.


It is not about a single location and it is not about an exact location either. It is definitely not about the plasma TV or a photograph of a child. The problem lies in the amount of data and the repetition of information. If there is one picture taken outside a school little can be concluded from it. However if there is a string of photographs over a year between a block and a block down the road where a school is located and the timestamps mach roughly the school-run hours, one can assume that there is a link between the locations.

It is the pattern resulting from activity that is of interest not the actual location.

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Visualising virtual activity location based and linking it visually to the urban locations it takes place is one of the ideas of New City Landscape (NCL). Using the twitter feed the location based tweets are aggregated and the density is mapped as a virtual landscape. This landscape’s features are named after the corresponding real world places, creating a sense of place and orientation.

However, so far the NCL maps have been static and in retrospect, representing a week worth of data about the specific urban area they portrait.

Around the same time Christian Marc Schmidt has developed a similar approach focusing on Manhattan, but visualising in real time twitter and flickr activity. The density landscape here is mapped using the aerial photos morphing it over rising and falling peaks. He takes the aspect of real time into account and focuses the visualisation on what is happening just now.

Image taken from Invisible City / Aerial view of a topic path with the earliest record selected.

The project has now developed in to a standalone desktop version that can be played around with locally. It connects to twitter and flickr loading the most recent activity of the past 24 hours. The applet is Java based and runs on Mac and Windows.

The landscape is based on the activity, each message or photo is shown as a white dot. Hovering over dots reveals the message and details, plus draws links to previous or following messages. These paths are generated from topics listed on te right hand side of the window. If a node belongs to a topic path, navigation will also appear at the top of the view with previous/next buttons to move chronologically along the path.

Schmidt explains: “Invisible Cities, a project named after the novel by Italo Calvino, aims to provide insight into the composition of urban social networks by surfacing data from online services, geographically mapped, in order to identify the areas of high and low activity. The visualization thus reveals emerging social themes, presented in a three-dimensional spatial environment. It displays individual Twitter status updates and Flickr photos on a geo-registered surface reflecting aggregate activity over time. As data records are accrued, the surface transforms into hills and valleys representing areas with high and low densities of data. Data points are connected in chronological order by paths representing themes extracted from status updates and image metadata.”

Image taken from Invisible City / A selected photo as part of a two-node topic path.

You can download the Java App for MacOSx or Windows. A detailed description pdf can be read HERE and the project website with more screnshots and clips can be found HERE.

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It is online since last week, the Geotaggers’ World Atlas derived from geo taged photographs on flickr and picasa. Eric Fischer has put together a series of 100 World cities mapped out by the click of cameras of locals and tourists. By acessing the API’s of both flickr and picasa Fischer was able to process thousands of images per location.
Fischer doesn’t only plot the location, but takes traces movement by individual photographer including sort of classifying the mode of transport by speed derived from the time stamps. The differen colours read as: black is less than 7 mph (11 km/h), red is less than 19 mph (30 km/h), blue is less than 43 mph (69 km/h) – car, and green is faster.
This is an amazing collection rendered on top of an OSM background layer. Check out the rest of the cities in the flickr set.

The Geotaggers' World Atlas #12: Vancouver
Image by Eric Fischer / The Vancouver Duck, derived from geotaged flickr and picasa photographs. The colouring corresponds to speed of traveling between the different pictures.

Thanks for the link to Matt from Wiser is the Path.

2010-06-09 UPDATE

Eric has processed the data further and created a second set of maps of the world cities using the same sources. This time the focus is on who takes the picture and what is this persons relationship to the place. He works with thee categories, local, tourist and not to determine. This highlights the areas of which only locals take snaps in read and areas were predominantly locals, blue, take pictures. Very obvious there are places tourists just don’t go to on a short visit to an unknown place, for a number of reasons. This can be lack of knowledge, not knowing the directions or not interested. On the other hand high profile places might not be very interesting for locals. In a lot of the maps large areas are actually covered in blue where locals document their city. New set can be found on flickr.

Locals and Tourists #11 (GTWA #12): Vancouver
Image by Eric Fischer / The Vancouver Duck, derived from geotaged flickr and picasa photographs. Blue points on the map are pictures taken by locals (people who have taken pictures in this city dated over a range of a month or more).
Red points are pictures taken by tourists (people who seem to be a local of a different city and who took pictures in this city for less than a month).
Yellow points are pictures where it can’t be determined whether or not the photographer was a tourist (because they haven’t taken pictures anywhere for over a month). They are probably tourists but might just not post many pictures at all.

Thanks for the link to Ralph Bartel

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The online pool at flickr to collect mental maps from all over the world is slowly starting to take shape. I have just added some examples drawn at the mapping workshop down in Plymouth. So the pool has grown quite a bit and it is featuring mental maps from China, Caada, America, United Kingdom and Belgium.
I would also like to showcase some examples here. First there the sketch by devine74 with very detailed drawn landscape and building features.

Mental Map

And then there is also the beautiful map of a commute focusing on sound with the audio experience along the way. There is a big difference between the morning and the evening journey. This is illustrated through two sets with each a slightly different focus.


As before you can also join in and share you map sketch on:


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The mental map pool on fllickr is very slowly collecting content. It is not like everyone is dying to add a map, but still there are some really good sketches uploaded. On the map it has dots on Europe and North America.
A text map of Dallas by Austrini. It was created for a tourist visiting Dallas and uses words to describe the lines and features literally. Combining the thought and spoken about with the shape and physical form of features.

Dallas Type Map
Image by Austrini

There are some sketches of London commuters traveling in central London using mainly public transport, where the main arteries of transport lines clearly start showing up. On the overall city sketches it is very interesting how the personal focus and experience shows through an information about individual memory is revealed.

Mental Map London
Image by Sung-Hyun Jang from GISplusAR

A cool clip of a map being drawn is put to the pool by Matthew Dance. It is the view of his journey from home to school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, captures with a tablet as he was sketching it. It obviously gives a nice sequence that would speak about how he is remembering the space.

Clip by Matthew Dance from Wiser Path

Just to showcase a few. Hopefully the pool will be growing a lot more and new examples from a lot of different places will be added. Why don’t you add your city sketch and journey sketch NOW?


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As promised with the last post on Google’s Latitude, I spend some more time on other options. And actually it can be said up front; Latitude is boring whereas other applications can be very exciting.
Sorry, I had to mention this.As discussed in a comment last week Latitude is probably not meant to be cool. I now understand it more as an additional data service Google provides. A service that especially targets a new market of location based information. I assume Google plans to get people to use it, but then to involve third party companies to “use” the location data to target them specifically. This will most probably include Google itself, for ad placements forexample.
Any way this is only speculation and others might be more of experts in this field. There is a huge discussion on this topic, including some horrific stories about privacy and stuff.
But this was about other options for location based interaction. From the iPhone based tracking, the step towards a web based tracking is not far and the set of additional options is enormous. Only starting from a simple message or chat tool right up to location based tags and content such as photographs. The limitations of gadget based tracking are obvious, it is as if you are talking to your self, a rather introverted and singular recording of spatial movement. The web based option on the other hand offers instant updated and interaction.
I have been testing Brightkite and MapMe the last few days and I am just blown away. Not necessarily with the interface, the options or the features, but more by what a location based social networking tool could be. Facebook is so 1957 compared to this. The exciting thing is probably that you can take it with you and that where you are actually influences what you see, on the little screen of course. On the other end the information you ad to the network has this same dimension too. So you get actually quite easily in touch with new people, if used on a mobile device, because you constantly come across in real space other peoples digital junk (positive).

Image by UrbanTick – Screenshot history page with timeline on the top

But to start from the beginning, how does it work, what can you do on how does it feel? First we look at the MapMe application. It is developed by John McKerrell. It is a place to store your location and share it with friends. Like Latitude it has a main page on which it shows your location on a map. This map is based on Open Street Map data. A big awful yellow marker has written on it “I am here”. Maybe “ME” would do it as the service is called mapME? The big problem is the colour full approach of the open street map. It makes it really hard, if not impossible to actually see the location dots other than the big yellow box. Have a try on the image above, can you spot the greenish-brown dots? At least in London this is the case, because it is so dense. Somehow the colours on MapMe appear brighter than on the original OSM page.
A number of sources can be used to feed the location into the application. Through email with FireEagle, Twitter, Latitude, RSS feed or InstaMapper. This variety is great, although some seem rather crude. Like email, but then you think, there might be some devices that update positions via SMS or email, if they are not based on the rather new concept of free unlimited data access, so yes, great option.
The second cool add-on here is the timeline, hidden in the history tab. It makes the past locations accessible in a timeline. It is based on the Smile timeline code on Google Code. It is an interface based on horizontal bands that each are based on time units. One is the year, then the month and then the day, even the hour can be added. By pulling the bands one can navigate in time. The location points are then displayed on both, the band (as dots or lines) and on the map. The two stay in sync while moving through time. Brilliant feature. This is probably the first feature you will miss on Latitude!

Image by UrbanTick – Screenshot MapMe

That’s about it on MapMe. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any of my friends on this network, as it only allows you to search by username and if you don’t know, you don’t know. So if you are on MapMe please ad me as a contact! Was just looking for a direct link to my profile, but could not find anything so search for UrbanTick.
The link page is actually the history page. So here is my link then – UrbanTick.
It is really not so much of a socializing tool as a personal recorder, for witch it works brilliantly. It actually offers and developer API to add to the existing application and also lets you access the recorded data. Information about this is on the mapme blog.

If we move over to Brightkite this is completely different. It is a fully grown social networking tool. It is like facebook having attached a different design. Surprisingly there is no map! Not that facebook would have one, but if the service is location based the first thing to think about probably is a map. In the discussion board, what a surprise, there is a tread about this and the reply by Martin May one year ago was “That’s coming…the map is kinda clunky right now. We have great plans for it, but it will take us some time to get everything in…it’s beta, after all.” So there is still no map and it is still Beta, but it is still cool. You know maybe not having a map makes it more interesting. On the iPhone I have to say, there is the option to click on things and it would open the location in the maps application. There is actually the same button for the webtool. A map can be accessed through an individual post or location. It even embeds Google Street View to give you an image of the location beside the post.
Having said that there is one really cool feature that almost makes up for the missing map. It is possible to export the posted contents as a kml file to Google Earth or link it as a RSS feed. An it includes not only your stuff, but your friend’s posts as well, great. Guess you could simply put that feed into the yahoo pipes and have it on a map.
The really big thing here is it the location based information that you can access contend through. You can literally run into a comment or an image! The information filter is not only based on your friend network but also on the location, close 920m), block (200m), neighborhood (2km), area (4km), city (10km), metro (50km), region (100km).

Image by UrbanTick – Screenshot Brightkite web app distance filter

This becomes really interesting if we take the aspect of time into account. I thought about this when I posted a random picture of something I simply had in front of my lens, a construction site on the road. Now I am able to look at images other people have posted in the same location from before the construction started and people will pas by this location in the future and see my image of the building site even though the construction has long finished. Meaning that it builds op an immensely rich database of location based everyday information over location and time. A similar thing is the mobile flickr “around me” service. If you use flickr on a mobile device it will give you the option to filter contend based on your location, it is cool, but does not offer the control of Brightkite.
A specification of this is the save a location tool, where you can mark a location as special. It is a place mark and can be used to tag a restaurant for example. If you write a review or only leave a note how the meal was others can pick it up.
The iPhone app can be downloaded for free and is a must have. It is simple but offers a lot of features. There seems to be an issue with the bottom line links. On my phone the first instance shows two icons on top of each other but only one can be accessed. The “request“ button is somehow behind the ”I am …“ button after I clicked on the ”more” tab.
So again if you are on Brightkite give me a shout!

Image by UrbanTick – Brightkite for iPhone application screen shorts

The only problem with these tools, applications and software really is the real space experience. I found myself in the last few days sunken into my iPhone and being kind of absent from the environment around me. Although I was in a way deeply involved in the here and now, the past and other users experience of the same place I would have sensed. My experience was not too different as looking at Google Street View from a remote location. A rather dull and emotion less consumption of something that is being sold to me as a real location while being a bunch of pixels.
It has a lot of qualities and interesting aspects hat are not yet explored to the limit, but there is a down side to it as that the mobile use takes you out of the real world into the pixel world and vie versa while the benefit is not quite clear.

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In the UrbanDiary Interview I am using mental maps to get participants to express how they navigate the space in the city. Mental map in this context means that participants are asked to draw a sketch of how they remember and would describe the space they are using on a daily bases. In addition to the technical GPS record this personal view has the focus on perception of space based on memory, experience, personal circumstances and current concerns. The sheet is prepared with a title and a box, but is otherwise blank. Participants are completely free on how to draw a “map”. The only rule is not to copy it from a street map or image. In addition they are asked to comment on what they draw, to record the sequence the sketch of their mental images of space is drawn. See earlier posts on the UrbanDiary mental maps here and here.
On of the very famous studies using mental maps is “The Image of the City” by Kevin Lynch. It was carried out over five years and summarized in this 1960 book. Lynch says: “Every citizen has had long associations with some parts of his city, and his image is soaked in memories and meanings.” (Lynch, 1960, p 1) It is a fairly sweet and stereotypical description with a lot of implicit hints to society but expresses that there is some knowledge and meaning in each one of us about the environment we live in and have to navigate through. It is something that is not about North or South, exact distance measurements or overarching, objective descriptions. Rather it is about personal experience, judgment and what is physically and psychically important to the subject. Lynch said, “Most often our perception of the city is not sustained, but rather partial, fragmentary, mixed with other concerns. Nearly every sense is in operation, and the image is the composite of them all.” (Lynch, 1960, p 2)
As early as 1913, Charles Trowbridge commented on how people have different sense of orientation. He concluded two groups of navigators. Some people have imaginary maps in their heads centered upon the location of their homes. They are able to navigate a certain distance on familiar ground, but they would lose orientation in unfamiliar ground. The other group was more described as “egocentric“ and orientated to their own position at the moment. With a better ability to navigate in unfamiliar territory.

The map is just one form of expression of these personal memories and descriptions. But although it is called a map, it has two fundamental differences. It has no scale and no objective direction assigned to it. The drawing lives of its elements and may only stand in this context, e.g. there is no assumed direction pointing towards north unless the author of the map assigns it with an arrow. Nevertheless some features of a map can be borrowed by the participant, such as top down view, symbols, and so on.
Other methods can be a description in words, both as a text or an interview. The Lego Serious Play is an other creative way to expressing memories and perception and a more hand on approach. David Gauntlett from Westminster University is a researcher working with this method.

The instructions to draw a mental map are simple. The focus lies on the content and not the beauty of the sketch, there is no right or wrong. The key is that the sketch is not copied from a map or image but rather drawn from memory.
Lynch introduces the mental map to the participants as follows: “ We would like you to make a quick map of … Make it just as if you were making a rapid description of the city to a stranger, covering all the main features. We don’t expect an accurate drawing – just a rough sketch.” Lynch 1960, p 141)
It is a rather quick exercise and does not require a lot of planning and thinking. In fact from my experience with mental map-making, there are three phases to the creation of the sketch. First is the skeleton phase, it contains most of the important information, objects, direction, names and paths. The second phase puts the flesh on by linking between memories with information and description. This will often trigger some more memories and makes the map rich and representative. The third and last phase is the beauty process, where no more important information is added, but rather the sketch is adjusted and critiqued.

sturgeonsstuff – there is also a podcast about a group of students discuss their mental map of the world and Image The New Yorker magazine – A New Yorker Mental Map, taken from tamibeikelboom.

Mental maps have been used in a variety of spatial research. On one hand there are studies such as Lynches with a focus on the built environment and a rather detailed perception description. On the other hand there are studies to focus on the quality of the environment more in terms of feelings such as desire, stress, fear or happiness. Such a study has been done by David Ley in Philadelphia in 1972 or a current similar project on fear in Los Angeles by Sorin A. Matei, 2003. From participants responds he was able to create a three dimensional surface to represent the amount of fear in the Los Angeles region. This is indicated with red and green colours. While working with children mental maps are also often used as a method of expression. For example in “Environmental fears and dislikes of children in Berlin and Paris” by Olga Nikitina-den Besten, 2008 looks at the absence of children in today’s cities and investigates the highly specialized urban environment from a child’s perspective of safety, fear and joy. The aspect of drawing should not be underestimated. With children, the reaction will ultimately be ok they like drawing so the method is appropriate, but adults often have more difficulties to draw even a simple sketch. Drawing is not something adults necessarily do very often, but children are expected to some drawing.

Image from Environmental fears and dislikes of children in Berlin and Paris by Olga Nikitina-den Besten – A boy, 10 years, from Berlin and a girls, 12 years, from Paris.

An investigation into peoples desire using mental maps is summarized in the book “Mental Maps” by Peter Gould and Rodney White. They are looking at where would people like to life. They asked people: “Suppose you were suddenly given the chance to choose where you would like to live – an entirely free choice that you could make quite independently of the usual constraints of income or job availability. Where would you choose to go?” (Gould, 1974, p 15) From the responses they generated a surface of desire for different areas in the world. Here an example of a 3d model of the UK, where the height indicates the desire. Clearly there is an increase from north to south (model viewpoint is in the north looking south).

Image by Peter Gould and Rodney White, 1974.

To a great extend there is a lot of information contained within the mental maps on how people perceive the space and ultimately how people create their space. The creation of space could be something very personal and through what the essence of mental maps is a very dynamic concept of temporal perception based on mood, concerns and circumstances. As a very abstract concept it could be compared to the creation of space in the virtual world as an orbit around subject in time and space. Space as in social space or individual space is probably not the same as Euclidean space, the way we think about space generally. If we describe space from personal perception and time point of view, the concept of space might be something very different from the space as a box concept.

To extend and intensify the research on mental maps you are all invited to contribute your own, very personal mental maps of the place you live. For this purpose is the flickr group MENTAL MAP at http://www.flickr.com/groups/mentalmap/
It is an open group and you can ad your sketch of the environment you life in. The instructions are outlined above by Kevin Lynch.
You can contribute two types of maps, an overall sketch of the city, town or village you life in and a detailed description of your way to work and back home again. For both it would be great if you include a short description and it is necessary to geotag the image before adding to the group. Otherwise it will be rejected by flickr. The geotag is a rough location in the area of your sketch.
I am thinking about putting all the mental maps together in a publication as a summary of worldwide perception of people’s environments.


A map of all the posted Mental Maps can be seen here. There might not be much there at the moment but hopefully it will grow in the next few weeks.

Gould, P. & White, R., 1974. Mental Maps, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

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As a by-product of a research project called “Mapping the World’s Photos” a nice movement map was generated. The work by Davis Crandall, Lars Backstrom, Daniel Huttenlocher and Jon Kleinberg from the Department of Computer Science, Cornell University is looking at organizing a large collection of geotagged photos. Large in this context means something around 35 million images, collected from Flickr via the public API. The main hypothesis of the project is “that geospatial information provides an important source of structure that can be directly integrated with visual and textual-tag content for organizing global-scale photo collections”. They where using image recognition software to locate the photos together with the interpretation of the photo tags.
In this context the computation bit behind this is not the focus of the interest, although it sounds very impressive. If you are interested in this bit, have a look at their paper directly, which is published online here.
The bit I am interested for this post is the bit where they plot the geospatial information. As they describe it in their paper it was more of a by-product that came with the project, but never the less it generated interesting visuals.
By using the time stamp and the geolocation the movement of the photographer can be traced. Similar to a rough GPS track the different locations a photo is taken can be mapped as a sequence in space and time. Crandall et all where plotting this information and the result was a series of urban tourist’s movement maps. In the paper they published two of them on of Manhattan, NY and the other one of the San Francisco Bay area.

Image courtesy of David Crandall / New York – To produce these figures, we plotted the geolocated coordinates of sequences of images taken by the same user, sorted by time, for which consecutive photos were no more than 30 minutes apart.

A great way to collect data by mining the existing and continuously growing, as they call it “global photo library” by using the public API and the published image information. It is a project very similar to the recently posted project “Just landed”, where the Twitter API was used together with a tweet analysis regarding phrases containing “just landed” to map global movement.
The selection of the image generators, the photographers and sharers is again, just as it was with twitter a critical point. Who does this represent, who is this group and what can we learn from this groups data?

An other city mapped by the photos taken is London.
London generated from FLickr photo locations
Image courtesy of David Crandall / London as seen through the camera clicks shared on Flickr with geolocation.

Quoted paper: David Crandall, Lars Backstrom, Daniel Huttenlocher and Jon Kleinberg, 2009. Mapping the World’s Photos.

Found through 7.5th Floor by Fabien Girardin – As he points out in his blog post there are a number of related projects including Currid and Williams’ work on Mapping the Cultural Buzz.

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The MIT SESEABLEcity lab produced a clip of a visualization of geotagged Flickr photographs located in Spain. The visualization covers a time period of one year and gives a good impression of which spots get photographed by digital and web enthusiasts.

“(Un)photographed Spain maps thousands of these public, digital footprints over one year. As photos overlap in certain locations, they expose the places that attract the photographer’s gaze . In contrast, the absence of images in other locations reveal the unphotographed spaces of a more introverted Spain.” (by senseablecity on vimeo)

(un)photographed Spain from senseablecity on Vimeo.

Through digitalurban.blogspot.com

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There are a number of tag maps out there already, but its always nice to play with them and explore the maps a fresh. This example is based on Flicker tags and it uses Yahoo maps.
Generated with World Explorer. You can get your own applet here. It was developed through Yahoo! Research Berkley.

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