A small orphan child sits alone in a cardboard box in Bunia, Congo while thousands of Brazilians celebrate Carnival in bright colorful costumes. In Bangkok, thousands of government protesters create a sea of red shirts in the streets while tennis pros Marat Safin and Richard Gasquet play in the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Images, video and articles covering all of these events are presented in TimeSpace: World, a map and timeline interface that displays thousands of media items from from around the globe. The interactive map allows users to explore the world and see where news is happening and possibly stumble upon stories or photos they might not have seen otherwise.
The technology used to build TimeSpace was created by washingtonpost.com innovations developers Dan Berko, Jesse Foltz, Steven King and designer Chris Buddy. This interface was first envisioned to track the presidential candidates across the United States in the weeks leading up to the election.
The idea quickly evolved and theand the team expanded its vision to become an application of a much larger scope one that could present any news event using today's variety of mediums all on a single, easy-to-search map.
TimeSpace provides an innovative framework and publishing tool that reimagines the presentation of news online for global or local events.
During the 2009 Presidential Inauguration TimeSpace technology allowed washingtonpost.com to bring together continuous news coverage on a D.C.-area map. The live, granular experience displayed geo-coded images down to the street level. A team of Washington Post journalists and University of North Carolina journalism students were equipped with the GPS enabled Sprint broadband cards and deployed through out the city. Photos, video and eye-witness reports were transmitted and presented in TimeSpace to provide an ever-changing and interactive experience of the historic day.
The flexibility to create new and different versions is made possible by the robust engine behind TimeSpace. The back-end, is a collection of scripts, databases and an admin tool built by Dan Berko. Built on Python and Djanjoo and using the Google Geo-coder API, every media item is parsed, geo-coded, tagged and automatically entered into a database. The interface retrieves the data from the database via JSON.
Flash API, created the interface. A major obstacle was how to display
hundreds of items in the same location. Foltz wrote a clustering class that enabled thousands of items to be placed on the map in a small amount of space.
"TimeSpace: World displays from 5,000 to 8,000 items per day without a lag in performance," said Foltz. "I wanted everything to respond quickly and be very fluid no matter how many items were in there."
"It is our goal to provide a place for users to explore news and information in a way that allows them to consume more without noticing the technology behind it," said King. "With TimeSpace, you don't have to click back and forth through thousands of pages. You can simply navigate through articles, videos and photos all at once using a single map. It is an easy-way for users to enjoy exploring the news and events around the world."
Using the Sprint wirless cards, Washington Post journalist have the technology to transmit geocoded media from the field quickly and using TimeSpace users will be able to locate and experience it in close to real time.
There are plans to expand TimeSpace to cover more topics including Sports, entertainment and the Washington, D.C. area.