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November 16, 2008

Flickr and collective mapping

a flick image of the US, assembled by geotagging info

Right now there are almost 90-million geotagged photos on Flickr. (Geotagged photos are images with information such as the latitude and longitude where the photograph was taken). Since a huge number of those images also have some sort of geographically related descriptive information associated with them ("Me and Nancy at Independence Hall in Philadelphia", "Sundown at Malibu", "New York City", etc.) it should be theoretically possible to look at all of that data and learn where geographic boundaries are.

Which is exactly what some programmers at Flickr have done. They've generated the shapes of over 150,000 geographic areas. Now these Flickr shapes aren't always perfectly accurate (for instance, look at their shape info for the United States, pictured above) but they will get better as more and more geotagged photos are collected (and given that more and more cameras (particularly cellphone cameras) geo-tag images the number is sure to explode).

They also have shapes for more amorphous geo-designations, such as neighborhoods. (Just where *does* Beverly Hills begin and end, anyway).

Flickr (and their corporate overlords, Yahoo) are making the shapes available. They're also providing APIs to let people generate their own map shapes from image tags or descriptions. I wonder what the map based on the word "butterfly" looks like? Or"party", or "bikini", or "sleepy".

(Thanks to a tweet from mattb for the pointer.)


Posted by Chris Spurgeon at November 16, 2008 08:33 AM