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Hack 55. Visualize Google News

Watch stories aggregated by Google News unfold over time, coverage broaden and fade, and hotspots emerge and fade again into the background.

Newsmap ( is a whizbang Flash-based treemap representation ( of the stories flowing through Google News. The Newsmap home page describes it best:

Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

Point your web browser at the Newsmap page and click the LAUNCH button to begin. Figure 4-4 shows Newsmap in action.

Figure 4-4. Newsmap's Standard banded layout, focusing on U.K. coverage of world, nation, and business news

Each color-coded band (you'll have to take our word for its being in color) represents a Google News section: from top to bottom are World, Nation, Business, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, and Health. Notice that I've only selected the first three by checking their associated checkboxes at the bottom-right. Also notice that I've selected news only from the U.K. in the Countries tab across the top.

The colors appear in a gradient from brightest ("less than 10 minutes ago") to darkest ("more than 1 hour ago") such that the latest stories stand right out.

The more substantial the band and bigger the enclosed headline, the greater the number of related stories. You can easily spot the freshest and most covered stories: they're the big, bright blocks.

Hover your mouse over any story for a brief description drawn from the primary source—the story around which others are clustered—as chosen by Google News.

There's also a Squarified version (Figure 4-5) that I prefer: more so than with the Standard version (Figure 4-4), you are able to see the spread of coverage across all news categories. Switch between the two layouts by clicking the appropriate Layout button near the bottom-right.

Figure 4-5. Newsmap's Squarified layout, drawing from U.S. coverage of news across all Google News categories

Newsmap provides a fascinating bird's-eye view of news as it unfolds on the Web. Here are a couple of my favorite Newsmap settings:

  • Select only one news category—World works best—and draw coverage in from two or three countries. Set the layout to Squarified. Now take a gander at the headlines and notice how they differ in title and coverage by country.

  • Select only one news category and one country from which to draw sources. Set the layout to Standard. Now, meander back through the archive (bottom-left) day-by-day or hour-by-hour and watch how the stories unfold over time—bands widen and narrow, hotspots appear and disappear, and the headline changes right along with the primary source.

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