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The Power of Aggregation: Using Flickr Data to Avoid Tourists

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Lifehacker just posted a write-up of Flickr’s user of Eric Fischer’s “Locals and Tourists” maps.  Essentially Fischer took what data he could find from images posted on Flickr of particular locations (based on tags, dates, geotagging, etc.) and made some educated guesses about what separated tourists from locals.

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Using that data he plotted the photos on maps of major world cities and, voila, heatmaps of places to avoid.  This mashup is just one of the endless uses of aggregated data.  You can start to get a sense of what else is possible:

  • Imagine a GPS system that makes decisions by drawing on car crash data to route you around dangerous stretches of road.
  • Imagine retailers being able to assign products a rating (either for consumers or for themselves) based on how many recalls or returns they have on a particular item.
  • What if we could mine the collective wisdom of Twitter by using some algorithms to determine whether sentiments expressed a political candidate were positive or negative and used for polling data that instead of phone-based polls (which continue to decline in accuracy as people abandon landlines for mobile phones).
  • Consider how our shopping experience at malls might be improved by tracking when people are at malls and where they walk with security cameras to plot out the best times and fastest routes to get through, say, the Black Friday throngs.
  • Speaking of cool examples of data aggregation – Google Streetview now incorporates user-generated photos (via @mashable).

It’s exiting … or scary … when you think about it.

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