Where In The World

While I’ve spent a lot of time talking about MeNow-type services, I haven’t spent a lot of time doing anything with them as far as location goes. The main reason for this is there has always been something “Just over the horizon” which is going to take care of all the location stuff for me.

For a long time, nothing really happened. However, thanks to Norman Walsh’s efforts, there now is a “Where in the World” web service. It’s easy to use, although documentation is a bit weak at this point. (I say this with a smile because it’s not gearing to be a complete web service for the public: It’s mostly so that he can learn the way to make a proper web service.)

If you want to try it out, first use the WITW register form to register with the service, which will generate a userid for you and allow you to use your account. You can then use the WITW web form to alter your position. There are also other ways, more oriented to the Web Services way of doing things: these are covered in the WITW Part 1 post on Norm’s weblog.

Attached to this, for results, are a couple URIs: http://norman.walsh.name/2005/02/witw/is/$username is the most interesting, for example, WITW is Christopher Schmidt , which returns XML formatted in-browser with XSLT. (Note that this will only work in IE and Firefox at the moment.) Even more interesting things happen when you’re actually near someone, however, there’s not anyone close enough to show up by default. Norm set up a temporary page demonstrating this, by extending the “nearby” distance to 100 miles. You could see this on another WITW is Christopher Schmidt page, but it’s down now.

If you look at the resulting XML, you can see it’s pretty simple, and easy to use: Easy enough that even I could figure out what to do with it. So, I did: the freenode redlandbot install now supports a “witw” command:

< crschmidt> ^witw crschmidt
< julie> At 2005-02-18T23:51:33Z, crschmidt was at long: -71.4369, lat: 42.9813

The next step is to get it to update the site, as well as to store the data into the RDF store. That way, I can start to build up a MeNow database, which will let me work on furthering that project as well.

That’s not the only thing there is out there for location: There’s also Plazes, which aims to store a much wider range of data and be much more of a web site than a web service. You can see the place where I am right now: The Commune, the place I call home. Soon, the site will be exporting the data as RDF: something that I look forward to. Tying together Plazes and simpler things like WITW are pretty simple.

All in all, I’ve got a lot of fun toys to play with for location, and I’m expecting more will come out of them in the future. For now though, I’m happy that I can update something to let others see where I am. Now I’ve just got to make my computer start doing the hard work for me a bit more simply…

4 Responses to “Where In The World”

  1. Michael Zeltner Says:

    not exactly right… plazes actually is a webservice (or whatever you want to call it) already – they already have an api, and they’re going to provide rdf data quite soon.

  2. Christopher Schmidt Says:

    They don’t have a public API, which is all I care about. If you have to email to ask for documentation, then you might as well not have an API at all, because you’re simply not going to see applications developed for something that isn’t a public API.

  3. Phil Wilson Says:

    Good post!

  4. Norman Walsh Says:

    The “is2” URI is now synonymous to “is”. It was just a temporary hack that I never intended to get published 🙂