Picture the New Year

thebigpictureIf you have been following the news about what is happening in the Middle East, you might be interested in what the Boston Globe’s The Big Picture on (Dec 31st) published photos under the title: Israel and Gaza.  These still photographs are very poignant, and thought-provoking (and disturbing).  Somehow I find these large, silent, still images even more moving than the tv news videos, which are disturbing but are also quickly gone as the stations move on to the next story. One comment posted about the photos was a quote from Benjamin Franklin “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

I have mentioned the Big Picture before and their photographs offer some wonderful images of many things. Last time I think I wrote a post about the photos of hurricanes. They have also done 3 posts looking back at 2008. All these photos offer a wonderful resource for teachers to use to begin, or further, discussions on all sorts of topics.


Speaking of cricket, it has dominated the news in the past few days. I have used Newsmap to have a look at the sports bias.  Newsmap shows a visual representation of the stories which received the most media attention at any given time. It is interesting because it aggregates news from Google services and arranges them by size. Those receiving the most attention or reportage shows up as the largest.  It provides perspective rather than content.

The first is a “map” of the national news (Australia).


The second is a map that includes both National news and sports news. The sports completely dominates the news


From the Newsmap site:

Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator.  A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Its objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news; on the contrary, it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it.

This would be a good tool to show students when they are analysing the news or newsmedia. I like using Silobreaker to analyse the coverage of  particular topics/subjects in the news and this is another way to analyse the news we get.

NewsMap Positives: Nice categorization and use of colour,  the ability to customize (allows the reader to refine news topic by world news, national news, business, health, sport, technology and entertainment), you are able to capture everything at a glance, the ability to filter news by country and, whilst not all countries are catered for, most of the bigger ones are.
Things that could be improved: No visual support at first screen, news images are not taken into account (sometimes images represents news better than words) and it is restricted to English language based content.

There are more and more ways to look at current news. Another site worth a look is OurSignal.com.It looks at currently popular items on the top social news sites  (Digg, Reddit,  Del.icio.us,  Hackernews and Yahoo buzz) and mashes it all together. Viewers then get a rapid overview of the latest headlines. The bigger the box, the more relative votes a story has; the warmer the colour, the more the story is on the rise and cooler colours denote that the story is becoming “less important”.

We could have our students compare each of the above, looking at the similarities and differences and then trying to come up with the why.

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Searching for videos with VideoSurf

VideoSurf is a video search engine (still in beta format) . This is a new search engine that should be useful when trying to find video footage.

There is a good post on OmniVideo blog entitled Video search, are we there yet? that discusses how it works. Basically VideoSurf uses visual scanning technology to index videos. Analyzing a video is an incredibly complex problem. VideoSurf does the heavy work for web viewers with algorithms that identify people and backgrounds in videos and then converts them into thumbnail frames that summarize sections of the video. Visual computer scanning means search results will be more relevant than relying on tagging video clips with descriptions and analyzing the audio portion of clips to make videos searchable through text (as does Blinkx and Truveo).

It is a multi search video engine, easy to use and information comes from a wide variety of sources. Search results can be refined by content type, category (news, TV, funny, Vlogs) or source. You can choose to show only faces and can also sort by relevance and date added. The results show a large thumbshot together with smaller thumbnails at various points through the video.

Doing a search on G20, VideoSurf found 231 videos from a full search of over 20 different sources.


I like the idea of being able to find video footage to add to discussions on current issues, be it for English politics, religion and ethics, to name a few.

According to the site itself: [VideoSurf is a] new kind of video search engine that’s creating a better way for you to search, discover and watch online videos. Using patent-pending computer vision algorithms that can actually see the video’s content, VideoSurf serves up more relevant results for your queries and offers a new, visual way for you to interact with the video set returned. You can refine your results based on the people who actually appear in the videos and pinpoint the specific moments you’re interested in watching or sharing with your friends.

more about “Searching with VideoSurf “, posted with vodpod

News Archive – Another Google service

News from the Google blog this week. Google has launched its newspaper archive, drawing on all sorts of sources. Most of them are free, but some are subject to a subscription fee. 

Newspapers have been conveying significant news for hundreds of years. The problem is that most of these newspapers are not available online. This initiative, Google News Archives, is about making more old newspaper articles/information accessible and searchable online. Google aims to do this by partnering with newspaper publishers to digitize millions of pages of news archives.


I tried looking up Cyclone Tracy. As with Google searches, you can use the advanced mode to locate information. There were many results but I particularly wanted to see the papers from the 1974.

You can narrow down the results by specifying dates, in the field on the left-hand side of the screen. I choose “before 1998” and then I found many articles to choose from. A number of the Australian papers were by subscription but there were others as well. It was amazing to see how many global papers carried information about Tracy and how it was reported in them.

From the St. Petersburg Times

From the St. Petersburg Times

Although the above article was from Dec 24th, 1990 I found it interesting. The article that reported on Australian summer conditions and compared them to 1974. It was in the St. Petersburg times. From this you can see how the article can be viewed. There seems to be more US news covered than other nationality but I would suppose it will continue to grow as various organisations come on board as they understand the benefits to all.

I see a number of ways this service could be used in my school, in the media, English and SOSE areas to name three. The interesting thing for me is that you can see the news as it was printed, with the headlines, accompanying photos, and the position on the page, as well as what else was around it. The use of language, comparisons between news reporting in different eras and countries, the impact of an event, as evidenced by the reporting in the paper at that time, pure historical data including the photographs can all be used by teachers and students in their research. I always find looking at advertising interesting as well. Advertising is, for me, a great indicator of the society of the times.

Another fascinating Google offering.