Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Public Radio Roadtrip: A Proposal for the Knight/Mozilla Drumbeat/MoJo Challenge

I have a great project for the Knight/Mozilla Drumbeat/MoJo challenge. It's geared specifically for curating, sharing and discovering media (and could also be geared for user generated media). At it's core, it's GPL licensed (both the web app framework as well as the code itself). To my knowledge, it doesn't use any proprietary technology (mostly python and javascript). It aims to promote good coding (and has the potential to be a great example of html5 coding). It's reproducable (on practically any operating system, or via Google App Engine). It's easily customized for media organizations. And I think there are software and processes that are being used (notably web2py and google app engine) which could be instructive for coders, media organizations to know about. And it's fun!

Okay, what is it? It's called the Public Radio Roadtrip. It incorporates location-based-audio (or other media) and mapping. It doesn't aim to be a cms. It allows media organizations to continue to use the publication tools of their choice. However, it provides an "editorial layer" between disparate web sites (or apis) and it leverages the power of geolocating stories.

I've been working on this app for almost a year now.

You can view the code here:

You can try out the demo here:

I've blogged a bit about the concepts and ideas behind the app here:

and here:

and here:

I've had significant input from practicing journalists and technologists from within public media such as Krissy Clarke at KQED, Javaun Moradi at NPR and Barrett Golding (at Hearing Voices).

I think this app has a lot of potential to grow in the coming year. I envision ways where journalists and citizens could inform the direction for the creation of this app. I envision ways where this app could be a useful tool for journalists working to define and discover ways in which location based stories are concieved and told. And I think this could be useful in promoting Mozilla's goal of openness, standards and innovation.

Thank you for your consideration.

John Tynan

Navigate to Public Media Stories via GPS

When you think of driving, it's a natural connection to think of listening to the radio, and then to listening to public radio. But also when you think of driving (especially on roadtrips) it's also natural to think of getting driving directions from a GPS unit. Well, why not put the two together... like chocolate and peanut butter: public radio and gps units...

Has this been done before? If so, I'm not aware that this is a prevalent practice, but why not? Has this been a first? I don't know...

However, last night, I went to a recent post of stories about Childhood Homes from across public broadcasting (and beyond) and exported the listing of stories as a .gpx file. You can try this yourself, look at the top of any of the Published Roadtrips at the Public Radio Roadtrip site.

What is a gpx file? A gpx file is an xml file that is recognized by Garmin (and other?) GPS units.

While maybe not the most intuitive process (at this point) the pictures below show that the process actually works:

Download the GPX file:

Process the file using Garmin's POI Loader:

You can choose to connect directly to your gps, or you can move the file to your gps unit manually.

Once on your GPS unit, you can open the roadtrip and see a listing of the individual stories.

You open an individual story and ask your gps to navigate to this place.

You can also view additional details about the story itself.

One detail, while the urls to the audio are included in the gpx file, and even though the GPS I am using has the ability to play an MP3 file, I have not (as yet) been able to get the actual audio for the story to play within the gps unit. Further testing of this is necessary.

However, if we combine the ability of displaying audio with the ability to print pages containing QRCodes linking to the audio for a story, we have at least the makings of a process for "pubcaching" for combining geocaching and public media. Combine this with journalistic storytelling and perhaps theories about gaming, this could be a powerful process for informing people about their communities and points of interest, of engaging people who may not be public radio listeners, and for raising the visibility and value of public media.

Now that we are able to get stories placed on a map, are able to view them within a gps, if we are able to get the audio to play we could be onto reaching new audiences and creating a new format for discovering public radio out in the world.