Hyper-Local Blogging Approaches: What’s The Best Geolocation Currency?

March 10, 2008

BHB has posted an extreme makeover blog post for four hyperlocal websites and ask for comments about how to improve.  Rather than add comments about the interface or design over there, there might be value in a more fundamental conversation about hyperlocal approaches. Forunately, I was able to repurpose much of one of the 43 draft blog posts that I wrote several months ago but never published to seed the conversation.

Communities As Abstractions of Geolocation

Hyperlocal by definition has a dependency on geolocation. Every location on earth is part of a myriad hierarchy of geolocation abstraction that are based on tangible or intangible boundaries – the most often thought about abstractions are neighborhoods, counties, states, etc. These abstractions often form the sense of formal and informal community for many people – what one person considers “community” may different greatly from what others consider.

Abstractions as Currency For Communicating Useful Information

In many ways, the level of geolocation abstraction is a representative “currency” for informational requirements and often provides a personalized way to think about about community at different levels.  It’s important to correctly align the leve of abstraction with the requirements. Choose the wrong currency and the transaction might not make sense. For instance, using congressional districts (which are abstracts of geolocation that can span demographics as well as towns, counties, and zip codes) makes a lot of sense in the context of election results because the currency is the same as the success criteria. Election results might totally be different in a representative system when votes are aggregated by a different geolocation abstraction such as town or state or even nationally. This explains how a candidate can overall popular votes and yet lose an election. At the macro level, just meeting another American while traveling or living overseas can make an instant bond based on the geolocation abstraction of country alone.

Zip Codes and Town Names Might Not Be The Best Abstractions For Useful Data

So is zip code the right currency to use for hyperlocal blogging? Personally, I’m not so sure. I think about my zip code only a bit more than I think about my congressional district and feel about the same level of allegience to both. My chances of knowing a distant location’s zip code is slim to none…well, actually just none except for 90210 and you know why that is…to be honest, I’d need to likely look it up each time. I don’t even have an idea what state the 4 for zip codes in question are in. This could just be me but I’d need to have more of an emotional connection to a level of geolocation abstraction to think in terms of neighborhood or community than zip code. 

Town names have many of the same issues as zip codes albeit a stronger connection. There is still the issue of being located across the street from the dividing line that zip codes have. Just because I may live in {insert name of your town here} doesnt mean that I don’t have hyperlocal interest in one town over.  The lines are simply too arbitrary.

Much like the misfit of the number of hot dogs in a package with the number of hot dog bus, we tend to use zip codes and town because that’s how the information most often comes packaged. It’s an easy abstraction and the path of least resistance.

Using The Raw Data of Latitude and Longitude

The FSBL geolocation engine uses latitude and longitude as our platform’s internal geolocation currency. It’s like using raw data rather than summarized data. Most people know what town or city they are interested in and we convert that information to a lat/long.  The math to determine a reasonable radius around that base lat/long is fairly trivial and works across the world. Just about everything in our web engine database has geolocation information wrapped around it making geolocation matching an easy process.  The link is from 2006 and is still very valid – sound functionality never goes out of style 😛 

The best part of using lat/long is that it spans other geolocation abstraction boundaries. This is beneficial to both information providers and consumers of that information.  Users dont need to know what towns or neighborhoods are close to each other or what zip code they are in. In a sense, we’ve abstracted away the abstractions.

Suggestions For Next Steps

– wordpress plugin which allows town level lats and longs to be wrapped around blog posts

– integrating photos and videos posted by others into hyperlocal blogs by using lat and log information from photo and other media upload sites that support them.

– syndicating hyperlocal information and media so that it can be aggregated across hyperlocal sites

See Also:

Real Estate Websites of the Future
Linking Real Estate Content With User Context: Putting Better Faces On Contextual Content
Aggregating The Long Tail: Making Micro Useful
The User As The Center Of The Universe: Integration Of Real Estate Video And Geolocation



  1. […] Read ForSalebyLocal’s post for a more thorough reasoning as well as an alternative solution to…. […]

  2. A somewhat related theme here .

  3. Zipcodes are on obvious tool to use in real estate geolocation because they are widely known by individuals who live in a given area, but they are clearly a poor choice for branding and community building. People identify with neighborhoods and in a hyperlocal world they may identify with geocentric communties, but as you said, nobody identifies with a zipcode.

  4. The Fitzroyalty hyperlocal blog in Melbourne Australia discusses the latest technologies for hyperlocal content syndication and aggregation and examines the location aware and presence aware potential of hyperlocal media. See http://indolentdandy.net/fitzroyalty/2008/08/08/hyperlocal-media-in-australia/

  5. we are providing a java based geo location server. please check out http://findmylocation.info

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