Ricky Robinett, the tech brain behind FakeGirlfriend.co (which, by the way, he’s offering up for sale to none other than Kanye West), has unleashed a new app with the help of Brian Wrightson. It’s called The Status Atlas, and it’s a “Twitter + Brooklyn mashup” compiling the tweets of Brooklyn to tell you which neighborhoods are tweeting which words the most. (Click on the lines of the map for neighborhood names.) How you might use this data is up to you, but as Robinett says, “It’s a fun way to visualize things. In Williamsburg, one time the word was ‘women.’ When it’s raining, you see a lot of shit and fuck.”
The Status Atlas is an entry in the NYC BigApps challenge (deadline: Wednesday), which offers cash and prizes to app developers using city data “to make NYC better.” We asked Robinett and Wrightson some questions about how the app works, and about their inspiration and hopes for it.
How did you come up with the idea?
Wrightson: I occasionally have random ideas occur to me out of nowhere and this was one of those. I was driving in the the car with my girlfriend and it came to me in almost the exact form that it appears in now. I texted Ricky about 30 seconds later to sell him on it.
Robinett: Brian’s a genius.
Tell us about how it works…
Robinett: We’re using the Twitter API to get tweets in a given area, and then parsing through each tweet to find popular words/phrases being used. We don’t restrict the time of the tweet, and instead just use the max responses we get from Twitter. This is mostly because we want to work through the largest dataset possible. We do filter out a lot of words that really aren’t interesting or are used so much that the whole map would just be those words (when we ran our first test, half the map was “shit” and the other half was “Justin Bieber”). Our goal is to have the words/phrases been interesting and diverse. We’ll probably be constantly tweaking this process for the best results possible.
What’s the map?
Wrightson: The base map is a stylized Google Map. On top of that we built two layers. One is contains the neighborhood border boundaries, which come from data on the NYC web site. The second contains the popular terms rendered over the approximate neighborhood centers. Those locations were all pulled from the NYC web site. Of course, we’ve made a lot of tweaks for aesthetic purposes, so the end result is based on real data, adjusted to look nice.
What’s the funniest word/neighborhood combination you’ve seen?
Robinett: My personal favorite was when LADIES came up for Williamsburg. Also funny was to see “FG kicker” popup briefly after the pats/ravens game.
How often will the app update?
Robinett: We work through updating neighborhoods in small groups every few minutes. The result is that every neighborhood gets checked for a new term every hour.
Why only Brooklyn? What about all the poor Manhattanites who need this information?
Robinett: Our biggest concern was doing something that was visually appealing. We thought tackling one of the boroughs would be the easiest way to make it visually appealing, but still keep it interesting. Also, we both live in Brooklyn and have tons of Brooklyn pride, so it was a bit of a no brainer for us. If we get a great response to just Brooklyn, we’re definitely excited to look at expanding to other boroughs (or other cities!). We added a “Want Status Atlas in your City?” link so we can try and figure out where there’s a lot of demand for us to do something next. We’ve talked about adding the ability for people to buy prints of the map if they want, but that’s still just something we’ve been toying around in our heads at this point.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 23, 2012