At the launch of Yahoo's Fire Eagle on Tuesday, local news aggregator Outside.in launched its latest product, the "hyper-local" service called Radar. Here's the pitch: you tell it where you are (or have Fire Eagle do so on your behalf), and then it will tell you what's going on within 1,000 feet of you.
Or you could just look out the window.
But seriously, this is a good pitch. While I don't buy the literal 1,000-foot story, since the main drag of my neighborhood is 1,400 feet from my front door and that's where the local action is, I continue to believe that we could all use a good aggregator for local and neighborhood news. And, obviously, there's an advertising market for local commerce.
In Radar, you can also set up very specific favorite places--like your office's location, your train station, and your lunch hangout--and get alerts on items from nearby those spots. It's like Friendfeed for your favorite joints.
What makes Radar especially interesting is how it gathers its information. The company parses several popular sources, like forums, Twitter posts, and event information from the standard sites. It does its best to discern which of those items are location-specific, and what locations they map to. It works so far. I gave Radar my address and it showed me relevant content in my San Francisco neighborhood, Noe Valley. It didn't pick up some sources I would have liked to see, however, like local newspapers (the main Outside.in site is better at that).
Outside.in also has a smart service for publishers, the Geo Toolkit. It will take a blog's RSS feed, scan the text for geographical content, and then insert the geo tags into a new feed of the blog. It uses that feed on Radar, and the company plans to feed the geo data into an advertising system (possibly Google's; CEO Mark Josephson wouldn't commit when we talked) and help bloggers serve up local ads. Outside.in will provide widgets for bloggers, such as a map showing the location of their blog topics. It also has geo-analytics: It will tell you what places you blog about most, related places that you might want to cover, and who else also covers your favorite places.
I hope a lot of people sign up for the Outside.in Geo Toolkit, and that Outside.in hurries up and builds a mobile version of Radar. I want the app on my iPhone that tells me at a glance exactly what is happening right where I am, and where I am going, right now.