Live! We’re Tracking a Big Bus with the BBC

BBC World Service: Talking America


Excitingly, not long after we built the award-winning Bangladesh River Journey mini-site for the BBC World Service, we were asked for another helping of social media expertise.

What is it?

Talking America is a trail-blazing social media campaign that we’re proud to have worked on. This time, it’s a live site that tracks the World Service crew as they journey across America in a social media bus.

Their big aim? In the eloquent words of Ros Atkins:

“This bus trip is our attempt to paint a detailed picture of America ahead of the election in November. We also want to create conversations between Americans and everyone else…”

(Ros Atkins, BBC crew member on the Talking America bus).

What you can do with social media

Talking America uses maps, pictures, video, audio podcasts, blog posts and other user-generated snippets to bring a journey alive. In this case, we built a mini content-management system for the journalists, with a system to pull in the latest Flickr photos from the bus and a colourful map to display it all.

In charming technological terms, we call it a “geo-mashup.” Namely, a smooth way of automatically pulling together time and location-based information into one online multimedia bundle. The outcome of this is the ability to track the reporters over time and in different contexts.

A bit for the technically brained

The mapping application uses jQuery and Sumo, which is a JavaScript microformats parser written by Dan Webb, who also worked on the front-end of the site. If you look at the site without JavaScript, you’ll see that all the info is already present on the page, written up in microformats and ready to be plotted on the map.

And they’re off…

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