RB Search Gizmos

RB Search Gizmos: Exploring Nearby Goings-On With Local Community Finder

Please Note: The ResearchBuzz Gizmos have moved to a new home at SearchGizmos.com. The Gizmos no longer look like these screenshots, but work the same.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t watch a lot of regular network TV (or cable TV for that matter), but I do spend a couple of hours a night watching YouTube. One of the channels I watch is called Beau of the Fifth Column. Beau, the host, talks about politics, current events, and community organizing, among other things.

A few months ago while I was watching, Beau was talking about a message he had gotten asking about how to find like-minded people in one’s community. In response, Beau said something about going online and searching Twitter, and then my husband laughed because I involuntarily blurted out “Oh, honey, no.”

Beau’s not entirely wrong. Twitter is a good place to find community and like-minded people. However, if you’re looking for people in your local area it’s unreliable. You can use location names to narrow down search results a little, but if you want to find people in your area you need to do a location search.

Twitter’s location searching is neither intuitive nor easy to use, and I’ve been picking at the problem for a couple of months after making a Twitter-only solution that I wasn’t satisfied with. Then yesterday I found an API that offered geocoding without requiring an API key, and that’s all I needed to finish up the Local Community Finder, available at https://searchgizmos.com/2022/10/10/local-community-finder/ .

Screenshot from 2022-09-15 09-18-47

When I have tried to do local event search before I always ran into the problem of getting lots of outdated pages in the search results. This time I started by generating the date and making sure the month and year appear in the search results. It looks weird and I kept second-guessing myself when I was testing search patterns, but it works.

The LCF also uses an API to get a city, state, and lat/long pair for the zip code you specify. It uses the city and state name in the generated Google queries and the lat/long to generate Twitter searches for your vicinity.

Let’s try using this tool like a Beau of the Fifth Column viewer. The zip code is for St. Louis, Missouri, and I’ll leave that alone. But instead of the word Fair I’m going to use the word voters.  I’m going to leave the local option at local, which searches the entire city, instead of VERY local, which tries to restrict a search to a zip code area.

After you click the Find Your Local Community button, you’ll get a list of URLs for a Google search and a few Twitter searches.

Screenshot from 2022-09-15 09-40-23

The first link will open a page of Google results in a new tab. Different queries bring different results, of course, but I was impressed with how information-rich the results could get:

Screenshot from 2022-09-15 09-45-01

Underneath the Google link are two sets of Twitter links. In the first set you can search the Twitter space in your area with and without your search query. In the second, you’re searching the same space only your results are restricted to those users who have been verified by Twitter. Let’s take a look at the are verified user search without your topic query:

Screenshot from 2022-09-15 09-52-55

Without your query you’ll generally get things like reporters, news institutions, sports teams, and other prominent local people. When your query is added in you may find your results change a lot (especially if you’re searching for something like a sports team) or only a little. In this case we find two news institutions and a cotton expert in our search:

Screenshot from 2022-09-15 09-56-22

The Twitter query searches a very generous 10 km around the zip code’s lat/long. If you’re in a big city and find that radius brings you too many results, look in Twitter’s search box for the part of the query that reads 10km and change the 10 to whatever you like (when searching in the zip code area only, it defaults to 2km.)

I could make that radius adjustable. I could add more sources of information. I could do lots of things! What do you think? When you try the LCF does it find you anything cool?

2 replies »

  1. VERY cool, and imminently very useful, too! We’ll be moving at least temporarily to the Durham area in a few weeks — renting there, as a base of operations for a home search — and I can see this being useful in about, oh, eleventy-four different directions.

    One possible bug: I tried it out with ZIP 27713 and the query word “writing.” Hit both the “Search Google” and “Search Twitter” links. Of course, in that area — all the colleges etc. — this turned out to be too general. So I refreshed the page and tried it with TWO query words: “writers” and “workshop.” The Twitter search was much better, but the Google search in this case didn’t include either of the two query words. ??? Maybe you were working on it at the moment?

    Anyhow, I’ll keep giving this one a workout for sure. Thanks!

    • Hmm… possible to add a date-range filter to the Twitter search? I love seeing the notifications about upcoming writers’ workshops, but would prefer they really be upcoming ones. 😉

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