Tweeps Around main screen

Tweeps Around main screen

Tweeps Around is a Augmented Reality layer which is loaded in the popular Layar application, currently available worldwide on Android powered devices and iPhone (3Gs or newer).

You can follow Tweeps Around on Twitter: @tweepsaround


What is it anyway?

Tweeps Around queries Twitter for posts for which an exact location is given (see below). All posts within a certain distance from your current location are shown. It then displays the results as a Reality layer,  on a map or in list view in the Layar application.

How do I install Layar?

  • Android powered devices: open the Market app and search for layar.
  • iPhone: look for Layar in the app store. You will need a 3Gs or newer device because Layar needs both GPS and compass.

Install the application directly on your phone, it’s free!

Encoded uri: layar://tweepsaround

Open Layer with tweepsaround

How do I access the Tweeps Around layer?

Start the Layar application and access the Layers tab. Now open the Search tab and search for “tweeps” (or “twitter” if you want to see other related layers. The Tweetmondo layer is nice too!).

Another option: Use one of the barcode scanners from your Android phone to open the Tweeps Around layer directly: point your camera to this QR code (image to the right) and select “open in browser”. You need to have Layar installed for this to work (Layar 2.1+), or you get a web page with a download link to Layar.

I know that Jake is on Times Square, why don’t I see his updates?

There are a couple of possible reasons:

  • Users have to opt-in for having geotagging enabled. By default, no geolocation data is added to twitter posts. In that case Tweeps Around tries to find the location from the user’s profile settings, this only works if it is given as {latitude,longitude} coordinate pairs. Some Twitter clients specify location this way (mostly seen on iPhones) while many others don’t, or are little specific.
  • The user’s device has to provide geodata (GPS or other means) and it has to be active; many phone users switch off GPS most of the time because it tends to drain the battery.
  • A tweet might get lost in the noise if it is very busy: only the 50 most recent tweets are retrieved and filtered for duplicate locations before being displayed.

How do I show my tweets in Layar

  • Head over to Twitter and opt in for geotagging under your twitter account settings – tip: the mobile settings lead to just one activate button.
  • Make sure the device you’re using is able to acquire geodata (using GPS or celltower triangulation) and that this option is active.
  • Fallback: update your location on your Twitter profile under Account settings with exact Latitude, Longitude coordinates. Some mobile Twitter clients do this automatically, e.g. iPhone: 37.615319,-122.388293 (sf airport).

Why does Tweeps Around think I’m still at home?

If you don’t opt-in for geotagging or your device isn’t capable of getting geo location data, Tweeps Aroudn will fallback and guess your location from your Twitter profile. These location settings in your Twitter Profile normally are not updated automatically, only some mobile twitter clients do so if enabled. So unless you update your profile settings, your last entered location is shown.

This can be avoided by not entering (exact) location information on your Twitter profile, everything else than a latitude, longitude pair is ignored by Tweeps Around (e.g. San Francisco, CA, USA will be ignored).

What about accuracy?

Mobile devices have several means to obtain information about their current location. In ideal circumstances, a built in GPS chip can find its location up to approx. 5 meters accuracy. In dense urban settings or indoors this accuracy is far less, or the system can fall back to using mobile phone cell towers and estimated locations of Wifi stations to determine a rough location with an accuracy of tens of meters to even worse than a kilometer.

Filter Settings

Filter Settings

In this case, it is impossible to determine in which direction a nearby location actually is, it may well be totally wrong.

To avoid this situation you can check the option “No results below accuracy” which omits all points which are closer than the effective accuracy radius. Even with this option checked, the direction to the most nearby tweets may be indicated wrong with a significant error if the accuracy is low.

Ouch, there goes my privacy, how can I opt-out?

If you don’t want to share your location with the rest of the world, you should make sure that you do not enable the geotagging option in your twitter account settings. Also, double check that you don’t have your exact location as latitude, longitude coordinate pair in your Location field on your Twitter profile.

I get a “Layer not available” error!?

The Tweeps Around layer plugs directly into the Twitter Search API. It is a well known fact that this API can be a bit unresponsive at times. Layar allows for a 2 second delay between request and response, so if Twitter is slow this timeout is easily exceeded.

Try to force refresh after a few seconds by selecting the refresh option from the Layar menu.

How can I stay updated about Tweeps Around?

You can follow Tweeps Around on Twitter: @tweepsaround

Cool, can a similar layer be built for my geo-enhanced data?

Sure, Layar has opened up their API and you can get started by registering for an API key and get familiar with the API docs on the developer wiki.

Alternatively, you can contact me with your ideas and we’ll discuss the possibilities.

You can also follow Tweeps Around on Twitter: @tweepsaround

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