What’s happn.in? Looking for hyper-local online news sources (still)

happn.in sac's tweet stream

happn.in sac's tweet stream

With traditional media on life support, I’ve been on the hunt for grassroots news sources:  so-called citizen journalists, locally-focused blogs, and local Twitter users (tweeple).  I’ve written previously about newsvine, patch and outside.in; nothing there to write home about yet but I’m “cautiously hopeful.”  (The same was recently said of the likelihood of finding Bin Laden, so maybe I should choose another phrase.)  In this post and the next one or two, I’ll report on sacramentopress.com, happn.in and tools for finding local tweeple like localtweeps.com.

I noticed happn.in sac started following me on Twitter (reminder:  @philanthrophile)… so I was curious:  who or what is happn.in sac?  Turns out it’s a web-based “news” service that sucks up tweets identified as being from the Sacramento area, and then it aggregates those tweets into locally trended topics.  Here’s how it’s explained on the website:

happn.in collects and aggregates popular phrases used on Twitter within 20 miles of major cities. The five most popular phrases each hour are posted to this site, and are tweeted three times a day to the happn.in Twitter account for each city.

As is obvious from the screen shot, the trend topics are a little cryptic.  “City firefighters offer” contains news flashes about a local labor dispute.  “Spanish class” appears to have captured a couple of random tweets from students; one laments being lost, and the other feels the need to share a racist comment.

From the perspective of local non-profits, what we really care about is whether happn.in could help us identify people who are interested in communicating about local causes, or making a difference.  The tweet stream I read came from about 20-30 individual sources, the largest number of which were associated with local news outlets (TV, primarily).  It’d be worth checking out but, again, jury’s out on how useful this service will be for our purpose.  At least today, I didn’t see anyone tweeting about local causes.

I’d like to know the “who” behind happn.in.  I’m also interested in how they identify local Twitterers.  Do they find local tweet streams whether or not the person has included a city name in their profile or registered a zipcode on a tool like localtweeps.com?  Inquiring minds want to know… just curious.

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