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Long the domain of geeked-out urban planners and environmental scientists, geographic information systems have evolved to be within the reach of even moderately adept journalists, according to Matt Wynn at the Poynter Institute. "Interactive maps and location-based services have unleashed a torrent of spatial tools throughout the past few years, making everything from analysis to sophisticated Web applications accessible," Wynn writes, then discusses the best of them.

Dirty data is the bane of computer-saavy journalists. For them, Google Refine may be worth a look, according to Maurice Cherry on the 10,000 words site. A free, downloadable desktop application for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems, Google Refine gives your web browser a suite of tools for finding and fixing inconsistencies, transforming data between formats, and integrating with services such as online mapping and language translators.

Topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey are now available for free, online, via a new government web site that lets users search for them and select from current and historic topo maps, plus aerial photos and special maps such as those delineating mineral deposits. A fuller description of the online map archive is available here from USGS. Warning: The map search page does not appear to work correctly in some browsers.

Google, Yahoo, Bing — and others like them — have useful features that have nothing to do with keyword searching. Like checking a flight time, converting avoirdupois to metric, or doing simple arithmetic. Those tips and others are lists in this article from USA Today. Searching for "Google tricks" turns up a few more lists, like this one: Adding "&imgtype=face" to your Google image search can distinguish Paris Hilton from Paris the city.

Not to be outdone by Facebook, the other social media empire has just released a guide to using Twitter in journalism. It includes searching archived tweets, guidance on using Twitter material in your reports, and a glossary of Twitter-related terms. "We know you come from different generations. Some are native to the pilcrow, others native to the hashtag," the introduction says. "But you share a common bond: the desire to make an difference in the world."

Bookmark this one for deadline time. Harvard's Shorenstein Center has summarized and linked to more than 250 research studies on environment, economics, government, and society. The studies are chosen for the source's authority, the clarity of the study's language, and its lack of bias. For educators and students, articles on basic reporting techniques and instructional materials are also included.

It's no surprise that Sarah Palin's remarks on Paul Revere's famous ride set off an editing war on the colonial patriot's Wikipedia page as users supported or mocked the former vice-presidential candidate's assertions. But here's something new: At the recent Association for Psychological Science annual meeting, the group enlisted members to help improve Wikipedia's psychology entries, and the response was enthusiastic.