Google Maps Should Push The Wikipedia Analogy Further

from the peer-production dept

Google comes out with a seemingly unending stream of little enhancements to its stable of excellent online properties. One of the more exciting additions to come along in a while is the fact that users of Google Maps will now be able to move the markers on Google Maps. So if you search for your house and find it points to a point far down your street, you just click "Move Marker," drag the marker to the correct location, and hopefully save future visitors difficulties. A lot of people have pointed out the parallels to Wikipedia, but it seems to me there's a lot of unrealized potential to apply the lessons of Wikipedia to improving Google Maps. For starters, Google Maps is missing a lot of information. For example, there's a sushi restaurant on my block, but a search for "sushi" or "restaurant" won't bring it up. I should be able to click "add marker," enter the relevant information, and drop a pin in the appropriate place. Similarly, I should be able to add tags to existing markers; right now, if I search for "restaurant," a lot of restaurants near me don't show up, even though they're in the database. I should be able to add a "restaurant" tag to existing markers. I should also be able to add other types of tags to the map to mark road construction, historical sites, and other points of interest. And Google might even want to allow users to edit the information in existing markers, which is often incomplete or out of date.

Wouldn't that lead to chaos? Obviously, Google would have to design the editing feature with appropriate safeguards. But Wikipedia has demonstrated that decentralized information editing works better than almost anyone would have expected, provided that users are given the right tools. One absolutely crucial tool would be a "watch this area" function analogous to Wikipedia's watchlist feature. That would allow me to, for example, monitor all changes that are made within three blocks of my house so I can quickly correct vandalism. To cut down on spam, Google might institute a waiting period so that new information wouldn't show up in global searches until it had been in the database for a week, or until it had been confirmed by a certain number of users. One thing they'd have to be especially careful about is not revealing private information; presumably they'd want a strict rule against adding names to the addresses of private residences.

The potential upsides would be enormous. Google Maps is an excellent tool, but the information available on it is still relatively paltry. Not all businesses are listed, and not all relevant information is included in listings that do exist. It would take a tiny fraction of a city's population to correct this. I've already moved half a dozen markers of restaurants near me. I would be happy to add markers for my favorite restaurants that aren't listed yet. The occasional errors introduced by vandalism (which, if Wikipedia is any guide would be quickly reverted anyway) would be a small price to pay for a much more comprehensive and up-to-date information database. Best of all, users may come up with entirely new categories of location-based information that would further enhance the site's value at virtually no cost to Google.


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  1.  
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    boomhauer (profile), Nov 20th, 2007 @ 10:39pm

    this would

    if done properly, this would complete the package for what google maps should be. the end-all location app.

     

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  2.  
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    John, Nov 20th, 2007 @ 11:03pm

    Wikimapia

    I'm guessing you haven't seen wikimapia.org It has many of these features.

     

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  3.  
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    Max Powers, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 12:11am

    Hard to trust Info.

    I still have a problem with anybody with a computer being able to edit these types of programs. User generated content will always make me think twice about the source and the correctness of the information. I see spam as a big problem with this and hard to combat.

     

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  4.  
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    SteveD, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 1:06am

    Is this really the same as Wikipedia?

    I'm not sure decentralised editing would work as well as wikipedia in this case. Incorrect factual information isn't that much of a problem in wikipedia because of the way people have been brought up to use it (you check references, other sources, etc).

    But people have been taught to rely on googlemaps as reliable information. Is it really that easy to change a browsing culture? The context is also fundamentally different; your editing information on yourself and your area rather then more remote factual knowledge. Could local rivalries and neighbourhood disputes move into this?

    Its a great idea, but I worry that it could backfire spectacularly.

     

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  5.  
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    Da_ALC, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 2:08am

    Some good ideas I think. Send them to Google not here, I think they would appreciate it.

    The way I see it, there should be 2 layers to the system.. the Google maintained layer, and then the user-maintained layer, which you can compare at any stage to see if anything look shoddy.

     

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  6.  
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    Tim Lee, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 5:13am

    Re: Wikimapia

    Very cool. Thanks for pointing that out!

     

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  7.  
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    Thom, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 5:36am

    Google and Maps and Newspaper Partnerships

    Google finds itself pitted against newspapers so often that it, and they, need to find a way to work together. I see that way in Maps and... Yardsales...

    Every weekend during the summer my local newspaper is filled with yard sale listings. My mom grabs the paper, spends 15 minutes or more reading all the listings, the tries to figure out which ones she wants to visit. It's a hard decision because some look good, others so-so, and others still she'd only go to if they were near another. It's hard to tell where each one is though, and that influences choices.

    Imagine a Google Yardsale Maps interface, offered to newspapers for free. Newspapers could mirror their yardsale listings on Google. Readers could select any yardsales they are interested in, or all, or even mark definites and maybes. Finally they'd all show up on a printable Google map of the city, labelled and color coded by level of interest, with the actual house addresses printed below.

    Certainly someone outside Google (or another map provider) could generate this feature or even individual newspapers themselves. Still, it would be a slick feature to encourage cooperation between Google and newspapers. It'd also send people from communities of all sizes to Google and Google maps and local newspaper's web sites.

    Just a thought...

     

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  8.  
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    Haywood, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 5:41am

    Are we limited to Restaurant?

    Can I tag all the bordellos and crack houses?

     

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  9.  
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    Jim (profile), Nov 21st, 2007 @ 5:43am

    You know what would be neat...?

    Google already pays contractors (anyone who wants to can be one) $10 for accurate info including a photo. You get $2 for your effort initially and $8 more if the company responds to a postcard that google sends them for verification. Check Check it ya'll.

     

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  10.  
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    Jim (again) (profile), Nov 21st, 2007 @ 5:47am

    RE: Google and Maps and Newspaper Partnerships

    Check out the Google Maps API (or yahoo's). If you have a DB or XML file of info with addresses (or lat/long) anyone can mash something up in a couple of hours. That is precisely why they made the API available.

    See housingmaps.com for a good example.

     

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  11.  
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    Ben, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 5:49am

    I think this is what you are after

    http://www.peekacity.com uses a wiki model to overlay google maps with all kinds of things in the area. Users can log in and change/update/add information. They are also very responsive to ideas for general improvement.

     

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  12.  
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    ranon, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 5:59am

    Re: Wikimapia

    Wikimapia is really a godsend. It is especially useful in third world countries where the mapping systems are not well developed. That is where the bulk of the entries and users are.

     

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  13.  
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    Thom, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 6:13am

    Re: Jim

    You're right that Google offers the Maps API, but it's not that convenient since it'd require each newspaper to roll their own online system for displaying the yard sale information, favorites selection, and spitting out the data to Google for display. Certainly an outsider could build this and offer it to newspapers for minimal or no cost (ad supported) and even include extended yard sale listings. I just thought it'd be a neat feature for Google since they want to get more local adoption and they could benefit from newspaper partnerships.

    On Google paying contractors... I'm sorry but that program is a complete and total joke in most areas and unfortunately if it gets any use in an area it becomes a bigger joke. It takes time and effort and gas to get the information Google wants and for that you're only guaranteed $2. If, and only if, businesses answer Google's contact and there's no discrepancy between the info they provide you and Google do you get the remaining $8. If more than a person or two does this in your area then you end up duplicating their efforts and getting squat for your trouble. What Google should have done is contact all the listed businesses thru direct mailing and assign businesses that reply to registered users/photographers for photo taking and remuneration.

     

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  14.  
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    Peter B., Nov 21st, 2007 @ 6:43am

    Your scenario already exists

    You can already add your own markers via a MyMap, and Google Maps will index them. You might not be in the first 3 results initially, but give it time. For instance, here is a search where you can be pretty sure Google has no commercial listings:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Hotels+Accra

    All results are from user-generated data.

     

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  15.  
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    Steven, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 7:22am

    Google Business Referral

    When my college aged son learned of this he signed up immediately in order to earn some extra spending money. It didn't last long because:

    1) several businesses treated him like a salesman and told him to get lost
    2) other businesses just wouldn't spare a couple minutes for him or left him to a lowly and busy cash register clerk
    3) many businesses haven't yet bothered to confirm their information to Google
    4) he encountered a couple other people attempting to earn spare cash the same way

    He was most successful at strip malls where he could hit several businesses with minimal effort, but even with those and the ones that replied he didn't make enough to justify the hassle involved. It did beat minimum wage on average but not by a lot. Had all businesses confirmed their information then it would've made for a much more significant, if short-lived, income though.

     

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  16.  
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    Peter Amstutz, Nov 21st, 2007 @ 10:39am

    Re: Wikimapia

    Nice! I just spent twenty minutes labeling businesses in my neighborhood. I wish you could adjust the orientation of the boxes, though, sometimes they don't really fit the building...

    While it would be even better for Google to integrate something like this into Google maps, Wikimapia looks like pretty much the next best thing. Maybe Google will buy them out? :-)

     

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  17.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Nov 21st, 2007 @ 1:53pm

    Route changes

    Right now Google Maps route search has people driving on a bike path to get to my house. Sure, the path is pretty wide but you will need to gain enough speed to break through the concrete pylon barriers. If you could adjust the routes that would be great. Luckily Yahoo!Maps has it right.

     

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  18.  
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    Abhishek, Nov 22nd, 2007 @ 12:27am

    WikiMapia trumps Google Maps any day! I came here just to mention it, but I see lots of people beat me to it. It certainly deserves to be checked out, so maybe the article should be edited and the site mentioned there, 'cos not everyone checks the comments section?

     

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  19.  
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    Kiki Jones, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    Maps Tools

    Google already has the tools for validating an entry. If you go to the Local Business Center, they have you validate a pin either by phone or snail mail. It could leave some room for vandals, but only by phone and only a couple times. I use it all the time for small business advertising. Seems like they could collect some interesting data about who shows up for a particular address.

     

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