A plunge into Google Maps and its crowd-sourcing

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Google is shutting down Map Maker next month. What now?

Almost every listing you see on Google Maps is crowd-sourced, with the rest being built through terrain data, satellite imagery, and bulk data bought from mapping companies. Most of the newer listings on the platform depend on the willing contribution from the public, a bit like Wikipedia and its articles.

Map Maker was introduced in 2008, and anyone could add, edit, or delete map listings in most places in the world. It allowed try-hard map editors to feel a sense of power in that they could change what everyone sees on Maps, but the most important part is that anyone’s 8 year old kid could do it too. This is why most edits had to go through a voting-phase before it was approved by the system, but some mishaps could slip through. For example; a few folks would always race to be the first to add a new listing and as a result, a bunch of duplicates would appear like below for a new car park.

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Three duplicates of the same place. One of them is humorously listed as a “Park & Garden”.

Now that Map Maker’s on its last legs, Google has started removing change logs in preparation for the move.

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There would usually be a list of changes, but it’s all going away.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look to see if it’s still possible to make changes just before its death. I’m going to attempt to fix the duplicate car park listings mentioned earlier. Usually my edits would go through instantly because the system trusts me, or at least it used to. I’m unsure how the algorithm works, but the first few times my edits would go through a user vote, but after a while I would receive emails straight away saying my edit was approved. It may have something to do with the ‘Local Guides’ badge on Maps, which you receive after making plenty of edits. An intangible reward for your free labour.

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Sometimes your edit will go through instantly, other times it won’t. This means I’ll have to wait for an undetermined amount of time before the changes show, but I’ve seen cases where the change is stuck on pending forever. That’s right, if your change doesn’t get any votes, it will be in limbo until it receives at least two votes. But that’s about to change (apparently).

The company has spent the last few years slowly adding Map Maker-like features to the mainstream Google Maps. Although not as detailed or rich, one can find them by selecting a feature and going through “Suggest an edit”. Voila.

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Editing features through Maps itself is taking over from the depreciated Map Maker.

These edits are implemented based on whether other Map users agree or disagree with the suggestion you made. This feature is currently in beta for smartphone users, but it’s assumed that it will come to desktop users in the future. Whether or not people pay attention to it or even use the feature is another thing.

Many enthusiasts of Google products express concern over the company’s misdirection. Some fear that the tragedy that was the release of Allo and Duo isn’t over yet. For those who don’t know, the online community has criticised Google for not properly marketing its messaging apps, as well as releasing new ones when old, fully functioning ones still exist with the exact same features. The lack of marketing meant that its user base depended on word of mouth. There’s only one person in my contacts list who even uses Allo – and that took some convincing. With hope, this disaster won’t encompass the reshaping of Google Maps.

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Let’s hope this doesn’t happen across the board.

 

Sources:

Google (2012) The next dimension of Google maps. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMBJ2Hu0NLw (Accessed: 26 February 2017).

Image source: https://plus.google.com/+JRRaphael/posts/cT17fiupJyp