Category Archives: geo

Apple Maps #fail : My own experience

I was quite pleased when Apple chose to break away from Google. The steady infiltration of sponsored, and inaccurate information on Google Maps really bugs me.

I also didn’t join the chorus of deriders of the new Apple offering, because I remember how woeful the Google maps were when they were new.

But now I have my own thing to whinge about.

The Dropped pinI was arranging to pick my daughter up after a theatre performance in the city last night, so as part of the text messaged arrangements, I dropped a pin on a map and shared it with her. All arranged, I thought.

Then, much closer to the time, I just had one of those moments of doubt, when you recheck your arrangements, so I tapped on the dropped pin myself, just to see where I’d said we’d meet. I was more than a little horrified to find that it was almost 200 metres (the red pin on the screen grab) from the spot I’d pinned. Even worse if I’d sent it by email, as then the link loads google maps on a desktop, which just drops a whole mess of pins over a spread of about 5 kilometres! Utterly useless either way if you’re trying to meet someone in a busy city in the dark.

Curiously, the link actually includes the correct latitude and longitude coordinates, it’s just that it also includes automatically geocoded street details. Stupidly, both Apple and Google prefer the street address to the coordinates. Just changing the structure of the Dropped Pin link would yield a much more accurate result.

Hope they fix that one real quick, because it’s going to cause a lot of people to get very pissed off waiting for their friends on the wrong street corner!

Google – more evil by the day?

I find this very troubling.

Someone at Google appears to be deliberately and systematically polluting and plundering the crowdsourced data of competitors. Two instances seem to have been all but proven so far (check this post about OpenStreetMap and Mocality), it seems unlikely that it stops there.

If ever an action was hypocritical and seemingly calculated to destroy trust, it is this. In fact, it’s an action which could be terribly damaging to Google, which relies so much on trust every time someone uses Gmail, sends a Google+ message, hosts a document, amends a map. Crowdsourcing is trust in action.

For these reasons, I can’t imagine the actions have any basis in official policy at Google, but are likely the actions of an over-zealous group or individual. Whatever, the case, Google need to come clean about this REAL FAST! full disclosure, and nothing less will do. We’re waiting!

Google, the street view trike came, and went

Update: 18 months now, still prodding google, but no answers yet :(

Google Street View is brilliant – in fact, the whole digital map revolution is largely driven by expectations set by Google. Their tech is amazing. Unfortunately, as an organisation, they often fail to come up to scratch. A shame… here’s an example:

Every now and then Google have a flurry of promotion about their street view partners program, most recently in March this year the blogs seemed to be getting the message out. It’s certainly a cool idea, and there are some stunning examples out there. Our University applied for this years ago, and after a few slips and trips, were delighted when the trike finally visited the campus (on May 9, 2010). Then we settled down to wait for the images to come online. The site said it could take up to 90 days.

The Google Street View trike visits the University of Melbourne

Today is the anniversary. Yup, 365 days later, and still no Street View on campus. Now, I’m sure they have their reasons – obviously, being very busy would be one of them. They have since released some excellent street view partner sites. I know we’re not being singled out or ignored, because I understand that the day before they came to us, they did the MCG… and it’s not online yet either! I guess what I find infuriating is [a.] that they are still soliciting for partners, when they’ve obviously got a massive backlog of images already, and [b.] that they never tell you anything – no communication, no progress updates, nothing. It’s always “don’t call us, we’ll call you”.

So, Google is as Google does. It’s free, so one certainly can’t complain, but like a lot of people, I do wonder about the direction Google are taking. That they were so long congratulated as innovators, but now that innovation is contributing to a lack of focus for a business that was built on focus. I wonder how long before they do start to officially start to trim their programs, rather than just let them die of neglect.

And now they’re even going indoors! Don’t know if we’ll ever see our images online at this rate.

Yet more trumpeting about excellent new StreetView locations, but no response to any of my enquiries.

no google, I don’t like that!

In the wake of my previous post, I was checking out some of the photos on Google maps of Sydney Road, one of my photos came up first, which was nice, but then I started navigating around the nearby photos… they were all crappy photos of a shoe store!

I probably missed this addition, but I’d always thought that photos only came from two sources – Panoramio or geotagged Flickr, which meant that there was a reasonably high quality – a natural filter if you like. Now it seems that a business owner or anyone else who adds photos to a Google Place page, gets them added to the maps interface.

Frankly, that’s crap! At least allow the user to filter them out. I often use this feature to explore an area of interest, I don’t want some retailer’s happy snaps of their shop diluting the experience!

StreetView updates… eventually!

Couple of new things on Google Maps / Street View.

They’ve added some new imagery captured by the trike, Google Earth Blog has a good write up of the additions.

While I was there, I was alerted by user “Munden” that the blue dots of user generated photos had disappeared from the Google Maps when you dragged Pegman. Indeed! That does make it a lot easier to drop pegman on a ‘real’ bit of streetview. You can still access the photos by turning on the photo layer first, then dragging pegman onto a photo. Works OK, but I found it didn’t work in the little inset map that displays in the lower right corner. Maybe that’s on their list!

Google's Street View Trike

Speaking of “on their list”, at the start of May last year, the Google Street View trike visited my uni’s campus, but still no sign of the images online. The LatLong blog seemed to be using the recent additions to trumpet their partner program, but I have to say, if our experience is any guide people will have a looong wait for any results!

all that water

When it comes to big events like the recent floods in Queensland and Victoria, it’s information overload. The news organisation love it, broadcasting incessantly and devoting great slabs of print to it. I don’t want to add to that, so this post is just a scrapbook of, for me, the most striking images. These are all aerial photographs from Nearmap, if you click, you’ll go to the ‘wet’ image on nearmap. Incredible stuff.

1. Disappearing house

a house vanishes underwater

2. Having a cow of a day

there's a cow on my roof

3. There’s a caravan in our tree

caravan in the tree

4. Rearranging the riverside

riverside mayhem

5. Backyard salvage by canoe

back yard salvage by canoe

6. Where did you park the digger?

submerged digger

…and that’s not all

More amazing sights are being found every day by nearmap forum members.
loungeing around two men in a (spa) tubSS bathtub

google maps announce an update

Wow! so much to post about all of a sudden. Google have just announced an update to their streetmap data, adding new streets in the rapidly expanding areas of our cities. Yay! I mean it is exciting, in fact, I think it’s the first update to the map data since they released it! Well, at least you can no longer say that Open Street Map is more up to date than Google, now that they’ve got all that shiny new data – lets go and have a look!

We can use the wonderful MapCompare to see how the new Google Data compares to Open Street Map in some of the new, outlying suburbs, like: Caroline Springs, oh darn that’s not such a good example – how about Sydenham – that’s better, I’m sure Google will add the cycle paths soon. Let’s try Lalor, oops! What about we try somewhere out east? like Pakenham.

Oh damn it!

Seriously though, I did have to carefully select locations where OSM was clearly better than the new improved Google Maps. They’ve done a great job updating it. Just goes to show though, that a huge company like Google takes years to get around to posting data that in many ways is not as detailed as that sourced from volunteers and offered up for free reuse. I think I’ll go and stick all those shiny new OSM streets on my Garmin GPS – because I definitely can’t do that with Google’s!

a lack of location awareness

Went along to #MoMoMelb yesterday, the local chapter of a pretty active mobile industry group. Their focus is usually a bit on the carrier/commercial side of the industry, so I rarely find anything that really interests me, but this one was about Location Based Services, so naturally, I couldn’t resist.

I remember the first time I held an iPod Touch, loaded up Google Maps and hit the ‘Locate Me’ button. That little shiver of wonder as a device without GPS or Cellular data pinpointed my house to within 20 metres – that was my first brush with Skyhook Wireless. Amazing stuff, and really great to hear from a ‘behind the scenes’ company with a solid business model.

Then there was a bit of a panel discussion, which included one point that just amazed me. Mark White, CEO of Locatrix, a company that does some pretty solid stuff in the mobile location based area, responded to a question that included the words ‘Open Source’ with something like this: “There’s an open source mapping tool somewhere (audience: Open Street Map), yeah, but when I last looked, they only had a couple of roads for the whole of Australia” and he continued to make his point, basically dissing any open source contribution to the mapping/location space. Now, that may not be a perfect quote, but it’s pretty close, so what does it tell us?

Well, I can forgive someone for not being aware of OSM. I can even forgive someone involved in the web for not being aware of it. Someone involved in providing Location Based Services – I’m getting uneasy. A CEO of such a company – a ‘leader in the industry‘, that’s decidedly wonky. Someone who then goes on to dismiss it in a public forum of industry folk – OK, that’s a complete loss of credibility.

I couldn’t help myself of course, I interjected. He then admitted that he hadn’t looked at OSM for some time – no shit! But surely he keeps his ear to the ground, surely he would know that Yahoo/Flickr integrate OSM, and CloudMade offer excellent location based APIs with customisable maps, you’d think he’d know about MapQuest’s recent announcements… surely! and of course, it’s all free, so I can download it to my GPS and use it to find my way if I want.

Maybe there’s just too much information to absorb – maybe he could start by looking up his office location in MapCompare (2), I’m sure that’ll pique his curiosity 😉

I am too cruel – he did say some good stuff and he’s obviously running a great business. It just really gets my goat when people think opensource = crap.