Exploring Local
Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

Gate Keepers, Digital Gazetteers and Folksonomies – Part Three

February 26th, 2009 by MDob

After a brief stop to consider the Microsoft/TomTom imbroglio in my last blog, I am ready to return to our discussion of the concept of “authoritativeness” in mapping. In my previous blog on “Gate Keepers”, I raised questions about Navteq and TeleAtlas and their restricted goals for authoritativeness (i.e. all the roads mapped correctly with the appropriate attributes to allow the generation and display of legal vehicle routes in specific markets) and the potential problems related to their databases being used as a “reference” base for other types of mapping. In addition, I questioned the use of these data as a reference base when the coverage was incomplete.

As you must know by now, I am a fan of User Generated Content and have focused on this concept in several of my past blogs. In “Gate Keepers 2″ I pointed to Google’s use of their Map Maker functionality to help their users capture map detail in countries not covered by Navteq and TeleAtlas (or the other suppliers used by the major online mapping services). I am going to reserve my comments on the process in this blog, but will provide them in my next entry. Instead, I am going to provide images of some of the geographical data created by Map Maker users, supplemented by comments made by Google employees and Map Maker users in the official Google blog for the service.

Let’s start here

Google Map Maker is now used to collect map data in over 160 countries

Google’s Map Maker is a tool that allows users to create map information for 160+ countries and supply it to Google. In turn, Google makes these Map Maker data available to these and other users.

The results are startling. Examine this map of Reykjavik, Iceland that shows the greatest level of detail available on Google Maps.

Reykjavik in Google Maps

And this image that shows the Map Maker version of Reykjavik.

Reykjavic as shown in Google Map Maker - sourced through UGC

Now, I am going to present some information lifted from the Google Map Maker blog’s Frequently Asked Question Section.

“Why is Map Maker data not yet on Google maps?”

“We’re working hard on the initial update for Map Maker data on maps and we’ll share with you the news when we’re ready. In the mean time you can see all of Map Maker data on maps by using the following mapplet http://maps.google.com/maps/mpl?moduleurl=http://www.google.com/mapmaker/mapfiles/s/mapplet.xml
keep checking the forum for news about countries being updated on Google Maps”

“Is all data appearing on Google Map Maker valid?”

“Google Map Maker depends on users to create data, and to fix inaccurate or invalid data. Therefore, it is possible that some inaccurate data appears in the service. If you are seeing some invalid content, please fix it.”

“Can I stop people from making changes to the features that I have published?”

“Google Map Maker creates high quality map data through collaboration among different users and user groups. Hence, it is beneficial to all if we can edit each other’s information and make it better. Connect with other users on the Map Maker Help Group Forum.”

“Someone else has been making changes to map data using my account. What should I do?”

“Please change your password regularly to ensure integrity of your login account.”

Following this link leads to an interesting communication from Google to its Map Maker users.

Dear Map Makers,
You may have seen the flurry of activity on Map Maker in recent days.
Today we are excited to announce the launch of yet another feature
that many of you have been patiently waiting and eagerly demanding :-)
We just enabled “Get Directions” on Google Map Maker, built on all the
comprehensive road data that you have contributed in the past few

Launching Directions on Map Maker has many reasons – we can quickly
notice broken roads, wrong attributes disconnected localities, etc and
we can fix them efficiently. We hope that this would enable all of us
to create better and much more useful maps with this.
We have a quick guide up at http://sites.google.com/site/mapmakeruserhelp/using-directions.
As usual, your feedback is very valuable and we will continue to make
this better for all of us.


For Google Map Maker

Now we have almost enough information to start contemplating what this all means. However, before we start I want to be sure to note that the team at Google Maps is very talented, incredibly thoughtful and very savvy. I am sure that they have thought through all of the questions that I will be addressing and I suspect that they have implemented software tools that filter these data for a variety of weaknesses, including the entry of purposely incorrect spatial data. However, I think the Map Maker development is important enough to think through the potential problems and how they might relate to “Authoritativeness”. We will do that next time, for now consider this final item.

Google has now included a function in its Google Map API that allows the user to create their map from the TeleAtlas data, or from the Map Maker data. The following sentence and illustration came from the Google GeoDevelopers Blog.

“The map of Lahore Pakistan on the left was created by including the “maptype=mapmaker-roadmap” for Lahore Pakistan while the one on the right is what is offered in Google maps.”

Lahore Pakistan shown in Google maps (left) and Google Map Maker (right).

What this means is that the maps that you see in some blogs or other sites that use the Google Map API may contain Map Maker data. In fact, you may already have used Map Maker data. Maybe Google will maintain a wall between these two sets of data.

Well, at least they will until they decide to import the data from Map Maker into Google Maps. In fact, I think they already have in some areas. More on that next time.

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Posted in Authority and mapping, Data Sources, folksonomy, Google, Google Map Maker, map updating, Mapping, Mike Dobson, TeleAtlas, User Generated Content

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