Google has roled out two new Maps transit trip instructional videos:
For new users:
As we are having more and more new Maps users and new forum members
everyday, we customized an Introductory Maps video for people who has
just about started to use Google Maps yet not very familiar with all
kinds of great basic features.
For more experienced users:
Plan a transit trip in cities around the world with Google Maps. Get
step-by-step directions and travel times for your entire route, all in
one place online. Check out our latest education video “Transit on
Google Maps, since my Microsoft hijacking, has taken on a whole new role; consumer advocate and complaint department against major national firms. Google’s community edit feature is allowing the “community” (aka disgruntled consumers) to speak out in ways that were not anticipated when the feature was released.
I was browsing Maps when I found this record for Apple Computer today. Here is how it looked a mere week ago. I swear it was not me.
Given Google’s commitment to a wiki style of open community Maps environment, we can expect to see more of these. Mat McGee has a great post on the contradictions involved in Google’s position.
Andrew Turner of the HighEarthOrbit.com blog, reported on his work developing VoteReport:
an open public reporting system to be used during the 2008 US Election to track the situation as citizens cast their ballots. The simple goal is to make it easy for anyone to send in a report describing the wait time, overall rating and any complications that are impairing their ability to participate in the election. For more information check out http://twittervotereport.com.
The system gathers and maps information from voter reports via a backend that aggregates together Twitter, SMS, voice, iPhone and Android native applications, and even YouTube and presents it in a visually appealing map layout. They also provide a range of feeds in OpenSearch XML, KML, GeoRSS & GeoJSON for others that might use the data on their own maps.
It combines not just deep local data but near real time local data with a map in way that contribute to our understanding of real events on the ground and help us make different decisions in our life. Its a cool use of technology and gives a glimpse of the power maps when combined with social tools and mobile technologies.
I have included an iframe of the map below. If it doesn’t load correctly or loads too slowly, visit their site, http://votereport.us/reports/map to see this product work.
Sometimes Google Maps just gets it wrong. It is a large and complex system where a single switched byte makes all the difference.
For whatever reason if you do a search on Pregnancy Testing Wellsville , it wants to send you off to Amsterdam NY for your appointment, 265 miles away. While Wellsvile is rural, it is in western NY near Corning and not anywhere near Herkimer, Saratoga Springs or Cobbleskill. This quirk shows up on any search using the locale Wellsville whether you search on Tuxedos in Wellsville or Flowers. It could make for one very expensive prom date.
A search on the similar term, Pregnancy Testing Wellsville NY returns accurate results. What is odd is that the results screen above indicates that the listings are for Wellsville NY but none are.
In the end, I don’t suppose that Google has it in for pregnant teens any more than they hate Advertising Agencies. I do though, think that as Google Maps gets more tightly integrated into the fabric of our daily lives, it is necessary for Google to fix these sorts of quirks quickly. Unfortunately, someday an unsuspecting user, in a life threatening situation, will be searching for an emergency room or hospital and be sent in the wrong direction and to a disastrous outcome.
PS – In an unplanned, related development (as they say), Miriam Ellis reports on her disastrous medical searching experience using Google Maps while seriously ill…
Google responded via the comment section to the Microsoft Hijacking:
(cross-posted to Danny Sullivan at http://searchengineland.com/google-local-business-hijacking-microsoft-acquires-yahoo-becomes-escort-service-15313.php)
We appreciate your continued efforts to help us identify spam on Google Maps. The wiki nature of Google Maps expands upon Google’s steadfast commitment to open community. That said, we also work very hard internally to identify behavior that doesn’t benefit the community and to take the appropriate actions. We look forward to more and more users getting involved to help us keep Google Maps fresh and accurate.
As you know, mapspam is a difficult problem to tackle – in many ways, more difficult than webspam. Some of these scams go far beyond maps [see this ABC News Story on Locksmith scams]. We take mapspam very seriously and we are working on it, in consultation with our webspam team. While some of the changes we’ve made so far have been less visible, we’re confident that we’re on the right path to effectively reducing mapspam. We think you’ve already recognized that there isn’t an overnight fix.
Please keep the feedback coming, including the direct reports of spam on Maps.
The Google Team
I have often noted in the past how managing a business listing has gone from expensive to free but from simple to complicated. It used to be a simple matter of paying the Yellowpage salesman to correct this or change that. But now the path to getting it corrected is much, much more complicated.
I get emails from around the world from small business people asking for help with Maps. I recently received this comment pleading for assistance in a previous post on How to change your Business Address in the Internet Age:
We have a listing on GoogleMaps (Jupiter Counseling), and the other day I visited it and there was a link someone not affiliated with us placed under our weblinks to the Qigong Institute, and she listed herself as being at our address and teaching Qigong and being a “Law of Attraction Counselor”, and we cannot get it removed. The people at Google have been unwilling to help us, and they hang up on me, refusing to get me to a supervisor or technical support. Anyone know what I can or should do? This information is damaging to our business. I can’t get an answer from anyone as to what to do. Thank you. Please send answer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the answer that I emailed him …
Coverage of my shenanigans vìs-a-vìs Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps has been wider than just the search industry. Regardless, a number of writers have ascribed intentions and feelings to me that seem to drift toward the dramatic and away from reality.
From the Silicon Alley Insider: “An angry small business advocate has his revenge”. and “Mike Blumenthal, who’s been covering the topic obsessively,”. Well obsessive maybe but angry?
From SeoRoundtable: “I guess he got sick of covering the issues and not much being done about stopping it. He decided to do something a bit extreme. He hijacked Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps and made them a Microsoft Escort Service. He also messed around with profiles, here is one example:” To defend my honor, it was Danny that messed around with profiles. I did everything under my public profile and no, it isn’t SBrin. And anyways, “a bit extreme” is roughly akin to sort of pregnant.
I liked Danny’s read on the effort in SEL: Mike Blumenthal has been diligently covering how local listings can be hijacked in Google Maps. He’s also been frustrated that Google doesn’t seem to be fixing the local hijacking problem. Although even the word frustration ascribes an emotion that I don’t actually feel.
I think Hyped.nl in Holland captured it best when he said: “Grapjas maakt van Microsoft een escort service” which translated in Google Maps to: Funny makes Microsoft an escort service. Martijn where are you when I need you ?
For those writers that actually care about my motivations and feelings, it comes from a passion for Local, a desire to know all that I can know. While I do empathize with small business folks, having been one for many years, I really just want local to be all that it can be (is it ok to use that Army clichè here?) and not just another cesspool of illicit blowhard marketing. I think Google has the best chance of taking local to the promised land, but and this is a big but, only if they put integrity of local data at the top of their list.
A bit extreme? Angry? Obsessive? Hrmph! As Curley used to say I resemble that remark!
Ultimately, for me the questions are: Did my “prank”, help or hurt Local? Did I cross some ethical boundary? Let me know what you think!
Google’s Voter Information Tool has gone mobile. From the official Google Blog:
With the U.S. elections less than a week away, voting drives are ramping up. Political parties and non-partisan groups alike are sending out volunteers to encourage citizens to vote on November 4. To make sure these volunteers have the same voter info tools available to them on their phone as on their computer, we’ve now launched a mobile voting locator tool on m.google.com/elections. (Click here to send this to your phone.)
It is nice to see that this tool works on new smartphones as well as on older not-so-smart phones like my ancient Nokia 3650. Good Job Google!
From google Maps at 5:00 pm EST:
The Google Local Business Center is unavailable for the next hour
We appreciate your patience as we perform some routine system maintenance.
More specifically, we’re updating ‘the backend’ (to employ that catchy, catchall moniker coined and lent to us by engineering folks who work on all of the technical fiddly bits behind the scenes but know we communications folks can’t very well say ‘We’re updating all of the technical fiddly bits behind the scenes’ and expect you, an enlightened Google user, to take us seriously or at least not wonder aloud ‘ Wait, what sort of bits were those again?’).
So please check back in sixty minutes. Maybe less, considering the time you’ve invested in deciphering this message.
Last week I spoke with Marc from podestabaldocchi.com, one of the florists in San Francisco that was hijacked in mid September in Google Maps. Two things struck me in the conversation.
The first was that he estimated that his business was off 30% for the weeks of the hijacking. That is a significant number that demonstrates the power that Google has conferred on local search. Research indicates that users are going to the internet for the their local buying information and Google is leading that charge. Businesses have benefited from Google’s prominent placement of local results on the main results page.
The second comment that struck me, was that he felt he only had himself to blame for not claiming the record. He noted that if he had claimed it, none of this would have happened. Of course, he added, he didn’t even know that he had a record in Google Maps but he was learning fast as to how to control it. That hit an odd note for me.
Every small business thinks that if they could only operate like the IBMs, Microsofts or Apples of the world, they would have their act together on these new marketing angles. If like, IBM et al, Podesta Baldocchi were on top of these details they could have prevented this hijacking.
I wondered if that was in fact the case so I decided to see if some of the major Fortune 500 companies had in fact claimed their records and avoided the possibility of hijackings. Microsoft came to mind first. I grabbed one of their listings in Redmond and was able to change the location, url and their business name. Microsoft even managed to gather a spammy review in its short life as an escort service :). Out of a sense of fair play, I changed it back although Google has not yet done so. I wasn’t sure that that Microsoft or Google would appreciate my sense of humor.
So I randomly checked elsewhere in the technology arena to see who else might be susceptible…..