Google Maps offers a New Feature: Easy Stars

Update 5/23: The Easy Stars are now visible in List view as well as Maps view

There is a new interface feature in Google Maps that allows a user to quickly favor a business listing. A user must be logged in and viewing the listings in the Maps view mode where an outlined star will be visible immediately after the business name.

Upon selecting the star it turns yellow and a the starred listing appears in the user’s MyMaps view (thanks to Stever of AxeMedia for the clue). The yellow star also appears on the listing in the main Map viewing area.
stealth-feature

mymapviewThe feature allows a quick and easy way to create a MyMap list of favorite businesses or places in Maps for whatever purpose. Or as Miriam Ellis points out it could also be used to create a list of worsts.

At this point the MyMap is only visible to the logged in user that added the stars but it would be nice if this MyMap’s starred list could used to quickly create sharable public & embedable MyMap.

It is not clear whether the stars impact ranking.

Google Maps, Small Business & Society – who’s crazy?

Is Google “crazy” to handle business listings in Maps the way they do?

A recent poster to the Manic Merging of Business Listings posted the following in regards to Google merging competing businesses:

Google map has merged my clients business listing with his next door neighbor’s business. Now, google map will take visitors to his competitor’s website yet under his business name!

This is crazy, and that they have no easy way to report the problem and fix it is very irresponsible on google’s end. How hard it it to have a system to report and correct mergers?
-Frustrated webmaster

@Frustrated webmaster

I would agree that it appears crazy. And a system to easily report mergers also makes sense. Correcting the mergers makes sense from my point of view, your point of view, the point of view of the local businesses BUT not necessarily from the point of view of Google. Google’s behavior, given their interests, is in fact totally rational. Perhaps not in my best interest, not in the best interest of the typical business, and most importantly perhaps not in the interest of society but rational.

Continue reading Google Maps, Small Business & Society – who’s crazy?

Google Maps LBC Changes & Upgrades

On Monday the Local Business Center was taken down for maintanence and fixes. We know that there has been a decrease in reports of merged business listings (although there are reports of reviews still merging between businesses). It appears that there have been several changes in the phone verification system as well:

-Now the PIN is provided via the verification call and not via the web (thanks to Joseph Magnotti). This changes the flow of the approval process and makes it somewhat more difficult for 3rd parties to involve themselves in the authorization process.

-Apparently the problems of the phone verification system not responding well to 0’s and 1’s may also have been resolved. This has been an on-going problem that particularly affected Canadian users.

Have you found other changes and updates to the Local Business Center? Let me know!

Google Maps: Local Business Center Online – Merging Problem Improved?

The Local Business Center came back on line at about 2:45 EDT after being taken off line for several hours earlier today. While it does not appear that there are any new features in the LBC, it does appear that some of the merging of nearby competitors has dissipated.

The original examples of Hotels merging in Duluth, MN and Goldsboro NC have returned to normal. Hopefully the managers at the competing hotels can now take off their boxing gloves and return to the business of booking hotel rooms.

Here is a comparitive screen shot from 4/29 and today:

inn-on-the-lake

I have not checked all examples of all types of merging reported in the forums to see if there were improvements but the 4 or 5 geopositional mergings I did check showed as correct. During this most recent snafu there were increased reports of same location mergings, review and photo mergings as well as the more recent geoposition mergings. I would love to hear from folks who experienced the merging and whether the situation has improved across the board.

Google Maps: Important announcement for Local Business Center users

Update 12:50 5/18

Temporarily Unavailable
  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.

This was published in the Google Maps Help Forum at 7:30 on 5/15:

We’re planning scheduled downtime for the Local Business Center on Monday, May 18, at around 12:30pm EDT for approximately two hours. During this time, you will not be able to access your Local Business Center account.

Thanks for your patience,

I do not remember too many times when the LBC has been formally shut down even for 2 hours. Is it the fix to the merging issues? Something else? Check back.

Local News of the Weird

iphone-app3

How much enhanced reality is too much?

The new Email ‘n Walk iPhone application (via NY Times) is an iPhone app that overlays an image of what is in front of you while you are walking down the street reading your e-mail. Presumably this prevents you from walking into something or someone. Unfortunately it only shows what is in front of your, not to the side or behind so presumably its of little value in protecting you from muggings or bikes speeding by.

The good news? It’s free but it does come with the cautionary note from the authors:

“Note: We can’t take any responsibility for your stupidity, so please don’t go walking into traffic, off of cliffs, or into the middle of gunfights while emailing.”

The bad news? It doesn’t support texting.

 

Would you buy a 100 lb weakling?

In a previous life I sold computer hardware and still occasionally receive promotional pieces. Netbooks are all the rage for on the go & cheap computing. There are rumors that the major cell carriers will soon be giving them away with a wireless access contract and they are one more mobile step in the local ladder of adoption . One of the criticisms in the market of these Netbooks is that they are underpowered and feature poor. 

Now if you were selling a Netbook  product would you name it after that famous 100 lb. wimp?

100lbweekling

Should Google Maps Include a Warning Label with the 10 Pack?

gum_disease_wrning_labelGoogle treats Maps as a free resource that it provides to the public. From their point of view, any problem that exists, if it can’t be handled at an engineering level really is not significant.

For users, there is an understanding that Maps is fulfilling a critical information role in our society and there is the underlying assumption of accuracy.

The interests of the user, the business and Google soon diverge quickly when innaccuracies show up in the system. It doesn’t matter whether the problem is caused by Google (think mergings) or by a third party (think hijacking), Google is going to see it as a statistical problem with a certain priority while the patient that went to the wrong emergency room or the business loosing income will view it as problem worthy of specific oversight and intervention.

Here was a post today in the Forums that is suggesting that Google should publicly and obviously recognize this difference with a Warning Label:

Shouldn’t Google post a visible warning to users about the merged information until it’s cleared up?
Google admits it’s a problem they are trying to fix but also says it could take some time.Our bed and breakfast listing shows our name, our competition’s address, our telephone number and our competition’s web address as well as their logo that links to their site. The problem is over 90% of our business comes from our web site. We have received a few calls that were clearly addressing the rooms they saw for the other Inn, so we directed them there, but we couldn’t figure out why that was happening. It took two days and much reading to find that it was a problem Google was having. It seemed that information should have been a bit more accessible. 
And now, reading other people’s stories leads me to believe that Google should clearly post a warning to ALL users (not just those that have listings) that the Google Map information may not be accurate. This shouldn’t be taken lightly. Too many people rely on Internet information as if it’s infallible.

Google does place a warning on their driving directions:

These directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, weather, or other events may cause conditions to differ from the map results, and you should plan your route accordingly. You must obey all signs or notices regarding your route.

Should Google include a Warning Label with Local Results?

Google Maps Development History 2005-2008

A reader sent a query several weeks ago asking for a time line of developments for Google Maps. I sent him over to the Wikipedia article on Google Maps as a possible resource. I subsequently went there myself and realized that it had not been updated in  since the end of 2007 and that many details that I considered important were missing.

It seemed that to understand Maps, the competitive landscape and the future direction of local, it was necessary to have a strong record of the developments in Maps for the past few years. I decided to take the time to update the article at Wiki with those additional Maps developments from 2006, 2007 & 2008 that I was aware of. Here is that list. If I am missing any please let me know:  
Continue reading Google Maps Development History 2005-2008

Google Map: It is the best of times, it is the worst of times…Swine Flu and Maps

Google Maps has been an exhilarting product allowing many to gain a better understanding of the world around them with constant innovation. Sergey Brin noted in his annual Google Founder’s letter that “after the launch of Google Map Maker in Pakistan, users mapped 25,000 kilometers of uncharted road in just two months”. That’s pretty cool stuff. It has also been a product that seems to bring out the worst in people looking to gain a leg up with spamming and hijackings.

swinefly-ny-ny

The Swine Flu epidemic is a perfect case in point and it shows the contradictions in Maps in bold relief. Google Maps was used to track the spread of the epidemic  around the world. The  major press and a bevy of blogs widely covered this  beneficial  use of Maps that helped inform and educate.

But given that Maps is open and easily open to abuse, there are now searches like Swine Flu NY, NY that return spam in Maps of the most exploitive sorts. SafetyGearandMore.com were not the only ones to utilize Maps for their commercial advantage as several others across the US did as well. As Dickens noted in The Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities
English novelist (1812 – 1870)

Developing Knowledge about Local Search