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Archive for March, 2008

Two questions for Google Maps

Google Maps now (well, I just noticed) lets anyone add a place marker that is visible to all other users. Their example is a spot in a SF park where there’s open air dancing.

I’ll be interested in following two questions: 1. How will policy evolve to handle abuse and edge cases? 2. How will the system be hacked?

1. What controls is Google going to have to introduce to keep maps from being polluted with markers such as “Best pizza in town,” “Marcie the Slut lives here” and “[enter your choice of slur]town”?

As of now, Google lists two types of controls. First, some listings are protected, either because they’re hospitals or government buildings, or because the owners of a business have “claimed” the listing; Google does some form of verification before awarding ownership. Second, there’s a “report abuse” button which sends the listing to a moderation process.

I hope that that’s sufficient. But what about edge cases? If grieving parents mark the spot on the road where their child was killed, will Google count that as abuse and remove it? Historical markers? Celebrity homes? Notices of where events will be held? Treasure hunt clues?

2. Related to the first: How will people creatively hack the system, not to bring it down (the bad hacking) but to use it in ways Google didn’t anticipate (the good hacking)? For example, maybe citizens will mark potholes, possibly giving the text a distinctive, findable tag. Or educational walks. Or the rankings of public schools. Or all the places there was a death by gun. Or a link to a Flickr query that aggregates photos from that spot. Or the ten million better ideas that everyone else will have.

It’ll be fun to watch. [Tags: ]

Wikipedia in the vicinity

Simon Willison has a Fire Eagle app that shows you (presumably on your mobile phone) the five places mentioned in Wikipedia that are nearest you. Fire Eagle (in beta) lets apps know where you are, while protecting your privacy. It comes from the irrepressible Tom Coates

TopicMaps in Oslo

April 2-4, I’m going to TopicMaps, a conference that may be particularly interesting (to people who are particularly interested in it, of course):

The basic idea is simple: the organizing principle of information should not be where it lives or how it was created, but what it is about. Organize information by subject and it will be easier to integrate, reuse and share – and (not least) easier for users to find. The increased awareness of the importance of metadata and ontologies, the popularity of tagging, and a growing interest in semantic interoperability are part and parcel of the new trend towards subject-centric computing.

The organizers have let it be known that there’s still room… [Tags: conferences topicmaps oslo everything_is_miscellaneous]

12 unexpected Wikipedia debates

The Onion lists and discusses 12 surprisingly controversial topics at Wikipedia. [Tags: ]

Experts vs. the rest of us

Slashdot discusses the Newsweek article that says paid experts are coming back.

My reaction is: 1. The Newsweek article acts as if the Web is either/or. In fact, it’s more of everything. 2. The slashdot discussion is a pretty good case example of the strengths (and weaknesses) of letting amateurs go at it.

3 reviews of EiM

I’m about to read three reviews of Everything Is Miscellaneous at The Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies, “an online community, academic journal, and learning repository devoted to the study of digital media and culture.” EiM is the book of the month there. Thanks!

Cutting tools: Nothing is miscellaneous

Seb Schmoller has a really interesting post about the taxonomy of a museum of cutting-edge tools. [Tags: ]

Color categories colored by language

New research shows that babies’ perception of color changes once they learn language.

This is not surprising, is it? We already knew that cultures classify colors differently. In fact, this research was done by one of the lead investigators in that field. Pretty clearly, this is an environmentally-caused difference. Language learning is the obvious culprit. Still, this helps to know:

When infant eyes absorb a world of virgin visions, colors are processed purely, in a pre-linguistic parts of the brain. As adults, colors are processed in the brain’s language centers, refracted by the concepts we have for them.

Tags made visible explained

Here’s an article that cracks the code on Bestiario’s ultra-cool tagcloud visualizers (AKA 6pli). I still have no ear (so to speak) for the graphical display of information, but this article helps.

Defining the undefined

Hanan Cohen spotted this at

When the artist is listed as ‘Undefined’ this is probably a poorly-tagged mp3.
Otherwise, Undefined is a Spanish progressive death metal band. The first Undefined EP is called Saturnism Unfolds and is avalaible to download at
UnDeFiNeD is also a Belgian underground band, bringing a variety of urban styles

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