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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: ]

4 Responses to “Two questions for Google Maps”

  1. on 26 Mar 2008 at 11:51 pmJon Garfunkel

    1. I added “House of Blogger” by your house. I suppose they might simply take it down, since their instructions advise me to “Add a place that physically exists, such as a monument or pizza shop.”

    What the heck, it’s only my Google account at stake (Good thing I don’t have GMail).

    I also added a marker for the Washington Square Tavern, just to let them know I wasn’t screwing around.

    check it out…

    (but for now it’s taking more than a few minutes to show up. Maybe there is an editorial process)

    2. re: “How will people creatively hack the system…”

    Umm, you can just use Google Maps API and host it on your own site. Pretty easy.

  2. on 01 Apr 2008 at 3:01 pmBrian Mannon

    Why would you want to mark a spot where there was a death by gun? How about spots where a death or rape or other violent crime was stopped by a gun, or a spot where your 1st amendment right to publish this web site was protected with a gun.

  3. on 12 Apr 2008 at 5:56 pmDavid Weinberger

    Brian, I’ll mark the spots I’m interested in, and you can mark the spots you’re interested in. And we’ll all be better off for it.

  4. on 01 May 2008 at 7:18 pmAlex


    Ideas for hacks. How about common traffic spots or common locations of speed traps or locations of radar cameras?

    Are you the same David Weinberger who worked at Open Text?