Boing Boing 

Google Maps promises to stop racist trolls messing with maps—but how?

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Struck by a succession of abusive scrawlings going live on its popular maps service, Google has apologized and promised to retool the service to prevent it from happening in future.

"This week, we had some problems with Google Maps, which was displaying results for certain offensive search queries," wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, a Vice President of Engineering and Product Development, explaining how Google's system slurped up the offensive terms because of how it incorporates "online discussions" of particular places. "… This surfaced inappropriate results that users likely weren’t looking for."

Earlier this week, it was found that when given offensive search terms, Google would return inappropriate locations. Queried with "nigga house," for example, Google would offer the White House.

Howard University, reported one internet user, "shows up as ‘N***er University’ on Google Maps."

The benefits of algorithmic changes will be seen soon, Fitzpatrick promised, and Google will continue to refine its software over time: "Simply put, you shouldn’t see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we’re taking steps to make sure you don't."

Maps, like much in the Googleverse, is comprised significantly of information added by users or algorithmically incorporated into its dataset—unvetted and often dependent on community reporting when something goes awry.

Google recently shuttered another crowdsourced component of Google Maps due to repeated addition of naughty and offensive landscape features that were not, in fact, there.

Google mothballs map-making feature

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Does U.S. President Obama share office space with an outfit called "Edwards Snow Den"? No, he does not, which—among many similar instances of "vandalism"—is why Google Maps is mothballing its Map Maker feature.

Google's Pavithra Kanakarajan writes:

As some of you know already, we have been experiencing escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months. The most recent incident was particularly troubling and unfortunate - a strong user in our community chose to go and create a large scale prank on the Map. As a consequence, we suspended auto-approval and user moderation across the globe, till we figured out ways to add more intelligent mechanisms to prevent such incidents.

"It's going to take longer than a few days" to figure out something better than manual approval of edits, she added. [via]

Minimalist landscape maps

1423761014191 Michael Pecirno created a set of "minimalist maps" each showing the density of just one thing in the U.S. [via FlowingData]

Age of Discovery-style map of modern submarine cables


You can explore it interactively for free and download a jumbo wallpaper JPEG, but the print edition is $250.

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Map pins pop songs that mention cities

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Map maker Javier Arce created a world map locating 212 cities referenced in 7,681 pop songs. Click on a city and you can instantly play the related songs through Spotify.

To create this map Javier extracted a list of the cities with their respective countries and created a table. Then he geocoded that table to get the position of each city on the map.

Next, he extracted all the song information in the main article using regular expressions and infinite amounts of patience. It generated a CSV file that he imported into his CartoDB account. Javier ended up having a table that contained the name of the song, the author, and the city.

Music Map Mashup [CartoDB Blog]

Meet Daniel Reeve, calligrapher for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

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Artist Daniel Reeve created and re-created calligraphy and maps for Peter Jackson's films of the Tolkein adventures in Middle-earth. His gallery of images includes maps and illustrations as well as calligraphy and lettering. Some examples below:

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Daniel Reeve website (h/t TMarizzle)

Interactive map: World population by latitude and longitude

population-latitude-longitude André Christoffer Andersen created this nifty interactive map that estimates world population at any coordinate.

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The dirty secret of Google's self-driving cars


They've 700,000 miles, but mostly the same few thousand miles, over and over again -- because the cars only work if every single light, piece of street furniture, and other detail is mapped and verified by armies of human and computer analysts, and when anything changes, the mapping needs to be re-created.

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Map: Which states' governors are climate deniers?


Thinking of moving and wondering whether your new state's chief executive is a climate-denier?

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Google Street View now lets you 'go back in time' to view previous captures of a place


"If you see a clock icon in the upper left-hand portion of a Street View image," explain the Googles, "click on it and move the slider through time and select a thumbnail to see that same place in previous years or seasons."

This is kind of neat. From the Official Google Blog: "Starting today, you can travel to the past to see how a place has changed over the years by exploring Street View imagery in Google Maps for desktop. We've gathered historical imagery from past Street View collections dating back to 2007 to create this digital time capsule of the world."

Universal subway map design rules

Designer Jug Cerovic proposes a standardized approach to subway mapping, encompassed by 7 simple rules:

1. The city center sits at the center (because, duh).
2. The center is a basic shape, like a circle or square (for visual simplicity).
3. The center is zoomed in (because that area is always congested with lines).
4. All lines must run vertical, horizontal, or at 45-degree angles (again, for visual simplicity).
5. Their angles should be smooth (to feel more familiar, city to city).
6. Their colors and connection iconography are standardized (duh again).
7. All text must be listed in local and Latin lettering (for the tourists, aka all of us).

The subtext to subway remapping projects is often "London basically got this right 80 years ago, deal with it."— so his version of The Underground, above, is interesting food for thought.

Previously.

5 days of TED in one page

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My ultracreative friend Lucy Farey-Jones attended the recent TED conference in Vancouver and left delightfully overwhelmed. The only way she could make sense of what she learned was by mapping it on a single beautiful page.

"Upon my re-entry to the real world, friends, clients and folks at my firm say: ‘How was TED?’ And there is a big pause from me as my brain tries and fails to sum it up," Lucy says. "It’s an impossible question to answer. It’s like being asked ‘How is food?’ or ‘Puberty — how was it?’ Which is where this idea came in. I thought a way to answer this daunting question would be to make a graphic which tries to capture how TED makes me feel. I gave myself the challenge to capture 5 days in one page."

"5 days of TED in one page"

Mapping ecotpian jungles onto Google Streetview


Urban Jungle Street View is a Google Street View mashup that pulls out the 3D information latent in the Streetview database and uses it to map lush, ecotopian foliage over the surfaces of the buildings and street furniture. You can put your own address in and see your home covered in climbing jungles and explore from there, or use great architectural landmarks as your starting point. Shown here: the Flatiron building in midtown Manhattan, where my publishers are located.

Its creator, Einar Öberg, has created a ton of other amazing mashups based on similar principles.

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Map of The Open Country of Woman's Heart, ca. 1830

Via Public Domain Review: "The Open Country of Woman’s Heart, Exhibiting its internal communications, and the facilities and dangers to Travellers therein” (1830s), by D.W. Kellog.

Gorgeous Map of the Internet: XKCD meets National Geographic


Martin Vargic has produced a gorgeous mashup of XKCD's Map of Online Communities and the classic National Geographic Maps, producing a work of art that is a wonder to behold. It's for sale on Zazzle, as a $37, 34"x22" poster.

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Why is [state] so...

Google's autocomplete, as visualized by @Amazing_maps, discloses the questions that everyone is asking. [via]

Openstreetmap: why we need a free/open alternative to proprietary maps


In the Guardian, Serge Wroclawski makes the case for Openstreetmap, a free/open map tool maintained by a volunteer community. Wroclawski argues that allowing companies to own maps allows them to own places: to determine which features of our neighbourhoods are worthy of inclusion, to determine which parts of our cities should and shouldn't be considered in route planning, and to monitor our decisions about where we travel and what we do when we get there. It's a dangerous proposition, and Openstreetmap is a viable, and often superior, alternative (see, for example, the map above of the neighbourhood around my office):

The second concern is about location. Who defines where a neighbourhood is, or whether or not you should go? This issue was brought up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) when a map provider was providing routing (driving/biking/walking instructions) and used what it determined to be "safe" or "dangerous" neighbourhoods as part of its algorithm. This raises the question of who determines what makes a neighbourhood "safe" or not – or whether safe is merely a codeword for something more sinister.

Right now, Flickr collects neighbourhood information based on photographs which it exposes through an API. It uses this information to suggest tags for your photograph. But it would be possible to use neighbourhood boundaries in a more subtle way in order to affect anything from traffic patterns to real estate prices, because when a map provider becomes large enough, it becomes the source of "truth".

Lastly, these map providers have an incentive to collect information about you in ways that you may not agree with. Both Google and Apple collect your location information when you use their services. They can use this information to improve their map accuracy, but Google has already announced that is going to use this information to track the correlation between searches and where you go. With more than 500 million Android phones in use, this is an enormous amount of information collected on the individual level about people's habits, whether they're taking a casual stroll, commuting to work, going to their doctor, or maybe attending a protest.

Why the world needs OpenStreetMap [Serge Wroclawski/Guardian]

(via /.)