2 votes

How Google’s Bad Data Wiped a Neighborhood off the Map

6 comments

  1. [5]
    cptcobalt Link
    This was an interesting read, but I can't help but sort of feel the shock that neighborhoods matter so much to some. I can't recall the names of neighborhoods of any places I've lived, but I have...

    This was an interesting read, but I can't help but sort of feel the shock that neighborhoods matter so much to some.

    I can't recall the names of neighborhoods of any places I've lived, but I have really only lived in some level of relative suburbia all my life. I guess this matters more in a dense city.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      masochist (edited ) Link Parent
      Hi, Philadelphian here. Neighborhood divisions are a big deal here. Specifically, I live in what's known as the Gayborhood. Yet if you look at that neighborhood on Google Maps, you'll see it...

      Hi, Philadelphian here. Neighborhood divisions are a big deal here. Specifically, I live in what's known as the Gayborhood. Yet if you look at that neighborhood on Google Maps, you'll see it referenced as Washington Square West--despite there being no Washington Square East (that'd put you in the river, or, horrors, Camden). Washington Square is one of the parks in the city. You'll also see Rittenhouse Square, its own neighborhood, and local businesses like to refer to themselves with the name Rittenhouse even if they're not actually on the square. It's a bit like suburbanites saying they're from a big city if they're from a suburb, I think. I lived on the square for a year or two, and labelling yourself "Rittenhouse This or That" when you're not on the square is just silly.

      Northeast a bit you'll find Fishtown, and Kensington. The former is something of a gentrification hub / hipster revival (much like Manayunk before it, a bit further north but bordering the other river), the latter is Philadelphia's little Camden. Lots of poor folks, lots of crime.

      Each neighborhood has its own feel, its own people. I don't really feel comfortable in Germantown, for example, and it's not just a feeling; bad experiences up there. Conversely, a Germantown native may not feel comfortable in dense Center City where I live. University City (guess what it's named for) is its own thing, lots of well-off folks because Drexel and Penn are so expensive. Neighborhoods matter, and you can easily tell if someone is from another part of town.

      edit: accidentally a word

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        Akir Link Parent
        So what I'm getting from this is that where you live, neighborhoods are basically cliques for adults? Honestly, I don't see how this neighborhood concept is helpful to anyone. It seems like it's...

        So what I'm getting from this is that where you live, neighborhoods are basically cliques for adults?

        Honestly, I don't see how this neighborhood concept is helpful to anyone. It seems like it's either a result of or an excuse for discrimination, if not both.

        I get why people would come up with names for neighborhoods, but I don't see why this data would need to be in a map.

        1 vote
        1. masochist Link Parent
          It's not really cliques; that feels like an exaggeration of what I was trying to say. I'm sorry if you got that impression. Cliques, to me, are the kind of thing in high school where you'd be...

          It's not really cliques; that feels like an exaggeration of what I was trying to say. I'm sorry if you got that impression. Cliques, to me, are the kind of thing in high school where you'd be actively socially attacked and ostracized if you don't fit in. It's not like that in the city, at least not in my experience.

          There can be an aspect of discrimination, you're right, but there's practical and human elements as well. For example, in Philadelphia, you can be pretty sure you're going to find the best Chinese food in... Chinatown. And apartments in Rittenhouse Square or Manayunk are going to be pricier than, say, Kensington. Upscale shopping is on Walnut Street, especially near Rittenhouse Square.

          It benefits from being in a map for the reasons I described above, so you know what to expect. You can call this stereotyping, but there's absolutely a lot of truth to it, especially regarding real estate.

          2 votes
    2. hungariantoast Link Parent
      For these people, the neighborhood is their community and their home and its identity is an important thing, especially when it stands defiantly in the way of development and gentrification....

      For these people, the neighborhood is their community and their home and its identity is an important thing, especially when it stands defiantly in the way of development and gentrification. Neighborhoods are also incredibly useful for designating blocks of residential housing and other, administrative, statistical tasks, but that's another subject.

      There's also the more practical side of this, which is that Google's mistake not only failed to reflect reality, but made navigation and direction giving difficult, if not impossible for some.

      4 votes
  2. hungariantoast (edited ) Link
    Here's a link to the neighborhood on Google Maps. You'll notice that the borders of the neighborhood are still messed up. I wish I could find it, but there was another article I read some time ago...

    Here's a link to the neighborhood on Google Maps.

    You'll notice that the borders of the neighborhood are still messed up.

    I wish I could find it, but there was another article I read some time ago that talked about neighborhoods on Google Maps, I believe in San Francisco, being named wrong or, in some cases, the name was completely made up.

    Basically, the breakdown of why this happened is that Google doesn't follow particularly good quality control standards when it comes to naming neighborhoods. They will, quite literally, take names for neighborhoods off of random documents and apply it to Google Maps, despite that not reflecting reality at all, or in this case, blindly take data from a broker, despite the data being flawed and based off the same type of, random, incorrect documentation.

    This is why "ground truth" is so important for geographical information systems. Of course, had this been an issue with OpenStreetMap, and not Google Maps, any of the folks involved could have just fixed the issue on their own, instead of having to pester Google to fix it or get an article written about the issue, which only then leads to it being fixed.

    2 votes