Until recently when I noticed my daughter's public school was missing from the map. I thought this was a problem as I had a fair amount of difficulty finding the school for the first time and considering that many people (myself included) rely on Google Maps to find places that I should correct the omission.
Google offers a tool to make these additions and corrections called Map Maker.
It's quite easy to use. There are text-box fields to enter or edit a name, address and contact info - all quite clear. The visual interface to plot locations on the satellite view is also easy to use, particularly if one is familiar with GIS. It just requires using a simpler drawing tool to outline the shape of sites over Google's satellite view.
So I added my kid's school to the map and also decided to fix other sites in the area.
I did five changes:
- public school added (by correcting existing entry)
- park/garden added
- public ice rink added
- change rooms (for pool and rink) added
- variety store's location corrected (it was misplaced on the wrong street)
These changes took me no more than 20 minutes. There usefulness to newcomers or visitors to the neighbourhood would be significant, I'm certain.
So far I'm thinking that the tool and service (to everyone) is a great idea.
But then came their murky, dubious review process...
I appreciate the need for a review process to stop spammers, trolls, and vandals. But Google's review process is unnecessarily opaque and inconsistent.
Google will notify people of the status of changes made via a location's history webpage and email (although I found that email notifications only went out seldom).
Change #2, made it onto the map. It is the only correction that Google accepted.
Change #4 was added to Google Maps as I submitted it, but then removed a few days later.
Change #5 was quickly flagged as needing further investigation (the street address for the store was correct as is but Google had it marked as on a separate step - that is quickly able to see and shouldn't require investigation). Although I do get that with businesses they should check with the business owner to double-check. About a month later and the wrong location is still on the map.
Change #3 was rejected as needing more information. No details were supplied on the precise or even nature of the required missing info except to a link to a general page about using the tool.
I was given the option to add more info to my change. The only info that I hadn't supplied was the telephone number and opening hours. I gave them our Parks and Rec department. Phone number and indicated it was only open during winter months and then resubmitted.
The second try at the ice rink seemed to have worked - partially. It doesn't appear by default on the map (as the park's seeming pool and off-leash dog areas do), but if you type in the correct name it will come up on the map. That just raises another murky issue with Google Maps, why do they have locations that don't show up on a map unless you specifically search for them (particularly major public sites)?
Change #1 - the one that started all this - was rejected as the current (incorrect) information was deemed by a Google editor to be "more appropriate". I had provided a link to an official source - the Board of Education - which had the correct info as I entered it. What is more appropriate than the Board of Education?
This begs the question - To what authority does Google recognize?
Even worst Google did not give me the option to change or object to my entry (as I got with the ice rink). And Google removed all record of the change request from the tool's user history - so as to shut of any debate or trace of the issue permanently.
I got the name of the editor who rejected the change but Google provides me no way to examine editors' credentials or record. But it is safe to assume that they are not a Toronto government official or even a local, so why do they get such absolute, unchecked power?
Google does offer a forum that can provide some recourse and further information but it is unwieldy and frankly it is an unreasonable burden to make people use such a cumbersome process.
As a public service and a company and one that relies on user-generated content, Google has a duty to establish more rigorous, consistent, transparent processes.
I'm so put off by Google after this I will start switching to OpenStreetMap, a free, user-generated map. At least their review process appears quite transparent and any effort I put into improving them map doesn't add money to a corporate juggernaut.