Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Disappearing cities

Posting to Autocat

“US city erased from Google maps”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/world_news_america/9038870.stm

This is a report from the BBC about a town in Florida called Sunrise that "disappeared" from Google Maps. The effects on the town were devastating because Google Maps has become-apparently-one of the main ways that people find local businesses today.

The search that they show: "sunrise florida car dealers" illustrates how almost everyone searches today. It's very logical, but as this demonstrated, the result can easily go to a somewhat better known town (i.e. higher hit rate?), such as Sarasota, with a street of Sunrise Boulevard. The reporter at the end of the news clip, holds up a yellow pages telephone book for Sunrise, Florida, where someone would look for (I guess): Car dealers and hope that they would find a cross-reference to, perhaps, Automobiles-Retail. But let's be realistic about it: who is going to do that when so many people are using Google Maps, and if you don't find something, it may as well not exist; and if you are that car dealer in Sunrise, Florida who is losing business, you won't be too interested in theoretical disputes or someone saying, "Well, everybody just needs to be trained to use the yellow pages." They won't. Those days are over.

I think this is a great example of the disconnect between the traditional and the modern methods of searching and shows what people expect today. In this case, Google did one of their famous/infamous "tweaks" and "fixed" it. But it occurs to me that when they tweak it for one purpose, perhaps they mess it up for somebody else who may not even understand the problem. I wonder what the car dealers and florists located on Sunrise Boulevard in Sarasota, Florida would think about Google's tweak?

Incidentally, I have noticed that in some of the tools I have made for my patrons, I use several "canned searches" using Google in and I have discovered that when I check them, the nature of the results change all the time, and I have to "re-tweak" my queries, too.

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