installing Romex & receptacles in a plaster-on-brick wall
Arts & Crafts sketches and doodles

off-topic: the new Google Maps and how to REALLY improve them

I posted this over at Urban Cartography, but thought some people here might be interested too, especially since my test use of this new technology will be to make a map showing the locations and some background data on all still-existing Greene & Greene properties here in California.

I was all excited to learn that Google is now allowing user-created data in custom maps. This is great! However, when I went to go play with it, I learned the current implementation - which in most ways is an alpha release - is missing 90% of what could make it useful. Such as:

  • the ability to import, not just export, addresses. I want to make a canonical map of all currently existing properties by the late great architects Greene & Greene; this is not very easy by hand-entering every single one. However, if I could import tab-delimited text, I could have the full list of 200 up in a few minutes!
  • the ability to display multiple maps at once - on top of each other (i.e., LAYERS). this would make google maps a useful tool for data analysis: you could display maps of different data layers at once, but what would make this feature REALLY shine would be...
  • the ability to pipe in data from online databases. if you combined #1 with the ability to bring data in from online databases, not just uploaded text files, you could use this with the ability to see different layers at once to see real causality - that is, you could see how income, for example, and property values, tax base, parks, etc. all interact. It would be a really democratic tool - the ability, for example, to see if public works projects actually happen in poor neighborhoods as they do in rich, or to see what zipcodes public university admissions come from (if that data were available), or to see what area codes had the most telemarketer calls originating, etc. In fact, this would turn Google Maps into the ultimate social researcher's dream tool - the killer app that sociologists, activists, criminologists and others have been waiting for.

Just a few (big) suggestions for the Google Maps folks to think about...