Using Google Map Maker

A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.
Google prides itself internally on the quality of Google Maps. Our mapping data is considered one of our company's greatest assets and a number of our products rely on the high availability of accurate geography data.  This holds especially true for products that are focused on local and offline commerce and is part of the reason Google groups the two functional areas together under the umbrella of 'GeoCommerce'.

A little known fact about Google Maps is that anyone with a registered Google account can add or edit geospatial data to the product with Google Map Maker. In concept this is a fantastic idea. Since new businesses are constantly opening and closing, why not just enable the Google Maps community to update the relevancy of this changing data in realtime? In practice however, I ran into some trouble trying to use Map Maker to update a previously unlisted restaurant.

On a recent visit to Seattle I had the opportunity to meet with my old boss Michelle for lunch. Since I only make it back to UW every couple of months, it seems like every time I set foot on campus there are a few new buildings and a few less old ones. Since I love taking in all the changes, I was thrilled when Michelle suggested that we stop by a new UW operated restaurant called Cultivate. Having first read about Cultivate back in April when The Daily published a favorable review, I had been eager to stop in ever since.

We ended up having a great lunch (the pretzel roll burger was incredible!) and later that week I decided to fill out a Google+ Local review. Unfortunately, after attempting to search for Cultivate on Google+, I was unable to locate the restaurant. Even after trying the same search on Google Maps I was also shown 0 matching results for Cultivate in the University District. Never fear however, Google Map Maker to the rescue!

I made my way over to the Google Map Maker homepage and copied and pasted information over from Cultivate's official HFS homepage. The information was pretty basic and included the business address, hours of operations, type of listing, and a brief description of the restaurant. After populating these fields, I clicked submit and waited for the magic of crowd-sourced collaboration to ensue! Sadly, after waiting for 11 days with absolutely no indication of when my edit would be published, the magic of Map Maker had somewhat faded.

Almost a full two weeks after making my initial edit, I was notified via email that my changes were populated this morning and were now live on the web. Since Google+ Local is intrinsically linked with business listings on Google Maps, in theory all of the data I had initially populated in Map Maker should have been used to automatically create a listing on Google+. The populating of the +page worked as I expected...sort of.

The Cultivate Google+ page was created automatically with information like the restaurant hours, address, and phone number. Unfortunately, even though I marked the business listing specifically as a restaurant and even went so far as to provide a description, Google+ failed to identify the listing as being a restaurant. This meant that when I left a Google+ Local review I could only rate based on the generic 'Quality' of the listing, rather than the Quality of the food, service, and decor that I would normally be able to rate with other restaurants.

As a caveat, I was able to easily add some images to the Cultivate +page. These images began showing up almost immediately which was a pleasant change from the 2 weeks I had to wait previously to get the page listed in the first place. All said and done, I think it's great that Google allows any user to update the data that powers Google Maps. On the other hand, the process is slow, somewhat convoluted, and I can see how the lack of feedback mechanisms would be very discouraging to new users of Map Maker. I'm still going to continue my use of the product and hopefully will see these improvements gradually introduced as the platform matures.

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A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.