Harshdeep 2.0

July 17, 2006

Labeling of maps by the people, for the people – Wikimapia

Filed under: Maps, Web 2.0 — harshdeep @ 7:11 pm

Some time back, I got hold of a PDA with a GPRS receiver. It was pretty neat but I was disappointed by the fact that there were no digital maps available for Delhi and surrounding regions that would work with it.

The task of labeling every street and corner of the world is mind-bogglingly huge and expensive. Add to it the complications of regularly maintaining it – it is impossible for any one company to do this.

This task is essentially suited for the community. And that’s where Wikimapia comes in. As the name suggests, it lets everyone label locations on the map. As with Wikipedia, there’s a good chance that someone somewhere is interested in the thing/place you are looking for and has already entered it in the database.

WikiMapia is a project to describe the whole planet Earth.

Every entry can be marked with an open set of tags. It makes search easier as users are generally interested in certain types of locations – restaurants, theaters, bookshops, parks etc. As data becomes denser (it’s already pretty dense for many regions, including Delhi), the search feature will become more important.

Along with the diversity and sheer amount of information, Wikimapia has also inherited the problems that vex Wikipedia. There is no guarantee of the accuracy of the user-marked locations and once in a while, you’ll come across locations like “Bunty’s old house”.

Some features that I’d love to see here

  1. Reddit-style user voting This is required to keep the content accurate. If some user discovers that a certain label is wrongly placed, he can give a thumbs-down to the entry. User gets a sense of reliability of the label by looking at the votes and sufficient number of negative votes can bury an entry. This mechanism can also be used to display the most popular locations in a region.
  2. On the handset This application is far more useful on a mobile device than a desktop/laptop. It may interpret my location from the GPRS chip on my phone and show me the neighbouring areas. Now that would be cool.
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