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Social Software? Check Out Google Map Mash-Ups
I asked a colleague from work today if he had any news about new Internet phenomena that would be cool to check out. He told me about the concept of social software. Social software is where someone takes an existing computer program and combines it with another idea to make it more personalized for people. A perfect example of this comes in the form of a new craze taking over the world: Google Map mash-ups. http://maps.google.com/ is already a cool site that has taken a personalized approach to many different ways of helping people. For example, I typed in ‘Pizza restaurants’ into the finder with the name of the town my father lives in near Atlanta, Georgia, USA and it showed me exactly where all the pizzas were, the names of the restaurants, and contact details (if I wished to place an order over the phone). Pretty cool. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Other people around the world have taken the Google Map software and combined it with their personal interests to create a whole array of exciting maps filled with photos and information. The ultimate site to check some out is http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/.
Let me give you an idea of what people are doing out there on the Internet to make the world a more informed place. I’m planning on going to live in Japan pretty soon. Well at http://www.bento.com/tokyofood.html I could find a map of the Kansai region (where I will probably live) which showed me exactly where all the vegetarian restaurants are, the type of cultural food each was (E.g.: Sri Lankan), a photo of the establishment, as well as all the relevant information-including reviews. You can tell I’m a connoisseur, or at least I attempt to be one. Let’s go elsewhere.
The http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/ site has map categories like current events, transportation, weather, wireless and mobile, housing and real estate, business, stats and demographics, employment, recreation and fitness, events and sport, travel and tourism, and even maps of crime and sex offenders-that’s a little weird for me, but some people obviously are keen to keep their families safe at all costs. There is also Google map games that people have created, and you can download tools to create a map of your own.
At http://www.pintsearch.com/ you can see a map with some pictures of the best pubs in London. Under current events, and you know how ‘positive’ current events are, at http://www.futurecrisis.com/places/view.php you can see a map with all of the places where avian flu outbreaks have occurred. At http://www.housingmaps.com/ you can look at a map of the USA and click on houses for sale in a city you’d like to go to. You get the house’s address, cost, and many of them have photos as well.
There’s a lot of this kind of thing in America, but the craze is spreading to other countries too. http://www.mackers.com/projects/dartmaps/ is a site that shows you all of the trains in Dublin, Ireland, their destination, and where they are on their route (in approximate real-time). http://www.thestar.com/static/googlemaps/gtatraffic.html?xml=trafficcams.xml is a site link that takes you to a map where you can click on hundreds of traffic cameras around Toronto, Canada to actually see real photos of current traffic conditions in a specific area. http://www.freefoto.com/ is a cool site to see and download professional photos taken in different locations around the world. I had a quick look at the game called http://www.googleearthing.com/ where you are asked to find certain images around our whole planet. It doesn’t look easy!
The list of links related to this single new form of social software on http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/ is very impressive. I’m interested in finding out about other forms of combined software that could help humanity in a social context. My friend mentioned that he’d read an article about a proposed travel site that would rate the relevance of user’s comments in relation to your own personal statistics. For example, if your are a 20 year old male, a 60 year old woman’s remarks about a hotel will be rated as of less importance compared with another person who falls into a similar social category to yourself.
This is an interesting and exciting craze. I can see clearly how these specific idea-based maps will be able to help humanity in so many ways. However, all things in life are balanced so we do have to draw a line sometimes. Another friend at work told me a story about an angry mob that stood waiting outside a house that an Internet sex offenders’ site informed them of a predator in their local neighborhood. The thing is the site hadn’t been updated when the ex-convict had moved from the house, so an innocent person had their house picketed for something that was totally unrelated to them. On the positive side of the coin, I do think that the possible future innovations even in this one area of Internet-mapping could in itself have awesome results for human society.
This article was posted on February 08, 2006