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[flagged] How Google’s Bad Data Wiped a Neighborhood Off the Map (onezero.medium.com)
24 points by mikemac 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments





Neighborhood definitions that don't represent formal political subdivisions are an obscure corner of the universe that a few people embed themselves in and exert control over. It sounds like this case was more about the city 'rebranding' than bad data.

In my small city, there's a few designated "neighborhood names". A couple are names reflective of the "official" neighborhood associations that exist and are part of an association of neighborhood associations in the city. Others are related to old subdivison names from the 1920/30s that are out of common use.


Often times the rebranding is mostly by realtors who want to associate with a neighborhood with more cachet or conversely to disassociate from a neighborhood with bad cachet.

No, no, it’s not the tenderloin, it’s lower nob hill (just making that up). But that’s how it goes.


It isn't truly a real estate rebrand unless there is some stomach churning cutesy name, like "LoNo"!

In case you are as yet unaware, there is a specific 99 Percent Invisible episode about this very thing.

https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-soho-effect/


I love it, Acrohoods!

Click bait. Not Google's fault. Third party data wasn't accurate in the eyes of the residents.

There are many things here, some of which are clearly Google's "fault".

There is the incorrect neighborhood assignment by Pitney Bowes. I believe that is the fault you are referring to.

There is Google's choice to use Pitney Bowes instead of a (possibly more correct but expensive) data source, or instead of doing it themselves (also more expensive).

There is Google's decision to handle error reporting through means which - according to the article - may be disadvantageous for neighborhoods where 25% are senior citizens and 40% lack internet access.

There is Google's choice to not reveal where the data comes from, making it harder for others to figure out the root source of the error. Consider if you are denied an apartment rental because you failed a credit check, and the rental agency refuses to tell you where they got the data, and the credit agencies all refuse to tell you where they got the data. How would you correct any data which wasn't accurate in your eyes?


As noted by other comments here, this is quite a lightweight article. Not that the residents don't have a valid complaint, but the solution is really quite simple.

I have direct experience with something like this myself. My Grandfather homesteaded in Montana in 1911, and the land remains in the family to this day. My Aunt Elsie, who was a force to be reckoned with, had the name of the road changed successfully. So their address had the family name. I noticed that Google did not have the name, so i simply clicked on the button at the bottom that says "send feedback". I noted the post office had that as the name and one other reference. I got mail back months later refusing to change the notation. I sent the request again perhaps a year later, and this time they did change it. It is there today.

While I understand the communities distress, it appears from the story that nobody attempted to contact Google.

And you don't have to be a city official to do so.


The article even discusses this and I thing you're being unsympathetic.

It says a lot of people don't have the skills to figure out how to click through a multi-layer sequence (I never thought of that as a "skill" but I can see how it really might be one). Also as you said yourself Google doesn't always follow through on random comments. And in the end the root problem wasn't Google at all!

Plus it wasn't clear to the people if the city had been involved in changing the name? (Answer: not really).

And I think this is the kind of hyperlocal thing city councils are for.


Not sure what you mean by "multi-layer sequence", as it is a simple link at the bottom of the page "send feedback".

Even though the cause of the problem was not in Google's hands, given that they got the data from outside sources, nonetheless I would presume that they have the ability to correct errors.


I was going by what it says in the article: "while Google says it invites user feedback on its maps, it doesn’t always act on those suggestions. And even that process, which involves clicking through three levels of menus, precludes users with limited computer skills."

Maybe I am reading your post wrongly, but two attempts, with a 50% chance of going through over a year long time is "really quite simple"?

By simple, I mean one click to an easy-to-fill-out form.

I do agree that it does take attention span--but it sounds like the process or complaint. has gone on for a number of years already.


Yep, the procedure to present the complaint for a problem is simple, the solution (if any) to the problem not necessarily so.

In any given city, there’s going to be widespread disagreement about the boundaries of many neighborhoods and even if they exist given that “neighborhoods” can be the creation of a developer that no one local pays any attention to. Some cities seem to have greater agreement while others have neighborhoods and communities that are almost wholly informally and loosely defined by locals.

Good grief. That's an awful lot of words to convey a very simple story. Here's an 80% reduced summary which is still way too long for the actual information conveyed https://smmry.com/https://onezero.medium.com/how-googles-bad...

Is this really such a big deal? I mean this is one long article for a simple data mistake that was rectified.

Sounded like they were talkin about Palestine for a second..

Some time in Google Map's infancy, there were a couple of countries who sent off marines or some such to "guard" and "defend" some kind of territory Google had mislabeled (cartographed?) as the other's.

It's Google, it's not an official map or treaty, yet they saber rattled for a couple of days till someone pointed out the silliness of it.




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