Mash-Ups and Google Maps

Wikipedia defines mashups as “a digital media document containing any or all of text, graphics, audio, video and animation drawn from pre-existing, third-party sources, to create a new derivative work”. Basically a mashup is created when an Internet user takes content from at least different places and combines them to create something new. If you are interested in learning more about the technical side of creating a mashup (a topic that is beyond my expertise) the Information Science Institute at the University of Southern California has released a paper entitled “Building Mashups by Example” it presents a straight forward Mashup building approach that alleviates most of the problems users experience when creating mashups by building problem areas into a unified interactive framework that requires no widgets and allows users with no programming background to easily create mashups by example.

There are many examples of mashups on the web, TweetDeck is one example of a simple mashup; it is an iphone app that displays a user’s Twitter and Facebook feed in one place. One of the most popular types of mashups combines maps with search locator services; Google Maps is one example of this type of service. While users do not contribute to the creation of the maps, they enrich them by adding information, such as locations and descriptions to make the maps more useful and interesting. For me personally contributing to a service like Google Maps will probably be the closest I come to creating a mashup because my programming skills are non-existent. I tried to use Map Builder to make my own map but ran into problems with the API key (I’m not giving up and hope to post one later on this week).

Unlike Map Builder, Google Map Maker was very user friendly! After signing into the application with my Google account information I was provided with easy step by step instructions about how I could enrich maps by adding a place, road or trail, editing a place, or reviewing edits. To play with the Map Maker features I choose to add more information to a map of my neighbourhood by adding the lane name. I live in cottage country and only the access road is labeled in Google maps, I always find giving direction difficult because I need to explain that it’s the fourth lane on the right and then a second left etc. and guests always get lost. I was surprised to find that when I zoomed in on the map of my block other neighbours had already added the name of their lane to the map.

At first it was not clear how to edit a street name, I went into road attributes and when I could not find an option I decided to correct the speed limit from 40 km/hr to 5 km/hr; an edit that is now under review. After doing this I went into the “help” home and found instructions for adding a road name unfortunately when I followed the steps I was given the error message “You cannot edit this feature because it is currently pending and requires approval. Failed to modify this feature” opps –because I had submitted the other edit about speed limit I won’t be able to add the street name until that edit is approved. Although I wasn’t able to add street names like I intended using Google Map Maker provided a great user experience that was almost idiot proof haha somehow I still managed to mess it up! Once my speed edit has been approved I will definitely be returning to the map maker to add street names –no one will be getting lost on the way to the cottage this summer!

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