GO CHART OUT A MAP
USER-GENERATED DATA IS CHANGING THE WAY MAPS ARE MADE. ARE YOU PART OF THE REVOLUTION?
The Internet today is all about you. It is the average user who is generating the best content for the Net—from movie reviews to stock photos. So it is no surprise that this trend has plotted its way to cartography as well. Once considered an expensive proposition due to the sheer number of man-hours needed to create the smallest of geographical pictures, map making is now benefiting from the common man’s urge—and enthusiasm—to try make a difference to his community in one way or the other.
If you are also one of those who pulls out a phone when lost in the bylanes of a city or the rural wilderness, just remember that the Google Maps that you trust so much owes a lot for its content to people who think it is their duty to plot the locality they live in or mark the best eatery in town. Here is how you too can become part of this revolution to create maps that go be-
yond well-known landmarks and utilities.
Google Map Maker was conceived in 2005 by Lalitesh Katragadda, now Country Head, India Products, Google. Since it went live in 2008, users around the world have been using the free service to add and edit features on already existing maps. While this might not be a big deal in an urban scenario, Map Maker is literally making a difference on the ground in rural areas where detailed mapping have never been carried out. With people taking it upon themselves to map natural features, places of interest and institutions in these area, rural maps are, all of a sudden, becoming featurerich and user friendly. In fact, user-generated maps were a great help during relief operations after the 2010 floods in Pakistan.
One look at the Pulse section (http://www.google.com/mapmaker/pulse) of Google Map Maker and you realise the power of user-generated content. It updates almost every second with a new locality or point that has been added to a map somewhere across the globe. Map Maker now has active users in over 200 countries, most of which did not have detailed maps till a couple of years ago. In India, says Katragadda, the activity is following the spread of broadband. So all parts of the country except the north-eastern states are recording thousands of updates every day. He hopes that the eastern states will also be mapped within a couple of years. India’s cities and towns, meanwhile, have been fully mapped.
It is easy to be a part of this map-making revolution. Just log in to Google Map Maker with your Google ID and look for localities and places about which you have good knowledge. If you think the map for that area can be bettered, go to Add New above the map. You can choose Add A Place if you just want to pinpoint a building or shop, etc. Select Add A Shape if you want to demarcate the boundary of a piece of land, say a part of school ground. To mark roads, tracks and rivers choose Draw A Line. Once you add something to the map, key in the details and click submit. Map Maker takes some time to review the markings. Regular users, however, enjoy more trust with the service and get to publish almost live with their updates showing on the map in under five minutes. But to reach this level, you have to make numerous posts, enough for the system to trust you and understand what you are good at. You will not be able to make changes in a part of the map which the software thinks already has all the info required. The same applies for places of national interest, monuments and landmarks which have been locked from further edits. As of now Map Maker can be access only through computers; there are no apps. Armed with this information, you can embark on your rewarding journey as a digital mapmaker.