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Digital Life
 

You can help improve Google Maps

Besides adding new places, you can edit information regarding existing locations with Map Maker, says VINCENT CHANG

Published on Jun 27, 2014 5:00 AM
 
Introduced in 2005, Map Maker (above) is now available in more than 200 regions and countries. -- PHOTO: GOOGLE

Found a new coffee joint or hang-out in your neighbourhood? You can now share that information with others using the recently launched Map Maker tool, which lets you add information to Google Maps.

To start using Map Maker at www.google.com.

sg/mapmaker, you must sign in to your Google account. You can add a new location, which can range from natural features, such as a river, to manmade structures, including buildings, roads and railways. A good amount of detail, such as the direction and elevation of a road, is available for budding cartographers.

Besides adding new places, you can edit information on existing locations, for instance, to indicate that a certain eatery has closed. Other users must review and approve your edits before they are published on Google Maps.

"The more successful edits and reviews mappers make, the more trusted they become in the system, allowing them to make edits and reviews more easily," said Google's Andrew McGlinchey, a senior product manager.

But forget about adding that nice chicken rice stall you discovered in the canteen when you attended your national service in-camp training. Users are not allowed to edit locations or details of sensitive areas, such as military installations.

As with any crowdsourced initiative, some will deliberately add inaccurate information. Google has implemented measures to weed out such users - Mr McGlinchey calls them "bad actors" - by having a team of reviewers to moderate Map Maker's content. The system can also identify potential spam and duplicates.

Introduced in 2005, Map Maker is now available in more than 200 regions and countries. So why has it taken so long to launch here?

Mr McGlinchey said: "We needed to make sure we'd got the data right before we invited the public to edit. Things that the public won't bother to do, such as getting the postcodes correct."

Google, he said, had previously licensed local map data from third parties and did not have the rights to edit the information. But this issue has been resolved, allowing Map Maker to be introduced here.

Map Maker has proved useful in areas not mapped extensively, including Afghanistan, Antarctica and Honduras.

It also has a role in crisis relief. In the Philippines, which is often hit by typhoons, a group of local mappers embarked on a project in 2011 to map health centres, government offices, gymnasiums and public schools used for evacuation.

vinchang@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on June 25, 2014.