[Geowanking] LazyWeb request
adoyle at intl-interfaces.com
Mon Jan 26 13:27:48 PST 2004
On Monday, January 26 2004 at 12:37:16(-0800) Tim O'Reilly wrote:
> In a number of talks over the past few years, I've lamented the fact
> that MapQuest has never figured out how to become a platform. I
> thought I'd repeat that lament as part of my keynote at our upcoming
> Emerging Technology Conference (http://conferences.oreilly.com/etech).
> (the talk will focus on my technology wishlist.)
Part of the reason for this is probably economic and not
technical. In order for MapQuest to become a platform, the single
biggest thing it would have to do is provide a location interface
that lets you enter some kind of a request and get back a map that
you could actually plot your own data on top of. That means that each
pixel you got back from MapQuest would have a known
latitude/longitude. That would be ducky for us, but it would drive
their data costs through the roof. They buy their data from other
companies like NavTech. If you could requst maps that have all their
locations known, then you could systematically step through the US or
the world and download your own map database.
> But I'd like to give my skeletal thoughts a bit more meat, and I figure
> you guys are the right folks to ask for ideas on how to flesh things
> Here's my premise:
> - All of the "killer apps" of the first generation web (Google, Amazon,
> EBay,) except for MapQuest have started down the path of turning
> themselves into platforms, rather than just applications -- except
> MapQuest and its imitators.
> - What's more, Google, Amazon and EBay all leverage the behavior that
> Clay Shirky outlined (I think this was in his talk Listening to Napster
> but I can't find it in the published paper), namely, that the system is
> architected in such a way users build the database as a side effect of
> their individual "selfish" pursuits, rather than being paid or
> volunteering. It's a bit more of a stretch with google, but you can
> argue that pagerank is this kind of thing. Once again, mapquest and
> its imitators are the only ones left out.
There's actually a lot of database building going on out there. Much
of it can be had for free (at least in the US). There are several
places you can go to look for the data but unless you're into
geographic information systems, the hurdles are too high. There are
few good "consumer" level or even non-GIS geek level sites to play
There are grass-roots database building efforts as well. They just
tend to be very, very hard to find.
Coincidentally, blogdex shows a new site http://www.world66.com/
that's being blogged about in a lot of places. Trouble is, the site
has been down all day so I have not had a chance to look at it
yet. The descriptions of it make it sound like some kind of
open-content data collecting site. Who knows. It might be your killer
app if they get their act together... Google does have some cached
views of the site.
> - Of all the internet killer apps, MapQuest is also the only one that
> didn't become dominant. (maps.yahoo.com is run by vicinity, after they
> dumped mapquest).
> So, my question for you is this:
> If we were to envision a next generation, collaboratively-enhanced
> version of MapQuest, or Maps.yahoo.com, or mapinfo, how might we do it?
> What features would lead people to naturally annotate maps?
People need to be able to trust the data they see. That means in an
open-content setting, people have to be able to develop reputations
and be able to see other peoples' reputations. The blogging world
seems to have implicitly figured this out. Using trackbacks and
comments, it's pretty easy to figure out whether a blogger is worth
reading or not based on each readers' sensitivities.
Developing data is a byproduct of many hobbies. Birdwatching,
geocaching, chasing degree confluences, wardriving. What is needed is
a way to easily serve that data and advertise its existence. Google
maybe isn't enough.
> What hacker work has already been done in this area? (I know there's
> been some stuff naming cell towers so you can set alerts on them in
> your phone, and there was the whole virtual london kind of thing) but
> if we were really to brainstorm an ideal service that made it easy to
> extend with the kind of rich commentary and added value that you see in
> Amazon and EBay, what would it look like, and who's doing interesting
As part of a grant writing effort I was part of we put together a
little bit of information that might help think/talk about this some
more. The context of the proposal was to help relief organizations
but the concepts are more general. You can find it at
> Thanks for your help.
Allan Doyle +1.781.433.2695
adoyle at intl-interfaces.com
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