Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rules for Google Reporting

Google Maps has discovered Australia: and the press gave a vivid illustration of the rules Australian media follow when reporting on Google.

First and foremost, the Prime Directive is "go soft". Google is surrounded by a skepticism-removal field, Australian media can't get rid of that bit of cultural cringe which says "Australia needs to be noticed", and put together, the end result is a welter of "Google noticed Australia!" stories which ignore the quality of the maps themselves.

Google's Australian maps are really awful.

It hasn't bothered with searchability beyond the grossest features. So I can search for Sydney but not Penrith or Parramatta or Chatswood or Brisbane.

The maps are occasionally years out of date, so that a major freeway near my home is shown following its intended route instead of its real route.

Strangely, the accuracy of the maps is different in adjoining sections, so while Lilyfield Road carries a years-out-of-date one-way diversion, Olympic Park is accurate and the Metro Light Rail is shown.

The corresponding satellite images don't correspond all that well with the maps, because they show a different point in time. Hence Darling Park is in the satellite photo, but with the map superimposed it clearly can't exist because the Western Distributor runs right through it.

And the interface is flaky, so that "hybrid" only works properly if you start with the map. Start with the satellite photo, and hybrid doesn't always draw the map overlay.

And so on. The whole thing is an appalling mish-mash that looks like it was knocked together for no particular reason other than to generate some positive downunder publicity.

What's embarrassing is not that Google has slapped lipstick on a pig and called it product, but that the Australian press acted just as Google knew it would act: like a toadying retainer to a medieval lord, thanking Google for showering grace upon this insignificant backwater.

The whole thing is out of the half-bakery. But Google's media objective of "attract no evil publicity" has remained intact, courtesy of fans-with-typewriters.

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