Having just finished Dave Weinberger‘s Everything is Miscellaneous a few days ago, I’ve been feeling particularly tag-happy. So, today, upon noticing that the vast majority of my pictures from Jamaica are sadly not geo-tagged on Flickr, I rolled up my sleeves and prepared to pull my share for the glorious Third Order.
Then I remembered why they were untagged. Because Kingston looks like this on Yahoo maps:
Hmmm. That’s…actually really discouraging. I want to make my information useful, but the best level of accuracy afforded to me by Yahoo is “general region within grayish blob”? (The satellite view is, by the way, Kingston obstructed by an enormous white cloud over the entire western side. Thanks.)
I was particularly taken aback, I think, because just yesterday I was adding information about Kingston to Google Maps via MapMaker, their new project that allows users like you and me to input information about countries that Google doesn’t know much about (read more here). While the tool is anything but perfect (um, why is “art gallery” not a category? Or “landmark”?), it’s a big step towards democratizing the healing process of the digital divide. Sure, Google’s engineers and whatnot probably know just as little about Kingston as do Yahoo’s, but the fact that they CARE more is palpable. Just as code is law, so passion is code.
The digital divide isn’t just a problem of access, it’s a problem of infrastructural support by the companies that govern information depositing as well. And it’s a problem of passion. To some degree this would be fixed if all of that were open-sourced, but that potentially translates the problem from access to uber-literacy, which isn’t great either.
Basically, Yahoo, step up your game. And Flickr, you guys left Yahoo already, right? DUMP THEIR GIS ALREADY.