back to article Social networks breeding spatial junk

Next time you check in with foursquare or Facebook, please stand right outside the venue, make sure your smartphone has a very good GPS signal and describe the location accurately. That's the wish of the spatial data community, which is getting grumpy about user-generated spatial data. To understand why, consider the several …


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  1. Andrew Jones 2

    Completely agree....

    Look at this screenshot from Foursquare from a few days ago.....

    "Somewhere?" 8km away. - I don't even know what this is!

    "Scottish Borders, East Lothian" - Apart from the fact that it's an entire region and not just a park or something - East Lothian? Really??

  2. borkbork

    boo bloody hoo

    Fill all of these 'services' with junk data, I say.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      seems like their regular users are already doing that :)

  3. Antti Roppola

    There's a PhD in this

    Asides from the space junk, there are some wonderfully intersting problems in the collaborative data space. Enough for a good PhD even.

    For instance: 1) Two people map the trees in their local park. One person did it several years ago and paid great attention to accuracy and detail. Some years later a second person maps the same park, while their map takes into account all the recent changes, the collected data was rushed and is not as accurate. 2) I use my GPS to map dangerous rocks in a local bay, what can we say about the absence of dangerous rock markers elsewhere in the bay?

    A lot of this is covered in established theory (like sins of ommission, sins of commission), but collaborative data adds some nice complications and scale problems. My own view is that with enough data and understanding of biases in data sources, we can average out the real answer.

  4. Jean-Luc

    Yes, this is shameful

    Name: Joe Clever

    FB Profile: Rich art collector

    Home address (also on FB profile) : 101 Fleece Mew Street, SuckerTown, USA

    It is absolutely shameful that interested well-wishers cannot precisely determine how far away Mr. Clever is from his home address at any point in time and instead have to rely on sloppy, error-prone, inadequately entered information.

    Please correct ASAP.

  5. HeNe

    Monetizing Free Labor AND Bitching About Poor Labor Quality

    THe Foursquare execs have a f***ed-up, overbearing sense of entitlement.

    Cry me a river, baby. Cry me a river.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Monetizing Free Labor AND Bitching About Poor Labor Quality

      Yup. Totally agree. These services were set up so that people could send location data to and tag 'stuff' for, their family & friends. Any corporation who's got the whiff of a fast buck with minimal outlay, on the back of this, and decided to use crowd-sourcing to populate their databases deserves all the inaccuracy they get. If you don't like the info other people are giving you for free, STFU and do your data collection yourself.

      What next —the owners of a science and technology website, constructed almost entirely from the rabid, ill-informed comments of its readers, complaining about journalistic standards?

      1. perlcat

        Re: Monetizing Free Labor AND Bitching About Poor Labor Quality

        Give that man a seegar!

        Anybody that has the cojones to complain about lusers entering weird data gets everything they deserve.

  6. Steve the Cynic

    Newsflash: Crowdsourced data is inaccurate...

    Well, duh, I could have told you that. This information comes from the sort of person who sees any security-related message box as saying "Argle flargle, fleen your ogglefloggle?" and clicks OK.

    Then somebody expects the results to be accurate, and is surprised when not only is it not accurate, but it is in fact no better than fiction. I'm not surprised by this, not at all.

    1. Scott Broukell

      Re: Newsflash: Crowdsourced data is inaccurate...

      How very well said sir, excellent in every way - but the end result here was a keyboard/coffee incident! "Argle flargle, fleen your ogglefloggle?" hehe.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Newsflash: Crowdsourced data is inaccurate...

      ""Argle flargle, fleen your ogglefloggle?" and clicks OK."

      Ha ha spot on.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Argle flargle etc." Very good, (and so true) made me LOL.

    4. Jimbo 6

      Re: Newsflash: Crowdsourced data is inaccurate...

      My ogglefloggle needs fleening ?

      Damn that IT guy, he told me I needed a new flux capacitor.

      1. perlcat

        Re: "Argle flargle, fleen your ogglefloggle?"

        Sorry. Just fleened it the other day. It's verra nice.

  7. /dev/me

    But there's a workaround

    They check Twitter and other sources of user generated content to verify information. Probably relying on the philosophy that truth is just the average of all errors.

  8. TeeCee Gold badge

    This is why real maps cost money.

    Actual paid human beings compiling, checking and collating the data that makes 'em.

    You get what you pay for.

    Anything "crowdsourced" comes with the inherent problem that a significant amount of it was produced by utter muppets.

  9. perlcat

    re “I'm on a horse”

    At first I thought that said "I own a horse".

    1. LaeMing

      Old link, I know, slightly NSFW (the audio at least)

  10. dssf

    Crowd Churching?

    "Events present another challenge. Sydney's annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade traverses around 500 metres of one street, but Barouch says many social media users checked in at a location they simply called “Mardi Gras.” Interpreting that location and the many different coordinates all associated with the same name is a tricky task for any provider of location-based services."

    Imagine if those people stood in front of churches.... There might be "hell to pay"... Hell hath no fury like a church so adorned... or a-porned...

  11. melts

    sounds like they are bloody lazy

    Jonathan Barouch aka a freeloading twit & founder of augmented reality service Roamz....

    doesn't actually state why he needed to know where all the 'moms kitchens' are, one would assume it was some form of paid work, else it wouldn't matter. so why didn't he ask them for their list of locations? too hard to convert street addresses to gps? or did he just want to complain?

    i can add roamz to the list of crap i don't want to use in any way shape or form - like most things crowdsourced - i don't give a fuck. and any place using the name moms kitchen to link themselves to the idea of home cooking deserves all the spatial problems you get by naming yourself so badly.

    same goes for pubs naming themselves the local pub or a cafe the cafe. name yourself generically and you deserve the problems you get.

    1. JulianB

      Re: sounds like they are bloody lazy

      Not sure the name of the "Mom's kitchen" chain is relevant, or cafes called "The Cafe". Presumably there's as much bad data from users in "Tescos", "Starbucks", and any other business name. I'd have thought the biggest prolem would be places like "home", "school", "the bus".

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