Geo-Volunteerism

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The New York Times is the latest publication to profile the various crowdsourcing efforts to collect geographic data:

From Petaluma to Peshawar, these amateurs are arming themselves with GPS devices and easy-to-use software to create digital maps where none were available before, or fixing mistakes and adding information to existing ones.

Like contributors to Wikipedia before them, they are democratizing a field that used to be the exclusive domain of professionals and specialists. And the information they gather is becoming increasingly valuable commercially.

The article notes that Google is increasingly relying more on this free source of community driven data creation than on traditional commercial providers such as TeleAtlas and Navteq.  TeleAtlas, for one, is also moving towards incorporating user input in supplementing their data updates while at the same time stating,


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“Most of our customers expect a level of due diligence and quality that is way more than what a community is going to put together,” said Patrick McDevitt, vice president of global engineering at Tele Atlas.

The quality of community driven map data is maintained by moderators and peer-policing.  Like controversial articles on Wikipedia, some geographical areas can become political battlegrounds which can lead a need for more vigilant moderating.

Read more: Online Maps: Everyman Offers New Directions – NY Times

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