Monday, February 18, 2013

Google In Google Out

GIGO is a term that goes back to the earliest lessons of life with computers: Garbage In, Garbage Out. It is a warning not to trust computers too much, and it is as true now as it was when Hal nearly did in the crew of the S.S. Discovery.

I am a big fan and avid user of Google Maps, but when I look at places I know, I sometimes find either a lack of detail or outright errors. In Matagalpa, Nicaragua, for instance, many of the places I visit each January are nearly impossible to find, so that I am working with a student -- and a GPS unit -- to map our most recent journey.

And as I wrote in September, a routing error puts the town of San Ignacio, Belize (where I will be teaching a course on chocolate in June 2013) many hours farther from neighboring towns (and potential tourists) than it really is. The problem seems to relate to a bridge that was washed out on the main highway but subsequently repaired. The map (as shown above in a screen capture just taken) continues to include an unneeded diversion, but it an improvement from the time of my original report.
Click to expand
I was reminded of this while preparing for a possible return to Cape Verde next year. During my 2006 study tour, I had visited only two islands, and plan to visit more on my second study tour. Looking at the northern islands, I was confused, because sites I planned to visit seemed to be on an island that was not in our preliminary plans. I worked for about a half hour in this confused state before consulting another map. Of course two of the three islands shown above do not have the same name! The middle of these three islands is actually São Vicente, and does not share its name with Santa Luzia.

View Larger Map

I have advised Google of this error, but I am not optimistic of a rapid response. When the problem is resolved, the dynamic map above will show three islands with three names. Meanwhile, the NationMaster map is far more reliable than Google, when it comes to planning a tour of Cape Verde. The islands in question are in the northwest corner of this map.

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