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Why Data Matters, Another Interesting Signal: Direction Requests

By - May 09, 2011

GMaps Directions.png

Greg Linden, a friend to the site back when I was writing the first book, is writing more lately, and he’s got a great post about Google Maps data that highlights why we’ve decided to focus on “The Data Frame” for the Web 2 Summit this year.

Greg notes that Google has a new signal to which it can pay attention, thanks to Google Maps. And while I’m sure Greg could have figured this out on his own, he didn’t have to, because some Googlers have already published their findings in a paper titled “Hyper-Local, Direction-Based Ranking of Places.”

In short, the paper posits that when people signal their intent to go from place A to place B, they are creating the equivalent of a link, or a vote, for the place to which they are requesting directions. Pretty clever. As Greg notes:

…certain very large search engines have massive logs of people asking for directions from A to B, hundreds of millions of people and billions of A to B queries. And, it appears this data may be as or more useful than user reviews of businesses and maybe GPS trails for local search ranking, recommending nearby places, and perhaps local and personalized deals and advertising.

What Greg (and I) found surprising is that Google hasn’t been leveraging this new data signal in its current Maps (and other local) products. It’s clearly a strong signal, and one that could inform all sorts of social context as well. Can you imagine finding out others who have asked for similar directions, and then connecting you to them in some way? I sure can.

I’d also love to see a heat map of directions in real time, overlaid in time, space, and social graph.

Data like this mashed up with reviews, real time traffic, and more will be extraordinarily useful. Food for thought.


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5 thoughts on “Why Data Matters, Another Interesting Signal: Direction Requests

  1. Susan says:

    Thanks for sharing. This is a very interesting point of view on location data.

    I guess mapping out driving directions never seemed like making a “vote” for that “place”, but I can certainly see that now and also just how useful that data certainly could be.

    BTW, the word “interesting” in the blog title is missing an “e” character (typo).

    Cheers,

    @SusanBeebe
    @Dell

  2. John says:

    Thanks Susan. Fixed the typo. hate that when I do that (rush a typo into a title of a post) it screws up TweetMeme counts totally. Probably Google too.

  3. Increasingly we are going (want?) to view digital reality as real reality.

    It is really interesting recent pop culture (movies) has so many references (e.g. Adjustment Bureau, Limitless, Source Code) to augmented reality.

    Are we being prepared for what is to come?

    Interestingly, in ‘Popular Science Nov 93′ issue (try Google Book search), there is a ‘Special Electronics Section’ on ‘The Digital World’.

    The articles are interesting today for the 1993 perspective, have a look at the one titled ‘The Sense of Reality’ on page 96.

    I think we have to be very careful with recontructing the real world. Like the article said, “Ever get the feeling we are not in Kansas anymore?”

  4. Megan says:

    If they over look this someone else might take advantage. The Google Maps has a wide array of API’s that permits feeding their data into your apps or overlaying your own data over theirs. May be an opportunity for AOL’s Patch…?

    I imagine the Android team is all over this, though, with location-aware apps. Seems like it would be ideal for mobile web functionality more than desktop.

  5. Sidra Asim says:

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