The two of them were to travel up from London the following Friday and wanted “Mister” Roy Bayfield and I to show them the way to Argleton. How could I refuse? I rejigged some plans and worked out I could just make it back from Liverpool to the Stanley Arms in time to meet them.
The interview went fine – we led the way down the road to the field labelled “Argleton”, discussed how it was found and a couple of hypotheses with the landowner and Steve Punt then headed back to the Stanley to consume a pint of the specially brewed Argleton Ale.
The beer tasted a little like it hadn’t been allowed to settle and I’ve not seen it since so maybe it didn’t really exist.
The episode finally aired last Saturday and although I’m currently on holiday in Crete, I managed to listen again to the show.
It’s the first time I’ve heard the show and was pretty impressed. The show told the full story of Argleton from visiting the location to following up leads at the British Library, with cartography experts and even managed to secure an interview with Google and TeleAtlas.
It’s worth listening in, if only to hear my 15 seconds of fame but there’s a couple of interesting points. Firstly was the guy when asked “so computers can’t tell the difference between virtual and reality” responded “correct – do we?” and secondly the new information offered by Google and TeleAtlas. Namely that they can’t track down how Argleton (or Mawdesky or the other errors in West Lancashire) were added.
The cynic in me might suspect that their data source was slightly dubious but I’ve no proof.
Anyway, back to my bottle of Mythos and the barbecue!
Obviously this isn’t the case so why are Google showing them on the map? The addresses of the shops match Dorothy Perkins and Burtons – both other brands in Arcadia Group, owners of Topshop – but that doesn’t explain why they’re there. As with Argleton, it may well be another case of Google mining data from whatever sources they can get their hands on and forget the accuracy. I’ve reported the problem to Google, let’s see if they fix it.
Everyone loves web stats, okay maybe it’s just me! Six months on and Internet Explorer has dropped to 76.9%, Firefox down a little to 13.5%, Opera has held steady while Webkit-based browsers, Safari and Chrome, have jumped to 5.6% and 3.6% respectively. Breaking down IE shows IE6 use continues to fall (down to under 11%) while IE8 usage has trebled. There’s hope for a standards-based-browser future yet!
It’s a nice article with exclusive interviews from Joe Moran from LJMU and, of course, Roy Bayfield. They’ve also managed to get answers from Google and their data provider Tele Atlas. Google’s spokesman said:
“While the vast majority of this information is correct there are occasional errors. We’re constantly working to improve the quality and accuracy of the information available in Google Maps and appreciate our users’ feedback in helping us do so. People can report an issue to the data provider directly and this will be updated at a later date.”
“Mistakes like this are not common, and I really can’t explain why these anomalies get into our database.”
Let’s try a bit harder, shall we… is it because there is no process for checking data before it’s added? Is it because you’ve chosen not to buy additional sources of data to verify against? Is it because your error reporting procedure is so poor that 13 months later it’s still in the database? No?
For Google, errors like these are annoying. They recently announced Google Maps Navigation for Android 2.0 offering turn-by-turn directions similar to Tom Tom and other devices but for free. Accuracy of maps and the ability to keep them up to date will be one of the big selling points.
But time may be nearly up for Argleton “A spokesman [for Tele Atlas] said it would now wipe the non-existent town from the map.”
I grew up in Aughton – that’s the bit stuck on the bottom of Ormskirk. I lived there for most of my life but Google wants to wipe it off the face of the planet!
Okay, it probably doesn’t – their motto is “Do No Evil” after all – but the power of Google has renamed Aughton to Argleton.
I’m not sure which gazetteer they use but either other people use it too, or other sites are using the Google geocoder as the basis of their site because you can do all sorts of things in Argleton! From jobs, to hotels – even my old primary school! As more and more “Web 2.0″ services make use APIs, we’re placing our trust into a small number of services to provide good data with no clear way of challenging the accuracy of it.