A few months ago I got a very curious phone call from Lawrence Grizzel, a producer for Punt PI on Radio 4. He was interested in doing an episode of the Steve Punt show about Argleton, the town that doesn’t exist that’s been covered to death on this blog for nearly three years!
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!
It seems Argleton just won’t die! Late to the game behind the Ormskirk Advertiser, Mister Roy’s visit and my post about the village some 13 months ago, the Daily Telegraph yesterday revealed the mystery of Argleton, the ‘Google’ town that only exists online.
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.”
Ah yes, report the fault… that’d be what we’ve done on several occasions without success and may be the reason why Google have decided to take corrections into their own – or more accurately the user’s own – hands. It seems that drawing the attention of a national newspaper has caused Tele Atlas to pull their finger out:
“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.”
Update: Mister Roy appeared on Radio 5live’s The Weekend News (starts at 25 minutes).