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Google Maps a cautionary tale… December 2, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


As you know this time last week I was in Melbourne presenting at the annual VITTA conference.  My presentation was very well received and hopefully some new contacts and leads will develop as a result.  More on that later, however, with all the fanfare over Google Streets going live for New Zealand today, I thought that I would share my own Google Maps story from last Monday.

I caught the first flight out of Auckland last Monday and flew to Melbourne.  On my flight I met a very interesting person, who, amongst other things, works with a team that bends proteins for a living. They  calculate all of the movements of the various elements of the protein, drug or cell they are studying in a supercomputer and then model the animation in 3-D, very cool stuff.  He showed me a load of his animations on his computer, I have subsequently encouraged him to upload those movies to DNAtube, the youtube for scientists.  Interestingly, all of his work is done on open source software, his OS of choice was Ubuntu.

That was an aside.  I picked up my rental car and navigated the Tullamarine Freeway on my way to Templestowe and Serpell School where I was to spend the day.  Now, I had never been to Australia before so I did all my research via Google Maps.  I got my directions from Google Maps from the airport to  Serpell and followed them.  If you type Serpell School into Google Maps you get the following address:

Templestowe, VIC 3106

Get Directions
(03) 9842 8182

Note the distinct lack of a street address.  This is a classic example of an address being given or shared by those that know where a place is!  I.E. useful to those in school and the Post Office but not to those who are not in school or do not collect area codes as a hobby…  I now refer you to my map.  The red dot is the ‘official’  tagged location for Serpell School.

I got off the Tullamarine Freeway and was happily following my Google Maps directions along Porter Street, when it turned into Newmans Road, see blue arrow.  I have a good sense of direction and this road was evidently becoming more and more rural, not school type territory especially for a suburban school the size of Serpell!  Just as I realised that I was not in the right place (by the blue arrow) a police officer came into view, before I could speak he asked me to blow into his breathalyser machine!  11:00AM Monday morning on an increasingly rural road, he was having a laugh!  Quota filling was my guess.  Anyway, who better to ask directions from than a trusty man in blue?  Well this guy did not know his patch.  When I interrogated him about the location of Serpell School he drew a complete blank, even after consulting his road map.  I guess that he was new to the area like me, hence the rural duty and the large bucket of replaceable blow tubes his station sergeant had supplied him with that morning!  After executing an excellent u-turn, I set off to find Albert Street where Google Maps said that Serpell School was located.  It transpires that Albert Street is not the hidden entrance to Serpell School, but a rather upmarket cul-de-sac full of very large and established dwellings.

Fortunately for me the car rental company had supplied a comprehensive street map of Melbourne and I soon located the proper street address for Serpell School, if you are interested, the street address for Serpell School is Tuckers Road, just of King Street.  So the cautionary tale is this.  If you are responsible for placing markers in Google Maps to advertise or indeed even locate something, make sure that you have zoomed into the correct scale and place the marker in the correct position.  It is my guess that some adminsitrator from the Victorian Education Department placed this marker, but not with any great care.  In addition, if you are going somewhere new, like I was, don’t necessarily rely on the accuracy of the markers placed in Google maps, the red marker, by my estimation is about 1km from its intended target!



1. Helen Hardie - December 3, 2008

David….I have to say that being breathalysed at 11am on a Monday morning beats my multi-tool at London Gatwick security!!!

2. davidit - December 3, 2008

Helen, I still think that trying to get a multi tooled utility gadget through the jumpy security guys at Gatwick trumps me!

3. Integrated Connections « Turning the Supertanker - February 13, 2009

[…] school is not where it says it is on Google Maps, check out my post related to my November visit to Serpell.  Serpell School is however on the eastern fringes of Melbourne, nearly where Google Maps says […]

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