Home » Work » Not so Stellar lessons in Cartography

Not so Stellar lessons in Cartography

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 46 other followers

About 4 years ago, with Apple iOS 6, Apple found itself becoming the butt of a plethora of jokes and bad press as their mapping  and navigational products were plagued with issues.

Whether it was parts of Clapham, London which appeared to be censored.


Or it was navigation suggesting to ‘drive straight across a runway‘ to get to the airport in Alaska. More on that news release is can be found here.

Apple at first blamed Google, it’s former partner, for the problems it introduced with it’s mapping, and parted ways with Google.

This problem persisted, if not – getting much worse – with the release of iOS 7 and 8.

Now to Apple’s credit, they’ve implemented a ‘Report a Problem’ directly within iOS8. Google and Bing have both followed suit and started doing the same thing.

Now the problem wasn’t exclusive to just Apple..

Bing exhibited similar problems, as exemplified in the following map, where street overlays appear to ‘cut right through’ swathes of town in China where there’s no clear streets.


Now when I was in Granada, Nicaragua in July of 2014, I was looking for work, and printed out a map to a local vocational/technical school which I had obtained from Google.

Since I was walking everywhere, I was precise with planning my route out before I left. I kept he map in my pocket ‘just in case’ for safekeeping, but it was an easy route to remember:

I STILL remember what I memorized, because what happened next blew me away: Walk down Immaculada past the park to the lake front of Lake Managua, make a left and the school will be the two blocks down to the left.

Now after about half an hour of wandering around, I was finding myself utterly confused.

Such easy directions. Yet there was nothing but houses, no school to be found.

Finally. I pulled a woman move. I asked for directions.

“It’s two blocks that way”, they said in Spanish – pointing back in the direction I came from, “And make a right”

An hour after my set appointment, I showed up, apologetic. I even showed them the map I had in my pocket, the school was clearly on the waterfront.

“It’s a bad map,” I remember the administrator telling me.

What the hell does that mean? A bad map?

Just this morning I brought up Google again a copy of the the same map.

Now the same school, which formerly had an ‘L’ shaped appearance is only one rectangular building, and it’s now located about 1/2k from the beach. I outlined the ‘shift’ in digital position the facility supposedly went through.


Now this hadn’t been the first time that digitally based maps have been funky.

About four years ago, I was craving In and Out in San Diego, where my Lexus RX450h GPS led me on a wild goose chase to a mountain side where nothing had conceivably ever been there. IT wasn’t just human error, verifying the rather unique street name,which appeared only once, there just was no other location it could have been in.

Not long after that, I had gone to Beijing to Microsoft’s Research and Development center., where only one facility was listed. When I returned, three days later, I learned there was now two facilities.

When I was driving in California on a road trip three years ago, a mountainous area near Big Bear had me seein my GPS maps freaking out – as they changed the terrain and ROADS THEMSELVES to my destination (the freeway, I was lost) quite literally three times as I was at a physical standstill.

The outside world I was observing, fortunately, remained mostly consistent.

At one time I did a UTURN to try to return to where I’d come from all to find a dead end.

Now the mapping problems persist, to this day, for nearly everyone who supplies maps.

Whether it’s weird terrain which makes it appear like the streets of Las Vegas are melting.0x600[1]

Or more simple problems such as the location of “Manly” .


Or it’s one of my favorites: Apple turned Helskinki’s train station into a park:


Another funny one, where a small lake is missing:


Or it’s simply weird terrain features that really have no place on the map!


Or it’s simply bad color overlays:


And whether it’s Google, Bing, Apple – or GPS device manufacturers such as Magellan – they ALL have had problems with consistency with their maps and navigation.

So how do you ‘fix’ the problem:

You don’t.

Maps – and pretty much anything provided on the internet – is a glimpse of this point of space and time of what’s happening across all of space and time.

It’s like ONE window into what’s happening.

And there are other windows too.

The observable world around us is far more static and predictable.

To really address the issue,you hire geographers and cartographers, and insist they do their work by hand.

Why? Control. With ‘so many’ hands in the proverbial pie for online mapping, whether it’s faulty equipment, programming, or misunderstandings of science and space which create the problems we’re seeing, the mapping issues we’re encountering absolutely require less dynamicism to them.

I once mocked Singapore by not leveraging Google.

But I have some egg on my face.Thank you,. Singapore, for this lesson.

You see, Singapore’s government has an agency called the Singapore Land Authority’ which hires cartographers and geographers and maintains it’s own official maps. If you WISH to use maps on ANY devices within Singapore or on based business web sites, then you’re required to leverage state maps, which are to be scanned in from the original analog sources.

Singapore, EARLY on recognized geographical feature changes like what I had personally witnessed in Nicaragua to their own terrain and borders.

America, more geared towards profit, has these agencies, but largely they aren’t being leveraged nor respected by businesses.

This, and manipulation of maps and problems invented within them – is causing grievous harm to businesses, their market share, and their reputations.

So for Singapore, rather than -play the blame game which is like falling down a rabbit hole.

They did the next best thing.

They took control.

With EVERYONE having mapping issues, what’s the purpose in debating the origin of the problem, when in actuality, it may not be a problem, and what we may be encountering is a simply bizarre feature’ of the way this world – and reality itself – functions?

This was Singapore’s MATURE rationalization.

Now it’s my theory that we’re seeing direct evidence of the multiverse, and that this analog reality is nothing more than the collision of infinite digital alternate realities.

There’s infinite other potential explanations, and based on your own perception of the world, whether it’s linear or not, the fact of the matter is – there’s a real life problem which requires modern day mapmaking to consider taking a new – and potentially more healthy approach, and respect this ‘feature’ of reality as a feature without trying to tear it down.

This is a GREAT opportunity for a government or non profit based function.

Why not turn it into one, and create some jobs for some underutilized career areas which deserve stimulated in the process?

And IF I am right about the multiverse. (which I know I am)

These Cartographers and Geographers may find themselves to be in the most sought after and lucrative profession around the world by corporations exploring Blue Ocean opportunities in new market segments – across different realities.

It’s a win/win., in my opinion, to make it a government function.

Singapore, thank you for that idea. With great respect, my friends.

I love the idea of seeing new maps anyways.

It can be such a fantastic expression of creativity!

Oh. And keeping copies OFF the computer are kinda key!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.