Awkward Geo-Coding

Back in the “old” days (2004-2007) I used to do a lot of geo-data cleaning for municipalities and county governments across the northeast for the consulting firm I was working for.  I was mostly cleaning address ranges on centerline datasets, checking road directionality and working on parcel addressing.  It wasn’t glamorous work, but it served an important purpose for the clients.  If the work I was doing was wrong, the services within the municipality could suffer, and I didn’t want to be the guy who messed-up.

I used to take a lot of pride in getting addressing correct or generating datasets of important locations within local municipality. Whenever I see a bad geo-code or a misplaced placemark in an online mapping service I simultaneously cringe and chuckle.  It isn’t easy work to build these massive databases and for the most part they are  remarkably correct. However, every now and then, an error creeps through.  For example, my parents home address registers three miles from where it actually is located when using the Google Maps, however Bing, OSM, and the municipality’s local online mapping tool all place it in the correct location.

There is also the issue of bad placemarkers across the worldwide web of mapping.  I particularly enjoyed what I believe to be a bad placemarker that I found the other day. I work in downtown Boston and I’m often using Google Maps to search for directions to restaurants, bars, friends places, etc.  For some reason that escapes me, I was map-browsing around Fenway Park when I came across a strange placemarker a few dozen rows up from home plate on the third base side:

image credit - Google 2013
image credit – Google 2013


I’ve walked around Fenway many times in my life.  I was just over there a couple weeks ago and I didn’t notice this establishment (neither has Bing or OSM).  Maybe this is a new venture by the Fenway Sports Group to keep disgruntled Red Sox fans at the park during a prolonged losing streak? Perhaps this is a new type of viral marketing campaign? I don’t know if this placemark is correct or not, but I found it hilarious.  As of 1/27/2013 the map still had the unique placemark, but if it is wrong I believe it won’t be online much longer, especially if Larry Lucchino sees it.

Here is the full screen grab of the park taken on 1/27/2013 with the exciting new business on Yakwey Way:

image credit: Google 2013
image credit: Google 2013

When clicking on placemarker you get this interesting balloon:

image credit: Google 2013
image credit: Google 2013

As I have mentioned before, building and maintaining these massive address and placemarker datasets is tough work and if you have ever done it you know what I am talking about.  But this brings up a larger question.  Have you ever encountered an awkward geo-code?  Have you ever seen a placemarker that’s obviously in the wrong location, or tried searching for an address and taken somewhere you didn’t expect?  If so, post it to twitter and add the hashtag #awkwardgeocode or leave a comment. Let’s start capturing these map anomalies before they are corrected.  If you have a #awkwardgeocode feel free to share!