View profile

Big Revolution - Brilliant but thirsty

Welcome to Friday’s Big Revolution. As this email hits your inbox, I’ll be en route to Dublin for my
September 28 · Issue #215 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Friday’s Big Revolution. As this email hits your inbox, I’ll be en route to Dublin for my first visit in a couple of years.

Big things you need to know today
  • Elon Musk is in big trouble. The SEC has charged him with fraud for his infamous tweets about plans to take Tesla private. The US financial regulator wants to ban him from running any public company. Tesla’s stock price took an instant hit as the news was announced.
  • Julian Assange has stepped down as Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks because running an online organisation without an internet connection isn’t very easy.
  • Google’s image search feature will now display details of copyright holders. The move will please photographers, and will remind those who steal images that they’re doing A Bad Thing.
  • Microsoft will move people on ‘classic’ Skype to the new version from November. Version 8 has been improved based on user feedback after many people dismissed it at first, and stuck with what they knew.
The big thought
Credit: NESA by Makers on Unsplash
Brilliant but thirsty
One of the least talked-about stories in the evolution of Google is how Maps went from being a simple navigation tool to an authoritative place database, guide and recommendation tool.
Just this week, Google announced a group activity-planning tool that allows people to vote on, say, which restaurant they want to visit.
In recent weeks Google Maps has started telling me about popular new restaurants near me. If I want to check when’s best to visit the post office, I can check its peak footfall times. If I want to know when my local supermarket opens on Sunday, I just tap it on the map and up pops the information. When should I leave the house for a bus? Zoom into the nearest bus stop, tap it, and up pops the timetable. Want to get a taxi instead? I can see how busy the roads are.
Google Maps is incredible. It’s killed a thousand other startups’ ideas to get where it is, but as a tool for exploring the world, it’s unbeatable. It truly is useful to have all that information in one place
Part of the genius of Maps is that the information is largely crowdsourced. While Google might collect ‘official’ information for things like bus and train times, a lot of the information is collected from users. This is done both passively (it knows how busy roads and shops are based on data from users logged in on their phones) and actively through prompts to submit information.
And that’s where the problem begins. While it can be fun to occasionally submit a couple of photos of your favourite bar, Maps quickly gets thirsty. Tell us when this shop closes! Does this railway station have a car park? Does this supermarket sell vegan food?
In bulk, this is valuable information for Google, and it wants us to submit it for free. Occasionally, this is okay, but at times it can feel like Maps is constantly pecking your head. 'Tell me more! Tell me more!’
While a hardcore of users with a passion for such things will happily submit endless reams of information about the world around us, to the rest of us it can all get a bit annoying. I’ve dismissed more Maps notifications than I care to remember.
Sure, you can turn these prompts off, but if we all did that Maps would stop getting better. And for many, other, less thirsty, products like Bing Maps and Apple Maps may be perfectly good enough for most uses. Google needs to make sure it strikes the right balance between asking users for information and draining their patience.
One big read
The Apple Watch – Tipping Point Time for Healthcare The Apple Watch – Tipping Point Time for Healthcare
Steve Blank on why the new Apple Watch heralds a big step forward for health tech.
One big tweet
This Echo is rubbish. “Alexa, descend into the floor” is the only command it understands…
Joanna Stern
Took everything in me to not yell “Alexa” into this building barricade
3:21 PM - 27 Sep 2018
That’s all for today...
See you tomorrow for a weekend edition of Big Revolution, filed from somewhere in the Irish capital.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Become a member for $5 per month
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Martin SFP Bryant
You can manage your subscription here
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here
Powered by Revue