Project University of Johannesburg – Post 1

A few months back Google added Map Maker support in South Africa. I recall it being a Saturday morning that I saw the news. I was so excited that I added walkways in my neighbourhood on to Google Maps.
My changes were approved in a few hours, but I was disappointed when I didn’t see the routes neither on the PC nor on my Google Maps for Android app.

About a week ago I was looking at University of Johannesburg, the Kingsway campus, on Google Maps. I noticed that the parking lot that I had drawn appeared on Google Maps. So I went and checked my hood, to find the walkways also appearing. Yay!

So now I’ve decided to start a small project for when I’m frustrated with studying. I’m gonna take a few minutes once in a while to plot additions on the Kingsway campus of UJ. I won’t be active till I’m done with exams in November, but I’m going to be active in December and next year.

I don’t know how long the whole project will take, but hopefully I can get my old university up to the likes of the universities in the US, in terms of available detail anyways.

If you read this post and are interested in helping out, please mail me at neville@nevi.me 🙂

What I had done to date

The Kingsway Campus didn’t have any detail except for ‘JUTA Bookstore’ and ‘Studietrust’ when I plotted my data. I added a few roads and the D-lab parking lot.

What I will be working on

I’m going to do it this way, in the presented order:

  • Roads around campus
  • Parking lots
  • Walkways (to enable walking directions 🙂 )
  • The various lecture halls and labs (if possible)
  • The sport grounds (including the ones around Melville)
  • Student Center and residences (including Sophia Town 🙂 )

I haven’t explored Google Map Maker that much, so I don’t know how much more detail can be added. My target for completion is end of February 2013. I’m gonna try get help from varsity students for other campuses when I complete Kingsway. There’s no incentive for me, but I think it’ll be useful for prospective students wanting to come to UJ in future.

Apple iOS6 Maps

I don’t own an Apple product, but before someone tells me that I should go get an iPhone before sharing my opinion: I’ve had a friend’s iPhone for about a week. We upgraded the phone to iOS6 last evening.

I don’t really care much about any features, nor am I going to yap on about how Android is better. The only thing as a hobbyist cartographer and someone developing with mapping APIs; I wanted to see what the fuss about Apple Maps was.

I’m also not gonna share a million pictures (check this Tumblr blog fora collection of pics), but shame I’m disappointed. The 2 saddest things about Apple’s fail are these:

1. Apple don’t seem like they tested the Maps app, nor the data they were getting from Yelp  TomTom et. al. It really feels like the whole app was rushed through overnight.

2. I find it sad that Apple fans are defending them, with things like
– “I don’t use maps anyways”
– “Who uses Street View?”
– “It’s only version .1, it’ll only get better”

Let ‘s be real. Apple spent a lot in buying companies to ditch Google. Yes Google ‘did not want to’ license real-time navigation to Apple. This is because Google itself has some restrictions from the reputable third-parties that provide it with data. Hence real-time navigation is prohibited in their Google Maps API.
To me it really feels like Apple threw some of that money in the drain as it’s hard to change everything overnight.

Let’s also be clear about the supposedly ‘crap’ Google Maps app in iOS5.1.1 and below. Google licensed its data to Apple, and Apple used it to develop the Youtube App and Google Maps. It is not really Google’s fault that Youtube and Maps were as terrible as people say. The Google+ app for iOS came out, and is very good, showing that Google know their stuff.

So let’s see Apple Maps’ fails

Most of the data in the maps is from Yelp.com. So Apple technically has no control in moving places to the right spot on the map (unless they pay people to sift through a million or so incorrect places).
In looking at traffic data this morning, I failed to see the value that Waze has really added. There was way less traffic info than that which Waze has. Granted, it might still be early days, so I’ll rethink my opinion after a while.

The main problem, from what I see, is that as a company selling something so expensive and influential shouldn’t just rely on crowd-sourced data without extensive validation. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the data is expected to be inaccurate more than often.

When I check in on FourSquare, I want a venue to say that I’ve been to. Unless I’m the owner of that venue, I won’t care much if its coordinates are accurate, as long as I can bloody check in. The same thing goes for Yelp. I presume they’re in the business of providing reviews about places, not of making sure that every single listing on the planet is accurate to say 5 meters.

This plethora of semi-accurate data can’t be fixed overnight as Yelp and friends would likely rely on users to correct it. Further, unless Apple pulls data in real-time (unlikely) the data might take some time to be updated. Apple is at the top of the Fortune 400 list, and users should not be as sympathetic as they are. If I want to have fun fixing/adding mapping data I’d rather go do it at OpenStreetMaps or even draw my home suburb in Waze.I don’t know why Apple didn’t just stick with OSM as their data is way better, and Apple would have scored positive PR by helping a superb initiative.

Google has spent a lot of time and money getting maps to where they are. Their data mining efforts have also given them a strong advantage. It was tough to go global, and one must note that Google still relies on a lot of established mapping and other data providers (AfriGIS and (I can’t remember the other company 🙁 ) in South Africa) for things like name changes.

You can’t rely on a reviews site for accurate location data. The Yelp effort was an attempt to satisfy global customers’ instant gratification needs, but is thus far a fail for both Apple and Yelp as both are losing credibility. Google for example, bought Zagat for review purposes, not for location discovery purposes. My opinion is again that none of the Apple execs gave thought to their decisions.

In a war where data is such a commodity, one has to make knowledgeable decisions that illustrate that they can distinguish between which data is useful where, and which is not.
There are companies like WayTag which are ambitious start-ups with cool technologies, and more accurate data. Apple should have approached the like instead of going for *global providers* who lack a lot.

Google does not have public transit in SA, but for countries where they do, Apple has again left a huge gap. The Apple fans (mainly the shameless Americano tach-sites) have praised the lack of an essential as empowering local app developers. Apple doesn’t care about them, look at panorama and their dictatorship in which apps make the store!

The likes of MG from TechCrunch are of the opinion that more people will start using the advertised public transit apps. The problem with this theory is that while some apps are good, transit companies would rather invest in improving infrastructure instead of making fancy apps.That’s why there is the Google Transit Feed System spec, which reduces the load on transit companies by allowing them to only spend money creating methods of pushing their transit data into these feeds, with Google and anyone else pulling the data and providing transit.

I did not intend on writing a thesis, but I just wanted to put my opinion out there on iOS6 maps, and to highlight why I think they’ll remain terrible for the next months or even years.

 

Great I Am

This past week at Church we had Rich Wilkinson Jr, he was preaching about John 20 when Mary Magdeline was at Jesus’ tomb.
Pastor Rich said that “Things aren’t always how they look”, that although Mary mistook Jesus for a gardener; Jesus was really being a gardener. Jesus was planting a seed of faith in Mary, watering it, and nurturing it.

His message was that God is whom we want Him to be. He is our healer when we need healing, our friend when we are alone, our saviour at the point of salvation. He is The Great I Am.

The worship team sang the song “Great I Am” – New Life Church. It was the first time hearing it, and it’s just wonderful. Here’s a video from YouTube of the song.

TechCrunch Android App Fail

I love TechCrunch, they are a highly reputable source of info, especially on start-ups. WIth them having covered a multitude of start-ups, their app successes and failure; one would have expected a good Android app from them.

Last night TechCrunch released an Android app for tablets. I went on to the Play Store expecting to not be able to download the app, but there was no such restriction.The first thing I noticed was the 8 ‘5 stars’ and the 8 ‘1 stars’. It was an immediate sign that something had gone wrong.

They just built a tablet app and didn’t restrict downloading by phones on the Play Store … Which is what most people are saying, including my comment.

My comment on the app

 

No usability guidelines were considered it seems, as:

  • things I would expect to slide or press aren’t working
  • their ‘Trending’ post thing on the side just takes way too much space
  • and and and …

I won’t continue the little list above cos the app looks fine on tablets, which is the target audience anyways.

The most disappointing thing about the app though, is that looking at the itunes listing of the app, and comparing to Play Store screenshots, the Android app is *just* a port from iPad. The biggest fail is really that when I long-press on an article, a sort of ill-designed toast appears, with 4 options as below on the screenshot. The problem is that Android has intents, and thus native ‘systemwide’ sharing. On the phone that I was testing the app with, I only have EverNote installed, no Pocket, and I’ve never used InstaPaper. It was really disappointing that instead of opening EverNote for example, I was sent to a WebView page that lets me connect to EverNote. If I have an app installed, I don’t wanna waste more bandwidth sending content to the app’s server, only to get it back again.
This clearly means that there was no consideration for being able to do things offline (except to save an article for offline reading).

I wouldn’t have written this article if the app was developed by an independent developer who didn’t have access to TechCrunch’s data (thee actually is an app out there ‘TechCrunch Reader’ that is better than this one) [looks like it’s been removed from the Play Store]. The sad thing is that this app was developed by AOL Inc.

I’ve added more screenshots on the gallery of this post.