Mapping events is not an easy task. Venue names can be misspelled, location descriptions can be vague. Event mapping services have their work cut out for them, something I have personally experienced. For several years now I have been running a gig guide at newcastlemusic.com. So far the service has published over 60,000 events, all of which have an associated map. I went to great lengths to make sure each of the events was correctly located when mapped. If you’re interested, an archive of all the events I listed in the gig guide can be viewed at newcastlemusic.com/gigarchive.php.
Occasionally, I use twitter to broadcast information about local events through the @newcastlemusic account. For example, one of my recent tweets was about the Newcastle Improvised Music Association (NIMA). The association is organising weekly jazz nights at the Grand Hotel in Bolton St, Newcastle. That’s Newcastle, NSW, Australia, not just any Newcastle.
Within a few hours that information had been retweeted by @NewcastlePlaces. All well and good you may well say … except that they had linked to a map for the event that placed it somewhere in the UK. The Schmap indicated that the jazz nights would be taking at The Grand Hotel in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
I replied to their tweet and, to their credit, they removed the tweet and the map immediately, however the incident made me curious. How did this happen? Had it happened to anyone else? So I took a look at their account to see what their other tweets were like.
The @NewcastlePlaces account had tweeted nearly 800 times. The bulk of the tweets were regurgitating someones elses information about an upcoming event, then adding a handy map for the event on the Schmap.it service. Their twitter icon featured an image of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK, so I assume the operators of the account are based there. The majority of their followers seem to be from the North East of England.
Schmap’s about page describes the service as ” … a location technology service provider and local publisher, with cutting-edge expertise at the intersection of local, social, commercial and the real-time web”.
If they’d made a mapping mistake with my tweet, perhaps they’d made others too.
So, using a little local knowledge, I decided to read through their most recent 400 tweets to see if I could find some more #schmapfail. To my astonishment I identified 60 tweets that contained a Schmap showing an incorrect location.
Here is an example of one of their more recent mapping failures:
This tweet was posted by 1233 ABC Newcastle, a radio station located in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. For some inexplicible reason, @NewcastlePlaces had mapped the protest as taking place at the King Edward VI School in Morpeth, UK, over 15,000 km away from it’s actual location.
Another recent mapping failure involved a retweet of @mediahunter‘s callout for interns for autumn 2011 at Sticky. @Mediahunter is a prominent Twitter user from Newcastle, NSW, Australia. His twitter profile clearly states that he is indeed based in Newcastle, Australia.
The Schmap incorrectly indicates that Sticky Ads is located at 152 Hawthorn Road, Ashington, a small suburb located about 20km North of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK. This is in fact the location of Sticky Fingers, a takeaway food shop.
Here’s yet another example that should have raised some eyebrows. The tweet specifically mentions that the poster is at “Australia’s most famous beach”. Yet somehow the Schmap ends up pointing to a small frozen food supplier in Gateshead, UK.
One final example, this time involving the location of a dead body.
So the #schmapfail suggests that there was a body at 232 Shields Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne. This is in fact the location of the offices of Singleton Winn Saunders Solicitors. I’m sure they appreciate the insinuation that they are connected with a murder case.
So we can see a pattern emerging here. I imagine the process that @NewcastlePlaces follows goes like this:
- Search through the tweets of anyone who’s twitter location contains the word “Newcastle”
- Determine if they are tweeting about an event
- Search for a business in the Newcastle Upon Tyne area that matches the event location
- Retweet and include a Schmap that points to the UK business
It’s not hard to see why this process fails so often. Someone from Newcastle Australia is hardly going to be tweeting about an event in the North East of the UK.
In addition to the 60 incorrectly mapped tweets I identified there were also five apologies. Presumably these were responding to people who had complained about their events being incorrectly mapped.
All five apologies are listed below:
Sixty-five Schmaps out of four hundred means a SchmapFail rate of 16%.
Is this a twitter account you want to be relying on for your local event information?