walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

of maps and search engines

I remember years, ok, decades ago, puzzling over a street in a Thomas Bros. guide (these were spiral bound, highly detailed and accurate maps that I believe were eventually bought out by Rand McNally or something like that -- into the 1990s at least they were the definitive map source for the Northwest corner of the US). I did this a lot, for a variety of reasons when I was younger. I was a JW and we went door to door. I did office temp work, so I'd often plan my route the night before to an unfamiliar place to make sure I allowed enough time to get there. Occasionally I'd need to find an unfamiliar address to go to a social event.

Also, in the same spirit that led me to the dictionary or the encyclopedia to "surf" when I was bored, I would sometimes surf the Thomas Bros. guide.

In any event, I was puzzled because I was looking at an area which I knew really well and I knew perfectly well there was no street there, certainly not one with that name. I eventually went and asked my dad (this really was a long time ago), who explained to me that map makers put fake streets and other features into maps to identify people who are copying the maps illegally. Ah. That's quite clever.


Am I surprised that Microsoft might be using data from google to improve its search results? No. Microsoft has been accused of IP theft on many, many occasions in the past and sometimes, someone had enough lawyers to get a judgment.

Yes, I am referring to the stacker case.


Obviously, Microsoft isn't the only person -- corporate or otherwise -- that has engaged in this kind of thing. (Yes, I am thinking of a former supervisor, who while on staff at UW stole code from a buddy of mine, also on staff.)

I'm especially not surprised to learn that Bing needs some help to get the results it gets. Google gets the results it gets partly because it has algorithms that are Teh Awesome, but partly because it has scale advantages that are probably not possible to replicate. After I retired, but before I moved east the first time, an acquaintance of mine joined the search team at Microsoft. When I found out, I (rudely) sort of (ok, totally) laughed at him, because going to work at Microsoft to do search was not a, let's see if I can say this somewhat less rudely, prestige position. Obviously, he took offense and rattled off all the reasons why they were going to smoke google's butt. Since he's now working at my former employer (bizarrely, according to wikipedia anyway, heading up a team to continue development on something that I wrote the initial version of back in 1998), I can only conclude that things did not go quite the way he had hoped.

I am happy, incidentally, to see the authority code getting attention. What I put in place was very, very skeletal.

I am particularly charmed by google's choice of fake "street name": Hiybbprqag.

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