Mrs. Q and I tried to drive from Philadelphia to Metropark the other day, with a printout from Google Maps to guide us. At a critical point we were directed to make a slight left onto Kaighn Avenue. What we were in fact supposed to do was to take the left-hand side of a highway split, which was labeled “NJ-38 / NJ-70.” It turns out that NJ-38 is Kaighn Avenue — but, not knowing this, we ended up toodling around lower Camden for a while before unfolding the state map and figuring out how to get back on course.

You could take various lessons from this — that we should have had the map of New Jersey open in the first place, that we should have a GPS for navigating unfamiliar territory — but my first thought was: why isn’t there a Wiki overlay for Google Maps? There ought to be a website in which I can load up the relevant directions, then annotate “4. Slight left on Kaighn avenue” with the comment “No signage for Kaighn avenue: take the left-hand side of the split, following signs to NJ-38 and NJ-70.” Then anyone else whose Google Maps directions query involved the same maneuver would be given the option to see my annotation, and hopefully the total amount of Camden-toodling in the world would be diminished.

The annotations wouldn’t be limited to clarifying the signage; they could also include things like “brutally short merge lane entering from the right” or “speed trap” or “the diner at the corner of this left turn makes really good corned beef hash.” Wouldn’t something like this — if it were popular enough — make Google Maps a lot more useful? Or are we the only ones who have this problem?

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5 thoughts on “Wikidirections

  1. Isabel Lugo says:


    For example, in my neck of the woods (West Philly), there are trolleys. Trolleys have tracks. If you’re driving, it’s annoying to drive on streets that have trolley tracks, because your wheels can get aligned with them and you slip. Also, it’s annoying to get stuck behind the trolley while it makes stops, because a lot of the streets they run on are one lane in each direction and so you can’t just go around. So if Google Maps came with some annotation that said “don’t go this way”, that would be nice for drivers. Plus it might mean less cars going by my window.

    Another thing that would be useful is “this traffic light takes forever”. There was one red light on the drive to my high school that was often red for about four or five minutes. I know this because a whole song on the radio could go by sitting at it.

    Of course, those particular annotations would only be useful if you could then route around the problem — but Google Maps has that feature now.

  2. John Cowan says:

    Such a service would have to be policed heavily (in both the civilian and the military senses of the term) to keep out the practical jokers and spammers.

    Disclaimer: I work for Google, but not on Maps, and I know little about it.

  3. JSE says:

    But you’d think the same thing would be true of Wikipedia, and it isn’t — or rather, the policing is necessary, but it’s supplied on the same volunteer basis that the entries are. And it works fine. You’d have to think that for driving directions, where the subject is less apt to turn to climate change or Turkey vs. Armenia, that it would work even better.

  4. Dirty Davey says:

    Yeah, I had something similar last weekend in Athens GA–where they used the number rather than the street name and managed to neglect a “slight right” because the (not really posted) route number stayed the same (although the street names indicated that it was a turn).

  5. Dance says:

    Superb idea. I think I vaguely wished for that once. Perhaps John Cowan will forward it to someone on that team? It sounds a very googlish thing to do, I think they do let you annotate the map with static addresses/places (so that I once accidentally added something before understanding the feature).

    [occasional reader as of maybe two months ago]

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