I had lunch last Friday with Ian White, CEO of Urban Mapping. The genesis of Urban Mapping is a fascinating story of perseverance and timing — starting from a printed map of New York.
At any rate, Urban Mapping is a technology and B2B data provider that is collecting and normalizing huge amounts of local data of varying types and stripes, so that consumers can use their normal and natural language to find local information. For example: colloquial terms about neighborhoods and locations that may not be official geographic designations.
Among the issues we discussed, White and I spoke for some time about what he called “the centroid problem.” This is a term I’d never heard but apparently refers to search results and listings being arrayed according to proximity from some hypothetical center of town. White argued that this is how an engineer might think about local but it’s not the way that users think. I agree that this approach renders “distance” a virtually meaningless filter.
White was also highly sensitive to different use cases based on familiarity with an area — a local resident vs. a tourist for example — and discussed how that impacts the presentation and depth of information. In general Urban Mapping is doing very interesting (and necessary) work and is deeply involved with the nuances of local and geographic data online.
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.