Sunday, February 26, 2006

terrible mapping experiences

So I've been trying to locate a few things using online mapping tools tonight. I started by using Google Earth, which is great for visually plotting locations. I then fell into the trap of using its search function. I was initially impressed by its ability to locate the things that I was looking for.

Some background: Someone I know is going to be moving to New Haven, CT this fall, and since they aren't any good at doing anything without my help, I'm looking for stores that we can go to to get stuff. You know, move in stuff. So basically a Target, Sam's Club or Costco, Home Depot or Lowe's... that sort of thing.

So somewhere along the way I decided to see if Google Earth missed any. Basically I was disappointed/surprised to see that the closest Sam's Club was 12 miles from downtown New Haven. So I check out the Sam's Club Web site. I could find the locate store function fairly easily, but it took me about 5 minutes to figure out that it would only work in IE because it uses a strange variant popup (aka "bastard popup").

The first online mapping horror: Sam's Club's map's inability to zoom out
As someone not familiar with New Haven, it would be nice to zoom out to get some orientation of where the place is in relationship to the city. No can do here. And what's up with the black and white Mapquest map? I thought they've always had color maps.

The second online mapping horror: Google Earth sucks
You know how I mentioned that Google Earth told me that the closest Sam's Club was 12 miles away? Apparently the location that Google Earth found and plotted was nowhere close to where the real Sam's Club really was. It was off by about ***8 miles!*** The worst part? I need to recheck everything that I've found so far. And you know what that means... more fun with store sites... ugh....

The third online mapping horror: Home Depot's stores disappear
I was happy with this to start. It was easy to find, and unlike Sam's, it actually worked on my browser. Always a plus when things work. At least I thought it worked. Try zooming in (so you can actually see where the two locations are). Note that the first location is in North Haven and the second is in Orange. Also note where these points are on the map. Click on the North Haven location, then hit the back button. Say you want to re-submit the data. After all, submitting the same ZIP again should yield the same stores, right? Kind of... What's the second store now? Wallingford? What happened to Orange? It's still on the map, but Wallingford is actually about 15 miles to the north of New Haven, not to the southwest as the map indicates.

Fourth online mapping horror: Costco's crap print map, now online
Try finding this location on a real map. Seriously, give it a shot. Here's a map from Google Maps. Note that Costco insists that I-95 runs straight north and south. As far as I can tell, I-95 goes northeast and southwest, with a smidge of northwest southeast. Actually, there is not a single point in the entire state that goes north-south, and definitely not when it intersects with Boston Post Rd. Oh yeah... even better, the map says that Boston Post Road goes northwest/southeast. In reality, the entire road goes perpendicular to what the map says. Very nice... The fact that the map sucks so much makes me not want to shop there. At least Google Earth found this one right.

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