Somewhat grandiose, yet at the same time lightweight, Alexis Madrigal’s How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything still has a nugget or two of insight:
I came away convinced that the geographic data Google has assembled is not likely to be matched by any other company. The secret to this success isn’t, as you might expect, Google’s facility with data, but rather its willingness to commit humans to combining and cleaning data about the physical world. Google’s map offerings build in the human intelligence on the front end, and that’s what allows its computers to tell you the best route from San Francisco to Boston.
A couple of things I took away. Maps and other assorted geospatial artifacts are a really important way of organizing the world’s information. People are still important to making excellent maps. There is a logical, non-visual underpinning to how maps work.