MapQuest Developer Blog

Archives for Josh Babetski

  • Interoperable Location Data

    SXSW Interactive has traditionally served not just to launch new products, but also as a collaborative brain trust where the dialogue on stage continues into Austin’s streets. Along with some esteemed industry friends, I had the pleasure of participating on a SXSW panel last month covering the topic: "Interoperable Location Data: Matching Your Places with My Places."
    Tyler Bell
    Director of Product: Factual
    Kate Chapman
    Developer Advocate: GeoIQ
    Adam DuVander
    Executive Editor: ProgrammableWeb
    Scott Raymond
    Co-founder and CTO: Gowalla

    The Issue

    There's an ever-increasing amount of applications using location data. Some are licensing data, some are using open-source data, and some are building datasets from user-generated records. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to match records between them. For instance, latitude and longitude may have been captured differently, there might be no address or only a partial address, or the common name of the business (Jo's) might be offered instead of the formal name (Jo's Coffee Downtown).

    How do we make it easy for a developer and a machine to know that we're both talking about the same specific place, especially when that place can be a park bench, taco truck, or the Starbuck's that's on this side of the street (not that side)?

    How also do we make this system open and flexible so developers aren't locked into yet another black-box solution, since the ability to own and manage the data attributes is one of the major reasons organizations build their own datasets to begin with.

    Here's a good example of how and where location data in the sponsored link of the iOS Maps app differs from the actual place record for the Michelangelo Hotel in New York.

    These types of disconnects are most apparent in mobile operating systems. Independent developers make location apps, but these apps don’t necessary provide a clean way to move a place context from the app to the operating system, then to another app.


    As another example, I’ve pulled the below foursquare check in, displayed in the Twitter app, and finally pulled up on the iOS Maps app.

    • What sent me to this place
    • The name of the place
    • Additional useful details of the location from:
      • foursquare: Whose check in did I follow? Who's the mayor? How many people are there now?
      • Twitter: The referring tweet, other tweets nearby, references to the conversation thread.
      • Additional location attributes such as the phone number or website link.

    Continuing the Conversation

    Last summer, MapQuest started socializing the concept of the location ID pivot table to a number of organizations and start-ups. The basic concept is that the table will take a location ID from one organization and return the matching location ID from the organization you want a match from.

    So in the example above, the foursquare venue ID would be passed to Twitter; Twitter could then access other information about the venue with confidence that both applications are referring to the same place. Next, Twitter would pass the foursquare venue ID, and a Twitter Place ID, to the iOS Maps app. Lastly, the iOS app could then present the user with detailed information about the location and allow for directions with assurance of accuracy.

    Got it? A picture might help.

    Basic POI information is becoming more commoditized. The value is now weighted higher in the special characteristics of a place, not its physical location in the world. There's nothing proprietary and no "secret sauce" to the information that one of MapQuest’s offices is located at 300 Granite Run Drive, Lancaster, PA. And, the same applies for your favorite pizza place, least favorite dentist or the Empire State Building.

    If providers of place data allowed their location IDs and basic location information to be used as part of place-matching efforts, it’s my opinion (as shared during the SXSW panel), that place-data providers and other services could begin more easily aligning the same places across systems. As a developer, wouldn't it be great to query a data set like MapQuest's and get the IDs to that same place represented in other datasets like Gowalla, Yelp and Facebook as well?

    So Many Questions, So Much Opportunity

    My hope is that the conversation continues from here. There are so many opportunities for growth and collaboration, and below are just a few recommendations:

    How can you help?

    Data Service Providers:

    • Consider either:
      • Providing location/venue/spot/POI IDs for other services in the API responses to your own locations
      • Include flexibility in your terms-of-use to allow developers to use, share, and store your location IDs and align them with location IDs from other services using the basic geographic attributes of the record (lat/long., address, business name, etc.).

    Developers:

    • Ask your data and API providers to:
      • Provide Interoperable Location IDs
      • Allow you to build easy ways to associate yourself
      • Allow their IDs and basic geographic attributes to be freely published
    • Ask them to allow you to build easy ways to make associations available yourself
    • Ask them to allow their IDs and basic geography attributes to be freely published.

    My fellow panelists and I agreed to make an effort to create more visibility around this important topic. Kate has summarized her thoughts over on the GeoIQ blog in a post called "SXSW and Interoperable Location Data." You can also check out our panel in its entirety on the SXSW page for the "Interoperable Location Data" panel.

  • MapQuest at SXSW Preview

    We're loading up all the gear to make our annual trip to Austin, Texas for SXSW Interactive. This year will be bigger than ever and I wanted to recap all of our plans and happenings so you can make sure you don't miss a thing. If you're busy printing out your directions and have your sights set on BBQ, this post is for you: [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="MapQuest's Street Team Bikes"]MapQuest's Street Team Bikes[/caption] Official Mapping Sponsor of SXSW Download SXSW’s official mobile app, SXSW GO, to build your schedule, see a map of what’s going on where, and more. CruiserQuest Those crazy people riding around Austin on cruiser bikes later this week - that'll be us. We're also giving a bunch of bikes away. Track down the MapQuest street team, show us your MapQuest mobile app, and you get an entry. Check out this blog post for full details: CruiserQuest: Win a Cruiser Bike at SXSW
    BBQuest MapQuest's BBQuest: Take a Road Trip to Salt Lick BarbecueOn Sunday, March 13th, join us on our 2nd Annual BBQuest Road Trip to the famous Salt Lick Barbecue. Hop on a bus loaded with tech influencers, VCs, entrepreneurs, and a bartender, then go get some tasty BBQ. Finally, rock out with our friends Shinobi Ninja, who will be playing us off as we get you back to Austin for the evening events. MapQuest Booth If you thought our booth was crazy last year, wait until you see our set-up this year. I can't tell you about all the awesomeness (air hockey) we'll have there, but make sure you stop by the Trade Show from March 14th through the 17th. We'll be near the 4th St. entrance. In the booth, we'll be demoing our mobile applications, and showing you how you can add location data and maps to your application. So, whether you're super-coder, OpenStreetMap expert, or just need an easy-to-use tool for adding a directions link to your site, our team will be happy to chat and happy to help. Plus, we'll have happy hours in the afternoon, so we can discuss over a cold one. Das IronGeek On March 15th, MapQuest will be hosting one of the 5 challenges as part of Das IronGeek, an event that puts a set of 6 press and bloggers attending SXSW through a series of fun, technology related challenges, all intended to test their "geekiness." Speaking Gigs Also on the 15th, yours truly will be speaking on the topic of "Interoperable Location Data," along with fellow panelists: Tyler Bell from Factual, Kate Chapman from GeoCommons, Adam DuVander from ProgrammableWeb, and Scott Raymond from Gowalla. Right after that, you can hustle on over to listen to Christian Dwyer, MapQuest's fearless leader talk about "Rebranding: Tales of a New Identity," alongside AOL's VP of Marketing: Maureen Sullivan. See you in Texas Hope to see you in Austin. Travel safe and have a great time!
  • New Link to Route Planner Service

    We just launched an enhanced version of MapQuest Route Planner that includes a new web service, enabling you to integrate Route Planner into your own external websites/applications.  If you're unfamiliar with Route Planner, it's a feature that takes a route of up to 26 25 stops and reorders them to give you the fastest or shortest route.  Here's a quick video that demos the feature. This integration is ideal for websites and apps for Sales People, Delivery Reps, Realtors, and any others that route users to multiple stops.  As of today (July 19) we've saved our users 374,500 miles and now you can help your users save time and mileage too! The Link to Route Planner Web Service enables you to connect to the Route Planner tool using address fields pre-populated directly from your website/application. This service supports multiple formats that you can use to send the addresses to the Route Planner tool: •    JSON •    XML •    Key/Value pairs You simply create forms in your application/website and POST to the Route Planner application with the address details in any of the above formats. Check out our API documentation for details on using each of these formats to connect to Route Planner. Stay tuned for the next version of Route Planner that will have the new MapQuest look and feel!
  • Reboot

    There's a lot of change going on at MapQuest. Our Consumer application has been completely rewritten to reflect ways users are using and sharing location information. You can read more about "Redefining the User Experience" on our sister blog for MapQuest.com and check out this video about the brand, our mission, and the new site. MapQuest Primary LogoFor developers, we've been addressing these same issues. Over the past few years, we've completely rewritten many of our APIs, developed a robust AS3 SDK for Flash and Flex developers, and launched 6 Web Services. All of this is making it easier for developers to easily add location features to their applications for desktops and mobile devices -- from small start-ups to large corporations. Our goal for the MapQuest Platform is: Developer Easy; Developer Friendly. There's always more work to do, but today we've rebooted MapQuest to better reflect that mission with an updated vision and an upgraded new look. Let us know what you think.
  • A BBQ Quest with MapQuest at SXSW!

    Mid-March is almost upon us. For thousands, this time of year means one thing: time to go to Austin, TX for SXSW! MapQuest is no exception. In addition to helping attendees get around Austin and find venues for the Interactive, Film, and Music portions of the conference, we'll have a booth set-up for the Interactive Trade Show. Here, you'll have the opportunity to talk to MapQuest Developers about making your applications location enabled.

    Now this last part is important if you're attending SXSW Interactive and love great food:

    MapQuest can help you find great BBQ in Austin, but we'd thought we'd also take you to get great BBQ as well -- 23.58 miles outside Austin to Driftwood Texas to be exact.

    On Sunday, March 14th, we'll be running buses to take about 150 of our fellow attendees to The Salt Lick for some of the best (in our opinion) BBQ in all of Texas (and quite possibly the world). We'll also be supplying the beer to wash down that NOM-tastic food. While it's worth the wait in line, we've got space reserved so we can get right to the eatin'. Oh, did we mention that we're picking up the tab for everyone?

    Salt Lick Pit of Meat
    Pit of meat at The Salt Lick

    Mouth's already watering thinking about it, right?

    If you want in, here's what you need to know:

    MapQuest BBQ Quest at South by Southwest

    What?
    The Salt Lick BBQ
    Free beer on the bus and at The Salt Lick
    Free bus ride from downtown Austin to The Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX (and back I suppose)
    When? I'm hungry!
    Sunday, March 14th. Meet at 5:30pm. Buses will have you back for evening events by around 8:30pm
    Can I go?
    You need to be over 21 years of age (bring your ID)
    You need to have a 2010 SXSW Interactive, Gold or Platinum Badge
    You need to love BBQ
    You need to know all the words to "Wheels on the Bus" (Fine! That's optional)
    Important: You need to be early. The event is first come, first serve and we're only feeding the folks on the bus. When the buses are full or it turns 6pm (which ever comes first), we're hitting the road. No riding on the roof either (we asked).
    Where do I line up?
    We will be waiting for you at the Hilton Austin (Right across the street from the Convention Center) located at 500 E. 4th St. Austin, TX
    Simply look for the MapQuest Charter Buses.

    We look forward to seeing old friends, making new ones, and eating until we collapse.

    See you in Austin!