Neighborhood Wide Web

by on August 15, 2006 · 8 comments

Google’s plan to let local merchants offer their coupons, for free, via Google’s map interface is exciting news. It’s a step toward fixing one of the most glaring deficiencies of the web to date: online sites do a terrible job of making content geographically relevant.

Case in point: I love Craigslist. It provides apartment rental listings that you just can’t find anywhere else. I found there of my last four apartments via Craigslist. And I love Google Maps, with its snazzy, AJAX-powered interface. But it took a third-party to mash up, the two services into what I really want: a map of apartments for rent laid out on a map, so I can see at a glance which ones are in the neighborhood I want. Unfortunately, that site doesn’t include St. Louis, so it’s not useful to me. Moreover, if Craigslist or Google implemented it themselves, they could doubtless add a lot of additional functionality that a third party can’t provide.

I’ve got the same issue with restaurants: There are a number of sites that provide restaurant reviews, and some of them even break them down by city region. But no one gives me an easy way to zoom into a map and view all the restaurants on a particular city block. I can search for “restaurant” in Google Local and get a reasonable list of restaurants near where I work. But I can’t easily narrow the search down by cuisine, or by price range, to get a list of restaurants with desired characteristics. I don’t think it’s finding all the restaurants, and it annoyingly only shows me 10 restaurants at a time. (I assume this is because the interface grinds to a halt if the map has too many pins on it)

A good way to fix this is by forging more direct relationships with the actual retailers. 20 years ago, having your name in the yellow pages was an indispensable way for your customers to find you. Today, having a pin on Google Local when someone searches for your business category ought to be considered equally indispensable. Hopefully, Google will continue to give content creators more and easier ways to link their information to geographical locations, allowing us to search our neighborhoods as powerfully as we can search the web as a whole.

  • http://www.joegratz.net Joe Gratz

    Review site Yelp has relatively recently implemented exactly the feature you’re looking for, which allows you zoom in on a Google map and see all of the restaurants, divisible by cuisine, and sorted by user rating. I don’t know if it has enough momentum in St. Louis to be useful, but it’s extremely handy here in San Francisco.

    The site is http://www.yelp.com/ , and the map feature is accessible at http://www.yelp.com/maptastic .

  • http://www.joegratz.net Joe Gratz

    Review site Yelp has relatively recently implemented exactly the feature you’re looking for, which allows you zoom in on a Google map and see all of the restaurants, divisible by cuisine, and sorted by user rating. I don’t know if it has enough momentum in St. Louis to be useful, but it’s extremely handy here in San Francisco.

    The site is http://www.yelp.com/ , and the map feature is accessible at http://www.yelp.com/maptastic .

  • enigma_foundry

    Tim University City Loop is one place that has a good web presence. You are probably familar with the area, but if not you should be. It’s a happen’ place (and very close to my house too, so I can walk to all these great places)

    But you are very right, the geographic information should be better organized and it is getting so.

    The intersting consideration, when you consider the several trends are happening at once:

    1. Street shopping is coming into its own–stores on streets now command both higher rents and higher sales volume per sq. ft than malls.

    2. Long tail markets: the idiosyncratic shop can connect with its market. I recall when I lived in NYC there was a shop called maxilla and mandible that sold skeletons and skulls of different animals (presumably for those who “use antlers in all of their decorating” as the song goes) I can’t imagine that shop existing anywhere than NYC (and really hope its closed by now–thought it actually was kind of disgusting)

    3. Sustainability: As people strive to connect more, using less they will try to avail themselves of their local markets, stores, shops more and more.

    I think all these issues will combine to push for much smarter and geographic context-sensitive information becoming available, and actually being used.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Tim University City Loop is one place that has a good web presence. You are probably familar with the area, but if not you should be. It’s a happen’ place (and very close to my house too, so I can walk to all these great places)

    But you are very right, the geographic information should be better organized and it is getting so.

    The intersting consideration, when you consider the several trends are happening at once:

    1. Street shopping is coming into its own–stores on streets now command both higher rents and higher sales volume per sq. ft than malls.

    2. Long tail markets: the idiosyncratic shop can connect with its market. I recall when I lived in NYC there was a shop called maxilla and mandible that sold skeletons and skulls of different animals (presumably for those who “use antlers in all of their decorating” as the song goes) I can’t imagine that shop existing anywhere than NYC (and really hope its closed by now–thought it actually was kind of disgusting)

    3. Sustainability: As people strive to connect more, using less they will try to avail themselves of their local markets, stores, shops more and more.

    I think all these issues will combine to push for much smarter and geographic context-sensitive information becoming available, and actually being used.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Tim: for what it is worth, Mozilla is working on some geolocation stuff, so that your browser can report to websites where you are if you’re on a mobile device that has GPS. Unfortunately, I can’t find any links off the top of my head, but it should open a whole new round of competition around services.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Tim: for what it is worth, Mozilla is working on some geolocation stuff, so that your browser can report to websites where you are if you’re on a mobile device that has GPS. Unfortunately, I can’t find any links off the top of my head, but it should open a whole new round of competition around services.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Joe: That’s awesome! Thanks for pointing it out.

    EF: I’ve been to the loop; a very nice neighborhood it is.

    Luis: That’s going to be pretty cool when they get it working, although I bet a lot of people will be paranoid about having web sites know their physical location.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Joe: That’s awesome! Thanks for pointing it out.

    EF: I’ve been to the loop; a very nice neighborhood it is.

    Luis: That’s going to be pretty cool when they get it working, although I bet a lot of people will be paranoid about having web sites know their physical location.

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