Mapping is expensive. There are lots of accurate maps of London, but not nearly so many of Hanoi. You have to pay a lot of people to get a good map. Or you used to. Another way to get more information about a place is simply to ask the people who live there to help. Accordingly, Google announced a plan this summer to fill in the empty bits of their maps with information directly from their customers, which is to say, you and me and all the folks in Hanoi.
It’s a happy story. In fact, it’s becoming common to use crowdsourcing, to the point that I hardly notice feel-good stories about crowdsourcing anymore. Not to mention the fact that I’m not going to Hanoi anytime soon.
But here’s the thing. I was wandering around Home Depot the other day looking for either a rainspout or a store employee who could help me locate one. I could find neither. I might have spent days in there if a fellow customer hadn’t taken pity on me. That’s when I realized we need a crowdsourced approach to mapping out where to find things in Home Depot. Store staff be damned! You can never find them when you need them. I want to whip out my iPhone, punch in my desired hardware, and then see exactly what aisle it lives on.
I have no confidence that Home Depot could or would do this. But you and me? We could. We totally could.