GIS Tech News (#35)17 Apr, 2007 By: Kenneth Wong
|Reexamining the Role of Metadata in the Wake of Google's Katrina Maps Controversy.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast in August 2005, the do-no-evil search engine Google was doing a lot of good. Forbes wrote that Google was "coming to the rescue of victims of Hurricane Katrina," adding, "Ad hoc communities of Internet users are using mapping technologies from Google to track storm damage, analyze aerial photos and try to make sense of what little information is available” (“Google is Everywhere,” September 2, 2005). BBC News remarked, "Using maps and images provided through Google Maps and Google Earth, a number of hackers are building detailed models of the flood-damaged areas” (“Net Offers Map Help after the Flood,” September 2, 2005). Subsequently, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, an amalgam of defense and intelligence units, honored Google with the Hurricane Katrina Recognition Award "for their direct support during the Katrina disaster."
But a year and a half later, the same poster child of corporate altruism took a direct hit in a political firestorm. Representative Brad Miller (D-NC), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology's subcommittee, accused the previously lauded Google of "doing the victims of Hurricane Katrina a great injustice by airbrushing history." He was upset that Google had replaced the post-Katrina aerial maps with those predating the storm. The company quickly did damage control, restoring the most updated dataset that reflected the changes in the devastated region. John Hanke, director of Google Maps and Google Earth, explained that the revision to pre-Katrina maps was not an attempt "to rewrite history" but a decision motivated by the desire to provide "aerial photography of much higher resolution."
Google might have avoided the latest debacle if its free mapping applications clearly showed when the aerial images were acquired, distinguishing those showing the Gulf Coast without damages as the ones taken before the storm. But the absence of this critical metadata gave some people the impression that Google was presenting the images without storm damage as the most current status of the region. Public debate on this topic, now spreading from the mainstream media to the more specialized blogs, shines the spotlight once again on the gravity of metadata. Read more>>
Last month we finished up a three-part series on translating data with Civil 3D. This month we're going to delve into defining label styles. No matter what type of label style you develop, it uses the same process and dialog boxes. The main dialog box for a label style is the Label Style Composer dialog box. The dialog box names the label style (Information tab), sets general label rules and layers (General tab) and defines text content for the label style (Layout tab) and the dragged state behavior of the label (Dragged State). Read more>>
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