You may remember the fiasco back in May wherein defacements were being discovered in Google Maps due to bad edits making their way through the approval process. Google subsequently shut down Map Maker, the tool the company used to crowdsource the improvement of its mapping products (and the same one through which these defacement edits were submitted), on May 12th to “take a pause” until “we have our moderation system back in action.” It looks like that pause on submissions will soon come to an end.
“Map Maker will be reopened for editing in early August,” said Pavithra Kanakarajan, a product manager on the Google Map Maker team, in a post to the company’s product forums. “We’re looking for users to now have more influence over the outcome of edits in their specific countries.”
What’s important to note here is that the process of reviewing Map Maker edit submissions will be significantly different than before the shutdown: now instead of most submissions being reviewed by Google employees, the responsibility of reviewing and approving or denying the vast majority edits will be placed on the community at large.
This may sound like a crazy idea – handing over more control to outsiders, which includes those who defaced Google’s incredibly important mapping product in the first place. I initially thought the same thing, but Kanakarajan says that the company has come to the conclusion that most of the community is well-intentioned, reliable, and fast when it comes to acting on offending changes. And they won’t be implementing this new system haphazardly.
According to Kanakarajan, the Map Maker team will be selecting high-quality “mappers” – people who have submitted edits and engaged in the greater community – in each region on the planet to be named the “Regional Lead” for their area on Map Maker. Any edits made in their region will both be reviewed by Google’s automated moderation system as well as by these leads themselves. Google employees will “occasionally” moderate edits, but she doesn’t specify exactly when.
Starting in early August, Map Maker will re-open in phases, and qualified Regional Lead candidates will receive invites to apply for the role before the product is re-opened. New moderators will be added slowly over time to decrease the time it takes for edits to be reviewed, and in the meantime Kanakarajan asks everyone to have patience when it comes to review speed.