Coming back Portland (actually, Vancouver, WA to make it more geographically confusing), we decided to stop by Olympia for lunch. Craving some excellent Panera bread, we searched on Google maps and found a location at 1320 Marion St NE.
Excited to use our iPhone’s ‘from current location’ feature, we dutifully followed the prescribed route to 1320 Marion St.
Now, as Bing map’s awesome bird’s eye view feature shows, this is not a likely spot for a high street or mall style sandwich shop:
In fact, if we had used Bing maps, we would have found the nearest Paner to be located at the similarly sounding 1320 Marvin Rd NE, Lacey, WA.
Did we get it right? Not quite – this first listing is the sponsored link from Yellow Pages.com. Bing’s first listing is the incorrect address:
But, this isn’t a story of us versus them. This is about how data is sourced and proliferates through the web.
Searching on Bing for the incorrect address, we can see that Yellow Pages lists this address for Panda Express, providing the map to remote area. No doubt the source of the data updated the tenant but didn’t check the location (even though the sponsored link on Bing from Yellow Pages is to the correct address!)
Bing Local lists this incorrect address for Panera as well.
CitySearch also lists the Panda Express entry, even though:
Citysearch is a leading online lifestyle guide with the most up-to-date information on businesses, from restaurants and spas, to hotels and retail.
As a number of these listings provide the phone number, I searched on Google to see if there was any sort of reverse look up. Again, like Bing, Google appears to have multiple entries – a search for 360-456-4069 brings up the correct address:
While we often hear about where search will be in the next n years, and chuckle at Eric Schmidt’s need to humour Brin’s master plan we have to acknowledge that there are some basic wins in existing data sets that are simply slipping through the gaps. A big part of the reason is that we (the search industry) has never made any commitment to representing information in any serious manner. A logical representation of data wouldn’t permit the type of confusion we see around the above bread shop (sorry, this phone number is taken – did you make a mistake?).