Looking for a house of ill repute in the United Kingdom? Google may claim to be able to help you find almost any type of business with their new Google Maps feature, but John Rawlinson disagrees. Rawlinson is the general manager of Murrayfield-based Christian publishing company Banner of Truth Trust. Rawlinson's company pops up, along with several other restaurants and organizations, on a search results list when users search for Edinburgh brothels.

"This is bizarre" said Rawlinson, "I can assure you that we are certainly not a brothel."

Scotsman.com reported this morning on an apparent bug in the system at Google that has exclusive UK restaurants and organizations being categorized as brothels. The bug struck a humorous chord with some considering the amount of heat Google has received over including brothels in the U.S. version of Google Maps. Ironically, none of the twenty actual "sauna and massage parlors" in Edinburgh actually appear on the search results list.

The problem most likely results from Google not having enough actual brothels listed in their database. Thus, the engine is honing in on the keyword Edinburgh and simply listing local businesses that match up with that phrase. Either way, a searcher in Tonbridge that looks up a brothel may find himself surprised to be directed to the Kent County Police Headquarters instead.

Satellite View Helps Housing Hunters

It's not just Google Map bloopers that are getting press this week. Google Maps has become yet another ride to tackle in the playground that is Google hacking. Wired News has a featured story on a new Google Hack that helps house and apartment hunters match up aerial photos with real estate listings from . The new hack, dubbed HouseMaps, combines the craigslist real estate listings from twenty cities with a Google Map showing the locations of each of them.

Housingmaps was created by created by Paul Rademacher, a 3-D graphic artist from Santa Clara, California. Rademacher has created a great tool that demonstrates the powerful applications that hackers can put together using their imagination and the Google API. Rademacher explains that because Google Maps runs within a browser, it's easy enough to manipulate the JavaScript to create new hacks.

More Creative Projects to Come

It's refreshing to see the creative new ideas that programmers come up with using Google's technology, and there's no shortage of great tools out there. Geobloggers combines Google's Map tool with Flickr in order to display the location of the images featured on the Flickr service. Hacker Gregory Sadestsky's created Google-Traffic.com, which matches Google Maps with traffic condition reports.

I'm still waiting for a few hacks to come into play myself. So, for any skilled hackers out there, here's a few services that I'd love to see.

  • Google Maps combined with GasBuddy.com listings - So that not only can I find the best price on gas, but I don't have to know where the gas station is simply by the listed address. Instead, I can enter my location and have it show me the prices super-imposed on a map.
  • Google Maps combined with movie listings - I live within about 5 miles of over 21 theatre chains. That gives me a lot of choices on where to see movies. So, let's get a hack in place that lets me find a specific movie within a specific time frame and have the theatre mapped for me.
  • Google Maps combined with event listings - Even better than movie listings, let me know what local bands are playing, or what exhibits are going on in my area. Many chamber of commerce sites feature searchable databases of event listings and the addresses of each event. Let's get someone to match that kind of data up with Google Maps.

If, by chance you know of any of them that already exist, or if you want to create one, let me know so that I can cover it in a future story.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
May 16, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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