• 03.30.10

Google Maps Helps Portland Chloe O’Brians Triangulate Source of Pipe Bomb

Google Maps

On Sunday night, geo-developer Reid Beels was sitting in a restaurant in Portland when he heard a loud bang. It seemed he wasn’t the only one, as the twittersphere was soon thick with (no doubt) WTF-style exhortations from around the Oregon city’s users. As no one could immediately get to the bottom of it, Beels set up a map using the My Maps app on Google, and invited people to collaborate, using different-colored pins.


Over 1,000 people added pins–100 in the first hour–and the map has been seen by 70,000 people–no doubt due to local media coverage. Even a police spokesman admitted that the map was helpful. Beels, however, has pinpointed some flaws in Google Maps, which he had to tweak with the help of his developer chum Audrey Eschright. “It’s not the best platform for a couple hundred people, many without prior experience editing maps, to be using all at once.”

Things to remember are this: Google Maps will only show the 200 most recent pins placed in a public map (although the duo enlisted a third friend to write a script that downloaded the map data every 15 minutes–which came in useful when someone–the pipe bomber, perhaps–vandalized the data. And secondly, do what Google does–i.e., no evil. Keep Maps a lynchmob-free zone.

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.