back to article Microsoft's maps lost Melbourne because it used bad Wikipedia data

Microsoft has laid part of the blame for Bing Maps' mis-location of the Australian city of Melbourne by a whole hemisphere on Wikipedia. Yes, Wikipedia, “the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit.” Microsoft made its admission after your correspondent took to Twitter on Monday to do what we in publishing call “pimping" the …

  1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Passing the buck

    So Slurp is blaming someone else for their lack of QA.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Passing the buck

      Would you expect anything else?

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Missed opportunity

    Simon. You should have banged in a Wikipedia entry for yourself, identifying yourself as 'President (sic) of Australia'.

    Then, between 9:11 and 9:21, when he was busy Googling you and ending up at Wikipedia, it would have resulted in another layer of comedy screenshots.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Missed opportunity

      It would have been funnier to change your title to "government software procurement chief", far more grovelling would have ensued.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Absolute proof

    FTT: "This issue has been fixed. Missing negative sign in Wikipedia data."

    Hmmm, I wonder what other data Wikipedia got the sign wrong on?

    1. Brian Miller

      Re: Absolute proof

      What other data is wrong on Wikipedia?

      Uh, no, this means it's a great time to hack Bing maps! Nobody really checks what's on Wikipedia anyways, so it should be fun to fudge the locations of everything.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Absolute proof

        Indeed, I wonder how the data gets from Wikipedia to Bing. Is it a one time grab, so if the location is wrong at the time they get it Bing will have it wrong until it is fixed manually, or is it refreshed periodically? If the latter, then if you changed the Wikipedia entry for the location of Chicago to be in Texas and no one noticed, Bing Maps would eventually try to direct you towards the Lone Star state when you got directions to Wrigley Field!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Absolute proof

          "Indeed, I wonder how the data gets from Wikipedia to Bing. Is it a one time grab, so if the location is wrong at the time they get it Bing will have it wrong until it is fixed manually, or is it refreshed periodically?"

          Or even on the fly?

        2. Rattus Rattus

          ..."try to direct you towards the Lone Star state when you got directions to Wrigley Field!"

          Or when you tried to visit Elwood Blues at home?

      2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        Re: Absolute proof

        "Nobody really checks what's on Wikipedia anyways" - true. And even fewer people check Bing maps either so it really doesn't matter.

      3. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Absolute proof

        ...it's a great time to hack Bing maps!

        It's always a great time to hack Bing maps. Consider that MS droids are all forced to use only MS products for everything. What would happen if Redmond were to be relocated in Bing maps to, say, the bottom of the Marianas Trench? Hilarity will ensue.

      4. GDP1GlenG

        Re: Absolute proof

        Mischievous, destructive and, potentially harmful to human life.

        Please reconsider, and ponder the meaning of Christianity (or any other belief system for the greater good) before taking any such action just for cheap shot at Microsoft.

        A lot of serious and vulnerable people are unwitting users of this data.

        Thanks to The Register for sensitising Microsoft in a whimsical manner, leading to improved accuracy.

    2. oldcoder

      Re: Absolute proof

      No negative sign... It was marked "South". But of course, Microsoft assumes numbers are always signed...

      Never mind the nonsense the -37.8136° South would be...

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        "No negative sign... It was marked "South"."

        A common problem on Wikipedia. There was a massive war between "editors" on Wikipedia about the convention of GPS coordinates around the time of the change (EG, should it be labelled as 'west' vs negative longitude / is it 'south' or negative latitude). Its one of those pointless squabbles that Wikipedia throws more effort into than was spent to put a man on the moon. For equal levels of insanity / pointlessness, look at the edit wars for the proper spelling of a character from a fuckin' video game (FF7 and Aerith / Aeris)... But then again, this is the same website where the article on the movie "Juno" is almost 4 times as long as the article on the god Juno.

      2. Antti Roppola

        Logical Consistency testing 101

        I used to do validation of this sort of data all the time, there is a boatload of tools and the methods are well published (though it seems not well known). I've seen a great slide illustrating spatial data rejected by a validation frameworks, pity I can't find a version on the web but you can tell *what* sorts of errors are the most popular (this particular one is in the top 5). For instance, getting your coordinates out by a decimal place gets you a miniature dataset flowing in the sea off the coast of west Africa near the Greenwich meridian (hint: if it's continental data, it's probably wrong). Once you have a feel for how it can go wrong, you can look out for it. (Cities should be on a land mass unless the name is "Atlantis")

        Same for attribute data. You have pH values? Domain better be between 0 and 14. Temperature? Minimum should be less than maximum. You get the idea. If you use data from external sources, you have to be paranoid about QA.

      3. Steven Roper

        Re: Absolute proof

        "No negative sign... It was marked "South". But of course, Microsoft assumes numbers are always signed..."

        I could have told them that within 5 seconds of seeing where Melbourne was on the map. Japan is directly north of Melbourne and Adelaide, in fact my house is less than 15 km west of the exact longitude of the summit of Fujiyama. The mountain is also about the same latitude north as Adelaide is south; in fact if my house swapped its latitude sign I'd actually have a spectacular view of Fujiyama across the bay south of Numazu from my bedroom window!

        So the first thing I thought when I saw Melbourne in that position was "The stupid sods have swapped the latitude sign!"

    3. Flywheel Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Absolute proof

      FTT: "This issue has been fixed. Missing negative sign in Wikipedia data."

      Hmmm, I wonder what other data Wikipedia got the sign wrong on?

      I'm sure the drone Ops in the US wouldn't rely on Bing/Wikipedia for target positioning..

      1. GDP1GlenG

        Re: Absolute proof

        Of course not, those TOP GUN types are bound to be using APPLE MAPS.

  4. julian.smith

    Where's Melbourne?

    I'm comfortable with Melbourne near Japan (the sushi will be better but the coffee will be worse)

    How do we transport

    - Northbridge (WA)

    - Ceduna (SA)

    - Queensland

    - Tasmania

    +++

    to more suitable locations such as Siberia or the middle of the Sahara

    Thinking Big - how can we relocate the USA to the middle of a black hole?

  5. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    WTF?

    The developer API's don't use this and didn't have this error.

    So, the developer APIs don't drop a sign that the end-user APIs do, for particular data? More like they're working on a different dataset.

    This nincompoop needs to be educated on some essential terminology (well, there's a reason he's Senior Program Manager at Microsoft. Quite likely a "senior moment")

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      Quite.

      It was the sentence before that one that struck me: Mainly only for rich description on map website.

      Its location on the map is hardly the "rich description on map website" - that, surely, is the blurb that appears in the left panel when searching for a location.

    2. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      I think he means longitude and latitude can have - signs and the one in Wikipedia was incorrect. Perhaps the developer version doesn't get any info from Wikipedia (indeed a different dataset as you say). why the non developer one did is a mystery.

    3. Tikiman

      Re: WTF?

      Cant be a senior moment. All high tech companies have purged anyone 40 or older. More likely an HIB visa holder on facebook and twitter.

  6. tempemeaty

    GiGo

    Do programmers still use the old adage, "garbage in, garbage out." That was the first thing that came to mind when reading about Microsofts' entertaining misplacement of Melbourne.

    ^__^

  7. Lord Raa

    The Internet Never Forgets

    You should archive the tweets as screenshots can be faked before the first dose of caffeine in the morning.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Swindon

    Is there hope?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: Swindon

      If you are in Swindon, then no.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: Swindon

        If you are in Swindon, then no.

        Upvoted, but as a former Swindon resident (Swindonista? Swindonite? ahwhocares) I feel slightly guilty doing so.

        Swindon is a fine town with many interesting roundabouts and curry houses. Parts of Old Town are almost picturesque. The people are friendly (as long as you avoid Park North, Park South, Penhill, etc - just kidding, I have friends there) and the Railway Museum is always worth a visit.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Swindon

          but as a former Swindon resident (Swindonista? Swindonite? ahwhocares)

          Swindled?

  9. Commswonk Silver badge

    Which Melbourne?

    From the article: As commenters pointed out in Sunday's story on this mess, Microsoft's motto was once “Where do you want to go today?” If your answer was Melbourne, you probably ended up using Linux. ®

    If your answer was Melbourne, you should then have been asked "which one". There are 3 of them in England, although one of them has no "e".

    Other Melbournes may be available.

    </nitpick>

    1. oldcoder

      Re: Which Melbourne?

      Given the "quality" of Microsofts spell check - you might even get a list of all the Marlboroughs there are. After all, they both start with "M" and have an "lb", even a "u" in them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ba-Dum-Tssch!

      "There are 3 [Melbournes] in England, although one of them has no "e"."

      Well, I guess the illegal raves there aren't much cop then!

      (Yeah, I know. 1991 called, it wants its hip new drug slang back).

      1. Commswonk Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Ba-Dum-Tssch!

        I suppose my post was just begging for something like that as a response. Have an upvote.

        Had it been the Yorkshire Melbourne that had no "e" we'd have had to say No "e", bah goom...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pokemon Go should be interesting on Windows phone if it ever comes out.

  11. Mark Simon

    What about the Copyright?

    I notice that there is a copyright “© 2016 Microsoft” notice on the map page. Now they tell us that they blame the source they stole from.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: What about the Copyright?

      I notice that there is a copyright “© 2016 Microsoft” notice on the map page. Now they tell us that they blame the source they stole from.

      You remind me... I have in my possession a German map of London and environs, printed circa 1940 for Operation Sea Lion (the aborted invasion of England). It meticulously shows all roads - no M25, of course! - towns/hamlets, airfields and so on (these things were printed in their thousands, so it's not particularly rare or valuable).

      And at the bottom of the map is a copyright notice, acknowledging that the map is based upon 1927 Ordnance Survey data.

      I have always been most amused by this - surely only Ze Germans would acknowledge the copyright of the country they're planning to invade!

      "OK mein Kameraden, we're going to invade them - our opposition will comprise many tank battalions, dozens of divisions of infantry, several squadrons of fighters and bombers.... and a phalanx of intellectual property lawyers.

      "Ach! Nein! Ich brauche meine Mütti! Der Krieg ist verloren!!!"

  12. adam payne Silver badge

    So a company that doesn't really embrace free software unless it helps them in some way took data from a free encyclopedia.

    #howironic

    1. oldcoder

      Not necessarily.

      They are just BLAMING the free encyclopedia.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't that the same for most companies?

  13. GavinC

    Lost

    So that's how they moved the island in Lost! They just edited it's wikipedia entry, and waited for all the mapping software to auto-update.

    Been bothering me for years that...

  14. Florida1920

    Cheap way to travel

    Okay, I'm editing Wikipedia to move London and Paris to the U.S. I'll give you Washington, D.C., and one other city to be negotiated.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Cheap way to travel

      move London and Paris to the U.S.

      Nonono. Just move London to Paris. Paris is happy because they get the London banks, London is happy because they get to stay in the EU, Amsterdam and Frankfurt are happy because they don't have to deal with those entitled twonks.

      And you missed the window to move Cleveland to the Gulag archipelago by a few weeks. Pity.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Cheap way to travel

      Could Los Angeles be placed somewhere near Hamburg please?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have to disagree with the comment that anyone can edit Wikipedia. My experience indicates that only liberals can do the editing. All my edits seem to disappear at the hands of Liberal censors.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Try a more liberal approach then. Sticking to facts might help too.

  16. MR J

    Does This Mean.

    That we could make a fictitious company and some dud Wikipedia page for it giving a location.. Then Alphabet would index it?.... Kinda interesting to think that could be the case.

  17. a_a

    I like...

    ...the way he condescends to call ElReg a blog.

  18. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canberra

    This page has been moved to:-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principality_of_Hutt_River

  19. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Byline?

    Is Andrew on holiday?

  20. Borg.King

    Should have checked on Encarta

    I've got a CD somewhere I can lend them.

  21. JJKing Silver badge

    Damn, it would have been a cheap and quick flight to Tokyo to stock up on Ramen noodles.

  22. Ian Easson

    All mapping software depends on external data

    So, what's your point?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: All mapping software depends on external data

      I'd say the point is a publisher of maps not properly checking the external data they use.

      As has been mentioned above: GIGO still applies.

      1. Maury Markowitz

        Re: All mapping software depends on external data

        The external data was correct. There is no GIGO here.

    2. GDP1GlenG

      Re: All mapping software depends on external data

      Sounds as though there might be something interesting to learn here.

      Could you please expand.

  23. rtb61

    How Much Does M$ Donate to Wikipedia

    So if it is free M$ will use it but hate using it because it competes with something they could sell.

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