As I keep looking at the accumulated News Chum articles for today, I keep discovering groupa-three themes. So here are three articles related to how familiar things came to be:
- The Accuracy of Google Maps. We’ve all grown to depend on the accuracy of Google maps. I know that, for me, they’ve supplanted that trusted old Thomas Brothers mapbook, currently published by the venerable map maker, Rand McNalley. But why are Google Maps so accurate. Here’s an article the looks at the operation beneath Google maps. The article explores how the Google Maps team assembles their maps and refines them with a combination of algorithms and meticulous manual labor—an effort they call Ground Truth. The project launched in 2008, but it was mostly kept under wraps until just a couple years ago. It continues to grow, now covering 51 countries, and algorithms are playing a bigger role in extracting information from satellite, aerial, and Street View imagery.
- The Cubicle. One of my favorite podcasts is 99% Invisible, which looks at design aspects of things we never think about. For example, a recent episode looked at the design of those inflatable dancing men you see at oil change shops. Here’s an article I found that would be right up 99%’s alley: it looks at the history of the cubicle. Although we now see the cubicle as the representation of faceless office work, it was actually designed to give the worker freedom: it was supposed to be a flexible space that could adapt, and replace the endless desks of the bullpen. The article also looks at the origins of a number of other aspects of the office: the skyscraper, the filing cabinet, the open office, and the standing desk.
- The Shitpic. Those of us who are, ahem, old, remember the viral article of generation: that photocopied cartoon that had grown fuzzy but kept being circulated. Viral images were always copies of copies, just as urban legends came from friends of friends. But digital copies were supposed to be perfect, an exact duplicate of the original. That’s changed. The degrading viral picture has returned — the shitpic — as people spread images by taking screenshots of low resolution items instead of copying from the source. Here’s the detailed story of the rise of the shitpic.