Google Maps Hacks, Collaboration, Wikis and the “Greater Good”

In the past week, I’ve had a real bug in my ear about the possibilities of combining well designed mapping data with a variety of uses for trusted social networking. I love the look of [Google Maps](http://maps.google.com) and the speed and ease of use it offers. While Google doesn’t offer an “official” API to use their map service for your own purposes, they’ve made it so plainly open as far as the code files they use that Google is practically *giving* the service away, and letting the alpha-geeks do all the heavy lifting of providing documentation, example files and tutorials.

There’s even a mailing list. It’s on [Google Groups](http://groups.google.com). I subscribed to the list on Friday afternoon and there hours later, I was already involved with a collaborative effort to map registered sex offenders and their registered addresses.

NOTE: I’m not going to engage in any debate about the privacy rights and the potential misuses of this kind of information. I don’t support vigilante-ism, lynch mobs or the like. In fact, I flatly denounce it. For the record, this information is publicly available from a number of sources due to [Megan’s Law](http://www.klaaskids.org/pg-legmeg.htm). It’s a good debate; it deserves to be aired; it isn’t my point.

My point is this: here we have an exciting new technology that has just enough information for early-adopters to start using (Google Maps and [AJAX](http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2005/02/09/xml-http-request.html) ); there are already efforts to share knowledge about the subject (the GoogleGroups mailing list); you have a cause (making information about the location of registered sex offenders more transparent); and you have sponsorship in the group of interested persons (a number of developers are taking on responsibilties and self-organizing / I’m hosting the [wiki](http://www.aaron21.com/wiki) ).

You have all the ingredients here for a dynamic group that can produce results in a cooperative manner — you have a visionary in [Ian](http://www.w98.us/) and active facilitators. Meanwhile, everyone is growing their skills in the technology, so there’s reward for the efforts involved at every level.

I’m excited about the potential for success here.