Mike Pegg has emerged as one of the most influential people within the Google Maps community through his popular blog, Google Maps Mania. To find out more about how Pegg, who lives in Waterloo, Ont., got involved with Google Maps and his blog, I decided to do a Q&A. Enjoy.
1. How did you get started with Google Maps?
I learned about Google Maps through a blog called GoogleSightseeing.com, which links to zoomed in world locations within the satellite imagery on Google Maps. I had a great time on the site just exploring various locations and even recommended a link to the Rogers Centre and CN Tower which was later posted. From there, I found my way over to the Google Maps site and was just blown away at the ease of use (AJAX) and the way I could interact with the maps themselves. I’ve always been keen on maps, even from a very young age.
2. Why did you decide to start your blog?
I was inspired to start it after my time on GoogleSightseeing.com. After using it, I did some searching around the blogosphere and found many posts about the satellite maps and one or two “hacks” that saw Google Maps employed to display a database of information. I started to post about new hacks that I was finding such as housingmaps.com or chicagocrime.org and while doing so I really saw these maps changing current web landscape. I saw this almost like the early days of web development and to document this phenomenon I decided to continue the blog and really put a lot of effort into it. Big media began to take notice of the craze and the rest is now history.
3. Where do you get your ideas and discover new Google Map mash-ups?
I make use a few techniques to cover new Google Maps related material for my blog (This is the first time I’ve ever shared these techniques and I’ve been asked this question a lot). I started by searching Technorati for various Google Maps related terms. That was okay, but not efficient. I then discovered an amazing feature within Bloglines that allows you to subscribe to a search term. As Bloglines indexes posts that contain those words a new item shows up in a feed that resembles a blog you’re subscribed to. When you first search from a Bloglines web search, it doesn’t generally yield that many good quality results for some reason. But subscribing to that search will later bring you loads of new posts as they happen from around the blogosphere. I’ve become really good at scanning new posts under my keyword searches and It’s really a great feature I’ve discovered many Maps apps that were not intended to be public or that its creator wasn’t actively promoting at the time. At first, I relied on this. Then, as people discovered my blog, I was notified by individuals finishing a mashup after a weekend or evening of coding and I would then review and post about it. I also scan sources now like ProgrammableWeb.com and various other directories.
4. How often do you post a week?
I post at least once per day unless I’m traveling for work. I try to time posts for the geographic area that is waking up to read my blog. North/South America in the early morning hours here in Canada, then stage a post for Asia-Pacific for posting in the later afternoon hours, or post for Europe before signing off for the day.
5. How much traffic does your blog get?
It depends on where the links are coming in from each day but my average is somewhere around 4,000 unique visitors from the web. When I was linked from the New York Times this was much higher – closer to 50,000 per day for a short time. I estimate through Feedburner and Bloglines that I have an additional 5,00 to 6000 daily RSS feed subscribers.
6. What’s your relationship with Google?
A casual one. In the first year I corresponded occasionally with the Google Maps/Local product manager over email and telephone. Then in June I was invited to take part in the Google Geo Developer Day which brought in developers of the Maps API, Earth and Sketchup products. I was a keynote speaker along with Google Earth blogger Frank Taylor. This was an amazing experience. I then realized that my blog was recognized by Google, straight up to the CEO (Dr. Eric Schmidt) who commented on parts of Google Maps Mania and ways to improve it while I was invited to have lunch with him.
7. Do you make any money from your blog?
Yes, but not as much as I could. Most of my time goes into researching and creating posts that I’m not monetizing it as well as I could. I’m no TechCrunch but lets say I make more than enough to buy diapers for my son Ben. :) I do this through AdSense, a few regular paid advertisers and some side consulting jobs I’ve done. I’ve also started a development service called GMapsDev.com to capitalize on the demand for Maps mashups by companies and entrepreneurs who were contacting me through my blog. I connected with a Waterloo based web application design firm to contract these jobs and it has paid handsomely.
8. When you’re not blogging, what’s your full-time job?
I work for a software company in Waterloo as an Account Manager covering the Asia-Pacific region.
9. What’s the most bizarre Google Maps mash-up you’ve come across? What’s the best mash-up?
What could be the most bizarre mashup I’ve come across? Could it be the Google Map of UFO sightings, public toilets in the US or the maps mashup with user pictures on HotorNot.com.. It’s a toss up. :) The title of best mashup changes frequently as new ones come out. My current favourite is a site called Wikimapia that allows anyone on the planet to annotate a location on Google Maps. It takes seconds to do and it resides in a wiki format so anyone can add or modify what has been described. It’s translated into oodles of languages and really is very popular in many, many countries. The other favourite Google Map “tool” I have also spans language and culture by letting you find out what is on the other side of the world from where you are. Center the map on the place where you are and a map on the opposite side of the screen shows you what is directly on the other side of the world. My two purely Canadian favourites: Beerhunter.ca and Findbyclick — What can be better than two map locator tools that help you find the nearest Tim’s, Beer Store or LCBO.. What’s missing? Canadian Tire of course! :)
10. Why do you think Google Maps and mash-ups have been so successful?
I think they been so successful because the mapping API they have
provided is easy to use for people that are comfortable venturing into the realm of coding. For those that aren’t Google Maps have risen to name through sites like CommunityWalk, Wayfaring, Platial (etc, etc..) that have made it as easy to create a Google Map of something as it is to send a web-based email on Gmail or Hotmail. This means that suddenly online maps creation is relevant and possible for EVERYONE who uses the Internet. That’s huge. In terms of Google Maps as a service, it’s the first mapping service to push the Mapquest status quo. It made all the things you hated in
Mapquest usable: panning, zooming, searching (okay, not printing YET). They did all this through the AJAX approach to building the application. Next, they provided the ever popular satellite mapping straight into the base service which created a new perspective to the street maps you were able to view. Initially you could view street or satellite maps, then they blended the two with the “hybrid” feature. This was a brand new satellite mapping experience for millions and really kicked off a new recreational activity that most hadn’t taken part in yet. It really provided context to the street maps and made you learn more about your community… or the one you grew up in! :) It’s these two reasons that I think has seen Google Maps rise to such popularity.