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Dear sir,

The website you have contacted, Google Sightseeing, is not affiliated with Google. We have no control over which images Google chooses to show on its Street View service.

You should contact Google to request that an image be removed:
http://maps.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=68385

On a more personal note however, you should be aware that one of the main benefits of the Street View service is that people wishing to purchase a new house can choose between many more properties. If you choose to remove yourself from the service, your house (and probably your neighbours’ houses) will also be removed, and nobody will ever be able to use the service to inform their purchasing decision, should you decide to sell your home in the future.

Obviously it’s your decision whether you wish to remove your image from the service, but please bear in mind that the press is currently using scaremongering tactics and spouting complete nonsense in an effort to rile people up. Is it really so bad that people can see you standing outside your house? Were you doing anything that you wouldn’t normally do in a public place? Do you want it to look like you have something to hide?

I would like to reiterate that I am completely unaffiliated with Google, and these are my own personal opinions.

Kind regards,

Alex Turnbull

More on Street View Europe

March 14th, 2009

Last year I posted a lengthy spiel on various Google Street View related bits and bobs, which ended with my prediction that Street View would be available in the UK by the “end of the year”.

And somehow it’s now March. Which makes me totally wrong!

However, it does seem that when compared with the other European countries, Google are being extremely thorough with the mapping of the UK. The camera cars have been spotted up and down the country for the last 9 months and were just this weekend touring Dumfries and Galloway. I wouldn’t want to make another completely wrong prediction, but I think that when we eventually do see Street View for the UK it’s going to have an astonishing level of coverage.

One predication that I may have been correct on, is that once the camera cars were finished in the UK they’d head back to their homeland for a tour of Ireland. Silicon Republic is reporting that Google will next week start training the drivers ahead of a tour of the country’s five main cities. So perhaps the UK mapping effort is finally wrapping up?

Also mildly related is this photo of the Street View camera bike that is now touring the car-inaccessible areas of New York. There’s been none of those spotted in the UK yet!

Social Piping with Tarpipe

November 27th, 2008

I discovered Tarpipe via the deluge of tips that is Lifehacker, and I’ve been really impressed so far.

The idea is that you create a workflow for posting to social media sites. The input can be email, application or bookmarklet, and it allows you to build datapaths for different bits of information – which can then be posted automagically to your various social media accounts (Twitter, Delicious, Flickr etc.)

The really clever bit is that you can pass the data through various other services on the way. In the first one I built, anything received (in this case at the email address associated with this particular workflow) is routed to Delicious and Twitter, but the Twitter posts are sent to TinyURL first.

This means that over at Google Sightseeing we’ll be able to use the Delicious feed to bookmark the original URL, whilst simultaneously posting a short URL for our Twitter followers.

In the example above, I have additionally routed the Twitter and Delicious URLs back into a email, which is received by whoever sent the original message – giving confirmation that both posts were completed successfully.

The developer has posted a video showing something even cleverer – he uses Evernote‘s automatic OCR technology to create tags that are applied to the image as it is added to Flickr. Genius!

We’d like to see WordPress support added, and also found that the bit.ly module is a bit broken, but if the developer keeps adding more services, and perhaps more importantly, more functionality – then Tarpipe could become an absolutely essential tool in the online arsenal.

Recently I’ve been reading lots on the imminent Google Street View release for much of Europe, and have discovered a few titbits which I found interesting.

As you already know, the Street View images are taken by convoys of cars driving around major cities with 360° cameras mounted on the roof. You can see many photos of the cars on Flickr.

Throughout Europe the images are being taken by a fleet of Opel Astras which are mounted with the 9 directional cameras, a GPS unit for positioning, as well as SICK Laser Range Finders and 3G/Wifi aerials.

Driving these cars all over is a massive undertaking for Google, purportedly costing some 500 million Euros, so they’re obviously gleaning as much location based information as they possibly can while touring the world. The laser range finders are probably to help measure up 3D buildings, while the location of wifi networks will greatly improve the geolocation api and 3G network strength might be handy for a company that is developing mobile phone software.

In Europe, Google Street View is already available for cities in France and Spain. Other European countries where the car as been spotted, and it is assumed will be available “soon” include Germany, the UK and Italy (the Flickr group has a complete list).

Throughout Europe, Google have apparently been using the same fleet of Vectras, but re-plating them with the relevant country’s local licence plates. This seems to me an unnecessary effort – people drive between France, Germany and Spain all time – but I assume having local plates prevents any extra hassles from the local authorities.

The cars spotted in the UK are also Opel Vectras, which means they were not purchased in the UK (the Vectra is sold under the Vauxhall brand in the UK). However, they are not the same units used on mainland Europe as they, like all UK cars, are right-hand drive.

This means the cars must be from Ireland, where right-hand drive Opels are sold, and have then been re-plated with UK plates. The initial “LJ08″ tell us they were registered between March and September of this year in Wimbledon, London.

I can find no evidence of these cars being spotted in Ireland, or Street View being planned for Ireland. But if the cars started life there, and will presumably go back to Ireland once the UK mapping is complete, it must be quite high up the list of countries to be added.

So Who Is Next?

With this week’s launch of Spanish Street View, lots of folk were moaning about the lack of UK street view and, according to this French article we’ll have to wait a lot longer: it claims Germany is next in Spring 2009 before the UK and the Netherlands sometime later.

However, based on the Flickr car-spotting, I think this information is incorrect and UK and Italian Street View will be coming before Germany, and both before the Netherlands.

The Street view cars were first spotted around France in May of this year, and a subset of the images made it into Google Maps by July 2nd, just in time for the Tour De France. The rest of the images were added on October 15th, 5 months after they started capturing images.

Looking at the Flickr images of the Street View cars in various areas around France, all the photos that were taken in September and October are in areas that are not included in the October 15th roll-out.

Looking specifically at Paris, which was included in the October 15th roll-out, the most-recent images of the car driving around are July. Similarly, Flickr photos of the cars in Madrid (included in the October 28th roll-out) are dated late July and August, but it has not been spotted since then. So, I’m pretty certain that no images taken past August have made their way online yet.

The UK cars were initially spotted in London around the middle of July, and continue to be spotted around smaller UK cities well into October. It’s a similar story in Italy with the major cities being mapped months ago. However, the major cities of Germany are still being photographed as late as this week.

Meanwhile, sightings in The Netherlands have been few. The cars started out in Amsterdam, where the whole operation is based, but appear to have gone straight to France and Spain without taking pictures of the city.

For France and Spain the initial launches centred on a couple of major cities, although images have certainly been taken in much more of those countries. One reason for this is apparently bandwidth – serving the millions of images can overload even Google’s servers – but another factor must surely be that those images were simply taken first. In the UK and Italy, major cities such as London, Edinburgh and Milan were finished months ago while in Germany they’re still photographing Berlin and in the Netherlands they may not have even tackled Amsterdam.

For this reason I reckon that either Italy and the UK are the next countries for Street View, probably Italy first but both before the year is out. Then Germany and the Netherlands will come later on, and perhaps even Ireland much later on.

Update: And the day after I post this, Street View is launched in Italy! UK Street View may be sooner than I thought…

Thanks to byrion and ropesandpulleys for the CC licensed images.

Comparing Feed Stats

October 20th, 2008

Many sites, including Google Sightseeing, use the excellent (now Google owned) FeedBurner service to serve their RSS feed. FeedBurner helps “bloggers, podcasters and commercial publishers promote, deliver and profit from their content on the Web”, mainly by providing tools which provide statistical reports and analysis to help publishers capitalise on their content.

According to our FeedBurner stats, Google Sightseeing recently hit a milestone in terms of number of subscribers; we now average over 100,000 unique subscribers.


Live updating figure

Unfortunately the number of people actually reading the feed on any one day is likely to be far below that, but it’s still seems like a pretty massive number to us. Because FeedBurner numbers are public1, for any site that uses the service, you can use a free service called FeedCompare to chart their subscriber number against anyone else that uses FeedBurner. Which is how I created the following graph:


(The red line is Google Sightseeing, and the regular drops were due to a long standing bug that incorrectly returned a very small amount of subscribers)

This shows the number of subscribers reported by FeedBurner over the past 24 months, for Google Sightseeing (red), GEarth Blog (blue), Google Earth Hacks (green), and Google Maps Mania (purple).

The big jump in reported numbers back in February ’07 was when Google took over and Google Reader result began to be shown in the figures, but what’s really interesting is what happened to the Google Sightseeing feed immediately after that…

As you can see, once the Google stats were included, our figures began a steady rise that has continued on exactly the same trajectory ever since. The figures for the Google Earth Blog and Google Maps Mania have remained about the same, whilst GEarth Hacks has had several large jumps – this probably makes sense, as when a site gets a big link from somewhere you might expect a sudden increase in subscriber numbers2.

Given the relative flatness of the other graphs, why is it that Google Sightseeing has had such steady growth over the same period?

Although we can’t be sure, and of course the high quality of Google Sightseeing promotes people to tell their friends, but I think this may well be due to Google Reader’s suggestion feature.

So, if you read Google Sightseeing, how did you find it?


  1. Since writing this post, FeedBurner has been subsumed into the Google Hive Mind, and our stats no longer get updated. 

  2. With little drop-off, as people don’t seem to unsubscribe from anything very often! 

Famous Followers

September 13th, 2008

Here’s an email we received from Twitter the other day:

Hi, Google Sightseeing.

andy_murray (andy_murray) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out andy_murray’s profile here:

http://twitter.com/andy_murray

Best,
Twitter

We’re proud to say that, after Andy Murray received some flak from the Guardian because he wasn’t following enough people, he has chosen to follow our Google Sightseeing Twitter Feed!

If you haven’t already got a Twitter account, you can get one by signing up for free at twitter.com, and whether you’re famous or not, we’d love it if you chose to subscribe to Google Sightseeing updates at twitter.com/gsightseeing.