When Crowdsourcing Fails: Google Places Edition

Google, the company that once declared "No humans were harmed or even used in the creation of this page," is now soliciting a human touch when necessary. Google Places, for example, crowd-sources information about the locations on its service. "Because we can't be on the ground in every city and town, we enable our great community of users to let us know when something needs to be updated," explains an official blog post. In this case, enlisting humans to do the work sounds peachy. That is, until it goes all wrong. "In recent months, plenty of perfectly healthy businesses across the country have expired -- sometimes for hours, other times for weeks -- though only in the online realm cataloged and curated by Google," writes The New York Times's David Segal. "The reason is that it is surprisingly easy to report a business as closed in Google Places, the search giant's version of the local Yellow Pages." While seeking input from the masses might seem like a good idea, on a mass scale with so much information and so many people it doesn't quite work.

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