Don’t know about you, but we here at MapQuest have found infographics – or “data eye-candy” – to be a much more interesting way of visualizing the billions of data points we evaluate instead of the standard spreadsheet. With more than 36 million* people searching for maps, directions, and places such as restaurants, airports, hotels and top brands every month, data is something we have a lot of and it says a lot about what’s interesting to you. So, we wanted to show some of the more interesting information about what people are doing on MapQuest. Click here or on the infographic image below for the full size.
We even used our big data and what we know about where people like to go to create our latest local discovery product, MapQuest Vibe. If you haven’t had a chance to download one of the top free travel apps in the iPhone store, go to www.mqvibe.com or search for mqvibe in the iPhone store to help you find cool neighborhoods and the best restaurants, bars, and shopping wherever you are traveling.
We hope you enjoy this look at what’s happening on MapQuest! If you have any questions or would like additional about the infographic, please contact Anke Corbin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Late last year, our MapQuest Labs team launched mqVibe, which positioned the neighborhood as the foundational context for local discovery on a national level. By converting MapQuest’s 15 years of data including where people are, what they are looking for, and where they are going, we created a baseline for a ranking system, which would get further refined in real-time as users voted and interacted with the system.
Given the scale of MapQuest, we were able to provide profiles of more than 50,000 neighborhoods, 27,000 cities, and 50,000 hotspots, essentially covering the entire U.S. Each neighborhood page showcases local restaurants, stores and businesses in ranked order by the most popular, which saves you from having to comb through thousands of not-helpful reviews to find the best.
Over the weekend, we added a new batch of functionality to mqVibe making it more useful for giving you the local expert opinion of where to go and what to do.
As you may have seen, mqVibe is at SXSW showcasing all of these great new functionalities. If you are, too, download the mqVibe iPhone app to find the details on our flash mobs, street-corner giveaways and other cool stuff we’re doing in Austin!
New Contextual Search Today, when you search on most sites, the most you can do is look for a business name (“Rio Grande”) or category like (“Mexican food”). But sometimes you want to be more specific, like when you’d ask a friend, “Where’s a good place to get margaritas that has a patio?”
mqVibe now supports this. So you can search for terms like “rooftop patio,” “kid friendly,” “enchiladas,” “soup dumplings,” and even “live music” to find a place to eat. We’re just starting to roll this out, so for now we just support using Contextual Search for restaurants in major cities in New York, California, Texas and Colorado.
Local Influence and Expertise Initially VibeRank balanced out the aggregate behavior of the crowd with the discreet engagement of Vibe users. We now tweak the algorithm so that the more active the user is, the more he influences the system. After all, the more active you are in a community, the more expertise you have.
In addition to factoring in community engagement, we also look for the social mavens. These are the people who, not only know where all the best places are, but are actively sought out for their expertise. After we identify them, these folks get the weight of their vote boosted behind the scenes and we also boost the vote weight of anyone who shares his opinions via Facebook, Twitter or FourSquare.
You can see your influence broken down by neighborhood and category in the leader boards in the “What’s Happening” section of mqVibe.
“What’s Happening” We added a “What’s Happening” tab on the mqVibe website (or in slide-out menu in the mobile app). This tab gives you a quick glance at what’s happening in neighborhoods you care about, see what your friends are up to, the rise and fall of local businesses, badges you’ve won, and your local influence and rank.
Achievement Until today, there wasn’t much of a reward for exploring, voting and commenting. With the latest version of mqVibe, you’ll not only get increasing influence – which fosters friendly competition between friends — you now also win badges for your achievements. These include a Pioneer badge for being one of the first to vote in an area, loyalty badges for frequent visits to local businesses, and VIP badges for having the most social influence in a local business.
New badges will be coming online all the time, and range from achievement-style awards, such as a specialist badge for being the first to comment on 10 pizza restaurants in a city, to personality-style badges that help to begin to express your personality based on where you go and what you do.
Checkins At times people are scared to vote down a business in Vibe, because traditionally reviews are permanent and have a lasting effect. mqVibe’s system is different: A vote is simply a point in an ongoing game. You’ll get to vote again and the influence of your vote diminishes over time.
So if you have a bad experience somewhere, you should vote them down, knowing that they will have a chance to make it up to you.
Still, there are times where you’re just not sure how to vote or you don’t have any comment to add. For those times, we added a new neutral “check in” action. And if you’re a FourSquare user, you can register your account so that we’ll automatically check you in when you vote or check-in on mqVibe.
These new features set the stage for the next wave of functionality for mqVibe. Please try them out and let us know what you think.
Here’s a scenario most everyone has faced: you find yourself in a new neighborhood with some time to kill. Where do you go? What do you do? What’s the best restaurant? What do others suggest? Well, we built the MapQuest Vibe iPhone app (mirroring our recently announced site) that we hope answers those questions with aplomb. Download the free new app here ;)
MapQuest Vibe aspires to make you a local, anywhere. Launch it on your iPhone and identify which of the 50,000 U.S. neighborhoods and 27.000 cities you’ve entered or explore what’s just around the corner.
Use the neighborhood map to identify the best restaurants or tap an adjacent orange “Vibe Score” oval to begin discovering places in nearby vicinities. For even greater detail, switch to list view or an individual detail page. A proprietary algorithm combines social signals, user intent and a lot of analysis to create real-time, authoritarian rankings for each and every place.
Sign in with your Facebook account to vote local places up or down. Yes, it’s that simple to show your neighborhood support. Votes dynamically influence place rankings, as well as the neighborhood’s overall Vibe Score. Areas of concentrated coolness (we’ve termed these ”hotspots”) are voting-influenced as well, causing new ones to appear and old ones to change shape or disappear.
Each ‘hood is ranked by a Vibe Score – giving you instant insight into your surroundings. Is it walk-able? Edgy? Is it a great ‘hood for going out? Peer at the neighborhood details and find out.
User votes and comments about local businesses roll up and appear on the neighborhood wall forming a tapestry of helpful commentary. Many neighborhoods have hoods-inside-of-hoods. The ‘In This Neighborhood’ tab lists these oft-obscure gems for you to explore.
Next time you find yourself exploring a new neighborhood, discover the best with MapQuest Vibe.
Late last week, we announced the launch of MapQuest Vibe, a new site that’s all about helping you find the best neighborhoods and the most popular restaurants, shopping, and spas within them. What could make this announcement even better? Why, free stuff, of course! So, we’re giving away the ultimate neighborhood vehicles: Vespa scooters, cruiser bikes and longboards.
Just go to sweeps.mapquest.com to enter. It’s a 42-day sweepstakes with a new winner every day so come back daily. We’re announcing the daily winners on the sweeps site, so keep a look out for your name! Chris D. of Denver was our first winner – I can only assume he’s already having sweet dreams of riding his new Vespa through all the Mile High neighborhoods.
Here’s a hint: You can earn up to 24 extra entries per day (yes, that’s more than 1,000 extra entries in total). After you enter, just look for the 2 options: click to go to mqVibe.com (it’s that easy) or share with friends so they can enter, too.
So, what neighborhoods would you explore on your new ride?
One of the great things about MapQuest Vibe is how you can quickly see which neighborhoods you want to go to or even the ones where you’d like to live. There are so many times where I could have used the “local” perspective to get a sense of the vibe of a place, instead of figuring it out through trial and error.
If I had MapQuest Vibe when I moved to Denver from London about 10 years ago, it would have taken about 15 minutes to figure out where the best neighborhoods and local hotspots were. Instead, it took 5 years of trial and error, poor rental move choices, with a few serendipitous stumbling over wonderful areas that I never knew existed.
If I had MapQuest Vibe last month on vacation with my wife in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I could have figured out which were the best towns to stop in for lunch while we were on the road, and where the best places were to go exploring in Marquette and other small towns.
A few weeks later, I did have an alpha version of MapQuest Vibe during a business trip in New York. That’s how I quickly found I found the local sushi bar a block from my hotel that was the best in the neighborhood. What did I care about the top star-rated restaurants scattered all over the city that other dining-out online services showed me? I wanted to know what was good in my ‘hood.
Yesterday, I had a great experience in a new local bar/restaurant I like to have lunch in across the street from our offices. How should I reward them? Write a review? I haven’t got time for that. So I gave them a thumbs up on mqVibe and it happened to be just enough to push them from #9 to #8. And maybe, with a little support from my friends after I spread the word on Facebook, it can be, and probably should be, the best bar in the neighborhood.
Earlier today, I had lunch at the #1 place in the neighborhood. It definitely didn’t feel like a #1. The service was blander than the food, and most of it was pretty unhealthy.
How shall I express my dissatisfaction? Write a bad review? I still haven’t got time. And I don’t have enough to say, nor do I harbor that much ill will. I’ll just vote it down with a quick comment, ‘service is blander than the food’, and I’ll accelerate the power of word of mouth to my local friends on Facebook. After all, I don’t hate that joint, I just want to give honest feedback without any hassle, in a way that might get their attention and influence them to do better.
This is MapQuest Vibe. It is just the beginning of a revolution in how you discover your city, participate and influence your local community, and explore out of town. Imagine yourself in any of the situations above, play around with the site and see what you find.
At MapQuest, we love maps. We’ve been creating millions of them every day for 15 years, helping people navigate among millions of places across the globe. Maps are tried and true, but at their root, they are really just a canvas for data visualization.
In the past couple of years, the mapping space has rapidly shifted from just a need for “maps and directions” to a need for “local search.” Maps are great for roads and terrain, but local search results displayed as pins on a map or just a flat list could be made more useful.
Finding where to go can be a frustrating experience. Often you find a bunch of restaurants – all with 3.8 stars that require you read through hundreds of reviews to find a new place to eat. Or, if you find a “best of” list, it usually compares restaurants at the city level, which isn’t what you want when you’re hungry now and don’t want to drive across town.
A few months ago, our MapQuest Labs team came upon a new way to tackle this problem by presenting this data in a structure paired with geographic context to help people find what they want faster. The idea is pretty simple: Why make you do all the work to figure out which 3.8-star restaurant is best, when we can simply tell you the best, the second best, the third best, and so on?
How can we do this? It’s because we have a lot of data points; billions of data points in fact. These data points collected over 15 years tell us, among other things, where people are, where they are going, what they are looking for and when they are looking for it.
Individually these data points are not that helpful, but in aggregate they are extremely useful. Analyzing this data lets us give you information to quickly and accurately make decisions.
Today, we’re launching MapQuest Vibe, which is your shortcut to becoming a local, anywhere. This early beta cuts through the clutter of ratings, lists and pins on a map, by giving you actual rankings of places based on key criteria within a local neighborhood context.
MapQuest Vibe gives you the local knowledge of not just the best restaurant in Denver, but also the best Italian restaurant in the LoDo neighborhood in Denver.
The “local knowledge” is generated with a new patented algorithm called VibeRank. This blended social-algorithmic formula takes several implicit signals (like searches on MapQuest and cartographic data), creates a baseline ranking and then layers on explicit social signals from the new Vibe pages.
Based on this algorithm, MapQuest Vibe profiles more than 50,000 neighborhoods, 27,000 cities and 50,000 hotspots in the U.S., reaching 98 percent of the population.
The neighborhood pages let you explore everything a neighborhood has to offer, including restaurants, attractions and services, all ranked in a clear order. Neighborhoods are scored according to attributes like popularity, walkability, and edginess, and the aggregate quality of the places in that neighborhood. These rankings and scores are influenced when you vote up places you like and vote down those you don’t.
You can zoom in further to see the hotspots in a neighborhood. We define hotspots as the places where people and businesses congregate in that neighborhood and have a high density of highly rated points of interest.
Or you can zoom out to a city page to get a sense of the neighborhoods that make up a city. It’s a great way to quickly see where you’d want to spend a day or even get a sense of where you might want to buy a house.
All of this is available today at mqVibe.com and will be available in a few weeks as an iPhone app.
A common problem for mapping and local search products is that the ground-truth is hard to keep up with. When you’re dealing with tens of millions of places, it can take a while for new businesses to be added, closed businesses to be removed or to get everything categorized accurately.
mqVibe approaches this in two ways: First is the traditional way of trying to use the best data providers and allowing businesses to contact us directly to keep their data up to date; the second way is through the social feedback loop inherent in the system. The more people who vote and comment, the more accurate the underlying data. And, in the next few months, we’ll have better tools to let users help us fix this on the fly.
Over time, you’ll see VibeRank applied to more and more things on MapQuest. Whether it’s applied to highway exits, fuel-efficient routes, national parks or even used as a reputation indicator on user profiles, you can expect to see clear and simple ranks and scores to help you make a decision.
Additionally, the neighborhood and hotspot pages can turn into a vibrant engagement platform, which brings local news, events, deals and much more into a useful hyper-local context.
The early beta of MapQuest Vibe, VibeRank, and these new neighborhood, city, and hotspot pages are just a small first step in the next chapter of MapQuest’s journey. Please try them out and let us know what you think.