How to avoid stepping in it

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/10/04 23:30 -07:00, original URI:

There are those who believe that me telling folks how to not step in it does not make too much sense. But I would argue that my misteps are not as bad as the one I am mentioning here tonight.

As reported in The Register, there are people in Taiwan who are not especially happy with Google at the moment, with its labeling of Taiwan as a province of China in Google Earth. And as is typical of The Register, they are of course making fun of the issue as they report it.

Are they all 12 years old over at the Register? The one advantage to stories that start there is that even when they end up on /. there is nowhere to go but up. If you know what I mean.

Of course all of those former Microsofties at Google should have perhaps paid more attention to issue with lines in the time zone map before they left; it might have saved them the pain of dealing with this issue, just as it did for the folks at MSN Virtual Earth.

# Drew Cooper on Wednesday, October 05, 2005 4:55 AM:

I usually enjoy your posts, but I'm sorry to write that really think this one is in poor taste. And deriding GOOG for their mistake isn't going to knock their halo off, so it's also ineffectual.

Feel free to moderate this out and disallow the comment. The comment is really meant for you only.

- Drew

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, October 05, 2005 6:56 AM:

I think I spent a little more time deriding The Register for their non-professional treatement of the article than Google, no? And it isn't like I have been shy about pointing out MS mistakes here when I think they are mistakes.

In the case of Google, it is the side effect of being young and brash. It boils down to a mistake, and perhaps a tiny bit of evil (probably unintentional). But this is not an attempt to knock their halo off, it is actually a bit more cautionary than that....

# Nick Lamb on Wednesday, October 05, 2005 11:37 AM:

The Register simply has a sense of humour, which you may have an excuse for not understanding since you seem to be American. Like the slogan says "Biting the hand that feeds IT". It hardly seems sensible here to accuse El Reg of being unprofessional when two grown countries can't settle such a simple dispute after so many years. And it's not as though they're alone, the US has a list of territorial disputres as long as your arm.

As to Google, well it's very popular these days for Microsoft bloggers to take a swipe at Google in passing. Not so long ago Google was beneath their notice. I don't think I need to quote Gandhi here do I? I imagine they'll write "Taiwan", and then ignore further letters on the subject until China actually invades or formally accepts that it's an independent nation.

Anyway I can't tell what MSN VE does that's so clever here, unless it is that they replace most of the island of Taiwan with grey rectangles. I guess that avoids labelling it, while appearing like a harmless software bug? OTOH Google Earth, while having an unfortunate label for the island in question does at least show what's on it...

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, October 05, 2005 12:22 PM:

What does MSN do? It did not label it a country (which would upset China), it did not label it a province (which would upset Taiwan). Easy solution in labelling....

I have a sense of humor, I just didn't think that it was all that funny.

As for the Google thing, it was not too heavy of a swipe. But they may want to learn a thing or two about the world while they are trying to cover it, in my opinion.

# Maurits on Wednesday, October 05, 2005 3:44 PM:

Taiwan is not a member of the UN:

That's probably good enough reason not to consider them a bona fide country for purposes of world maps.

/Why/ they are not a member of the UN is a complex and sordid tale. But it's not up to Google Maps to set right any political injustices, or claim to resolve any political disagreements.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, October 05, 2005 3:47 PM:

Hi Maurits,

The reality of the marketplace make that a solution only suitable for people who have no interest in selling software in Taiwan.

It is up to Google to stay out of the middle of such things -- and using either "country" or "province" puts them in the middle for two markets, both of which they care about....

# Jonathan Wilson on Thursday, October 06, 2005 4:03 AM:

With issues like this (and like the disputed region of kashmere(sp) between india and pakistan and like other disputed regions around the world), its very hard to produce any proper world map or list of countries etc that doesnt annoy one side of these disputes or the other.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Thursday, October 06, 2005 12:14 PM:

Excellent point, Jonathan -- the easiest way is to avoid the issue:

1) no lines (!!!)
2) names modified to avoid contention

Anything else and you are in for a world of hurt, in the long run.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Thursday, October 20, 2005 4:21 PM:

Google has finally managed to sidestep their blunder, at least....


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referenced by

2007/09/26 It is better when geopolitical issues turn out to not be a Thorn in one's side

2005/12/17 Sometimes, tech companies cannot take sides

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