Anybody who’s spent any time at all on the official Google/Keyhole community bulletin board has run into site administrator and Google Earth power user “Seer”. With over 2,600 posts under his belt since 2002, he is the go-to person for all things Google Earthly, and so I asked for an interview. Here comes the first installment.
In my first couple of questions, I ask him about how it feels to hit the big time, and what he thinks of the unofficial community sites that are springing up around Google Earth. Highlights:
…It never occurred to me that there would be other sites, though as soon as I saw the first one I realized that there would be many more…
…The user-created data layers started with the Google Earth Community and are expanding in several new directions. Anyone with Placemarks to publish on the Google Earth is someone that we want to know…
Read the whole first installment below the fold.
Ogle Earth: What does the explosion of interest in Google Earth feel like for someone who’s been involved in the Keyhole community since its inception? Does it feel like your favorite hometown band has suddenly hit the big time, or are you more a member of that band?
Seer: My excitement centers on two ideas: first, that people worldwide are deepening their sense of global connection as Google Earth illustrates how every part of our planet is home to someone much like ourselves, and secondly, that everyone with access to a computer can now understand the context of world events — seeing where London’s Edgware Road Station is and where cyclists are right now on the Tour de France to name a few recent examples.
Your hometown band analogy is perfect because it echoes a personal experience. I was a Keyhole beta tester when the very first ability to read and write Placemarks was developed. From that day I began saving locations and emailing them as attachments to friends at Keyhole and other beta testers. My joy in finding a way to visually share world knowledge was and remains deeply satisfying. This experience was in fact just like walking down the street and discovering a really good garage band.
After a short while the people at Keyhole got tired of getting so many emails from me and they created a mailing list where myself and others could share Placemarks. A few months later, my close friend and fellow beta-tester “PenguinOpus” set up the Keyhole Community BBS so that Placemarks we shared through the mailing list could be seen by those who came along later. There were about 40 people a day who visited the BBS back then, so maybe that would be like the band’s demo tape or first public performance.
Now, of course, things are on an international scale as Google data centers and technology enable Google Earth to be experienced worldwide. The Google Earth Community has a thousand or more people online sharing and enjoying Placemarks 24 hours per day, and this is just the hub of a larger set of independent “fan” websites. The band may not yet be the Rolling Stones, but it is certainly an international hit.
Ogle Earth: What do you think of the unofficial sightseeing sites springing up on the net? Is this what you were hoping for? Any chance some of them might get their own network link folder as a default on future releases of Google Earth?
Seer: The unofficial sightseeing websites are personal tributes to Google Earth. It means that there are others out there who had the same epiphany when first hearing the band, just as PenguinOpus and I had. Those people are our soul mates — they love to see the world; they need to understand events past, present or future; and most of all, they are moved to create a community to share this love with others. We salute these people even if we don’t know who or where they are.
It never occurred to me that there would be other sites, though as soon as I saw the first one I realized that there would be many more. As soon as I could Placemark and share, I did. When others joined me, we built a community. No doubt this is happening around the world and for similar reasons. The official Google Earth community (bbs.keyhole.com) remains special among its peers: this is where the program’s developers answer questions, where suggestions directly influence product direction, and where posts are collected to create the folder of Community Placemark layers. But none of that should or will stop people from forming communities elsewhere, especially when the rallying point is not so much Google Earth as a shared topic of interest, such as great surfing sites, golf club reviews, or other nexus topics.
The user-created data layers started with the Google Earth Community and are expanding in several new directions. Anyone with Placemarks to publish on the Google Earth is someone that we want to know. Send me (“seer”) a PM at bbs.keyhole.com about your Google Earth related site and where your Placemarks are located. Also, because the list of layers changes with each database update the inclusion of Placemarks from other sites can happen more frequently than future releases of Google Earth.
End of part 1.
PS: Seer also mentioned he is going to create a “Friends” forum on the bulletin board that links to other Google Earth sites.