Home > Public Domain Data > Everyday examples of being critical of the data

Everyday examples of being critical of the data

Each day presents new examples of the central theme of this blog–the importance of being critical of the data, including spatial data. Some of the most effective examples are those rather odd bits of geospatial information, and I have included some of my recent favorites here. These examples are intriguing; some are even fun. They might serve as attention-getting images as you teach students or colleagues about data quality on maps, visualizations, and other forms of communication. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, I say that a map or image is worth 1,000 pictures.

At first glance, from the following result from a phone map search, George Mason University has become a simple Chinese fast-food chain! It begs the question: Is the 4-star rating reflective of the university or of the chicken chow mein?

George Mason University — a Chinese fast food chain?

See this example below from a catalog that I have treasured for a few years. Map orientation matters! This speaks to one of the central goals of my entire career, which is to do all I can to increase geographic literacy. We still have a long way to go! In fairness to this catalog, though, this image has been corrected after I and a few colleagues wrote to them.

Yes, Virginia, map orientation does matter!

Check out the satellite image below. You have heard of life imitating art and vice versa. Is this a case of maps imitating the Earth, or vice versa? I followed the advice we promote in this blog; i.e., I checked several other sources, and it does appear that the pushpin-looking feature in California is legitimate! Notice the dry pushpin-like feature facing the one that contains what appears to be water, and the boat on the desert sands to the southwest of the water feature. The Esri Wayback imagery shows the feature under construction from a image dated February 2014. Still, it is a puzzle what the purpose of a water feature in the middle of the desert is.

Maps imitating the Earth, or vice versa?

“What’s wrong with this picture?” My recent search to fill out a proper bibliographic citation for an article I wrote for the location of the National Academy of Sciences headquarters netted me a location on a house on a cul-de-sac in suburban Denver. How can that be? Could it perhaps be because I was doing the search from a computer in the Denver area?

Is this really the headquarters of the National Academy of Sciences?

This errant weather feed below existed online for nearly a year before it was corrected. I know it gets hot in Texas, but really! If the heat doesn’t do you in, the rainfall deluge, impossibly high humidity, and the ferocious winds will!

Errant weather feed. I know it gets hot in Texas, but this is ridiculous.

But even outside of maps, examples are just as numerous. Take a careful look at the Beatles tunes listed below. Funny, I’ve never heard the songs “Penny Lance”, “A Day in the Sky”, or “Can’s Buy Me Love” before! In addition, this isn’t an “album” at all, but rather a user-created playlist but appears on a host of music-related websites.

Beatles playlist – funny, I’ve not heard some of these odd song titles!

Feel free to share some additional examples that you have found in the comments section below!

  1. Stephen
    October 6, 2020 at 4:00 am

    Yep i remember that day, Feels .3 of a degree hotter than 3276.7F Must have been the Normal pressure – With those winds and rain
    Great post, Joseph.

    • josephkerski
      October 6, 2020 at 1:32 pm

      Ha! Indeed. Thanks so much.

  2. October 6, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    Push pins in the desert: Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

    Scroll around the area and you will see all kinds of interesting stuff.


    • josephkerski
      October 6, 2020 at 8:33 pm


  3. David Sherrill
    October 12, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    Here is one for you. Do a Google search for Bumblebee. I’ve been wrong my whole life because I always thought it was a type of insect.

    • josephkerski
      February 5, 2021 at 6:20 pm

      Thanks David – good point!

  4. josephkerski
    May 6, 2021 at 6:03 pm

    All- I have created a video on this topic, everyday examples of being critical of the data, here: https://youtu.be/qa0x4MJwxiI

  5. josephkerski
    February 10, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    Thanks for reading!

  1. February 10, 2021 at 9:04 pm

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