I love the analysis of this simple act: fixing some Google Maps data. What does it actually mean?
I did the same a few times, once by uploading the first images ever to the listing of a new vegan restaurant in Metz, France that I enjoyed while traveling. I got emails from Google about this single act for years until I disabled them.
I think I did the restaurant and other people a real service by adding the info. But I also got double feelings from the social vanity metrics attached to Google’s unsolicited emails: trying to socially pressure you to help them more, for free.
I don’t think gamification or reputation points or similar are bad things. And it’s anyone’s choice to participate in the systems they want to: clearly, many “Local Guides” enjoy this. But it is good to question which parties you’re actually supporting with your online actions, whether tweeting or fixing a Google Maps issue.
I don’t agree with the sentiment that only big commercial tech companies can provide valuable maps. They logically only care about the average use case that gets them the most money. Apple only added cycling support recently.
On some of my past cycle touring trips through Europe, the detail in OpenStreetMap data for buildings, road types, regional cycling networks and camping locations has been invaluable and unparalleled in mainstream commercial maps. I’ve worked with the Belgian Open Street Map community members at open Summer of Code too, where there are often projects for map data and routing algorithms that address special needs, for example, give the best route for people in a wheelchair. These are things Google or Bing won’t care about since it doesn’t make sense for them commercially, or because it’s too niche.