Today we're introducing a new way to find travel questions at Ask MetaFilter: Travel Locations.
Here's how it works: when someone asks a new question in the Travel & Transportation category, we ask for a location (screenshot
). They type in "Berkeley, CA" (or wherever) and post their question as usual.
We take that text and try to turn it into a real world location using the Google Geocoding API
. If it works, great, we have a match with a real location. If it doesn't work, that's ok, the question just won't have a location associated with it. We ask for a single geographic location. If a question is about multiple locations it probably isn't quite right for this particular feature. If all locations are in a single country, it might make sense to jump out to that level and use "China" or "United States".
In this case, "Berkeley, CA" maps easily to a single real spot so in addition to all the usual spaces, the question ends up on the new Questions About Berkeley, CA
page. At the top of that page is a breadcrumb trail (screenshot
) that leads back to the Travel & Transportation
On the main thread page for the question, there's also new link in the byline (screenshot
) that leads to the location page.
We have some more features planned to help surface location information, but we're starting out slow so we can get a feel for how it will work. We want this feature to be unobtrusive during this introduction. We felt like the Travel & Transportation category was the first best choice for location data but we're treating it as a pilot feature there. If it works well we'll move it to the other categories.
I'd like to give a special thanks to our intern Dominic. Allen
who went through 12,000+ questions in the Travel & Transportation category and added a location where possible. Great work, Dom!
There are bugs—especially with geocoding. If you type in something along the lines of "asdfasdf" as a Travel Location, Google will do its best to find a match. Sometimes it's not the match you intended. If you stick to cities, states, and countries it works pretty well. We'll be tuning as we go so you can post here or use the Contact Form
if you run into problems.