My profile seems to think my zipcode doesn't exist. October 17, 2005 8:35 PM   Subscribe

For some reason in my profile, where it is supposed to say "xx MetaFilter users near this user:" I get "no zip found in the db". I found that strange, as I live in a suburb of DC, but shrugged it off as everyone else living in the cooler parts of town. However, when I got bored and looked into it, I'm 26.87 miles from darksquirrel. Yet darksquirrel is 29.78 miles from jenny18 and they show up in each other's zipcode list. Is this a bug, or have I uncovered the fact that my neighborhood has been blackballed by MeFi?
posted by forforf to Bugs at 8:35 PM (18 comments total)

My guess was that that part of the database just got borrowed from some other equally incomplete database. e.g. 32612 and 32611 are also not in the dB (or in Barnes and Noble's).
posted by Tuwa at 8:39 PM on October 17, 2005

The zipcode database is way outdated. The zipcode in my profile is not the one I use in return address labels. My town's zipcode changed in the late 90's, but I need to use the seven-years-out-of-date one to avoid "no zip found in the db."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:42 PM on October 17, 2005

I'm using a crappy free census database to map zipcodes in the US to lat/lon coordinates, which I'll be scrapping soon to instead just let people put in lat/lon and make the system work worldwide (and then google maps, etc will be easy too).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:57 PM on October 17, 2005

oh yeah no way I'm gonna put in my lat/lon coords. i already have enough of a time ditching the mefi orbital mind control lasers.
posted by todbot at 8:59 PM on October 17, 2005

Been waiting on the lat/long fields a long time and it will be great when it arrives.
posted by Jimbob at 9:18 PM on October 17, 2005

Latitude and Longitude? You're kidding, right? Feel free to replace my "no zip code found in the db" with "no lat/lon found because she has no idea". You are not that far from me, Matt, could I just use yours?
posted by Cranberry at 9:27 PM on October 17, 2005

Cranberry, I will add links to find your lat/lon in a simple way. The easiest way I think right now is to find your house in google maps, then hit the "link to this page" thing and the lat/lon should be in the URL.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:28 PM on October 17, 2005

As long as it isn't precise enough for targeting, I guess it will be okay...
posted by Chuckles at 9:54 PM on October 17, 2005

You are too kind, good sir. No wonder you are #1.
posted by Cranberry at 9:55 PM on October 17, 2005

How many digits of precision are you going to allow on this? Unlike zipcodes or addresses, people won't know how many digits to peel off while remaining at least anonymous enough not to have to worry about GPS guided missiles (or stalkers)
posted by delmoi at 10:24 PM on October 17, 2005

I imagine it would be easy to retain the zipcode functionality. There are zipcode->lat/lon databases where the lat/lon given is the centroid or similar of the zipcoded region.
posted by todbot at 10:56 PM on October 17, 2005

Okay Matt. I posted mine. You can use them if you want. :-)
posted by Cranberry at 11:18 PM on October 17, 2005

Thanks for the update ... I did try a couple of other zips that were close by with no luck (but this area has had tremendous growth), so I'll just find one that does work until the Lat/Long pony comes trotting in.
posted by forforf at 4:52 AM on October 18, 2005

I had also wondered about this, looking forward to the updated system.
posted by prostyle at 9:03 AM on October 18, 2005

The census database has a few shortcomings for non-census uses (e.g. here and on commercial sites). My guess is that the Census bureau excludes certain zips to avoid a risk of polling the same person twice. e.g. 32612 and 32611 are both on the University of Florida campus (12 is dorms; 11 is offices) but people don't live in 11 and people in 12 are probably answered for at their parents' address.

In the meantime, is there a *complete* but still free/free alternative source for a zip code database? Maybe the post office? 32612 has been an active zip since at least 1993.
posted by Tuwa at 11:29 AM on October 18, 2005

Matt, A colleague doing a presentation on Google-Map hacking today showed a simple formula for calculating distance among Lat/Long points. He mentioned that he'd hacked it off the web. I can track that down if that's something you'd need..... Of course, you're probably way ahead of that.
posted by mmahaffie at 4:30 PM on October 18, 2005

The authoritative stuff (although I think this is changing sometime soon) is available as FIPS data from USGS, here.
posted by blacklite at 3:54 AM on October 19, 2005

I look forward to this fix - I know I live near a ton of other MeFites but there seems to be no other way to know which ones.
posted by phearlez at 11:55 AM on October 25, 2005

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