06 March 2012

[maps] Dido Albert Federowich: The Greatest Living American?

2790There's a practice in mapmaking known as copyright trapping. It is set by laying copyright traps. 

Creating maps is something of an odd competition. They usually wage war over features such as design, readability, completeness … the sources of many maps is a matter of public record. If I decided (and many of my friends over time has said I should) to create and publish a map of Portland, I could do so by referring to public records as to what streets have actually been built, historical records which have fallen into the public domain, and, in the case of this town, my extensive street-level experience in it.

That's one way.

The other way would be to buy a Rand McNally map and create my own hand- or digitally-drawn copy. And, since it's the city of Portland, a thing that's open to all, and maps strive for accuracy, it'd be essentially impossible to discern that I got the idea that 82nd Avenue crosses Burnside Street from any freely-available source.

They have called this editing the competition as well, back in the days when maps were distributed through gas stations. Isn't it nifty?

But how to create a map in such a way that lazy cartographers can't get away with stealing your data? Easy. Put a little street it, that people are vanishingly likely to visit, in some out-of-the-way place, and give it a tell-tale name. It pops up in the competition's map and, bingo, you got 'em.

Blogfriend Ben Lukoff (@lukobe on Twittah) who shares a similar Address Nerdery, alerted me to a street named after someone I'd never heard of before … Dido Albert Federowich. I don't know who he was or what he did, but he's important enough to have a street named after him … or did he?
Anyway, as I was scrolling around the west side of the city, the map displayed a rather unusually named street: “Dido Albert Federowich Memorial Drive.” Uh, what now? So, naturally, I googled the name…and discovered that, oddly, there are similarly named streets in several cities…or at least, maps of that city indicate streets of that name in several cities.
I put the string Dido Albert Federowich Memorial Dr into Google maps, and I got 4 hits:
  1. Omaha, Nebraska: A driveway into a park that has baseball diamonds.
  2. Virginia Beach, Virginia: An entry road into a subdivision. If you go into Street View, and position yourself just-so at the intersection with the cross-street leading into that subdivision, you'll see that the street blade calls it Savannah Trail, which is the name of the backbone street of the subdivision, which it presumably is actually an extension to.
  3. Knoxville, Tennessee: an access to a parking lot that apparently serves a park-and-ball-diamond arrangement on the city's southwest side
  4. Pollock Pines, California: a back-road's back road in the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento
My Google Maps search only turned up those four; the author of this blog posting found several others. 

The presence of DAFM Drive doesn't in and of itself excite so much as finding even one more of them in some other city hundreds of miles away … and I came up with four. What's up with that? Have I just inadvertently inducted myself into a secret society of DAF-followers and soon receive attendant power, prestige and wealth?

Gosh, I sure hope so.

Is it a copyright trap? Or just some pro-cartographers' inside-joke? That is a mystery that I, mah babies, cannot crack. Maybe someone someday will. I'll just enjoy the absurdity for now.

Anyway, Dido Albert Federowich, great unknown American, we salute you, whoever … or whatever … you were. Are. Is. I don't know, really.

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