Meet Hoodmaps: The Unfiltered Map of Your City

Entrepreneur Pieter Levels has a history of odd, entertaining products. Among my personal favorites are Go Fucking Do It (a motivation tool) and GifBook (Turn GIFs into flipbooks). His products are fun to use, but often they are more “startup as art” than ” daily must-use”. They pay his bills and make people happy, but they aren’t essential.

His latest project, Hoodmaps.com, has me stumped. It falls between those two categories, and which way it goes is anyone’s guess.

The idea is cool: crowdsourced, (almost) un-censored neighborhood maps. When you visit a new city, you want to know where to stay, where to visit, and where to work. The contributors to Hoodmaps have you covered.

In many cities, especially my current home-town (Chicago), you also need to know where not to go. Where you will get mugged, robbed, or worse. Hoodmaps has you covered there too.

This is a map of my neighborhood.

It tells you (in a wonderfully candid way) not to go to Washington Park, which is something that Google and Apple maps could never (but absolutely should) say.

Also highlighted are the main attractions of the area, the university and the museums, and the generally ugly student apartments above. Hoodmaps, and its contributors, do a good job of boiling down a neighborhood. That is why I think this product has potential to be the travel guide of the future. If I could get a complete picture of a city with a few swipes of a map, I would use Hoodmaps wherever I went.

The challenge is, Hoodmaps has a long way to go. Community-driven products thrive on scale, and data, and as a young product it hasn’t yet benefited from a massive number of contributors. My neighborhood in DC, where I’m spending the summer, is entirely empty of captioning. Many other areas of the city are too.

Right now, Hoodmaps gives you the “god view” of a neighborhood. It hasn’t mastered the details. It may tell you “neighborhood of hipsters”, but it won’t show you where to get coffee, or where to take a date.  The way data is displayed (the shading, the captions) could also use refining. (Side note: There’s actually a lot of fascinating history behind why maps display data as they do)

Still, Hoodmaps can be a winner. Watching Pieter Levels transform his most successful project to-date, Nomadlist, from a spreadsheet to a fully functioning search engine and community has given me confidence in his skill for iteration and community building.

If the interface becomes a bit clearer and every city develops a community of passionate contributors to fill in the blanks on the map, Hoodmaps could find its way into my daily toolkit. I look forward to seeing it develop further, but you should give it a try today (and maybe share some knowledge on your city).

Check out your city on Hoodmaps and tweet me what you think.

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Michael Sitver

Michael Sitver is a technology insider who has been blogging about technology since 2011. Along the way, he's interviewed founders of innovative startups, and executives from fortune 500 companies, and he's tried dozens or hundreds of gadgets. Michael has also contributed to works featured in Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the associated press. Michael also occasionally consults, and writes for Seeking Alpha and Yahoo News.

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