Check it out: the southern part of Albany's Delaware Ave neighborhood is now tagged as "DelSo" on Google Maps. There are even boundaries on the map.
This is remarkable to us because:
1. As far as we can tell, that name is just a few years old.
2. And it can be traced back to one person: Silvia!
So how does an informal neighborhood name end up in Google Maps?
We contacted Google to find out. The response from Google Spokesperson:
We're constantly working on ways to improve our maps with the most up-to-date information available, so the data on Google Maps is continuously being updated and comes from a wide range of sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and commercial data providers. Labels and boundaries are often part of the data sets we get from the authoritative sources we work with to build the basemap, and help us in our effort to provide a rich and useful digital atlas for our users.
In other words: they're not going to tell us, exactly.
DelSo doesn't appear to be a Census Bureau name -- the tract for the neighborhood covers a much larger area. And as for "commercial data providers" and "authoritative sources," our searches online for the term turned it up in only a few places. Among them: Silvia's blogs (of course), FUSSYlittleBLOG, Mingle, All Good Bakers, and AOA. It pops up in a few other places, mostly in reference to some of those businesses. The label does not appear in Bing maps or OpenStreetMap.
Especially interesting given the relatively small number of references: Google Maps includes boundary lines for DelSo -- so someone, somewhere, at some point, had to generate those lines. (There's some evidence the Google will pull neighborhood geodata from unofficial sources.)
A few years back we talked with Silvia about how the DelSo name came about:
I was feeling really excited about the improvements to my neighborhood and wanted to document events, people and places in the area that I had lived for 13+ years. I thought the area needed an identity and came up with the name myself in a burst of genius. I like the name because I have a fondness for words with 2-syllables.
Not really -- just kidding! I actually like the name because it lends itself to being called either "DelSo" or "The DelSo" which shows flexibility. It also makes me feel a little bit like I live in NYC without the expense, but with the hipness.
We're kind of surprised how quickly a neighborhood tag like this can go from one person to becoming "official." And maybe there's a small lesson it that: if you can get enough people -- a surprisingly limited number, even -- on board, you can start to shape the identity of where you live. It's not the same as physically changing the place, but perception has a way of looping back on the real world.
screengrab: Google Maps
Earlier on AOA: The ___est neighborhoods in the Capital Region
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