The DelSo is now Google official

delso google maps

If Google says so, then it must be true.

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


Still no sign of Hudson/Park, the step child of Center Square.

Can't you add your own locale using ?

Add new > Draw a Shape

Looks like you have Micheal to thank

Interesting how there aren't any Troy neighborhoods labeled. If DelSo made it onto Google Maps you'd think Lansingburgh or Little Italy would.

I like the idea of dropping the article from the DelSo and have it exist as DelSo or DELSO. :-)

one step closer to being Ork'ed.

Good find Dan. It seemed weird a few inbound links to local blogs would spontaneously bubble up to Google Maps like that. Created April 4 by Michael with a link to Silvia's blog and 3 links to AOA for documentation, approved by a Google Reviewer 6 days later, that was quick. Man, get a few bloggers together and that opens up a few opportunities for pranking.

Thanks for the awesome post!! I'm really proud of my neighborhood and of the way there has been so much support for our businesses and community resources. I've lived in Albany since 1988 and have always felt that it is on the cusp of being amazing. I sincerely hope we get some new life politically and shift the focus to making this city a place where people truly want to live.

The lack of standards for naming an area is a bit disconcerting. On the one hand, Google maps has turned up a LOT of place names that had long ago disappeared, which makes the history buff in me happy. On the other hand, it applies names to areas, like Bishopsgate, that are based only on a real estate nomenclature and not a genuine place name that anyone outside the particular development would recognize.

@Silvia: Congrats!

@Dan: Great find! Thank you!

@-S I had the same thought about pranks. I'm starting to think how I could get the area around my house labeled as the Kingdom of Greg (or maybe Greglandia)...

@Tim: I've always wondered about the designations in that area. One of the surest ways to stir people up is to say that the section of Madison Ave between Lark and Swan is part of "Center Square." I've figured there must be some historical reason (or feud) for why the area is so subdivided.

@Frank: They totally deserve to be there. That bit turned up by Dan appears to provide a template for how to make it happen.

@DB: Crystal Powell creates state illustrations like that.

I always assumed that the names "Center Square" and "Hudson Park" were created when the neighborhood associations formed.

I mean, Hudson/Park is a bizarre name to have been created organically.

A question for Tony Opalka!

I think the Student Ghetto is ripe for a Google-enabled neighborhood nomenclature-led makeover. Suggestions?

Oh come on, @Greg, the area around your house totally needs to be called Ottozone.

@Val: Heh. I'm pretty sure he already regards it as such.

I guess my neighborhood is in Del-No - I feel like a google-loser.

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