OpenCounter's location maps use a geocoding service provided by worldwide mapping company Mapbox. Mapbox's services are used by companies such as The Weather Channel, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and the National Park Service.

If you've encountered some incorrect addresses in your OpenCounter maps, what you're seeing is the challenge that comes with mapping the entire world, and attempting to bridge the wide and complex gap between point locations and human-readable addresses.

How location selection works

You can select a project's location in OpenCounter through two different means.

  1. Typing an address. If you type an address into the address search bar, software known as a geocoder will read the address, look it up in a spatial database, and place a pin at a specific coordinate on the location map. The process of converting text into a spatial (coordinate) location is known as "geocoding" or "forward geocoding".
  2. Clicking the map. If you click the location map, the geocoder will look up the latitude-longitude of the point you clicked, and attempt to find the correct text address for this location. The process of converting a point location into a text address is known as "reverse geocoding".

The process of geocoding—forward or reverse—is difficult, and the spatial software community has devoted many conference talks and working sessions on it. See the talk “Why Geocoding is Hard” from The State of the Map to learn more about why geocoding is such a challenging problem.

Three ways to improve results 

There isn't one easy solution to solving the deeply complex problems of geocoding, but there are three ways you can contribute to improved geocoder results in your OpenCounter portals.

1. Report the issue through the map feedback form

In the bottom-right corner of every Mapbox map is a link to "Improve this map".

This link will bring you to a Mapbox form that prompts you to suggest improvements. Fill out this form to let Mapbox know what's happening and what the correct, expected address should be.

2. Report the issue through Mapbox's Geocoder Feedback tool

Mapbox provides a standalone Geocoder Feedback tool that allows you to search for an address, set the correct location, and provide other contextual details. 

You can access this tool here: https://labs.mapbox.com/geocoder-feedback.

3. Edit the source—OpenStreetMap—directly

Mapbox pulls much of its mapping data from OpenStreetMap, a worldwide community of open, editable geolocation data. If you see a major error in the way spatial data is being represented in your jurisdiction, you can take steps to correct it yourself (or bring in your GIS staff).

Editing OpenStreetMap data may provide improved data on which Mapbox bases its geocoding service.

You or your GIS staff can set up an account at openstreetmap.org. A simple tutorial walks you through the process of editing a map, and then you can start adding and editing roads, buildings, and other landmarks to improve the open-source geospatial representation of your community.


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