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Yesterday, Walk Score introduced new crowdsourcing features for its site and mobile app that will ask for users’ input on everything from neighborhood gems to dangerous intersections.
Walk Score is a platform that provides a numerical “walkability” rating for any address in the U.S., Canada, Autralia, and New Zealand. The score is measured by the neighborhood’s accessibility to pedestrians, which is judged by whether and how easily one can walk to a grocery store, coffee shop, school, movie theater, and other points of interest.
Aside from providing information about a neighborhood’s walkability, Walk Score can also tell users how accessible an apartment is by public transport and helps house hunters find the most commute-friendly homes.
In order to compile information about a given neighborhood, Walk Score relies on its “Street Smart” algorithm, which culls data from places like Google, Open Street Map, and local transit agencies. If an apartment has all amenities (schools, markets, cafes, etc.) within .2 miles, for example, it gets a perfect score. While the platform does encourage user input before yesterday's changes, it relied mainly on compiling information from other sources, giving only a “highly educated guess about the actual human experience,” as the Atlantic’s Kaid Benfield noted.
Now, the platform’s developers are looking to add a little more soul onto the platform. Walk Score’s new crowdsourcing features include sharing and discussing neighborhood gems, creating crowdsourced tours, and submitting information about problem spots for walkers.
“Adding this rich local insight to Walk Score marks an important step toward our vision of empowering people to find great places to live, work and play where they can drive less and live more,” Walk Score CEO Josh Herst said in the press release announcing the changes.
Adding user input should help Walk Score generate more content and thereby improve the system’s rankings. Asking for input from the crowd, however, can lead to some unintended consequences. We’re curious to see how the platform’s developers will moderate the user-generated content. Erroneous submissions, after all, can hurt a neighborhood’s score just as much as helpful ones can raise it.