RogerBW's Blog

Just Give Coordinates 09 August 2018

People continue to give directions to their houses, places of business, etc., but not to give the coordinates. Please fix this.

I don't object to a well-written set of directions – though most people do it very badly, because they're writing about a place they know, rather than one they're seeing for the first time.

I know that post code coordinates aren't perfect, particularly in sparsely-populated areas (I've even seen some places say "use post code X in your navi, not our actual address's post code"), and some people's navis aren't updated with the latest changes. But I feel that this is no excuse for only giving, from a known starting point:

Go under the railway bridge keeping left down X Lane; carry on for approx 1/2 a mile, past Y House on your left; we are next RIGHT. You will see a white farmhouse, garages (with white doors) and a barn conversion next to it.

Those are in fact correct directions; but neither Y House, nor the Z Farm that I was actually going to, was labelled as such on any map, and nor did they have signboards outside saying what they were (Google Street View sometimes blurs these anyway). So when I got there I had to poke round quite a bit to make sure I was at the right one out of three possible farms.

It's not so very hard to include a WGS84 latitude and longitude as well. Even if you don't have a smartphone, or a navi for your car, there's OpenStreetMap – or even Google Maps, as Street View can be useful for pinning down an exact location. And the coordinates you pull out of your favourite mapping service can be used by the recipient in whatever mapping program they prefer, whether that be phone, car navi, desktop site, even paper map (at least an Ordnance Survey one, and if they're using an A-Z or similar they can check on-line first to get a pointer to the right bit of the right road); everything allows for coordinate lookup in one form or another.


  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 11:34am on 09 August 2018

    When I shared a flat with James many years ago, our directions included: "You go down Warwick Road and turn right at the prostitute." People would scoff at these directions but they proved more reliable than giving pub names!

    The idea that I'd have a favourite mapping service bemuses me. Possibly because I'm a non-driver?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:41am on 09 August 2018

    Even when I'm not driving to a convention, I look up where it's happening, the hotel where I'm staying, some nearby supermarkets, and so on, and put the locations in my phone. (The phone is a recent change, but I did this with various PDAs back in the day.)

  3. Posted by chris at 12:08pm on 09 August 2018

    You are quite sure that the majority of people telling you where they live would look at "WGS84" and think "oh, right, I know what that means"?

    Given that I am reasonably well-informed and intelligent and I had never come across this little whatever-it-is before ("oh, not ANOTHER bloody TLA....why can't these people use words?") why would yeraverage person on Freegle either know or care what this was for his or her house? Apart from for your convenience, when would he or she ever have used it anyway? not when they bought the place, not when they set up their own navi. And when would they ever have seen one? never, going by the number of places that include it by your own account.

    "The coordinates you pull out of your own favourite mapping service", you say casually. Apart from the large paper atlas (which I don't carry with me because there is no room for it in the car; if it is there, people put their muddy hooves all over it and destroy the covers and I have to get a new one) I wouldn't know where to look for these, have never found any need for them, and frankly don't expect to either.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 12:37pm on 09 August 2018

    Well, I tend to assume that anyone who's still reading a blog rather than spending all their time on Facebook and Twitter is capable of searching for terms they don't recognise.

    If they have set their home or place of business as a location in a navi or phone – and they probably have if they have such a device at all – they can get the coordinates from that.

    The last paper atlas I bought – the big one of Germany – has a note inside the cover explaining how to look up lat/long from the map pages, or find a lat/long on the map pages; I assume that this is the system they favour exactly because it's a system applicable to all sorts of devices which may or may not have access to address books, postcode lookups, short codes, etc.

    Some people prefer National Grid coordinates, but I think they don't have much virtue these days unless you're working entirely within Ordnance Survey maps (and of course entirely within the UK). The process of conversion between the two is not trivial.

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