Saturday, February 15, 2014

Geocoding and Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine

It's been at least a year ago that my buddy Rob Villalpando was working on an interactive graphic for the Statesman when he came across this street view photo of The Mystery Machine parked in front of a food trailer court at 1106 E. 6th St. in Austin. There are plenty of posts on these interesting sightings, but why I come across them usually is because I'm often geocoding data manually, and I often use Street View as a way to confirm my findings.

Even with the best geocoding services, you almost always get bad addresses and have to fix or at least confirm them. I've written about Texas A&M's geocoding service in the past, and one thing I really like about it is it tells you how accurate it's match was. Anything not parcel based or centerline street, and I know I need to find the lat/long myself.

Before Google updated to their latest maps version online, it was pretty darn easy, though time consuming. Now it's tougher, because they do their Lat/Long coordinates in degrees instead of decimals, which doesn't play well with the tools I use, mostly Fusion Tables, Google Maps API and Tableau.

So here is my semi-pro tip on manually geocoding, using the old maps:

  • Go to
  • Type in the address and hit return and make sure Google Maps takes you to the right place.
  • Right-click on the map at the location and choose “What's here.”
  • That will put something like this in the search bar: “30.258659,-97.744548”
  • Copy and paste the values into your data as needed.

If you have the “new” google maps, you have to do some extra work to get lat/long. It's easier to just use the “classic” link above, but if you insist:

  • Go to the bad new maps:
  • Type in the address and hit return to find the location
  • X-out the location in the search bar so the pin goes away.
  • Click on the map where the pin was, (and then maybe click again) and a window will come up showing the address and the lat, long, but it will formatted wrong. It will be something like: 30° 22.096', -97° 42.209'. Copy that text.
  • Go to and paste in the text into Place Name.
  • Make sure it takes you to your location, then from the “Latitude, Longitude” under the map copy your values to put into your data as needed.
Have fun. No one enjoys geocoding, but at least we have fun Street Views to help us pass the time.


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