Let’s get into a mindset.
It’s the summer. It’s 8:30 am in July. The sun is high in the sky and its a beautiful sunny day. The temperature is already over 80 degrees. You have a kid.
Doesn’t this look exactly like what you want to be doing right now?
It’s a picture from Washington Park in Union City, NJ, part of Hudson County. It’s only 9 am. What time does the park open?
You search Google for “washington park union city.” You get the Google knowledge card, a Yelp link. a facebook page and what appears to be the park’s official website. The Google knowledge card says the park hours are 9:30 pm – 12 am. You think, “that can’t be right!” Who is this park for, hoodlums?!?
There are some user suggested hours listed on the knowledge card. It could be from another parent who ended up in the same situation, but are you going to put your child into the hands of a “user”?
So you go to the Washington Park official website. You quickly learn that it doesn’t have any information about the park, because it’s just the website for the park’s association.
The temperature has gone up at least 2 degrees and your kid is getting antsy.
You go back and click on the Washington Park Yelp listing page. There is no link to a website and worse yet, there are no hours listed.
You figure it has to be open, its a public park right? So you put your kid in their swim gear, pack up the diaper bag and lug it all out the door with the stroller. 10 minutes later you arrive at the park.
Guess what you do not see at the park? There are no signs posted with the park hours. The park is open, which is good, but the water is not on. You see another parent with a kid of similar age playing on the swings.
“Are you here to play in the water?” We’ve been here for an hour and we can’t figure out how to turn it on. You put your kid on the swings while your spouse walks around the park looking for a faucet, on button or contact info.
In the course of the next 20 minutes, 10 more kids and their parents show up all ready to play in the water. You start tweeting at the city, the mayor, the county …. hoping anyone will listen.
— Rev Ciancio (@RevCiancio) July 2, 2017
It’s now almost 90 degrees and kids are getting cranky. What do you know, even though its the Sunday of a holiday weekend, whomever runs social media for the city replies to you a few minutes later…
We don’t turn on the sprinkler system. We have to look into. Please DM your # so Mayor Stack can contact you
— Union City, NJ (@OfficialUCNJ) July 2, 2017
… but we still don’t know what time the park opens or the sprinklers turn on.
Anyway, the water park magically turned on and all the kids had an absolute blast. So that part of the story ends well.
But the lifeguard showed up 35 minutes after it turned on and the listing on Google is still wrong and there are no hours on Yelp. Why? Because no one at the city or county level has thought to claim, manage and update the accounts.
When I got home, I did another search to take a deeper dive. I clicked on the user suggestion. Guess what happened/ Google asked m to verify the hours! Who am I? I don’t work for the city. I’m not on the Park association. I am not part of the county. I am just someone with a Google account.
I took my best shot at at it and put it what I thought were the correct hours. Now if you go look up the park on Google the knowledge card has info that I entered. What if was wrong? What if I was nefarious? What if I just clicked or tapped the wrong button?
Who should be in charge of the business listings for public parks and buildings on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Apple Maps, Facebook and other Intelligent Services? Me? A random user? No, it should be the organization that governs the property.
Building that park, or any public park, is a great thing for a City, State or County to do. Its a great service to the community and a wonderful resource. They spend the money to build and maintain them and sometimes even create a website. However, a website is no longer the single source of truth about a location, it lives on all of those other sites.
Why not take it the full mile and make sure the listing data is correct on all the Intelligent Services where people are going to look for the information? That would be community service in the digital age.
Don’t make kids cry, click to learn more about how Google My Business listings work.
P.S. Mayor Brian Stack from Union City did indeed call me about the playground!
Listing issues aside, this is an absolutely beautiful and well-maintained Park. It’s great for kids and for families. And kudos to the city of Union City for being so quick to respond on Twitter with what they were able to help with.
And if you are in the area of Washington Park, check out The Cliff in Jersey City Heights. Its about 3 blocks from the park. They have fantastic coffee, great breakfast and are incredibly child friendly. You can sit inside or outside and dine or or take away.
This is their avocado toast with bitter greens, mustard vinaigrette and mushroom “bacon.”