You’re So Vain I’ll Bet You Think This Post Is About You

Fifty years ago when it was fashionable to photograph big high school classes with a panoramic camera – which traversed the student body in one long exposure and yielded a very long print – it also was fashionable for class clowns to pose at one extreme of the line then sprint to the other end in order to appear in the picture twice.

That prank is literally kid stuff compared to Bill Higgins’ Olympian feat of inserting himself into Google Earth’s Street View multiple times.

Last April, when Higgins discovered a Google Street View mapping car was in the vicinity he pulled out his own camera and began stalking it through his neighborhood. He also lurked about in his red sedan along the route the Google car was taking.

Beamjockey shoots back.

Beamjockey shoots back.

Bill and/or his car showed up in Street View shots at 16 different addresses. He even appeared standing on the corner by his house —

It’s been pointed out that, since I have a camera in front of my face, Google’s “recognize a face and blur it” software may have left me alone. Not that I mind, being vain and all.

You can still see screen captures of Bill in Street View at his blog (click link above). However, Google obviously felt its digital leg being pulled because they’ve now rephotographed all the streets. Same houses. Same trees. No more Bill.

As they say, all glory is fleeting.

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4 thoughts on “You’re So Vain I’ll Bet You Think This Post Is About You

  1. ObSF, or anyway ObOuterSpace: I had not known about the class clowns, but I’m aware that the Viking lander camera scanned a single vertical line at a time, and moved quite slowly. An examination of Figure 17 on this page, a group portrait of the camera development team obtained during testing, will reveal multiple copies of some individuals. The late Dr. Tim Mutch appears seven times.

    Let’s see if the picture will show up here:

    As for Google, as far as I can tell, I still appear in images in my neighborhood, both in Google Maps and Google Earth, on multiple computers and browsers. It may take some moving around within Street View (which, perhaps, nobody but me is motivated to do) to discover camera angles that reveal me or my cranberry Pontiac Vibe, but the images are still there, near the addresses I gave in my blog.

    An alternative hypothesis is that Google feeds me my own private reality. I am present in the Higgins version, but absent in the Glyer version.

  2. I often find, when moving along step-by-step in StreetView, that when I click on the arrows I get a different season. The first time this happened, I found it quite disconcerting that it was summer on part of a street, and winter (with snow on the ground) a few feet over. I wouldn’t be surprised if this explains at least part of the difference in the Glyer/Higgins experience. When I want to replicate a summer-winter shift, it’s sometimes very hard to find exactly the right spot to make the switch. Google rephotographs lots of areas, and it’s possible to find a mosaic of several seasons in a short area. I most recently noticed this when examining the turn from Memorial Drive eastbound, near MIT, onto the Harvard Bridge towards Boston. At least three different months and two different years, and probably more.

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