With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What is Hartford's Vibe Score?

MapQuest, best known for supplying hundreds of directions print outs that sat crumpled up in the back of my 1998 Saturn, recently released a new service called MapQuest Vibe. According to the press release:

"MapQuest Vibe (mqVibe) uses its patented search blended with social algorithms to generate real-time rankings of neighborhoods, hotspots and points-of-interest."

Roughly translated, this means a bunch of interns sit around a conference room, drink Natty Ice and throw darts at a map to determine the scores. The info is then distributed on their web site and iPhone app. The scale is 0-10. And yes, the North Meadows pulled a 0.9. They are not the city's lowest scoring neighborhood.

So how does Hartford stack up overall?

MapQuest claims that each score is generated by user data on MapQuest, user voting and external data. A score is then generated off the rankings of the following dimensions:

  • Popularity (They play an ongoing game of "F, marry, kill." This often results in conversations like, "OK, I F New York because it's New York. I marry Chicago because they make the best deep dish pizzas. I kill Charlotte because Charlotte deserves to die.")
  • Going out (e.g., best places to spend money.)
  • Burby-ness (How many national chains are around? The thicker the air is with the stink of Chili's Awesome Blossom grease, the higher the score.)
  • Edgy (Their web site says it means, "How likely an area has more gritty or colorful aspects of urban society in that neighborhood."
  • Walkability (Are the streets paved well enough to ensure a smooth ride in my motorized scooter? High score! By the way, am I fat because I'm in a scooter or am I in a scooter because I'm fat?")
While this makes sense in theory, Hartford's scores make very little sense.

OK, first off, we totally agree with giving Behind the Rocks a 0.8. For those not familiar, Behind the Rocks is that neighborhood between Walmart and Trinity that is a sea of public housing, crummy tract houses and forgotten mattresses. But the rest of the ranking are completely insane. First off, who calls Downtown "CSS Con?" Second, 9.5? Have they ever been Downtown and tried to score a decent sandwich on Sunday afternoon? To put this in perspective, Midtown West in Manhattan only scored a 9.1. Third, look at the map. How do they draw their borders? With crayons and a couple bottles of St. Ides?

As for other crazy mqVibe rankings:
  • The West End, an absolutely awesome place to live, only scored a 3.2. What? Was it too edgy?
  • Speaking of edgy, Frog Hollow (7.8) and Frog Hollow North (8.3) received some insanely high scores. We're big fans of both neighborhoods, but that seems a bit much.
  • At least they can recognize the North Meadows for the wasteland that it is.
  • As always, we can rely on Bridgeport to show us the bright side.
In conclusion, like I learned that time I tried to drive to Florida only using MapQuest printouts, while they might have a good general sense of things, you cannot trust MapQuest to get the details right.


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