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October 25, 2016 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Atlas Obscura (previously) recently hit a milestone when it reached a total of 10,000 places listed on the site. And now, for your convenience, those places have been mapped for easy browsing.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (23 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
My husband just surprised me with their new book yesterday. I am one of their great fans - the email list is well worth getting. I've followed it forever, but recently, and almost overnight, they seem to have taken a Great Leap Forward in the quality of the content, the vision for what the site can be, and the way they can support curiosity IRL through events and the like.
posted by Miko at 7:27 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

"World's largest porcine hairball sits in a collection maintained by Benedictine monks" - how have we not had a meetup there yet???
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:28 PM on October 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

They have a wonderful Instagram feed, as well.
posted by kozad at 7:47 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cool! The site is still a nightmare to navigate however... man oh man
posted by Cosine at 7:57 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I believe you mean the Athanasius Kircher Society. #NeverForget
posted by belarius at 7:59 PM on October 25, 2016

I found that a lot of the places on this site are ads for local businesses. Years ago, I tried to add the Phillip Island Blowhole (which I think fits their definition of weird and cool places much better), but it got deleted. At the same time, a minigolf place with a UV lights gimmick is prominently featured.
posted by jnnnnn at 8:07 PM on October 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'd have to agree with jnnnnn above. Exactly the same concern over the UV mini-golf course in Melbourne ... it is a nice place and interesting concept, but it struck me as an absolute ad.
posted by chris88 at 8:09 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

love it! but, is there an actual map besides the blog iframe interface?
posted by rebent at 8:13 PM on October 25, 2016

I found that a lot of the places on this site are ads for local businesses.

Yeah, in addition to a few unique things in my community that you would expect to be included, there is an entry for a tourist trap that neither has a long history nor is very interesting. I’ve noticed before that the owners of this tourism business appear to be have manipulated their Google Maps entry to make them appear more important than they are. If they did not pay for their entry here, it’s a poor decision by Atlas Obscura staff to decide to write an article about it.
posted by D.C. at 9:41 PM on October 25, 2016


I was born and raised in Bruges, Belgium and never knew about The Lucifernum. I'll have to take a Monday off soon.

Also, I'll be passing the Commemoration of Peter The Great's vomit later today.
posted by Captain Fetid at 12:15 AM on October 26, 2016

I was born and raised in Bruges, Belgium

Say, I'll bet you've never heard these hilarious movie quotes I'm about to unload on you!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:05 AM on October 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

a lot of the places listed on this site just aren't that obscure

This doesn't bother me. The point is, the sites are interesting, unique, relevant to local history and culture. They are doing a magnificent job highlighting the kinds of things that someone interested in place and culture might want to see, and encouraging curiosity and participation.

Really, for many years this site was user-content only and it bubbled along with things you might find satisfyingly obscure, but it had much less reach (you can check out its past states on the Wayback Machine). Certainly, they are accepting advertising money and content - that's what's powering this expansion, and good content doesn't come free. I am impressed with their work in a unique kind of travel niche. Their goal has been to expand to be "a Wikipedia for travel writing," and the tagline is "curious and wonderful travel destinations."
posted by Miko at 6:16 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Woo, very Halloween! Aleister Crowley slept in a house near me.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:18 AM on October 26, 2016

Here's one of the ones I've been to.
I hadn't realized it was 'an ironic, irreverent look at the public process.'
posted by MtDewd at 7:01 AM on October 26, 2016

> Certainly, they are accepting advertising money and content - that's what's powering this expansion, and good content doesn't come free.

That's fine, as long as you clearly separate the paid content from the editorial content. If you don't, you're just shilling.
posted by languagehat at 7:37 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Their articles clearly indicate when they've been paid for. This map doesn't, but it seems to be basically just an index of stuff they've written articles about.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:54 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yay, a map! Finally! That helped me find the Institute of Illegal Images in San Francisco, a collection of LSD blotter art by Mark McCloud. See also his site Blotter Barn. I saw a traveling show he put together back in 1988. A bit hard to imagine I can just wander in to his house at 21st and Mission, but it seems worth a shot.
posted by Nelson at 10:31 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

tobascodagama, do you have an example page with an ad disclosure? I can't find one on the page for the Melbourne Mini-golf place folks complained about here, but then again I don't know that was a paid placement.
posted by Nelson at 10:33 AM on October 26, 2016

There's a listing-submission category called "Commercial Curiosities," and many are user submitted. Just because a marked place is a business doesn't mean it's paid content. I think there's relatively little "native advertising" here, especially for the catalog itself. The article in my previous comment discusses the way they've been coasting on venture and developing event models using fee-based participation plus sponsorship. Here is an example of sponsored content - a photo safari essay sponsored by Olympus, clearly marked.
posted by Miko at 11:10 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I first noticed the paid stuff on the article about Wild Blueberry Land. At the bottom, it has a message saying, "This place is promoted in partnership with VisitMaine."

They probably could stand to be more consistent about where they place their disclosures, but at least they are doing disclosures.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:31 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks! Google finds 17 pages with the phrase is promoted on the site. 10 of them are place pages promoted by VisitMaine, 7 are blog posts promoted by TravelNevada. Still not clear if there are any more without the "is promoted" disclosure.

(I hate deceptive advertising, is why I'm curious. So far haven't seen any evidence of such on Atlas Obscura.)
posted by Nelson at 11:37 AM on October 26, 2016

I love Atlas Obscura. I always check it before travelling – I have even submitted three places, and they were all published quite quickly. That being said, it's true that some of the places in the Atlas are not that interesting, and a few smell like user-submitted promotional content. I guess the editors' approach is "quantity over quality", so they accept anything that looks slightly weirder than usual, and I think they don't really care if the place was added by the owner themselves to get free publicity.

Atlas Obscura users can mark any places as "I've been here" or "I want to visit", and the places with the most likes bubble up in the destination lists (such as this one). The most suspicious cases of user-submitted content usually don't gather much attention and lie at the bottom of the list. Yet I wonder why Atlas Obscura doesn't give better prominence to those likes – especially in the search tool, where places are listed by proximity and users need to explore a little bit to find the most interesting places.
posted by spheniscus at 12:01 PM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wrote Atlas Obscura and asked whether someone can buy their way into the site. They wrote back a very polite and detailed note that boils down to "no". They've done some promotions like with Maine and Nevada, but those are disclosed. And their staff retains editorial control.

He also pointed me to this Stranger Things sponsorship which looks really neat.

Anyway, I'm satisfied the site isn't doing anything I would find deceptive.
posted by Nelson at 7:59 AM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

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