Monthly updates on bug fixes, feature releases, community contributions, and Places in the Atlas.Share Feedback & Ideas
January 2023 Updates
In January we released the following features on Android:
- added search by location (used to be just search by place)
- improved list creation with a refined naming flow to help new lists save as expected
- refined redirects so logged out users are prompted to sign up/in if they try to take an action that requires an account
- highlighted what creating an account allows users to do on the sign up screen
- added more places to the "Try Exploring" list
- ensured the get directions link properly opens Google maps to navigate to places
- made necessary technical updates, addressed crash reports, and set up better login troubleshooting capabilities
- reduced app size by over 67%
We’ve released a couple small improvements for closed Places on the website including:
- Moving the Closed announcement banner higher up on the Place page
- Showing a “Permanently Closed” badge on Place cards around the site and on the Apple maps only (we are in the process of transitioning the google maps on the website to Apple maps).
We're also pushing forward with re-architecting our site to a more modern stack. Soon we hope to announce some improvements to more dynamic content being displayed on the homepage as well as surfacing user profiles on the site to highlight the community. As we continue this re-architecture project, we will make small and big improvements along the way to Articles, Places, and Profiles for example -- so thanks to everyone who have shared and continue to share ideas on our Nolt Feedback Board.
- Submissions: 474
- Places Published: 115
- User Edits: 1,778
- Photos Added: 3,350
The Places team had a busy start to 2023! We saw an uptick in submissions in the first few weeks of January, with an average of 119 submissions per week. We’re working on reviewing and editing those submissions, as well as catching up on some from 2022 that are still awaiting edits.
In January, we added a few more animal cemeteries to the Atlas: a graveyard in North Carolina where a tobacco farmer laid his horses and mules to rest between 1930 and 1946 (submitted by dczippy), and the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where gravestones mark the burial places of a number of beloved rats (submitted by Sydney Rose).
Other favorite Places include a nearly four-meter-tall potato monument that looms over Biesiekierz, Poland (submitted by calf), and the Tiny Bread Box of Vernon, Vermont, a microbakery that fills up with fresh pastries and sourdough every Saturday morning (submitted by gjarvis86).
We also added some new stubs to the Atlas. If you have any photos or stories to add to the entries for the Pettit Memorial Chapel or Chianti Sculpture Park, the Places team would love to see them.
December 2022 Updates
December is light on updates due to the holidays and vacations, but we did partner with editorial to release a collection of our best holiday content called Holidays with a Twist. We plan to continue work on hubs like this to provide a better experience for browsing themed, topical and sponsored content. We've also been continuing to upgrade our front-end with a more modern stack, and transition more maps to Apple maps which will improve map experience on web.
On the Android app, we fixed filters for "Been There" and "Want To Go"on the map. We also added a "Place closed" label on the Android app for easily identifiying places that are permanently closed. This label existed already on our website and iOS app. As always, thanks to our community members for reporting issues and suggestions.
- Submissions: 389
- Places Published: 93
- User Edits: 1,414
- Photos Added: 2,487
In December, we saw an average of 82 submissions per week. Our publishing schedule continued to be on the slower side while we continued working on changes to our workflow, as well as taking some much-needed time off for the holidays.
Looking back at the Places we published in December, some of our favorites include Kaspar the Savoy Cat, a black cat that’s actually meant to ward off bad luck (submitted by SEANETTA), and the striking Bamboo Bridges of Luang Prabang (submitted by joshuacarlon). We also loved learning why potatoes are left on the grave of Frederick the Great (submitted by CoolCrab), and the Dance-O-Mat, a washing machine turned jukebox in New Zealand (submitted by kenzierae22).
We also bid a sad farewell to Berlin’s AquaDom, after the massive floating aquarium burst on December 16.
This month’s stubs include Cinemateca Portuguesa in Portugal, the Abandoned Radar Station of Lefkada in Greece, and the Silo de Calzada de Calatrava in Spain. We would love to see more photos and information on these entries, if you’ve been to any of them!
November 2022 Updates
This month, we've added maps back to our destination guides, using the Apple platform instead of Google. We will continue to use Google on our mobile apps, but this switch for atlasobscura.com will be more cost-effective and open up possibilities for map features and improvements moving forward.
We also launched a hub called In Search of Sanctuary for our brand partner, Lincoln and are working on another editorial collection for the holidays this month. Some other small changes we made include revamping our newsletters and online courses pages.
- Submissions: 398
- Places Published: 139
- User Edits: 1,507
- Photos Added: 2,266
In November, we saw an average of 87 submissions per week. Our publishing schedule has been a bit slower than in previous months while we continue to work on changes to our internal processes that will improve the submission process.
Some of our favorite new Places added this month include Physics of the Sun, a massive and visually striking solar oven in Uzbekistan (submitted by Raffaelpeteler), and a relic from the Library of Congress: Martin Waldseemüller’s world map, created in 1507, was the first to use the name “America” for a continent in the Western Hemisphere (submitted by dczippy). We also loved Sneglehuset, a beautiful home in a Danish fishing town created as a labor of love over more than 25 years (submitted by Opdewierd).
We also added a few more stubs to the Atlas this month. If you’ve been to the Foxfire Museum or the Brewarrina Fish Traps and have more photos or information to add to these entries, the Places team would love to see it!
October 2022 Updates
This month the mobile app team worked on fixing various sign up issues as well as addressing the issue where Place cards on the Android app were using the incorrect version of the thumbnail image.
The web team launched a halloween series page for our editorial team and have been working on improving our destination guides as well as research and development on a new map experience.
- Submissions: 450
- Places Published: 162
- User Edits: 1,846
- Photos Added: 2,709
In October, we saw an average of 101 submissions per week. The Places team is hard at work editing all the great places that have been submitted over the last few busy months.
Some of our favorite places published this month include Eldheimar (submitted by dczippy) an Icelandic museum that remembers the 1973 volcanic eruption on the island of Heimaey, and Winchester Cathedral’s Great West Window (submitted by AdOYo), which was shattered and put back together in a beautiful stained-glass mosaic.
Of course, it wouldn’t be October without a little something spooky. The William Westerfeld House is a mansion in San Francisco's Alamo Square that is rumored to have hosted satanic rituals and other occult practices. In Mexico, it’s not uncommon to find houses built for aluxes, imp-like spirits from Maya mythology (submitted by linkogecko).
We’re still working on updated submission guidelines and hope to have more information on that process in the coming months. Thank you all for continuing to share these wonderful stories with us!
September 2022 Updates
For Android, we'll soon be releasing:
- The ability to log in and out using multiple authentication methods (for example, Google and username/password)
- An update to display username in helpful places (for example, when creating a new account and logging in)
- We've updated your profile "Places Edited" statistic. Previously it was showing the total number of edits you've made, even if multiple were on the same place. Now it shows the number of places you've edited.
- When you are browsing a Place entry that has a related article or video, you can now see that content on the Place page in the left rail under "Related Stories". See Svalbard Seed Bank as an example! We hope this helps the community discover even more content on our site related to what they are reading.
- We've added our courses to our search result suggestions to help the community discover opportunities to learn more about what they searching for.
- Finally, we've been working on a re-architecture of the front end of our Destination Guides which is going to be released shortly. The new version will be faster and set us up to more easily make further design and feature changes to those pages. Note that the map will no longer be on the Destination Guides as we are also re-evaluating our mapping provider. Once we finish the evaluation, we will post an update on whether the maps will return to the Destination Guides or evolve into a different map experience on the site. For now, we encourage the community to use our mobile apps to browse places in specific regions in map form.
- Submissions: 483
- Places Published: 136
- User Edits: 2,025
- Photos Added: 2,695
In September, we had an average of 126 submissions per week. That’s still a pretty high volume of submissions, but not quite the record-breaking numbers that we had in July and August.
Some of our favorite submissions published in August include this roadside sentry box in Wales, submitted by katielou106. It’s one of the few remaining relics of a program that helped motorists in need long before cell phones the world at our fingertips. In Florida, Pat Cassels took us to a strip mall that houses the Bob Ross Art Workshop, a gallery where you can find the largest collection of works created by The Joy of Painting host. And in Lithuania’s Lake Galvė, we loved the stunning Trakai Island Castle, submitted by StepYoshi.
In addition to our regular editing duties, the Places team is working on some changes to the submission process. We’re hoping to improve our communication around submission status and create more detailed guidelines about what we look for in AO Place entries. We’ll have more to share on that process in the coming weeks.
August 2022 Updates
In August, the focus was on Android. We fixed a few issues such as crashes on low-memory devices, various interface issues as reported by our community members in Discord (thank you!) including: the "New Places" list getting cut off from the bottom navbar and one of the issues causing images not to load in search results.
We also added Facebook login, the "My Passport" feature to the profile, curated lists, Android 13 support, and various performance improvements.
- We've added the random place button on mobile and on place pages to help people discover more places.
- We've been working on a big re-architecture of our front-end page by page, the new re-architecture will make pages faster with small design improvements along the way.
- Submissions: 569
- Places Published: 124
- User Edits: 2,276
- Photos Added: 3,745
We’ve had another busy month, with an average of 128 submissions a week in August.
Some of our favorite new Places published in August include Volcán de Tajogaite, the newest volcano on the Canary Islands, submitted by CoolCrab, and the Chelyabinsk Meteorite, submitted by Zborik. We also loved the Michigan gift shop that is home to a 500-pound “Man-Killing Clam” (as far as we know, the clam has never actually killed a human being), submitted by elvenking42.
Special thanks to all our community members for all their Place submissions, bug reports, and feature suggestions!
July 2022 Updates
This month we've finished and released the first version of our Android app! Download it on the the Google Play Store.
On July 21, we closed down our community forums, read the announcement for more information. As a team, we are looking forward to exploring ways to highlight and connect the community moving forward.
- Submissions: 603
- Places Published: 132
- User Edits: 2,253
- Photos Added: 3,335
July marked one of the busiest months for Place submissions on record, with an average of 138 Places added each week.
With temperatures reaching record-breaking highs all over the world, going underground seems increasingly appealing. Luckily, we added some incredible subterranean sites in July. France’s Lac Souterrain de Saint-Léonard is the largest underground lake in Europe, shared by julianfkeller99. In Kosovo, Max Cortesi took us to Gadime Cave, a deep cavern dripping with stalactites and stalagmites made of marble. If you’re more into special collections than speleothems, you might like this entry from lampbane about the escape hatch in Bryant Park that leads down into the New York Public Library’s underground stacks.
We’re living vicariously through our contributors’ travels, and that includes taking in unusual sights from train stations and airports. In Vilnius, Lithuania, the train station features a 15-foot tall statue of Tony Soprano in his robe and boxers, shared by Zborik. And in Terminal A of the Houston airport, a cow dressed in astronaut gear welcomes visitors to Space City, shared by Fred Cherrygarden.
Thanks to everyone who shared these wonderful Places with us. We're excited to see what August holds!
Welcome & June 2022 Updates
Hello to the Atlas Obscura community! Welcome to the product blog where we will be providing regular updates on what our teams have been working on and how the community has contributed to the Atlas.
This month we released a new home screen and explore experience for the iOS app, including a prominently featured Place of the Day.
We've also been building our Android app (coming soon 🎉).
This month we released an update to our place submission banner. You'll now see the publication date once your place submission is approved and scheduled for publication.
We've also been going through the feedback board, prioritizing items "Under Consideration" in our backlog, and building a new site for Atlas Obscura Trips (coming soon 🎉).
- Submissions: 314
- Places Published: 126
- User Edits: 1,646
- Photos Added: 2,672
June was a busy month for the Places team, with an average of 74 submissions a week. We published new Places from every continent except Antarctica.
This month marks the official start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, which feels like a fitting season for all the Places we’ve seen in hot, dry climates. Max Cortesi shared a number of sites in Saudi Arabia including the Lion Tombs of Dadan, a pair of cliffside burial niches marked by carvings that date back to the fifth century B.C.
In the western U.S., we explored quite a few historical sites. Some were recent, like this navigational aid from the early days of airmail from slgwv, and some were much older, like the Mt. Irish petroglyphs from CoolCrab. Mike Walker took us even further back in geological history with the striking red stone of New Mexico’s Walatowa Slot Canyon.
We also learned about Virginia’s Barter Theater from sandra1, where patrons were able to exchange produce and livestock for a ticket during the Great Depression. There are even more exciting Places coming up in July. Stay tuned for another update next month!