Thursday, 15 December 2011

Google Places Adds New Features

  Over the past week or so a number of new features have cropped up Places Pages that solicit user input in an effort to improve the quality of Places results. Google noted that “We’re doing different experiments like that on Maps to verify data is correct and up to date”.
Ability to critique the location accuracy was spotted by Daniel Hollerung and reported by Chris Silver Smith.
The ability to vote an owner uploaded photo up or down was noted by Gav Heppinstall last week.
The option for a user to provide input as to whether a website is correct regardless of whether of the record has been claimed was first seen late last week and reported out by Matt Siltala yesterday.
With the exception of the image vote, these new user inputs appear to surface on a somewhat random basis and although they could be related to trust issues, I don’t think they are. Another point of interest is that with the multiple choice answers, the user is given a range of choices that go from positive to negative. It appears that the method in which they are implemented attempts to minimize the ability to game them by evil doers. Clearly, user generated input has in the past been used to abuse listings in Places and there are plenty of other ways that could be used to triangulate a record’s accuracy via 3rd party sources. Even though it appears that Google has recently upped the ante on that front the question remains as to why Google is again increasing the ability of users to provide input when many recent efforts have gone so wrong. Chris Silver Smith points out that Google has never really prioritized the business owner as the definite source for information. Google’s comments not withstanding, these new inputs do not appear to be experiments (unless of course you consider Places a big experiment). It does seem to be a renewed effort by Google to gather more user generated input as to the accuracy around a Place. In theory, despite past abuses, user generated input is cheap and potentially valuable source of current information. The question with these new implementations is whether Google has put in place reasonable safeguards and adequate processes to actually improve the overall quality of the index WITHOUT punishing innocent businesses.  Time will tell.

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