Google is rolling out a slew of benefits to crowdsourced contributors to Google Maps. The new platform, Local Guides, offers points in return for reviews, photos, and updates to listings and place descriptions on Google Maps. “Every place you review, photograph, add, edit, or provide additional info for earns you points in return,” says the blurb. Local Guides doesn’t appear to be retroactive, and you do have to sign up to the program. But it’s a total no-brainer for any Android or Google Maps user.
Google’s inducements for reviewers begin as early as just five points, when you become a Level 2 Local Guide. “Get early access to new Google products and features.” At Level 3, with 50+ points, it’s a series of feel-good badges and community introductions, as well as the chance to “Receive invites to Google-hosted events in select cities.” But at Level 4, with 200+ points, you can “Upgrade your Google Drive storage free” to up to 1 terabyte, “Be eligible to be featured in Local Guides online channels,” and “Receive an annual thank you gift.” At Level 5, with 500+ points, you can “Be a Google insider, testing new products before public release.”
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, or serial online commentator, to deduce that you can push yourself up the rankings pretty fast with you Local Guides posts. “You’ll get one point for each type of contribution you make to a place,” explains Google Maps’s Local Guides help menu. “For example, if you add three photos to a place, you’ll get one point. If you add a review to the same place, you’ll get another point.” And there doesn’t seem to be any limit to the number or type of places you can review or add to. Or quality bar. It’s a free-for-all.
Needless to say, I rushed over to the Local Guides page and signed up as soon as I read about this. And I have to say that, for Google Maps on Android at least, it’s a little clunky still – or I’m being slow in getting my head around it. Once you sign up, the Google Maps app adds a Your contributions item to the left-hand swipe menu, with your Local Guide status and a series of places you’re invited to rate, review or add to, based on your Location History. Not all of your reviews show up immediately, and some simply seem to get lost. The interface for adding photos also doesn’t seem as easy or well integrated as it could be, and you’re warned that your new points totals may take up to 24 hours to show up. That said, with the carrot of a terabyte of storage space for a service you use already, it’s hard to say no to.
So far I rate Local Guides at four stars out of five, on the promise of freebies rather than the ease of use. But I’m sure Google will refine it in time. If Google is feeling any pressure from Facebook, Instagram, or TripAdvisor on the place recommendations front, this is definitely one way to tackle the problem. Don’t miss it.