Episode 13: News & Updates

The way local guides can and should interact with Google Maps is constantly being updated. What has changed since the last News & Updates podcast episode? What is new? Are there updates for the topics we already covered?



Jan Van Haver 0:06
Hello, dear listener, and welcome to the LetsGuide Podcast, the ultimate podcast for Google Local Guides. We’re recording episode 13 already today and just as we had in episode number 8, this is an episode about, or with news and updates, as there’s simply so much new stuff going on these days. The way local guides can and should interact with Google Maps is constantly being updated. So what has changed since the last news and updates episode? What is completely new? And are there perhaps updates for topics we already covered? Stay tuned to find out this and much more in episode number 13.

Jan Van Haver 0:51
As usual, at the beginning of the episode, I want to emphasize that I have no official affiliation to Google whatsoever. I am just a local guide, like most of you, and everything I say is therefore my personal interpretation and nothing more than that. The episode today is recorded at the beginning of October 2019, and therefore describing the situation as it is today. Should you be listening at a later date, then perhaps things might have changed, of course.

Vanessa P. 1:25
Let’s get started.

Jan Van Haver 1:29
In our very first episode – episode 1, about the basics – we talked about levels, the levels you can reach as local guide. And upon reaching a new level, one of the things you get is an email from the Google team with an animated GIF that you can share on social media. This used to be for years GIFs of rockets and planets, at least for as long as I’m a local guide – if someone knows if there were any other animations before, just let me know. Now there are new animated GIFs for reaching a new level. It all starts at level 3, which is a train arriving in a subway station. At level 4 you get a boat on a pond, and there’s a scene on a tropical island for reaching level 5. Level 6 takes you on a rollercoaster ride, and you get even higher into the sky with level 7, because that shows a helicopter showing up at the top of a skyscraper. We head off to the mountains with level 8 because that’s showing a downhill skier and we go all the way up into the clouds with level 9 – that shows an airplane in the clouds. There’s one for level 10 for sure, but I haven’t seen one yet, so please let me know if you come across one – and that will of course bring you a mention in the next ‘news and updates’ episode of the podcast.

Jan Van Haver 3:06
The next update I want to mention is one related to episode 3, the one about selecting the right pictures, because right now – or since a couple of weeks, I should say – there’s an official post in the Help Desk section of Local Guides Connect, written by Google moderator MoniV, titled ‘What photos should I share on Google?’. The post contains loads of practical advice and a lot of things that we already mentioned in the episode 3 of the podcasts. For example: no duplicates, or near duplicates; avoid selfies; take pictures of accessibility features of places; and so on. Make sure to read this post. I will of course, include a link in the shownotes – and why not bookmark it in your browser for future use? Really, really good post to read.

Jan Van Haver 3:58
The next topic I want to talk about has to do with Google My Business, the topic of episode number 4. It seems Google is making an extra attempt to reduce the number of points of interest that are not actively managed on Maps. The intended way for this to be done is, of course, that the business owner claims the business and then manages this listing and maintains the information there. But in some situations, apparently businesses get claimed, but then not actively managed. Nothing is happening there. So now it looks like Google is trying to find employees who might be interested in managing this places, as what I’ve seen in the last weeks, or months even, is that sometimes on the spots where you expect to see ‘Claim this business’ for unclaimed businesses, you can now see ‘Manage this listing’. So that means probably it’s a business that was claimed, but it’s not really actively managed. I also noticed that in the email you receive from Google when an edit you made is confirmed, that email also can sometimes contains a link that says ‘Manage this listing’. When clicking it, of course, you enter into the same verification process that starts with the ‘Claim this business’, obviously, to avoid abuse. But it’s nice because the fewer unclaimed businesses there are on the map, the better, if you ask me.

Jan Van Haver 5:38
Next up are two very nice new things that were announced recently and have that are connected to Local Guides Connect itself, the local guides platform, the official platform that we talked about in episode number 7. The first one is that there’s now a direct link from the Connect user to his or her Maps profile. A couple of months ago, they already added links to your Maps contributions directly from the Connect menu, but now you also have a link on your profile that opens your profile on Maps. And this link is also available for other Connect users to access. So, if you want to check out the Maps profile of somebody on Local Guides Connect, a Connect user, you can just click that link. This is on by default, but you can switch it off if you prefer not to have that. Of course, I’ll make sure that there’s a link in the shownotes where you can read all about this – and that post, the official post on Connect, also will show you how to switch it off if you prefer that.

Jan Van Haver 6:53
The second novelty that was announced on Connect, just a couple of days ago, is something called ‘supported Meet-ups’ and this is really very exciting. The official post states that it’s a pilot program that will provide financial and promotional support to a handful of local guides to host Meet-ups in their own cities. Some further details are provided in the text. It says: “will be providing limited funds to help enhance a Meet-up. And this can go towards the costs of things like food beverages are swag”. So Google is now officially supporting some of the Meet-ups that are organized by local guides. How neat is that? Not really a lot of details are given yet, only that the first one will be down under in Australia on October the 13th, hosted by Paul Pavlinovich. Of course I’ll also include a link in the shownotes where you can find all the details. One really great aspect about it is that selected, active local guides from the area where a supported Meet-up is taking place will be emailed. So the Google team will actively not only support with financial and promotional stuff, but also actively help you or help the host to reach out to local guides that might be interested in attending the Meet-up. And as a host of some meetups, I can tell you: it’s really hard at the moment to find local guides near you that might be interested in the Meet-ups that you organize. So: hurray, hurray!

Jan Van Haver 8:42
The people who already know me a bit will understand that it’s very difficult for me not to talk about categories, especially in episodes that have news and updates. So of course, I will also discuss some of the new categories that were added – the topic, by the way, of episode number 2 and number 9. There’s not really a lot of new categories the last few months, but still some practical ones have been added, for example: cell phone charging station or photo booth. And what about beautician? For some others, it’s a bit unclear where to use them. One of those is definitely ‘legally defined lodging’. I’m not sure where I could use that as a category for a point of interest on Maps. And others are not available for local guides: some of the new ones are bus depot and train depot, but you can’t use them as local guide – probably there are meant for the transit layer, which is not accessible to local guides. Perhaps I’ll cover that topic, layers, in a separate episode in the future. There are two interesting phenomena, however, with regards to categories. The first is that a previous error was corrected – first time that I saw this happen – with the category Alfa Romeo dealer. It used to be ‘Alfa Romero dealer’ – indeed, a typing error was there in the list of categories for a while. It’s been corrected right now. The second thing was that quite a lot of categories were removed, especially types of hotels and restaurants. I’m not sure how to interpret that. You can check out the complete list and all the details in the post I wrote on this topic on Connect. Obviously, I will have a link to that post in the shownotes.

Jan Van Haver 10:44
In episode number 10, with the fun title ‘Level 5 in a day’, I already mentioned that you now get points for adding lists. That’s also something new since I had the last news and updates episode, so I mention it here again. And, well, really quite a lot of points compared to some other ways of collecting them, because you get 10 points for creating the list and then 5 additional points for each place you add, at least if you add a description for that place. So if you add a list with 10 places, and descriptions for those places, you get 10 points for the list and 10 times 5 points for the descriptions, which makes 60 points. Yeah, really nice, so go make those lists. I’m quite sure there will be a future episodes of the podcast as well on the topic of lists. Also, adding roads brings 15 points since a couple of months, but unfortunately I have been able to do this. I haven’t found a single road to add. And it’s really annoying for me to have in that overview of number of contributions a 0 for roads added – really have to find some one of these days.

Jan Van Haver 12:05
On to episode 11 – about map markers, that was. Remember how I always mention the recording date of each episode and then say “things might have changed if you listen at a later date”? Well, literally the day after recording episode 11, I noticed one of the map marker icons had changed. The icon for a Christian Church is no longer a building, but simply a white cross on a grey background – the day after I recorded saying it was a building. Well, there we have it.

Jan Van Haver 12:43
Then there’s also some news that is not specifically related to things we have covered already in episodes of the podcast – so you could say it’s stuff related to things we will cover in future episodes. One of those is the Street View layer in the mobile app. You can now select a new layer, so next to the map layout or the satellite layout, as a new layer. This new layer for Street View draws a blue line for all the streets where Street View is available. If you then zoom out, you can literally see whole areas painted blue, or not. You know how Germany is always so concerned with privacy? Well, do me a favor, go to the Maps app and zoom out over Western Europe and then you will see Germany as a more or less green blob in between a lot of blue. That Street View layer is also important for something else: the augmented reality mode for navigation has been around for quite a bit already, but the novelty now is that it’s switched on for all users. However, this is only available in areas that have Street View.

Jan Van Haver 14:02
And then there’s something new that has caused quite a bit of a fuzz. In the ‘My Activity’ section of your Google profile – so, not your Maps only profile, your Google profile and My Activity part there – you can now also see that you gave answers to points of interests on maps. That’s very nice, of course. The issue, however, is that you are able to switch on auto-delete for your history after 3 or 18 months, or you can just leave it to not auto-delete it – that’s the other option. But if you have it switched on – for your history to be deleted after three or 18 months – this means also those answers and all the points connected to those will be lost. So you can lose points. Some local guides have seen a dramatic drop in points, and also badge levels; they were not amused about it. I’ll make sure to include in the shownotes a link to the post explaining all this by Googler @Arimar.

Jan Van Haver 15:14
And then finally, I’d like to mention some, how shall I say… future new features. Stuff that was seen already by some local guides, but not generally available yet. One of them is that the Your Contributions page in the Google Maps app menu is being replaced with something called Your Profile and instead of the tabs that you see on your contribution page – so tab with the photos, the reviewstab, the tab with contributions – now under Your Profile, there’s really a number of sections one below the other, one for photos, one for reviews, one for contributions, similar to what you see under the Explore section of a city or a point of interest on maps. I’m really curious to check that out, because I haven’t seen it myself yet.

Jan Van Haver 16:12
What I did witness myself is that on the homepage of Connect, there was a section based on location that was available for a couple of hours – until the team announced it was an unintended sneak preview and disable the function again. So, as I said: fortunately, I was able to see and test myself when it was publicly available, so I can report on what I found out. On the Connect homepage, there was an additional section that show posts filtered by location, very similar to the post filtered by language, as you can already have now on your homepage. The location for these posts, for the posts that were shown was determined by the data you entered yourself. Under the My Settings, there’s a tab Personal there, and under Personal Information, there’s the field Location. Whatever you enter there determined the posts that we’re going to show up in this localized section of the Connect homepage. It turned out to even work for two locations, city names or country names entered in that field separated by a comma, or semi-colon. Three or more, unfortunately, did not work anymore. But I really hope this is rolled out soon to all Connect users because it was very exciting to see. And that covers all the news and updates for this episode. But now I want to make some time for a special section that we have in every episode.

Vanessa P. 17:54
What a great idea.

Jan Van Haver 17:57
In ‘What a great idea’ I want to focus on Idea Exchange, a special section of the Local Guides Connect, the official platform where local guides can submit suggestions to improve either Google Maps or Connect itself. Other local guides can then like it to upvote the idea. This time, it’s one submitted a while ago by a user called @user_simmering. The title of the idea is ‘Check the facts: green indicators should change again’. Basically it asks that if you did a check the facts for a point of interest, then the icon showing this place within that ‘Check the facts’ layout is becoming a green icon with a ‘V’ – well not really a V, It’s like this tick “you did this one”. The suggestion is to make that the orange original one, so the orange with a plus inside, whenever other edits have been made for that point of interest. So then you know “okay, there’s once again something to do for this one”. Sounds like a good idea to me. If you also agree that it’s a good idea, make sure to vote for it through the link that I will share in the shownotes.

Jan Van Haver 19:16
And that’s all I have for this episodes. Please do feel free to get in touch with me if you have any comments or remarks, or suggestions of course. You can reach me through email: just send your mail to letsguidepodcast@gmail.com. Reach out to me on Twitter under LocalGuidesGuru or you can find me, of course, on Local Guides Connects under my real name @JanVanHaver. There’s also the blog janvanhaver.com, where you can find more info about me – should you be interested at all. Finally, the shownotes of course can be found on letsguide podcast.com The next episode will be a regular one again, just one specific local guides related topic. It should be out in a week or two and unless there’s loads of news to report on again, it will deal with the topic of Meet-ups.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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