Episode 16: Connect Live

One of the terms you come across frequently among Local Guides in their conversations on social media and on Local Guides Connect, the official forum, is ‘Connect Live’. What is it exactly and why does it create such excitement with so many Local Guides? In this episode you will find out the answer to those questions.




Jan Van Haver 0:04
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the LetsGuide Podcast, the ultimate podcast for Google Local Guides. If my count is still correct, this is episode number 16,. and the topic today is Connect Live. One of the terms you come across frequently among local guides in their conversations on social media and of course also on Local Guides Connect, the official forum, is the term Connect Live. What is it exactly? And why does it create such excitement with so many local guides? In this episode, you will find out the answer to those questions and a lot more.

Jan Van Haver 0:38
Before getting started, I want to point out as usual that I am not an official representative of Google. I’m just a local guide like most of you. Everything I say in this podcast is therefore my personal interpretation. This episode number 16 is recorded at the beginning of December 2019, and therefore describing the situation as it is today, should you be listening at a later date, then of course, things might have changed.

Vanessa P. 1:16
Let’s get started.

Jan Van Haver 1:20
So what is it exactly, this Connect Live? Well, it’s a kind of conference where Google brings together a number of local guides from all over the world for a few days to the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Silicon Valley. Originally, it was called Local Guides Summit and on the first edition, in 2016, 75 local guides were invited. That seems to have been a very positive experience for all parties involved as Google decided to invite twice as much local guides, so 150, for the Summit in 2017. In 2018, that number remained at 150, but the name of the event was changed to Connect Live, as it is still today. And now, in 2019, the big news was that 200 local guides were being invited to the fourth edition, which took place just a few weeks ago in San Jose.

Jan Van Haver 2:21
The reason why I’m covering this topic now is that, now, I have first hand experience because I was one of those 200 lucky local guides to get selected this year. And ‘selected’ is the key word here. You can’t decide yourself if you will attend or not, you can only apply. Let me explain how that went up to now – because there’s no guarantee that this will be the same for future editions, of course. Up to now, in spring Google sends out an email to all local guides that have reached at least level 5 to announce the event and that email also lists the things you need to do if you decide to apply. This year, for example, that included that you had to write a post on Connect, on one of a few topics that they listed, for example ‘Why you love being a local guide’. You also have to publish a list on Google Maps, and then there was one other thing – the one which causes most stress for most local guides, I think: you have to record a 1 minute video with you talking to the camera. I suppose they also want to check if your English is good enough to take part, because Connect Live is an English-only event.

Jan Van Haver 3:42
An important note is that there’s a minimum age of 21. For local guides in general – to take part in the program, I mean – the minimum age is 18, but for Connect Live it’s 21, due to the fact that alcohol is being served during parts of Connect Live and the minimum age for drinking alcohol in the US is 21.

Jan Van Haver 4:02
“Why on earth would you go through all that trouble?” Some of you might be wondering by now. Well, there’s one small detail I have not mentioned yet: Google is paying for everything. That is: your trip to California, even if you live at the other side of the globe, the hotel, the food, everything. Even if you have to apply for a Visa, they will reimburse the cost of that. How nice is this? Most attendees will extend their trip to the US with a number of days before or after the event, or both. And for those days, for those extra days, you have to cover the cost of the hotel yourself, of course. The flight, however, even if it’s a number of days before or after the event, to and from the US will still be paid for. Very, very nice.

Jan Van Haver 4:55
A direct result of the fact that so many top-performing Local Guides are in the same area during the days prior and post Connect Live is that a pretty massive amount of Meet-ups is taking place then. Some of those are linked to specific places or events in the area. Others are, so to speak, Connect Live versions of what you could call ‘classics’ among the Meet-ups, like for example the 36 walk by Paul Pavlinovich, the Local Guides Clean The World walks by @ermest and the accessibility walk by @EmekaUlor. You will find ‘Recaps’ of those Connect Live editions of these three for sure already in Local Guides Connect, of course. And I will make sure to include links to them in the shownotes. If terms like ‘Recap’ and ‘Meet-up’, by the way, don’t ring any bells, please go back to episode 14 of the LetsGuide Podcast, because that was all about Meet-ups.

Jan Van Haver 5:59
So, let’s have a look at this year’s event to illustrate what exactly goes on during Connect Live. Please take into account: the schedule and the exact program are obviously adapted every year, so this is only to give you an idea. As I said at the start, it’s a kind of conference, which means that it has some elements that focus on fun and some other elements that focus more on Google Maps as a product and on the local guides program itself. For Google this is an excellent opportunity to get direct feedback from some of the most dedicated local guides, and I can tell you: they take full advantage of that.

Jan Van Haver 6:41
The first and the last of the four day event were filled with fun parts – well, the entire event was obviously more than 200% fun, but I mean: not product- or program-focused. The first day was the opening reception, which is the magical moment where 200 like-minded local guides from all corners of the earth actually meet in person. This was really sensational. There had been quite a bit of real and virtual Meet-ups prior to that moment, but still, this coming together of everyone in one single room is one of the most energizing moments I have ever experienced. If you want to breathe in some of that atmosphere, just go to Connect, Local Guides Connect, to the forum and read some of the Connect Live recap posts from participants. Also on social media, you might have seen already a lot of images taken that evening, because, obviously, local guides like to share these kinds of things.

Jan Van Haver 7:47
The fourth and final day was also primarily in the fun category, with the closing brunch and an award ceremony, where a number of local guides received very nice awards, because of either their performance throughout their entire local guides career, because of their achievements in the year 2019, or because of their achievements during Connect Live 19 itself. Those events on that first and last day took place at the hotel in San Jose.

Jan Van Haver 8:19
For the other two, there was a bus ride to the Google campus in Mountain View, which was pretty awesome. Of course, those two middle days had a similar structure. There was first always a morning session with presentations, mainly by Googlers, such as Jen Fitzpatrick, Senior Vice President for Google Maps – a more than 20 year employee already at Google; Tiffany Herklots, Product Marketing Manager; Mara Chomsky, who is the Head of Local Guides; and Dan Glasgow, Vice President for Product Experience. But also some fellows Local Guides took the stage, like Megan Coburn (you might find her at Local Guides Connect under the alias @Kwiksatik). She was on stage, as well as some local entrepreneurs. And there were also several time slots for Q&A, usually with more questions, then time to answer them. That’s local guides for you.

Jan Van Haver 9:26
During those presentations, we learned a lot of interesting facts such as the fact that there are now 120 million local guides across the globe – a very impressive number, of course. Those 120 million make 20 million contributions every single day. So reviews, ratings, pictures, and so on. We also learned a lot about new products and product features like … unfortunately I can’t say anything on this. What I did not mention yet: every participant needs to sign an NDA, a non-disclosure-agreement to get allowed, as you get to see things which in some cases are still in a very early stage of development – which is extremely exciting to see, of course. Then it was a very nice lunch of course, with the Googlers present at the venue just joining in with the local guides at the tables, which was nice for a conversation.

Jan Van Haver 10:33
And after lunch, there were breakout sessions in separate groups. Most of them were a kind of workshop. On the Wednesday, some of those breakout session topics were ‘Consuming inspiring content’: what is inspiring content and how is it viewed by the different types of Maps users; there was a session to explore the future of how the team communicates with the local guides; another one had as topic ‘Improving quality contributions on maps’: it was all about how to quantify the quality and trustworthiness of user generated content – very important, if you ask me; there was a session about perks – that’s a topic for a future episode of the LetsGuide Podcast for sure; and then there was one called ‘Taking map editing to the next level’. That was actually the one I was in. But since this is even more NDA-related than all the rest, I really can’t say anything about it, except that it’s really, really, really exciting and it will help a lot of people, what we were shown there. Finally, there was also a breakout session, on Wednesday, on Connect.

Jan Van Haver 11:53
On Thursday, we were taken out to go to places in and near San Jose, for different kinds of activities. Some were related to topics like video, or Street View, Meet-ups. Others even involved gardening, or a visit to a local brewery – I told you there was alcohol involved (and actually not only during the visit at the brewery).

Jan Van Haver 12:19
For me personally, one of the most exciting parts was called ‘office hours’. This is where we got the opportunity to talk directly to the Google team one to one, just asking any question you could think of. And the Googlers there included also some of the engineers actually working on Google Maps. Some of the topics there were also Communication, so the in-app notifications or emails sent from Google; Live View, the augmented reality feature in Google Maps; Map edits: how you can make edits on Google Maps – I spent quite a bit of time there; People in Maps: how you trust a content creator; Perks, once again; Place recommendations; Video; Street View; Q&A; Reviews – the lot was being treated there. I can’t really go into any details – once again: the NDA. But I can say that it was a great opportunity to give feedback and even exchange some ideas in a very, very direct way. And I have good hopes that some local guides will someday find product improvements in the future in Google Maps that might have been the result of ideas uttered at this particular occasion. Fingers crossed.

Jan Van Haver 13:45
An additional nice surprise on Wednesday evening was that we were able to attend a live recording of an episode of ‘The Review Review’, the YouTube series with actress Jamie Lynn – will make sure to include the link to that series in the shownotes. I don’t think the episode recorded then and there was already published but it will be out soon. I guess that really brought the local guides in the right mood to party. Well, honestly, no real effort was needed for that because they were in that mood, more or less for the entire four days. Once again, check some of the recap posts on Local Guides Connect.

Jan Van Haver 14:27
One topic I still need to address is… gifts. As I mentioned before: Google paid for the trip and the accommodation, but there was more. Each participant, on the first day, gets a bag with some nice exclusive gadgets: a shirt, there was an Android compass, a nice drinking cup, some pins, stickers. But at the end of the opening day, at the opening reception, it turned out that everyone received a Pixel 3XL phone! That caused some excitement, to say the least. So by now I also belong to Team Pixel and I can first-handedly testify: it’s a really, really great phone – the camera, the night vision and the portrait mode are amazing. And at the final day, there was another surprise box for everyone with some nice stuff like a small tripod (for the new phone) and local guide socks for all! Whoo hoo!

Jan Van Haver 15:34
Which brings us to my final topic: some fun facts from Connect Live 2019. As I just said, we all received socks. So all 200 participants were removed from the Local Guides Barefoot Club – you might have heard about this, because there’s a very popular hashtag #LGBFC – there were some stickers even for this club – but all candidates, or participants, rather, are out of it because to be member of this club, you have to not have received the local guide socks. So we’re all out, but I understand that new candidates for the presidency of the club or have already been spotted.

Jan Van Haver 16:17
Another fun fact is that the event hosted Local Guides, or received local guides from 64 different countries – quite nice. The next fun fact is that Luigi, the name Luigi, rhymes very nicely with selfie. You need to have been there to fully appreciate this statement, but he was definitely the selfie king of the event, and he received an award for it, well deserved, in the ceremony on the final day. For the local guides quite active on Local Guides Connect it was nice to find out that two of the Google moderators were also attending the event – really nice to be able to talk with them in person.

Jan Van Haver 17:06
You might already have seen that Paul Pavlovich, the well known Connect moderator, has an impressive beard. Well we witnessed now that sometimes this turns pink overnights. Hilarious. Next fun fact is that if you put all edits made by local guides as a white dot on a dark map of the world, more or less the entire territory of Belgium lights up quite intensely – hmm, there must be some local guide making a lot of edits there. Since we’re in Europe, let’s stay there and point out that all those who think Germans are boring were proven very, very wrong by the participants from Germany and especially by party animal @TorM, who was our guests in the previous episode of the LetsGuide Podcast (on pictures).

Jan Van Haver 18:05
And then finally, for the people who were staying at the Marriott in San Jose – where the 200 local guys were lodged – so the people staying there, but not as a guest of Connect Live, it must have been quite stressful to take the elevator, as at the most impossible moments of the day those elevators were packed with local guides, insisting on taking group elevator selfies. Oh, yes, right. There’s one more fun fact, actually: if ever you come across a bunch of people anywhere on the globe singing very loudly ‘La Cucaracha’ they are bound to be participants of Connect Live 2019, for sure.

Jan Van Haver 18:52
Okay, if by now you’re even more determined than ever to make sure that you will be selected for next year, my advice is this: start preparing right now. Don’t wait for the email to come in smewhere in Spring next year. Start right now by making high quality contributions both on Google Maps and on Local Guides Connect. And my super tip: if possible, do something that makes you stand out from the crowd. Good luck to all who want to submit their application for the 2020 edition.

Vanessa P. 19:29
It’s time for some news.

Jan Van Haver 19:33
As I indicated in the last episode, if there’s anything news, we will cover it in this section of the podcast. There is actually a spectacular novelty: you can now follow local guides on Maps. Local guides seem to become influencers as well. It was shown to the 200 Local Guides at Connect Live first, but then also publicly announced a few days later, so I can talk about it already. In nine cities worldwide people are able to follow select local guides for recommendations on places and experiences to try nearby. The cities are Bangkok, Delhi, London, Mexico City, New York, Osaka, San Francisco, San Paolo and Tokyo. I’ll make sure to include a link to the full story on Connect in the shownotes.

Jan Van Haver 20:30
And talking about Connect: also there you can now follow other local guides. There’s even a new section in the menu where posts from those local guides that you follow are then shown. I’ll make sure to include also that in the shownotes. And there’s another new section on Connect, which is called ‘Achievements’ where you can add posts on your big achievements you have reached in your local guides career. Other news from Connect is that the badge names, so the badges you receive if you have given 1000 likes for example, those badge names on Connect have changed. ‘Great friend’, for example, is the one you get when you’ve given 1000 likes; ‘Super popular’ when you’ve received 1000 likes and ‘Zippy writer’ when you’ve written more than 100 posts, just to name a few examples. Go check them out on your local guides profile.

Jan Van Haver 21:32
And in case you want to listen to even more local guides related podcasts: @AdrianLunsong has recently started publishing new episodes of the GoLoco Podcast. This is really exciting. It’s a series of interviews that he recorded before, during and after Connect Live. So you might want to listen to those as well. And I’ve even had the honor of being one of the persons interviewed on the GoLoco episodes – really nice experience. I will obviously include a link in the shownotes to the GoLoco Podcast.

Jan Van Haver 22:11
And that’s all I have for this episode. Please do get in touch with me if you have any comments, or remarks, or questions – you can also ask questions, that will then be answered in a future episode. You can reach out via email just email to letsguidepodcast@gmail.com; find me on Twitter under LocalGuidesGuru; on Local Guides Connect I’m under my real name @JanVanHaver and the shownotes for the episode, as usual, will be found on letsguidepodcast.com, the homepage of our podcast. The next episodes will be about Shopping centers – I’m not sure if it will still be out in 2019, due to theholidays, so perhaps it might be early 2020. I hope that you will be in the audience for that one too. Bye bye.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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