Google has long been trying to compete with Yelp on the local review front, however, getting community involvement has always seemed like a challenge for them. After Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman’s recent embarrassing exchange with the affable Mike Blumenthal on Twitter, I switched off of Yelp and took my talents to GMB, and I have to say, they are not killing it on the Local Guide front.

As a Local Guide, $GOOG will sometimes ask you specific questions about a place you recently reviewed. All of this is setup so that they can get attributes for businesses, and mine them to better figure out how to surface results. Rather then getting to deep into the specifics I will let Adam Dorfman explain. Sounds interesting right? The only problem is they are asking the wrong, and slightly racist, questions. Check out these three attributes I was prompted to verify.

Vietnamese Tea TIme?

Thai Tea Time

New American Pseudo Pan-Asian Tea Time

Three different “Asian” restaurants in 3 different cities and the first thing they wants to ask me was about afternoon tea. Shouldn’t they just be asking this question of British restaurants, since it is a GMB category? Do they think there is a big demand for afternoon tea? Because their own proprietary data shows that to not be the case:

Afternoon Tea in Google Trends

This appears to be an issue of the machine running the asylum. For whatever reason, the system running attribute verification for Local Guides has a directive to find ALL THE AFTERNOON TEA spots. It reminds me of when my toddler is stuck in an “uh oh” loop.

Kid trying to put his balls away

This isn’t a problem that is relegated to just Google. Facebook has had their own problems with letting their machines run critical products. Facebook recently fired their “Trending News” team and let their trending algorithm run wild, to poor, yet humorous results. They have have also programmatically removed an iconic Vietnam war photo and had their ‘On This Day’ feature remind a user of the aftermath of a terrorist bombing, with balloons and other cutesy decorations.

Some problems/systems just fundamentally require human intervention in order to not just prevent the machines from making bad decisions, but to give the people what they ACTUALLY want. At least until AI is advanced enough to start plotting to take over the world. Like I alluded to earlier, these current programmatic systems are like a toddler, sometimes they do amazing things worthy of admiration and other times they wet the bed.

Anyway, if you would prefer to have Julianna Margulies explain to you why this is problematic at a societal level, you should check out a very special episode of The Good Wife. But, from a user perspective, this is worthless. No one cares if their pho joint has afternoon tea, or their northern Thai joint, or their eclectic New American Pan-Asian joint.

To me, this shows just how far Google has to go when it comes to understanding local businesses and local search. Local commerce is inherently driven by people, not machines, and crowd sourcing more local data is a great place to start getting an actual lay of the land. Hopefully as Google moves forward with monetizing their local search product, they will continue to add resources to the Google My Business team and they can expand on the Local Guide program as well as the Google My Business product (Insights in the API please). We should all have have an interest in an improved Google as no one should want to live in a world where Jeremy Stoppelman is at the top of the local search ladder.

Inb4 “Delete Your Account”

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One Response Comment

  • Heckler  September 21, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Some of us are distinctly *not British* and enjoy a spot of afternoon tea. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)