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The New Google Maps Is A Social Network In Disguise - Forbes


Stashed in: Google+, Privacy does not exist., internet, Maps!, Personalization, Data Mindset

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This issue of monetization is important because it has been unclear what users’ motivations are to use Google+. David Glazer, director of engineering for the Google+ platform, says that it was invented as “a way for Google to get to know [its] users.” But as Asay points out, “This speaks to Google+’s value for Google, not its users.” The increased integration with Google Maps could change that—or not. It is very different to ask for information from the map than to contribute back to it. Beyond actually paying users for their content (which is hard to imagine how to implement, but in principle a good idea) Google needs to both make these contributions as frictionless as possible and increase people’s motivations to do so.

The fact is that once you place yourself in the context of Google Maps, you are creating a ton of content just through your own activity, aside from any explicit Google+ contributions. Assuming that Google holds on to as much data as possible about your sessions (and there is no reason to believe that it is throwing anything away, though I hope I am wrong about this) you create rating information incidentally. Let’s say you are in San Francisco and ask about Thai restaurants. Of the results Google Maps shows, you look at the cards for a few. That’s one level of rating, what catches your eye. But then you actually walk by one, stop briefly before spending an hour at the precise location of another. So Google now knows what you looked at at what you eventually selected, just as it does with its general search results. This is all objective data. You did look at this, you did eat there.

Where Zagat/Google+ Local comes in is to determine how satisfying, in fact, the meal was. This information than informs the priority of which restaurants are shown to you (and others) in the future.

But as useful as Google Maps is, and as useful as this additional personalization may become, the fact that Google is also an advertising company clouds our trust in the personalization. If Google is telling us that it is using a multitude of factors to calculate what to show us in a given context, how do we know that advertising is not one of the factors? Google’s algorithms are opaque to prevent people from gaming the system (easily), but this opacity also prevents us from really knowing which data is shaping our “filter bubbles” (to use Eli Pariser‘s wonderful term.)

The more personalized the Google experience becomes, the harder it is to know what that personalization is based on. In one sense, by contributing explicitly to Google+ you make this clearer by shifting the balance of data towards your own contributions. But what percentage of the data used to personalize a user’s experience comes directly from them anyway? No way to tell.

This could be very good or very bad. Hard to tell. I guess we'll see.

But it still makes me wonder why Facebook CANNOT / IS NOT doing a better job of personalization.

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