I absolutely love doing portal reviews for Operation Portal Recon.

I have spent a lot of time looking at the Ingress Intel Map, planning fields and planning blocks.   And you get familiar with a lot of weird places across Southern California.    Playing the game also makes you wonder why portals got approved, why they got rejected, and so forth.   I get it much more, in my gut now, having run through the review process so many times.

As is often the case, there’s a fair amount of sloth, bureauacracy, and whim involved.

A random sample review

Your first question is “Should this be a portal” – it’s your first impression about the object shown in the picture.    If the thing looks *wow, fantastic* it’s a 5, and if it’s a picture of someone’s couch it’s a 1.   Once you rate it a 1, the review is recorded (presumably, as a reject) and immediately moves on.

Churches get automatic 4 stars from me, and usually 5 stars.   This is as per the portal worthiness guidelines.   I suppose libraries would too, except I’ve yet to rate one.    Automatic high stars also go to parks, fountains, and trail heads – since playing the game, I’ve found these to be good portals both in the sense of location, and neat things to be looking at or standing around.

Next you are asked if the title is correct.   It always is.   Unless it’s a really crap picture like someone just pressed the camera button randomly and described it as “asdf”.

“Is it historically or culturally significant” – a good criteria to use.    Not too many things are.    I have seen State Historic Landmarks, beloved local eateries, and rate those high for this point, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

“Is it visually unique” – In the area.   This caveat makes sense.   Niantic apparently doesn’t want multiple representations of the same thing in one close area, so that neat little bike rack that was mass produced and installed 100 times in the space of 5 blocks is a one star.    But it’s otherwise obvious.   I’ve seen a lot of murals and art objects that got five stars, and rated two stars a lot of little street arts and plaques.

The lower half of the review screen.

Here’s some of the real good stuff.   On the left, you review Google Maps and find out if the object actually exists as per this source.    It’s not always obvious – sometimes, things are built after the last Maps update.   Or graffitti / murals are painted over.    That sort of thing.    Some of the objects are inside, or underneath trees, so you don’t end up seeing them.    You make you best judgement and enter a rating.   It helps to see the existing portals to determine where the thing is too.

Rate the location’s accuracy – which prevents agents from submitting things under false pretenses, like the guy who submitted photos of trail heads and GPS located them at his house.    Everything gets rejected based on these locations –

Residential Property.   Who wants Ingressers hanging out in their front yards for a fracking party ?   Nobody.

Primary / Secondary Schools.   Preschools.   Daycare.    Please, no pedo portals.

Military bases.    This baffles me, the military folks who submit portals on their bases.   Nobody can get in there guys; that’s not publicly accessible.   Same thing for motion picture studios.    And I rejected the portal at Gold Base for Scientology for the same reason.

Closed businesses.    Once it’s closed you can rarely access the portal again.   Even if you can, does it make sense to be going after the church portal that has been turned into a Holiday inn ?   Nope.

Safe walking access ?    This is the biggest.   Can an agent get there on foot (or, after parking their car) without getting run over or arrested ?    There are existing portals that don’t follow this rule and you can report them, but there are too many agents on both sides who just say “F*** it ” and trespass or stand in the middle of the road to hit portals.  So I reject all of these.    Many, many portals fall afoul of the location rule in some respect or other.

You can move the marker around if the location is off as per the maps.    There are a couple of challenges with that – first, Niantic does not appear to care.   I spent a fair amount of time moving locations, and then managed to see three separate instances where the portal was approved, I was reviewing something else in the area, and the portal was in the original location anyway.     Second, the tool is buggy.   Reloading the page is often necessary.

And three – surprisingly – the Google Maps are not perfectly tied together.   They provide four views – north, south, east, and west – and when you rotate the map, you would think they would all show the same area exactly.   They don’t.   They’re off by a factor of yards, which can matter when you’re talking about a mural on the side of a road.    The difference between hitting the mural, and having it be on the side of a mountain, is important.   So I usually leave the location alone.

Then, there’s the right side.    You can use this to look quickly for duplicate portals.    People submit the good ones multiple times, and if you find one, you click the existing portal and mark it as a duplicate.

There’s also a box for your comments.   I put in explanations of why I pick whatever rating I pick – usually for the low ones – and web links when appropriate to explain why something is important.   Like the web page for Mc Connell’s Ice Cream, showing it’s a historic local business for Santa Barbara.

You can also select the object on a database of items.   I started doing this, but the interface is wonky and irritating, plus it doesn’t matter for the rating decision, so I stopped filling in this optional item.

You can see your performance, quantity of ratings, and how many were accepted/rejected based at least partly on your rating.

It’s almost more fun than playing the game.   But when I can tell I’m getting sloppy I log off and stop making ratings, and go back to Minecraft, or whatever.   Paid reviewers – or Google interns – don’t have that luxury.    Some of their bad decisions are surely springing from that problem.

Niantic have crafted the review algorithm to try and stop agents who review based on game factors.   For example, the big farm that’s always up would probably benefit from having more portals.    If the ENL all vote no and the RES all vote yes, it’s supposedly known and taken care of.   The details aren’t provided to us agents for obvious reasons.

I believe there’s a timeout feature that isn’t disclosed either.   If I spend 20 minutes trying to review a portal, I think they time out – or I am getting random web errors as they work on the system.    It depends on what I’m doing.    I have crawled the streets to find out that the fantastic MLK mural is not actually on 3rd street – it’s on 9th street, six blocks away, because the agent was in a car when they were submitting the portal.   The very random GPS errors I don’t expect to find, but I look anyway sometimes.

As a general rule, LA does not need any more portals.     The exception is newly created subdivisions and communities, and whatever cool things get built.    What I’m really waiting for is the community deletion / editing tool which I assume is coming next.    But first – time to deal with more of the backlog.