A Question Mark – By DI Guest Writer Matt “kooj0” Robbins
“But be warned. Do not attempt to deceive or mislead others into visiting false Portals. There is no danger to you in Portals. But I make no promises for deceivers or falsifiers.”
Roland Jarvis – Are You Awake Now? transcript
Welcome boys and girls, agents young and old, to The Circus! A few points of order, first. This is a personal issue for me, so I’ve discarded the passive voice and I’ll be asking questions to all of you directly. Take notice of the fact that I am asking questions, and not dictating terms. This is not an attempt to declare What Should Be A Portal As I See It, I am endeavoring to elevate the discussion and engender useful dialogue on portal submission criteria. If you’ve never read the criteria for portal submissions, you can find them here.
The very reason this discussion is required, and in fact has happened all over G+ for months, is that Niantic’s portal criteria are necessarily broad and vague, I think, in order to encourage as many portal submissions from agents as possible.
I’m not getting to 5,000 on statues alone, nor is anyone else.
Take the very first bullet: Art. What could be more subjective? What one person considers interesting art, another person could consider pedestrian and boring. In the parenthesis Niantic puts “artistic graffiti”, it seems, just to mess with us! How are we supposed to determine whether one piece of graffiti is artistic and another isn’t? I don’t think we all need to go out and get degrees in Art Appreciation, but I do think we need to be as reasonable and objective with each other’s portal submissions as is possible.
Art aside, they have “Historic buildings and landmarks”. The former is relatively straightforward, but the latter? Hoo boy. Technically speaking any street sign is a “landmark”, and by technically I mean meeting the dictionary definition. Look it up, I won’t quote Miriam at you. So much qualifies here; every street every where should be lit up with portal dots, but they’re not, and I interpret that as Niantic has set the bar for landmark somewhere above “street sign”. However, I welcome elaboration on this, as well as where the bar is set on “historic”. Again, I won’t attempt to dictate my standards to Niantic or the community, but I’ll present here an example of a portal that I submitted in my neighborhood.
I’m a sucker for a bold serif.
Does this pass muster for portal criteria? In my opinion it’s an artistic landmark. I find the stone work and font aesthetically appealing, and it surely meets the standards of being a landmark (admittedly easy to do, as I pointed out above). I had several of these in my neighborhood accepted by Niantic as portals, they stood for months, but then they were deleted and now all of them are gone. Should I appeal them? I haven’t so far (disclaimer: I did re-submit them), and my opinion on whether or not to do so has oscillated primarily because I can’t claim to know exactly what constitutes a valid portal.
I have a personal favorite among the criteria, and that is “Unique local businesses (i.e., a one-of-a-kind, local shop)”. This, also, is incredibly broad. I have submitted donut shops, nail salons, restaurants, tattoo parlors, smoke shops, book stores, you name it, and many of them have been accepted. I’ll concede I’ve set the bar relatively low, but I stop at chain stores and automotive supply stores. How low should this bar go? Is my standard for unique business too low? In my opinion, if a business is privately owned, isn’t a franchise, and is accessible to the public, I’d like to see a portal there, submitted by me or not.
Uniqueness as a portal criteria is something that I’ve seen brought up a lot, and it is something that deserves much discussion. For example, there’s this portal in my town.
You should see the portal for “New Farm Equipment”.
Now, I live in Texas. If you travel for 50 miles in any direction, “Old Farm Equipment” hardly qualifies as a unique landmark. However, in the suburbs of Fort Worth or Dallas, this is unique. Should geography be a mitigating consideration with portal criteria? If so, what about a McDonald’s that is the only one for 50 miles, or a McDonald’s that’s the only one in a given country? When Niantic is reviewing submissions, do they take into account whether the submission is urban, suburban, or rural?
A McDonald’s in Dallas hardly qualifies as one-of-a-kind, but elsewhere it might. I can tell you this, if I saw a portal on a McD in Dallas, Tx I’d submit a deletion request, but if I saw one in Bluff Dale, Tx I wouldn’t. Am I exercising a double standard, or am I being objective in regards to geography and uniqueness?
I won’t dive deep in regards to portal submissions that are fake, have bad location, or attempt to obfuscate what they are with cutesy titles, neither will I digress on submitting deletions for portals. All I ask, whether you’re Enlightened or Resistance, is to exercise some restraint and to be objective. If you wouldn’t like to see the other side submit it as a portal, don’t submit it yourself, and if you wouldn’t delete it if it was commonly owned by your own team, then don’t delete it. Niantic is attempting to moderate a world wide game, and all of us should do our best not to flood them with insincere or dishonest requests.
I’ve shared my opinions and my standards here, and I don’t expect them to perfectly align with everyone else who plays Ingress. However, I hope that we can get closer to some consensus as a community and everyone enjoys the game more. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
DeCode Ingress note: Community involvement matters. It takes a village to raise a child and Ingress is our baby.
Matt Robbins is a Senior Systems Engineer, Technical Writer, and the bass player for Sons of Ena (facebook.com/SonsOfEna). He’s been a Level 8 Enlightened agent since May ’13, he’s a former Barcode, and he plays actively in Dallas and Fort Worth.