A Question Mark – Portal Validity and Quality


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.

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  1. This would mean that every housing addition.. mobile home park with a name would be a valid portal regardless of it being rural or suburban area. Or would it only allow for those that had more financial ability to provide a more aesthetically pleasing design be allowed? What if there are this type of brickwork on every entrance to the housing area.. should they all be allowed? This is where the arguments begin because what some perceive as acceptable others do not. Niantic is also allowing for some and not others causing even further issues in the game with submits and removals. Portal submissions become an issue just to get one close to work or home. I am not sure how this improves the game. It also allows for issues with agents being in areas that are monitored by security or causing issues with management having so many agents attempting to gain access. I think some responsibility should be taken when submitting portals. All agents strive to play as hard or timely as possible. If a portal is going to cause them to take risks to complete a field or destroy one in my opinion is should be carefully reviewed before submitting or accepting regardless of the opportunity it provides ones faction.

  2. As I’ve been saying for nearly a year, portal submission and deletion should be a privilege, not an entitlement. Just because an agent gets a new Ingress account shouldn’t automatically qualify the agent to submit every rock under a tree or brick in a sidewalk with writing on it to be considered as a portal. I live nearby a park that has 14 of these “cenotaphs.” A great farm? No, they are dumb rocks!! And all were submitted by an L2 agent that played alone and quit by the time he made L5. Not only that, the the locations of each are not even precise (blamed partially on the agents GPS, and maybe partial blame to Niantic). I think the privilege should be granted only to L6 and above, and any portal submissions should appear on the map as neutral until it garners a calculated number of votes based on the existing portal density in the area and number of active L6+ agents within a certain radius of the prospective portal, and a majority of the votes should come from agents in opposition to the submitter, and the submitter cannot vote for their own submission, and the exact location should be verified along with each vote. A similar process for deleting a portal should be implemented. It sounds complicated, but the point is to enable the community have some say about what gets to be a portal or not. Like the article author, this is not an attempt to declare “What Should Be A Portal As I See It.” These are just some ideas and suggestions I’m tossing out for consideration and fine tuning.

    • Voting wouldn’t work, nor would limiting subs to L6+. You know how many portals I had locally at L1? Zero. Know how many within commutable distance? One. I had to drive about an hour out of my way to find the ‘farm’ of four. I only managed to level by submitting, waiting on them to go live, capping, waiting on decay, recap, repeat.

      If submissions were only allowed by L6+, I’d still be L1. If submissions had to be voted, the ones I submitted a year ago would only in the past two months – if at all – have even had the chance to be voted, because no one came here until I started using these portals to throw up blocking links.

      Remember the rural.

      • I see your points. I’m in a rural area, too. There’s a handful of agents out here from both factions that started in the burbs and major downtown areas 15-20 miles away just because we only had a post office to mess with here. Even today, while we now have just under 3 dozen portals in a 3 square mile area, the only agents that play in the area are the ones that live here. Us rural folk continue to travel to the portals in the burbs and cities (helping our local cells), but we don’t see many outsiders traveling to portals in our area. We’ll never likely see a L8 portal, and it’s happened only a few times that we had a dozen L7 portals. We have to go to the game, the game rarely comes to us. So, I definitely see your point. If higher level agents aren’t likely to travel to rural areas, portals wouldn’t get voted, let alone submitted until an agent can earn the privilege.

        I still think their should be some karma factor involved — AP? — to lend some assurance that an agent understands the game well enough to be trusted to submit a quality portal. The only reason I don’t request to delete the dumb little rocks every 20ft or so apart from each other under practically every tree in our park is because we’d lose half the portals in our little town . They’re hackable, so I endure. But I still cringe knowing they aren’t quality and that I’m also to blame for allowing them to continue to exist.

  3. Concerning the neighborhood “artistic landmarks” portals that were removed, you asked the question “should I appeal them?” You answered your own question by instead resubmitting them. I believe the word “Park” in the title is almost a guaranteed approval by Niantic. I look forward to reading other’s opinions on those specific portals, and other portals that stretch the definition of the words artistic, landmark, and interesting.

  4. I’d trust the community to correct wrong placed portals or portals that are not special. I reported several portals that are unreachable, dangerous (chased by a guard + dog) and not ok. (primary school) but most of them still exist. It also takes a long while for Niantic to react.

    And also the problem of FAKE portals. Kids in the neighbourhood submitting tiny arty objects in their mothers garden, cleverly photographed in a smart angle so it looks big and official. These house portals often contain rare mult hacks and heat sinks. Reported them 5 weeks ago: still nothing.

    Niantic sould react faster

    • It should be a lot harder to remove a portal then it is now. Takes 2 months to approve, then some wanker comes along and submits a removal request. Poof, it is gone.

        • “But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”

          “Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”

          “But the plans were on display …”

          “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

          “That’s the display department.”

          “With a flashlight.”

          “Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”

          “So had the stairs.”

          “But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”

          “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

    • In many cases, Niantic is just as lazy reviewing portal reconsiderations as the initial portal submissions.

      They need to offload the work to the PLAYERS, and let the portal base evolve based on quality feedback, not some overworked drone trying to get the backlog down.

  5. On a tangent, there needs to be a place to add a note to the approver, that would not make sense to be in the comments… Like:
    note: This is a new portal, a color Fountain over 200 feet from the existing plain one. Please stop adding the pictures to the other Fountain….

  6. Thomas Rathbun on

    ok so as long as we are talking about portal submissions I know ingress allows Churches to be portals but again as we said this is Texas and there is a practically a church on every corner. I personally this is just me but think the church should be unique historic but how do you define unique. Just my thoughts take them for what they are worth. As far as neighborhood signs go yes I know it looks nice and yes you consider it art but again then every trailer park and neighborhood could have their entrance submitted.

    I just think if your going to submit something stop and ask if I was bringing a friend out of town would this be something they would want to see? If you can answer yes then submit it if the answer is no then don’t.

  7. Here’s another thing that comes to my mind regarding portal submission. According to the game lore, the Enlightened are helping the Shapers bring XM into our world, so does it make sense that the Resistance should be submitting a portals, effectively creating a new way for XM to seep into our world, which, again according to the game lore, the Resistance does not want to allow? That’s where the game lore and the game strategy differ. If we’re talking game strategy, then the Resistance will want to have strategic portals just as much as a Shapers want a portal into our world. Back to game lore, wouldn’t the Shapers occasionally move the position of the portals so as to evade being taken control of and stealthily create new passages which to enter into our world?

    I know, sounds more like something from Stargate. But, I think this game needs a dynamic element like that. After a year of playing this game, it’s getting rather boring automatically knowing where every portal in town is and having a routine for hacking and flipping. I think portals should dynamically go away and come back. This would be especially helpful to control portal density (argh! standing in one spot and I can’t even see all eight of the portals in my 40m circle because the portal density is out of control with every interesting element of a piece of graffiti being it’s own portal, rather than the entire piece of graffiti!). I used to heavily play in the next town away while I commuted there for work. It’s been a few months, but I’ll bet I can go right back there and know where 99% of all the portals still are with my eyes closed. It shouldn’t be that routine. It should be dynamic. Portal density should be based on estimated MU for the area. Niantic can control the stats and dynamics, but portal say-so is better left to the community beginning at a privileged level.

  8. There is a park in a town near me that has a little plaque at the base of every tree, “In memory of “. It makes for a great farm, but it’s a little ridiculous.

    Similarly, a town nearby painted all of their fire hydrants like little people, and every one is a portal. That reminds me, I hit one the other day that had been replaced by a generic orange hydrant, I guess I should file a removal request on that one.

    Sometimes one of a thing is portal-worthy, but a dozen of pretty much the same thing gets to be a bit much.

    • I think this sort of thing goes back to the ‘Uniqueness’ of a portal and how it can be very dependent on geography. A single fire hydrant painted as a little person in the town is a unique bit of (albeit subjective) art or beautification, but when all of them are that way, you’re right, it ceases to be unique.

      At the same time, though, things like sculpture gardens come to mind. I don’t think there’s much argument from us about whether each sculpture would qualify as Art (unless some of us are professional art critics…) , but the thing to ask is: Are each of the sculptures there separate things, and thus legitimately multiple portals, or should the whole sculpture garden be one thing, and thus only the portal on the entrance (Which also usually already exists)

  9. In Louisville, KY there’s a couple hundred fiberglass horses… From a project called gallapolusa. As many as can be found, are turned in as portals. There’s a coupletowns in PA that did the thing, with bee hives. Jeffersonville, IN went with cement pigs(pigapolusa)
    Clark County Indiana and Brisbane Australia painted the big Grey control panels at intersections (control the red/green lights)
    In each case, artists take the base form, and do to it whatever the makers influence them to do. I just photograph and submit

  10. The tree one… Not sure they reeeeealy qualify. Depends on what the makers want… If they are looking for concentrations of specific emotions, perhaps

  11. I am beginning to get QUITE annoyed with Portal deletions.
    It is now a confirmed tactic
    If it’s a portal
    If it is NORMALLY Green
    Then it gets submitted
    All of the portals in/around an an ARTS CENTER were removed, yet the portals of… well… pretty much a blank wall… across the street remains
    A bunch of churches submitted by us recently went “poof” while the blue team keeps plunking down new ones
    If there’s a FD that THEY use, they submit a move request (Gotta love the one they moved to the pitchers mound of a neighboring High School, or the one in the middle of a river… They CAN be reached, but only if you know how to approach em
    If there’s a FD that WE use – color it GONE. (And you can’t re-submit a FD)

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A Question Mark – Portal Validity and Quality

by Guest Writer time to read: 4 min