Space Exploration

Hello? Hello? Is this thing still on?

Hello internet. It’s been quite a while. It’s been a very busy year personally and professionally for me, encompassing changes, big highs and a few sad lows. In truth, I’ve found it difficult to find something worth writing about, even when I found the time. I took an interest in Kodi before finding out how frustrating it can be, and setting up a gaming PC in the Amazon EC2 cloud looked fun, but I never find time to play games these days (although I’ll probably give that another go at some stage).

Tumbleweeds passed by. And then Local Guides for Google Maps came along and piqued my interest.

To Boldly Go

So what is Local Guides? Simply put, it’s a points based rewards scheme for Google Maps. You make contributions, you earn points. Earn enough points, and you level up. Level up, and you get rewards. The rewards are as follows:

  • Level 1 (0 – 4 points): Enter exclusive contests in select countries.
  • Level 2 (5 – 49 points): Get early access to new Google products and features.
  • Level 3 (50 – 199 points): Show up in the Google Maps app with your official Local Guides badge.
  • Level 4 (200 – 499 points): Receive a free 1 TB upgrade of your Drive storage for 2 years.
  • Level 5 (500+ points): Become eligible to apply to attend the annual Local Guides summit in 2016; meet other top Guides from around the world, explore the Google campus, and get the latest info about Google Maps.

To be honest, at first glance, the rewards are pretty meh. However, Level 4 is the headline grabber for me – 1 TB of free storage. Just as well – I got 100Gb of free storage when I bought my Chromebook, and that expires in a few months. I could renew this for as little as $2 a month, but nothing beats free!

So my mission – to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. And in the process, get those 200 points.

Point Scoring

You can contribute to Google Maps in five different ways, each way earns you 1 point:

1 – Add a New Location

Maybe a local business is missing from maps. Add it in using Google Map Maker a for an easy point. New locations are subject to peer review, you’ll get points only if they are published.


2 – Edit an Existing Location

Maybe an existing location has details missing (think opening hours, phone number, website), or has incorrect details (location on map is incorrect, classified as “restaurant” when it should be “coffee shop”), or details to be refined (change “restaurant” to “Chinese restaurant” if it better describes a location). Again, subject to peer review, and will earn you a point. Note that you can only earn 1 edit point per location – multiple edits of the same place do not accrue more points.


3 – Post a Review

Easy point here. Click any location on Google Maps and give it a rating of 1-5 stars. Add a comment. Job done.


4 – Add a Photo

Following on from the review point above, add a photo for another easy point. I’m one of those annoying people who take photos of my food at restaurants, so I have plenty of these. Note that you can only earn one point per location here – multiple photos do not get multiple points (though it is nice to see how many views your photos get).


5 – Answer Questions

This is only available from the smartphone app. For any place you have reviewed, you can answer a few yes / no / not sure questions about it. Again, only one point per location, not per question. This is available from two places in the app – from the “Contributions” tab, or by selecting a location in maps and clicking on the “Do you know this place?” link.


How Many Locations?

It’s possible to earn up to 5 points per location, but in practical terms it’s highly unlikely you’ll get 5 points for everything (unless you add in 40 brand new locations that no-one else has ever heard of in the Amazonian rainforests or under the sea). A good question is what is the average points score per location. Here’s my experience:

  • For every location I review, I get 1 point.
  • I answer questions on each location – 1 point.
  • I add a photo roughly every 1 in five locations – 0.2 point.
  • I add a new location roughly every 1 in 10 locations – 0.1 point.
  • I edit a location roughly every 1 in 5 locations (pro tip – add a location and then edit it with further detail after it’s been published) – 0.2 point.

This gives a weighted average of 2.5 points per location. For 200 points, this equates to 80 locations. 80 Locations is my new target.

80 Locations? That’s Loads!

Nope. It’s not really. Think of different categories of places, and think of different places you’ve been to within those categories. Here’s 10 categories for starters:

  • Restaurants – easy to rhyme off places I’ve been to for family or work functions (lunches and dinners), or places I fancied trying by myself. Some I frequent, others I’ve only been once. Quick review on the food, service, maybe a photo.
  • Takeaways – a quick review of the local burrito place, burger bar, chip shop…etc. along with a pic of what I’ve bought.
  • Cafés – there is no shortage of coffee shops nowadays. Are they all the same? Differentiate by talking about service, cleanliness, convenience of location, maybe a photo of a view if there is one.
  • Pubs – can I name 8 bars I’ve had a pint in over the years? Is that a rhetorical question? I don’t usually post pub photos unless it’s a shot of the outside of the building, maybe a holiday snap. Quick comment about atmosphere, cleanliness, beers on offer…etc.
  • Hotels – reviews on anywhere I’ve stayed while on holiday, or wedding venues I’ve been to. Usually have a photo for these.
  • Supermarkets – okay, I don’t take photos of these places, but can easily rhyme off 8 supermarkets (there are 4 within a mile radius of my house alone). Do they stock the products I like? Are they clean? What are the staff like?
  • Convenience Stores – again, no photo ops here really. Same deal as when reviewing supermarkets, although these stores are much more plentiful.
  • Petrol Stations – no photos, simple reviews – do they have adequate parking, are they conveniently located, is there a shop in store, are there toilet facilities…etc.
  • Parks / Zoos / Museums – loads of photos here. Plenty to say about each location as there’s such a variety of scope here.
  • Music / Sporting Venues – some photo opportunities here. I’ve been to plenty of live music shows and have favourites venues – the atmosphere, the sound… good memories. Likewise, I have my favourite sports venues too for similar reasons (Monza in 2006 – what a day that was).

Welcome to Level 4

10-15 minutes a day over lunch or in the evening, and I’d easily amassed 200 points in less than 2 weeks. Truth be told, it became quite addictive. Then the waiting game – it can take up to 5 weeks before you get an email to offer you the 1 TB of storage, but I got mine in a few days. Job done!