Update from Google’s Maps Guide Jen: “We’re working on a solution. In the meantime, we’ll try to be extra vigilant about the spam that is reported”.
Google’s recent upgrade to their support forums has a number of pluses and a few minuses.
The tighter integration with their Help System and the ease of locating the forums from within the Local Business center will definitely help more users in finding them. The ability to note that a post has been solved will provide a certain accountability for Google and other users to know if the poster understands the solution. On the negative side, the loss of summary and detailed emails of all postings is a workflow annoyance but one that can be worked around with RSS.
A more disappointing change and one that will frustrate users is the loss of visibility of the Mapspam reporting thread.
For the first half of 2008, Google’s Mapspam reporting was very ad hoc leading to a great deal of frustration on the part of small business owners and LBC users. In July I noted:
It is time for Google to step up to the bar and provide typical business people with an obvious means to report these problems and a clear cut procedure for dealing with it. The time for me to be the industry watchdog has passed and Google needs to accept full responsibility for solving this problem. That means:
1)Providing an obvious reporting mechanism
2)Responding aggressively to reports and removing the reported spam
3)Google should be proactively searching for and removing Mapspam on their own initiative
4)Continue to make it more difficult form Mapspam to enter the index.
However, shortly after my rant, Google added and highlighted the Mapspam reporting link and they “stuck” the reporting thread to the front page of the old forum. This action highlighted the Mapspam issue, made the reporting mechanism more clear AND let people know that Google was paying attention. It seemed to help in many ways.
While the thread for reporting Mapspam still exists in the new help area (you may find it here), only the more experienced users of the forum will find it. This lack of visibility means that the Mapspam posts will not be as centralized in the new support forum. If the proliferating Mapspam posts do not get answered by Google, it will leave the distinct impression that they have been unread by Google. It seems likely that the frustrations levels will once again rise.
Google, for the past 6 months, appeared to be moving down the path outlined above (with the exception of #3 which is long overdue), and this loss of reporting visibility is a definite step backwards in the battle against Mapspam.