A couple of weeks ago, I took an in depth look at some of the things happening with Google Hotpot…
Reposted from my Cast page:
In mid-November of last year, Google unveiled their newest addition to Google Places, Hotpot. The aim was to provide a service that compliments both Google search and Google Places by giving users local suggestions based on their personal tastes and preferences. In short, Google is aiming to update their search results to include personalized recommendations for local businesses.
Hotpot is relatively similar to several other local places and check in services, and with the addition of both an Android and iPhone app, Hotpot has been compared by other bloggers to Yelp, Foursquare, Bizzy and Facebook Places.
The idea is this, based on your location and a series of local places/businesses that you and your friends have rated, Google will be able to serve up a list of other spots of interest. Because of their tailored nature, these results should be more valuable than the previously general results a consumer would otherwise be receiving.
Having entered several reviews, and rated a number of businesses, my now personalized results are alright at best and got better only after fiddling with the site for well over an hour and a half.
1.) After connecting with several of my friends on Hotpot, I found out that I have wildly different taste in bars and restaurants than they do.
Some of this is due to the vegetarianism I have enjoyed thoroughly for most of the last 15 years, and that my friends may live in different parts of the city than I do. The bars and restaurants I go to most often are closer to my neighborhood (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) than theirs (Battery Park, Park Slope, the Upper East Side and the Financial District)- even though we all live in the same city and within miles of each other.
2.) The places of interest Hotpot suggests are predominantly tourist attractions.
These are places I only visit when entertaining out of town guests. I have no interest in visiting them regularly. When I click the not interested button, others pop up to replace them.
3.) Hotpot doesn’t discern between the loyalty businesses it’s recommending and frequency businesses.
No matter how many times I have hit that same not interested button, Hotpot continues to show me auto service stations and hair salons. There doesn’t seem to be a learning algorithm that takes into account the fact that the reason I am hitting not interested is probably because I already have a salon and mechanic in my arsenal of favorite local businesses, or worse, I don’t have a car (or hair).
Additional things Google might want to take into account:
1.) Frequency of use.
I am inevitably going to have more visits to various restaurants or bars than to the MoMA or my salon. I can eat out a number of times a week, I really only need a haircut every couple of months or so.
It would make sense to show me more of the businesses I can consume more of. Likewise, I might disproportionately want to rate these businesses as well.
2.) The real difference between a loyalty business and a frequency business.
Similarly, I may have a favorite sushi restaurant, my loyalty isn’t strained when I try a new sushi restaurant, new clothing store or a new coffee shop. However, most people are relatively loyal to their hairdressers, auto mechanics, gyms and dry cleaners.
When showing me recommendations, Hotpot would be wise to take into account what kinds of businesses with which people are more agnostic about their loyalties.
3.) The strength of a recommendation.
When people say they trust the recommendations of their friends, it’s assuming that friends will actually have the same taste in food, shopping and places they’ll want to spend time. The truth of the matter is that my best friend is a whiskey and bacon lover, and my relationship with both whiskey and bacon is tenuous at best.
What could easily fix this flaw is to show greater preference to personal ratings and the reasons behind them, regardless of that steakhouse my friends like.
And for that matter- yes, I may like the Apple Store, but it’s probably because I am a gadget geek. Because of this I am more likely to like a store like Digital Fix than the Chelsea Market. Correlation does not equal causality, and proximity does not equal similarity.
Things on Hotpot that I love:
The Saved Places List.
I can access it while mobile from my Droid with the newest update of the Google Maps application, or can log into my Hotpot account if I want a reminder of what that new restaurant I wanted to check out is called. No good will come of this particular feature (in the best and most delicious way possible).