Decentralization of Experience – Google Local Guides

Our world is one of increasing decentralization in many different areas of our lives. Uber and Lyft offer us a competitive ride sharing program where ordinary people with cars and a desire to get paid will taxi you around. AirBnb is a service where people rent out their spare rooms or entire apartments and homes to travelers who do want a different experience to the big box hotels. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have fundamentally questioned the way our banking, financial, and monetary systems should operate. All of these have begun to tear down the old assumptions of how things have always worked and have started to replace them with how things are going to work.

It should be no surprise that Google is working on projects which further this as well. However rather than focus on decentralizing transportation, accommodation, and currency, Google has taken a far more meta path of decentralizing experiences. While they may not explicitly say this, I believe it to be true. Allow me to explain.

Google launched a program called “Local Guides” last year which encouraged and rewarded its “local guides” for posting pictures and reviews of various locations around a city. For their time and effort, the guides are awarded various goodies depending on the number of reviews and photos they leave. For example if you become a level 4 guide, you get 100 free gigs of Google Drive storage. What Google boasts though is that this creates the ability for the sharing of personal insights into the area that a person has lived in or visited.

Take for example my hometown of Chicago. Any tourist coming to the city usually has a checklist of the things they need to see. A short list would necessarily include The Bean, Navy Pier, and the Sears Tower -notice I did not say “Willis” nor will I-. They may also see a Cubs or Sox game, maybe the Bulls or the Blackhawks, but otherwise there is a lingering sense that these are the things that make Chicago and that’s why tourists will visit them.

In reality, this could not be further from the truth. As a Chicagoan I can provide you literal pages worth of things to see and do when visiting Chicago, and none of the aforementioned items would even have been considered for that list. No one comes to Chicago just for the Galway Bay Pub on Diversey Parkway, but I think that they should. Many people come to Chicago to try our pizza, but would not even know to go to Pequod’s unless someone told them about it. The place you visit and the place people live may physically occupy the same space, but often could not be more different from each other without the insight of the local population.

Google Local Guides takes the experiences of all of its guides and suggests them to the intrepid traveler, offering them a choice and freedom from the boring “musts” that we’ve been told about forever. Tourism and experience of places are starting to be controlled more by individual people -as a collective- than any city/town’s Chamber of Commerce. Through decentralization of experience, we can start to view places how its inhabitants view it.

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