Niantic gave GO trainers the ability to submit pokéstops almost one year ago. There was a huge response from the community as people scoured their areas for new points of interest (POI) to add to the game. People spent hours reviewing submissions from their fellow trainers, trying to make a better playing environment for their communities both far and near. As the newness of the Wayfarer process wore off, only the most die-hard are still at it – submitting and reviewing.
I’ve had a lot of locals in my community who missed the initial fervor ask me how to get started. It is a bit of a confusing process, and people literally don’t know where to start. I wrote this pretty basic primer to cover a little bit of everything, without going into too much detail in any one thing. There are a lot of moving parts that people need to at least be introduced to so that they can avoid the typical pitfalls that deter too many new submitters/reviewers.With that in mind, let me give you an overview of what I’ve learned over the last several months.
You need to learn how the game works in terms of cells. There’s a concept called S2 cells where some smarty pants figured out a way to represent our 3D globe in a flat 2D grid system. Pokémon GO uses this S2 mapping to determine the rules for where POI can exist. It impacts everything from pokéstops and gyms to spawn points. I could try to go into detail about it, but this article explains it far better than I could.
Use a map that will show the S2 cells in your area along with whatever is already in the game. There is an Ingress map that you should become familiar with. You will need an Ingress account to use it, though it can be level 1. It will show POI that are active in Ingress and can’t be added even if you don’t see them in GO. The main drawback for the Ingress map is that it is designed to work for that game, so you can’t tell at a glance which POI are stops, gyms, or just don’t exist in GO at all. Using the add-on I will link below, you can go through and mark which POI are gyms or stops. However, those selections will only be remembered in that browser instance. If you switch between mobile and desktop browsers, you won’t see the designations you’ve made between the two.
The Ingress map also does not show S2 cells by default. You need a plug-in to turn that on. This Reddit post is a good explanation of how to use the Ingress Map and what add-ons you need to have to see the S2 cells.
APPROVALS & UPGRADGES
Go to the source.
- Read the help section to understand what will be approved now. This is the one that bites people in the butt. For example, they nominate every memorial bench they see but those no longer qualify as POI unless you can give a really good explanation for how the person was significant to their local community.
- Take the ridiculously easy test to be approved as a reviewer.
- Spend some time reviewing nominations to see what is in the queue. This will help you see how people word their submissions, how they frame photos, and let you build up agreements which lead to Upgrades.
Upgrades get applied automatically if you have them. It takes 100 agreements (times you agreed with the crowd about whether to accept, reject or mark as duplicate a nomination) to earn one Upgrade. Upgrades potentially make your own submissions go through the process faster. It works best when you can apply them before they go into voting.
So building up a bank of upgrades can set you up well once you have submissions to make.
You can only bank 10 upgrades. As a GO trainer, you can only submit 7 POI every 14 days (high-level Ingress players get more). This is a really good thing to do if you are able to review at lower levels but can’t submit until level 40. By the time you can submit, you should have a good feeling for how to rate POI, and you should have a nice bank of upgrades built up.
This is how the submission process works.
- Do not mention stops, gyms or Pokémon in your submissions. These POI will be used in 3 games (Ingress, GO and Wizards Unite).
- Give good details on why this POI has meaning to the community or meets the general focus of Niantic.
- Do not nominate anything that is on or near single family residential property (known within the Wayfarer community as PRP). Niantic settled an American lawsuit over this recently and had to establish a 40 meter rule. Some POI will pass despite a 40m proximity to PRP (like a playground or public park), others like little free libraries will not.
- Niantic changes their stance on what makes a good POI routinely. One month community pools are GREAT!, the next they are horrible and need to be rejected. Have fun keeping up with the moving target.
- If you want to submit a local “hidden gem,” you better have a really good description written out. If you can list awards it has won or where it has been featured in magazines, that will make approval easier. Just saying that “people love it,” isn’t enough.
- Pedestrian access is very important. Though many of us play from a car, the goal is to be able to walk and play. Also, there’s some rule about being able to actually touch the POI in Ingress. So Ingress reviewers are strict about that.
- Do NOT nominate businesses that have a contract with Niantic. If you’ve seen them as sponsored stops/gyms in other places, they work directly with Niantic to get that status. As of this writing, this means STOP NOMINATING STARBUCKS! You’re just wasting 1 of your 7 precious nominations because it is an auto-reject from informed reviewers. Right now, Baskin Robbins also has a partnership with GO, so don’t nominate those either.
There is a Wayfarer discord where a lot of the experts hang out and are willing to answer your questions.
In order to prove that the POI is really located where we say it is, you often need to submit a 360-degree photo to Google. There is an app called Google Street View that will let you do this really easily. You stand at the spot where you are locating the pin and take photos in a 360-degree circle. You do this separately from the submission. I always do it before I leave so that it will be located right where I put the pin for the submission. The app stitches them together for you and uploads them to Google Maps. Then this should be viewable during the review process. You really need this for locations where the POI is new (due to construction), under heavy tree cover (like on a trail), or indoors.
There is a browser add-on that will help your reviewing process quite a lot. While reviewing, you will be notified if a submission is within 20 meters of an existing POI. This helps you identify potential duplicates. For your own nominations, you can look at which L17 cells they fall in. When you’re out in the sun with a glare on your phone, it can be difficult to know if you placed the pin correctly. Of course, you should always put the pin on the POI. Sometimes, though, there are a few possible locations that are valid for pin placement. It makes sense to put the pin in an open L17 cell. This add-on allows you to see where you’ve put the pin. I have revoked more than one submission after getting home when I realized that I did not place the pin where it needed to go.
The add-on will alert you when one of your submissions goes into voting. It will give you a summary of how many submissions you have in each stage. Possibly the most important thing it can do is add a forced slow down to your reviewing process. The Wayfarer process does not like it when you go too fast. If it determines that you are going too fast, you could trigger a cooldown that forces you to stop reviewing for 4 hours. This add-on will disable the submit button for whatever number of seconds you designate. I use a 50 second slow down on my own reviews. One of the most fun things you get from this add-on is a map of all the submissions you’ve made. You get a really nice visual representation of the difference you’ve made in your community.
OK, Niantic changed it so that none of this section is true anymore. But I’m leaving this information here because I want to acknowledge that this is how it used to work and I’d like to see something like this return. It is utterly ridiculous, IMO, that we can’t influence which POI become gyms. Some POI simply work better as gyms than others and it really annoys me that Niantic doesn’t trust us to make those kinds of decisions.
We have some control over which stops become gyms after they have been approved. Unfortunately, we do this through Ingress. Thankfully, you only need a level 1 Ingress account to have an impact.
Stops, called portals in Ingress, are added to Ingress as soon as they are approved (which should be the same time you receive the email notification that your POI was approved). They will not show up in GO until the daily 2 pm refresh (this is when it happens on the US East Coast – timing may be different in other time zones). They must have been approved and been in Ingress for some period of time before they will show up in GO. I’m not sure the exact timing on that. The rule of thumb I go by is midnight – 4 am-ish (again for the US East Coast). If I get the approval before then, I count on seeing the new stop in GO that same day at 2 pm. Otherwise, it will be the next day at 2 pm.
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert in this next part.
The way it should work is that you can click on the photo for a stop (portal) in Ingress and “upvote” that photo by clicking the thumbs up symbol. The stop (portal) with the most upvotes is the one that will become a gym in GO.
There may also be a way to get Ingress players involved by linking portals together. Find an Ingress player if you want to understand more about that.
There are a couple of flaws in this process.
- There’s a timer you have to finish this process before. If you upvote past the deadline, your vote doesn’t count. I’m not sure when that cut-off happens.
- If any of the stops (portals) in Ingress have more than one photo, I believe each photo counts as an upvote even if there are no upvotes showing on either one. I’m not sure if there is any way to overrule an older stop (portal) with more than one photo with a brand new stop that will obviously only have one photo.
This portal has 4 upvotes on the main photo and at least 8 additional photos. It is already a gym in GO but if it were not, it would be almost impossible to keep this from becoming the next gym.
In my local community, we have a discord channel dedicated to POI submissions. This is where we talk about what we have submitted, what has been approved, what new gyms we should be seeing, etc. We recently decided to get even more organized. One of our local trainers created a custom map through Google My Maps. He began adding pins for all the things that we should be able to get approved as POI. He then added other trainers to the map as editors. You will need a Gmail account to utilize this tool. It can be a fantastic way to make sure you’re all adding POI in the places where your community needs them. It also helps to ensure that you don’t submit the same things.
I’ve heard of other communities setting up reviewing parties. So they all get together (online, I guess – maybe through a voice-enabled discord channel) and review nominations for a designated period of time. My community hasn’t done that yet, but it might be fun to try it.
It really helps if you can find a high-level Ingress player in your community willing to help you out. When someone who is below level 40 really wants/needs a POI added in a particular spot, or when we have an area with poor cell signal, we have an Ingress trainer who will use the photos and location data we provide to make the submission. I have found that you need a stronger signal to submit POI than you do to play the game, I guess, because you’re uploading two photos. This is particularly a problem if you have a phone that creates large files. Weaker phone signal means your upload is more likely to fail. While GO trainers can’t submit remotely, you can capture all the information, prepare the submission, and drive to a location with a better signal before you hit the Submit button. I have to do this often. I have also given up trying to submit with my fancy new phone. I hotspot my 3-year-old phone and use it to submit so that the files are small enough to go through.
The voting/approval process is pretty frustrating, honestly. The more you participate and the more you know about it, the better it works for you. See notes above about banking upgrades.
Problems we have run into:
- Nominating things in the Same L14 Cells I have a tendency to go out and nominate a bunch of things all close to each other, often in the same L14 cells. When I do that, often, only one will go into voting at a time. From what I have observed, the other won’t go into voting until the other has finished. I can’t influence which one goes into voting first. (This doesn’t take into account anyone else who may also be nominating stuff in the same L14 cell.) My theory behind this (which could be completely wrong) is that Niantic doesn’t want two POI to be approved and added on the same day that may end up adding a gym. These days, I do my homework before making submissions. I only add the thing I really want to go in first, and then after it has been approved, I will go back and add another submission in that cell.
- Pin Movers Unfortunately, some of us have run into reviewers who want to insert themselves into the process and move pins. In places where there are a ton of POI, pin placement is often critical, and moving a pin can make the difference between the POI showing up in GO or not. (Annoying fact, Ingress can have POI close to each other so they may get the POI while we won’t.) If your POI was approved, but it was moved so that it doesn’t show up in GO, your only recourse is to find one of the few high-level Ingress people you know to see if they can move it for you.
- Unusual POIs If you want to nominate something that is really cool but is something that most people have never seen before, REALLY THINK about how you’re going to present it. We have this outdoor training course at a nearby rehab hospital that is supposed to teach new wheelchair users how to push themselves in all kinds of terrain. I think it is a great submission. Unfortunately, this photo went over like a lead balloon in the reviewing community.
They thought I was just trying to pass off a photo of a torn-up piece of sidewalk. I tried to explain that you can see the sand pit behind the gravel pit. But it was just too much to ask people to understand. As it turns out, I later found a website link to the foundation that gave the hospital the grant to build this training course. They’ve funded at least three of these at hospitals around the country. There is a plaque somewhere near this that I need to locate and take a photo of. Using a photo of that and a link to the article, I could probably get this approved by submitting it a second time.
My final thoughts are that it’s honestly a pretty frustrating system. There are a lot of third-party tools, the rules change often, there’s not much transparency on how it all works, reviews and voting seem to slow down for no apparent reason, where you live and how active the others in your community are impacts your ability to get approvals through in a timely manner, bad reviewers can abuse the process, and many other issues hamper the current system. However, despite its flaws, the system can work.
I became a level 40 trainer literally on the same day they rolled out PokéStop nominations to GO players. When they finally got around to giving us the Wayfarer badge, mine was immediately gold. I have over 4,000 agreements on that badge (and counting). More importantly, I’ve had 47 submissions approved. As a result of POI’s I’ve submitted, I’ve flipped at least 10 PokéStops into gyms. So just keep submitting and reviewing. One day you will notice that you’ve really made a difference to your community!