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The Wayfarer Process: What You Need to Know

Hey, y’all. I’m updating this in June 2022 to acknowledge the changes we’ve seen in the Wayfarer process.

Niantic gave GO trainers the ability to submit PokéStops in November 2019. 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.

S2 CELLS

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

APPROVALS

Go to the source.

  1. 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.
  2. Take the test to be approved as a reviewer. 
  3. 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

Upgrades can be applied automatically if you have the setting turned on to do so or you can build up as many upgrades as you want and then apply an Upgrade to a submission later. 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.

As a GO trainer, you get 40 submissions. Your submissions are replenished one per day until you reach the max of 40. This is the same for Ingress players. So if you have an Ingress account high enough to have submissions, you can have up to 80 submissions at any given time. 

SUBMISSION PROCESS

This is how the submission process works.

GENERAL RULES

  • Do not mention stops, gyms or Pokémon in your submissions. These POI could be used in 3 games (Ingress, GO and Pikmin Bloom…plus any future games Niantic develops). 
  • Give good details on why this POI has meaning to the community or meets the three main criteria Niantic has outlined: exercise, exploration, and being social.
  • 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 in 2019 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 or on TV shows, 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 sponsorship 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 nominations because it is an auto-reject from informed reviewers. Right now, Circle K 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.

Advanced Concepts

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.

Icon for Google Street View

There is a collection of browser add-ons that will help your reviewing process quite a lot.  These used to be consolidated into one single add-on but now they have been broken out to multiple add-ons.  Almost all of them run as Tamper Monkey scripts. These scripts do stuff like:

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.

You can be alerted 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.

Wayfarer+ submit delay button
The delay grays out the submit button for a set number of seconds.

This section used to be call Ingress because all of this upvoting used to happen in the Ingress app. That was when the Ingress map was “the king.” But now Wayfarer runs off its own database called Lightship and each game has its own rules engine about how POI work and how upvoting works.

So for GO, upvoting will do 2 things:

  • Determine which photo shows up in the photodisc
  • Determine which POI becomes a gym

Basically, there’s a point system. Each POI can have multiple photos. Each photo by default = 1 point. Then each photo can get an upvote (represented by the thumbs up icon). Each upvote = 1 point.

So if you want to change the photo that appears on the photodisc, you need to add upvotes to the photo that is already on the POI that you want to see. (You can add a new photo through the edit process if there is only one photo. I will cover that in another article.) You may need more than just your single vote to make the change. You can ask your local friends to add their own upvotes to the better photo. You can also send gifts from this stop to people on your friends list and they can upvote by clicking on the image in the gift and getting to the menus that I will outline below. 

Be careful when you’re doing this because if that L14 cell is close to getting another gym, the POI with the most upvotes will become the gym. If the POI that you’re trying to change the photo for is not the best candidate for the gym, you might want to wait until after the gym has flipped to do this upvoting work. 

Please be thoughtful when determining which POI you want to upvote to become a gym. Think about the surrounding area. Will the traffic generated by a gym bother the non players nearby? Is the gym accessible for people who play from a car and people who play on foot? Is it a good place for a lot of people to gather to raid? Is it a good place for someone who likes to take gyms at night to stop by?

To do the actual upvote…  

  1. Tap on the PokéStop.
  2. Tap on the arrow at the top right.
  3. Tap on the photo box at the bottom right.
  4. Tap the outline of the thumbs up symbol in the bottom right corner of the photo you want to upvote (might be both if you’re trying to flip a gym). (If the symbol is solid white, then your vote has already been registered and tapping it again will remove your vote.)

If you tap on each photo, you should be able to see how many upvotes each photo has by the number that is next to the thumbs up symbol. Add up the numbers on each photo and add 1 for each photo to get the total number of votes on that POI. 

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 also started a state wide discord server dedicated to Wayfarer for my state. We use a really cool plug-in called Wayfarer Planner and its partner plug-in Exporter to push out our nominations to a shared map. That way we can see what each other are nominating so we don’t waste nominations on the same POI. It took a bit of elbow grease to set up the initial database but once I did all that work, adding other people to it was just a matter of downloading the plug-ins and giving them the link to the shared database. The only caveat (so far) is that these only work on desktop browsers so people who only use their phones for Wayfarer can’t join us on the map! 

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.

VOTING PROCESS

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.

Final Thoughts

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 (way more now but I’m gonna leave this adorable number in here). 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!

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SeaprincessHNB

"Gatherer of facts." I love knowing stuff. I love redistributing that knowledge.

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