Posted November 16, 2010 9:11 am by with 3 comments

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There has been a lot of talk about Google developing a social product that we will see this fall (Google Me). Actually that talk was over the summer and since then there has been little talk at all. In fact, when it comes to the social front all of the talk has belonged to location based services in general with Facebook making announcement after announcement of their attempts to get their hand further into the social graph.

So yesterday while Facebook was announcing their latest ‘end of the world as we know it’ offering around messaging and backpedaling on the Gmail killer talk Google introduced its own step into the social world using Place Pages as the anchor. I’m not surprised by the move since Place Pages importance have grown in prominence over the past few months and it was obvious that Google was gearing up for something.

That something is Hotpot. Before I go any further I have to ask where they come up with these names?!?!? Hotpot?!?!? Really?!?!? What does it mean?!?!? This is definitive proof that Google is TRULY an engineering company and a marketing midget. Anyway, back to the matter at hand.

Google’s LatLong Blog yesterday introduced the new service, which is an early release, focused on reviews shared by friends about places to go

But finding trusted advice is hard; wouldn’t it be great if there was a way for me to get these recommendations all the time, everywhere I go?

We are trying to do exactly that, and today we’re excited to share the first step: an early release of Hotpot – a local recommendation engine powered by you and your friends. With Hotpot, we’re making local search results for places on Google more personal, relevant and trustworthy.

Google talks about the three main ingredients for this new offering as

Google Place Pages
The places you like
The places your friends like

Here are some screen shots of what this will look like.

Places you like

Places Your friends like

Now here’s the trouble. I tried real hard to follow links that Google said would be helpful. This link to set up my separate Place Profile name that is separate from your Google profile led me to here.

Real helpful.

Then I ventured into the “How To” land for Hotpot and Google’s ability to create clear directions for the ‘everyman’ are as good as their ability to name products. In a few words: it sucks.

This is the trouble with these offerings whether they come from Google or Facebook or whomever. They assume that everyone is some kind of ‘power user’ of these services. Vanessa Fox ‘explains’ Hotpot over at SearchEngineLand and says nice things even though at one point even she writes

In the above photo, you can see part of the confusion with having a sort of separate profile. My Google Profile seems to have a separate account from my Google Hotpot profile… sort of. I give up on figuring that one out.

Mashable acts as if everything is intuitive. But they are the ‘cool kids’ who live and breath this. They are not, however, typical end users that represent the masses. For a change of pace, I figured I would try to navigate through this thing as a regular person and I was left at the curb by Google with dead end help offerings and relatively little to work with.

While it is good for the power user ‘in crowd’ to get this stuff it will only really have an impact if it can be easily understood by the masses. I don’t think the Internet services world gets this concept. This idea that if we build it will be easy for everyone to get is just short-sighted and pretty stupid especially for a company like Google. Didn’t they get a hint from Google Wave that their idea of intuitive is probably as clear as solving a Rubik’s Cube to the rest of the world?

Anyway, I need to take the time to play around with Hotpot to see what really seems easy and what doesn’t. I will say though that out of the gate it is typical Google fare. Incredible potential for those who speak Google-ese but for the rest of the world it will be interesting to see just what happens.

  • Cynthia

    It’s funny, lately I’ve felt more and more perplexed by the how and why of the newest social media tool to hit the web. I go to the site, I watch the videos, I follow the how to’s and still I come away with no clear concept of what this thing is about.

    Thought it was me, trying to cram too many things into one brain, but now I’m thinking it’s a new trend – don’t clear define and let the user do that for you. It’s like the Gap jean giveaway that didn’t explain how to “checkin”. In trying to make things easier, things are becoming more complex.

  • Why does google have to have its fingers in every pie??
    Yes money i hear you all say!!

  • this social media thing is now getting me really confussed!