Google Approach to Making Online Ratings Easier…

Imagine going to a restaurant, and having a great experience. Or going to a great movie and wanting to tell others about it. Or trying out a new gadget and having problems with it.

You might tweet about it, and that seems to be something a lot of people are doing, especially with new movies. Imagine that you could take a picture of a barcode on your receipt or upon a box or package, and have a form come up which allows you to rate your experience or a product from 1 to 5 (bad to good), or assign a letter grade, or write comments. You might also upload pictures or audio or even video to include with your review. Your audio message might be one that you call in with your mobile phone.

Google published a patent application this week that describes a convenient way of providing ratings like this. The patent filing is pretty long, but one of the images accompanying the filing captures one aspect of the process pretty well:

patent document showing a picture of a barcode being taken from a barcode, a review form appearing after the image is uploaded, and the review becoming available online.

The patent filing is:

Ratings Using Machine-Readable Representations
Invented by Arnaud Sahuguet
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20090242620
Published October 1, 2009
Filed March 31, 2008

Abstract

In a computer-implemented review method, a machine-readable representation that encodes an identification code associated with a ratable entity is decoded to obtain the identification code.

The identification code is submitted to a central computer system, and a ratings form that can be used for providing a review of the ratable entity is received from the central computer system.

A review of the ratable entity is provided to the central computer system using the review form.

After someone submits a review, the patent filing tells us that they might receive a response, which might include such things as a coupon or a thank you message or a link to a page where they can see other ratings, or advertisements, or some other response.

If a rating service like this became available, and it was as convenient as the image above suggests, I could envision a lot of people submitting reviews like this. What kind of impact might that have upon Google’s local search or reviews if providing ratings became so easy?

How likely would it be that merchants would put barcodes on receipts that could be used in a manner like this? The patent tells us that this method of rating could apply to products, stores, and services but doesn’t provide an example of someone taking a picture of a barcode on something like a package or book. It’s likely that is covered under this patent filing though.

Would you use a rating system like this?

Added November 16, 2010 – See Google’s Announcement of Hotpot (Discover Yours: Local recommendations powered by you and your friends), an online review system that allows you to share your reviews with friends. The rating form used in the system looks very similar to the one from the screenshot from the patent above.

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26 thoughts on “Google Approach to Making Online Ratings Easier…”

  1. Hi Bill,

    I think nowadays Google is making internet and the search engine more heavy. Because whatever the features given out by Google or any other SE’s does not reach to the most extreme people. After some time when extreme people receives the information at the same time there happen to be some other new features being rolled out.

    Also for your question, there has been lot of new addon’s and tools are being given out to share a website to the public. In this case i feel that this won’t be a good idea. Instead they can focus on the features which is present already and to improve them to be most benefit out of the same.

  2. Neat. If only they had a cell phone platform … Oh, wait…

    Seriously, though, this is pretty interesting. It could make their local very powerful…

  3. I don’t understand why Google doesn’t get ahead of the curve and use QR codes versus barcodes. The software already exists on most mobile devices and you are going directly to a URL. Much more lightweight and the codes are free to generate. Just alter the spiderls alto to pick up on the page and the OS and site type (mobi) and index corresponding pages as reviews. Complex in some ways but in many others much less strain on Google.

  4. Pretty neat idea, Google > it’s all about the user.

    The thing I’m afraid about Google is that these days they change their philosophy…

    Earlier it was ‘Google tries to get you as much as possible OUT OF THE SITE (i.e. Google search.”

    Now it’s that Google tries to also gets you as much as possible inside of Google…which is bad for content publishers.

  5. Hi Cap,

    Those are some good points. I read a post earlier today from a Business Week blog that had me thinking something similar – Google’s Scott Huffman: Many More Search Features Coming.

    How many new features and innovations should a search engine roll out when the features that we know could be improved and enhanced?

    Would something like the rating system described in this patent help improve the present offerings from Google? It’s possible that they might. Google has offered a link to reviews in Google Maps for a relatively good time, though many of those are from review sites that have been around for a while. If they were able to offer substantially more reviews directly from people who had just visited a restaurant, or shopped at some store, would those reviews be more helpful? Google also added a “review” tab in their search options earlier this year, but if you look at reviews for a lot of topics, you don’t see many. Maybe this feature would be step towards improving some things that Google now offers.

  6. Hi kpaul,

    It does make sense to focus on mobile phones, and those could play an interesting role in a rating system like this. It really does emphasize providing a review almost immediately after visiting the place that you might want to review, with the place you visited fresh in your mind. One example in the patent filing is of something starting to write their review while still sitting in the restaurant they are reviewing.

  7. Hi Chris,

    I would guess that the use of QR codes might be a possibility under this patent application. I don’t believe that it limits itself specifically to barcodes.

    This system doesn’t target webpages specifically as the subject of its reviews, but rather “ratable things,” such as businesses and products and services.

  8. Hi Finder Mind,

    Google’s roots as a search engine seems to have influenced a lot of their past activities, in helping people find information elsewhere. But, some of the things that they’ve been doing lately do hint at a new philsophy emerging, which would involve people relying more on information found at Google rather than through Google.

    Maybe the possibility of showing people more advertising if people spend more time on Google’s pages is an influence?

    A system like this one would possibly enable Google to collect a fairly rich body of reviews, which could help make something like Google’s Place Pages more interesting destinations to visit, rather than providing searchers with a way to other destinations on the Web.

  9. Nice article, I hadn’t heard of this before. While it may sound scary to some SMBs, I think many would quickly jump to this if Google provided some free ‘Googley’ tools for businesses to measure and analyze the responses, i.e. Google Analytics for Reviews…

  10. Google continues to change the SEO world we live in – and for the better. Soon, autoblogs and scraped content will be gone forever and people will have to rely on quality only. That’s what Google aims for and, funny enough, that what searchers require.

  11. Hi Brian,

    I think that’s a good idea. I liked that Google added some analytics to people who signed up and verified their Google Local Business Listing, and being able to find out more about the input that people leave would be a nice addition to something like these reviews.

    We don’t know if Google will implement the ideas behind this patent, but I think it would be something worth pursuing. Yahoo has offered people the ability to leave reviews about restaurants and services for years, but not in a way that would make it as easy and convenient as the process that is set out in the patent filing.

    I agree that this could be scary to some SMBs, but being able to collect and act upon constructive criticism could potentially help many businesses, so having a way to receive that kind of feedback should be something many business owners would want to see. I know that many of the receipts I receive from places I visit offer a phone number or web site to use to contact them and tell them about my experience, and those often include entries into sweepstakes or other incentives to get me to provide them with information.

    And there’s always the possibility that some feedback received could help a good business transform into a great business.

  12. Hi Mark,

    I think this kind of review is a positive step. I’d love to see less pages with scraped content show up in search results, and I think that is a target that all of the search engines are aiming at.

  13. Hi Joel,

    I really do like the idea of including media in reviews, too. Someone can tell you how great the seared scallops with oyster risotto was at the seafood restaurant they just visited, but showing you a photo or two of the dish might make you hop in your car and go get some.

  14. This reminds me of a news story I saw a while back about how a Japanese mass transit company implemented software to monitor their clerk’s facial expressions. Specifically, it was to give their employee’s feedback on how to improve their smile’s so that they appear more genuine (if I remember correctly). Would a human face be considered a machine readable representation?

    In the not so distant future; could people’s facial expressions automatically be aggregated in the context of this patent – such as when walking out of a comedy movie or upon receiving a meal at a restaurant?

  15. Hi Victor,

    Good to see you. This patent filing does allow for people uploading audio, images, and video with reviews, but doesn’t go so far as to say that they might capture peoples’ reactions to information. At least not in the way that a Microsoft patent I wrote about a couple of years ago does. From my post Bill Gates and Company Want to Watch You Watch TV, Buy Groceries, and Use Your Credit Cards and Cell Phone (and Take Notes):

    Reactions of a user to information — Collected by cameras, microphones, and/or systems that sense biometric information. The look on your face, the sound of your voice, the emotions that you express when buying something or presented with information could be “recorded, processed, and fed back for analysis to affect the type of advertising presented to the user when s/he goes online.”

    I hope that we don’t see something like that come about, but I would guess that it’s a possibility some time in the future.

  16. Hi Victor,

    Yes, I think there are. I remember one of the first novels that I read growing up was about a dystopia. We really do need to take books like 1984 seriously as warnings of where we could be headed if we aren’t careful.

  17. Now the major problem I have with this, and why I think it is completely useless, is because of how google ranks review sources. Even if you could tweet local reviews through, I don’t know Google Buzz, you still would not be given that much weight.

    The reason is that Google only takes into account reviews from specific sites, all of which are pay sites. These sites determine a product ranking on Google product search. The biggest one taken into account, why Google Checkout of course. So this will be just another kind of hook (or more likely attempt) to have Google integrate into social networking, but will never affect your rankings for products. It sounds lame.

  18. Hi Sean,

    The kind of reviews mentioned in this patent aren’t associated with particular sites, but appear that they would be made directly to Google. Would that make a difference in how you feel about them?

  19. Nice idea, it’s all about the user in terms of content.

    Google is user focused, but I think they want to create their own monopolies.
    Its going to get harder and harder for the smaller guy to compete.

  20. I really like this idea, it gives people the ability to make or break bad business practice. All the companies who offer bad customer service will soon have to either change or face losing business.

  21. Hi Andy,

    I’m not sure that it’s a matter of big versus small. I think it’s often more about who wants it more badly. A small company can afford to be more nimble, to learn new technologies and approaches. The review process in this patent is one that makes it easier for people to actually leave reviews at the time that they are eating a meal or buying a product or receiving a service. It doesn’t pose any technical barriers for anyone, or cost more money for site owners, but it may benefit those businesses that focus more on providing great goods and services and greate customer service.

  22. Hi Craig,

    I do think it will force businesses to pay more attention to the feedback they received from customers. And for those of us who do run businesses, it will mean that we have to pay a little more attention to conversations and channels that are developing where those conversations take place.

  23. To help businesses to understand better what customers really want is not a bad idea and being able to collect feedback straight from customers would be a great advantage. However, who is going to control the usage of the collected data and how would I know that there isn’t prepared a profile of my purchasing behavior.

  24. Hi Walter,

    I’m not sure that the FTC would be very pleased if Google started using the data it collects in ways other than how they describe its use in their privacy policy. Google has come under pretty close scrutiny in Europe over the data it collects, and I sometimes wonder if we need stronger data collection legislation here.

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