Last night Google Hotpot launched. It is a very early version of Google’s local ratings service, giving users the chance to rate local restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs – well pretty much any place really. Initially I thought (as I suppose many people did) that this is only the web interface, but I also noticed this morning that Google Maps automatically updated on my Android phone (don’t worry, I told it that it could do that) to include a fancy widget to help you rate places as you go to them.
The interface for Hotpot on the web is actually very nice, and well suited to both Google’s traditional style as well as how ratings sites should be. It is easy to navigate, mostly based around search and recommendations, and includes some neat functionality for keeping tabs on places you want to go and have been.
It is simple to rate a place that pops up – just hit a star. Then it changes the “card” so you can add a comment and provide happy face / sad face ratings on more specific topics. These are then stored away in your Rated Places tab so you can go back and check them out again later. If you see something you fancy and want to try it out later, there is the “star” paradigm you’re already used to from Gmail, Google Reader etc. Those stared cards will show up in another tab so you can go visit them later.
The Maps update on Android brings Hotpot support on the go, and a nice little widget to help you out with your ratings. The widget automatically determines your location and finds the places nearest to you, allowing you to quickly and easily rate them while you’re there, which is a great way to increase engagement.
The Places app on Android (the far left link on the screenshot above) also includes Hotpot support now. Your starred items are synchronised to your device so you can easily find them again, and there are ratings filters which your friends can influence. There is a strong sense that your friends in the service can strongly affect your recommendations (so choose them wisely!).
Definitely looking forward to trying this out a bit more as I’m out and about.