A Story of the 20 Metre Rule

HaramDingo-INGHaramDingo-ING Posts: 1,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

The 20 metre rule wasn't always the case. Back in the very early days of Ingress when the portal monḱeys were approving nominations, whether nominations were too close to each other was no factor, it only needed to either be accepted or rejected. This led on to early renowned farming spots being established by the local Ingress community, such as Lane Cove and Hurstville. Indeed, one rightfully north of the city and one south of the city. Eventually, the system was slightly modified to start determining whether or not it was too close to existing portals, and so the arbitrary placement 20 metre rule was established.

However, this candidate is too close to an existing Portal, so we're not able to bring it online at this time.

P.S. There was actually some Ingress lore that Ingress portals too close to each other would cause unstable fluctuations in the Portal Network, but most of the lore stuff and contents were lost with the cessation of Google+. Hence early rejection emails stated the following:

"Your candidate is... one that's too close to another live Portal to be safely Hacked."

The Wayfinder and OPR

Queue in the Wayfinder in 2017, when Operation Portal Recon (OPR) and the ability to submit Portals were enabled in May and September respectively. The hard 20m rule was an unspoken rule known all throughout the community, with a wide range of research over time, and so our prowess was all about trial and error. Keeping this range in mind, it was akin to placing the pin towards the right-hand side of a playground (Figure 1) or calling each other doctors and trying to thread portals into gaps (Figure 2). Half the fun was spent on finding something that could potentially fit, the other half was trying to place the pin with precision so it wasn't within 20m of other existing portals! This often resulted in somewhat diminished location accuracy, with nominations being spaced out and usually deliberately misplaced to circumvent the 20m, but then you could move the portal back to its original, precise location and all was fine and dandy. Blah blah, that's abuse, blah blah.

The Introduction of Pokemon GO Nominations

Once the ability for Pokemon GO players to nominate was released in November 2019, their approval emails were generic when it came to to whether or not an accepted nomination was too close to existing portals or not.

Please keep in mind that not all eligible PokéStop nominations are able to appear live in Pokémon GO, depending on proximity to other PokéStops.

But this wasn't a problem in Ingress. Approvals and changes were instantaneous, which meant that after an approval you can see whether or not it appeared on Intel or on the map and see whether or not your nomination got through and outside the 20m rule. There are also times when you might assume that someone has moved the pin mid-review, but because everything that got approved within 20m never saved itself within the map, the best thing you could do was try again and not fear that it would be duped onto something invisible.

Ingress emails up to June 2021 still showed whether or not a portal was too close. However, despite this happening and in the lead-up to migrating Ingress' database to the Lightship, the email was dumbed down as follows:

Before June (if outside 20m): Good work, Agent: your submission has been accepted, and this Portal is now available on your Scanner and on the Intel Map. You have been awarded 1,000 AP as well as this Portal’s Key for your discovery.

Before June (if within 20m): However, we are unable to bring it online at this time since this candidate is too close to an existing Portal.

After June: If your submission is accepted in Ingress, then you will receive +1000 AP as well as its Portal Key for your discovery. Please note that depending on its proximity to other Portals, not all eligible Portal nominations will be added to the Ingress app and Intel Map

All of a sudden, there was a big "if" and was now generic in whether or not it would be added to Ingress and Intel. It no longer told you if it was too close to other existing portals, so you had to check Intel. Of course there were times where Intel was borked and you couldn't immediately check if it appeared in Ingress, but overall you could still check Intel immediately after acceptance, and try again.


The Niantic Lightship "upgrade"

This eventually brought Ingress over to the Lightship, which Pokemon GO was already using. Because everything now was being stored within the Lightship, there were no more second chances or trial and error. If you screwed up the placement of a portal and it happened to be within 20m of existing portals, it would get sucked into the black hole that is the Lightship database and unless you happened to remove the existing portal it was in proximity of, or if it appeared in Pokemon GO (to force a sync unto Ingress by liking its photo), even if it was within 20m of a portal. This was a small caveat that was used somewhat, but it also happened to be rare. While this is now the normal for Pokemon GO (i.e. you can have a new Pokestop appear within 20m of another Pokestop only if it was in an unoccupied S2 cell), the ability to bring it over to Ingress was appreciated.

Spooky Sync

On Halloween Eve (30 October 2021), the renowned Spooky Sync occurred. This resulted in a plethora of new gyms being added through Pokemon GO and new Pokestops appearing everywhere. After a couple of days of sync not working, this was a bit of a pleasant surprise (except when they reverted everything via the Inclusion Rule Bug and then some). Why is this relevant? Because this was the same time when I had first noticed that a portal in Ingress was approved and well-within 20m of existing Portals (Figure 3) and within an occupied cell. I didn't really think highly of this first because it seemed to be an isolated occurrence, so I didn't really bother. This was also around the time where Ingress syncs were finally brought over to the daily sync par Pogo, rather than immediately (roughly 11 November). This was kind of sad, but I guess we'll eventually get used to the daily Ingress syncs each morning around 9:15am AEDT. Unless it breaks.

That isolated incident of the Strokes of Elegance getting approved was really just a one-off, confusing occurrence until we started getting some Auburn nominations in Wayfarer that all had the supporting statement of "N/A" and it led to...

The Discovery

On 6 December 2021, I was on a train ride back home, when I had noticed a peculiar set of portals so closely placed together (Figure 4). The first instance where I had noticed the 20m is just not a thing for the moment was noticed. This led to some careful experimentation. By four days later, portals were comfortably being approved and appearing on Intel, which was a breath of fresh air. All of a sudden, there were zero limitations on what could be approved, since the 20m rule was no longer a thing. This refreshed our entire Wayfarer community. All of a sudden, it was no longer a case of looking down and not around when we walked through cities and towns already full of portals, but it reignited our passion to find look through every nook and cranny in established areas to find new things to submit. That being said, there were some intricacies and research involved when it came to the daily sync. It was still very possible to lose such portals to the Lightship, especially in situations where a certain S2 cell had to sync multiple approvals (whether they were nominations, or an accepted nomination and a location edit in the same cell).

In addition to this, we previously also had a problem of nominations being moved mid-review. When a wayspot's location was precisely located to be outside 20m (naturally speaking, no gerrymandering), we had a fair amount of bad actors who would shove the location well-within 20m of existing portals. This wasn't an issue pre-Lightship, but now that wayspots are stored even within proximity of other portals, it would then result in a permanent loss to the Lightship. It was possible to see where reviewers had moved the pin to its accepted location because it appeared in Contributions Management in Wayfarer. But when those parties found out that all their movements were for nought and were being added into Ingress and Intel anyway, they stopped. It is a rational fear that they will take notice of this change and start moving things all over again mid-review and increase our losses back to the Lightship. There are ways to saving wayspots from the Lightship, but... it involves some cyclic abuse.

Throughout December to February, we added a net amount of probably around 800 new wayspots. The majority of these were all within 20m of existing portals throughout our travels. The process was simply fluid; there was no need to consult Intel and determine whether it was too close to existing portals, it was simply just submit where it is, and done! None of this "misplacing the pin over here so it's 20m away" or having to eyeball Intel, everything was as accurate as possible and the community rejoiced. It led to some strange interactions especially during the Kureze effect mini-anomalies where some Ingress agents were complaining that some areas were "too crowded and crazy". Places where every second other plaque or eligible wayspot had to be forgone were all revisited, and it led to the more satisfying fulfillment ever. The pinnacle of my Wayfarer career, if I say so myself!

But that all changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

Grab Some Popcorn, and the Road Trip

On February 22 this year, a post titled The "20 meter rule" is false - myth busted was posted. While there were rumblings and people in places such as The Silph Road, throughout Reddit and the occasional mention of the rule no longer applying in Ingress, it wasn't something that was massively being worked on or fully aware. But once Niantic staff were tagged (numerous times), we knew it was going to be the end. Sure, another unrelated issue about the daily appeals were something that the team wasn't aware of despite it mentioned several times (such as here and here), but it was only attended to two months later, when was it reported in the Update from the Wayfarer Cabin! post.

This resulted in a week-long problem where Ingress syncs failed to work, beginning March 3. And as you all know at the end, that resulted in the re-implementation of the 20m rule, so absolutely everything that is within 20m of existing portals will all be lost to the Lightship, as it was intended by the Ingress community manager. The fact that this was all touted as an issue with zero communication whatsoever by the team was the worst part, they didn't even say that they were investigating the issue of portals being approved within 20m. AisforAndis encapsulates this sentiment here.

At the height of this feature at the same time, a group of us had planned a roadtrip across Regional NSW (Figure 5), which happened on 26-27 February this year. Between us, we nominated a good amount of 85 nominations, from places like Dunedoo, Grenfell, Young and Yass. Enriching the regional communities with new wayspots, adding new gyms, and so on. Once the Ingress sync was fixed, we evaluated all our nominations which have mostly been approved bar several upgraded nominations). And only about a quarter of them translated into portals or Pokestops since we weren't looking at Intel for all those submissions, so roughly 60 wayspots were lost to the Lightship. While a handful did appear in Pokemon GO as new Pokestops, its portal correspondent was nowhere to be seen. A huge chunk if I say so myself, now worthless.

As an added effect, Pokemon GO does not care about the 20m rule still. The only criteria it needs to meet is that it is in an unoccupied S2 cell. They can still be super close to each other within 20m, and just barely be in adjacent cells. So there are now freshly-minted instances of Pogo-only wayspots: those that aren't in Ingress but only in Pokemon GO. There you have it guys.

Some Last Remarks

I share an extreme sentiment with many other Wayfinders against the reintroduction of the 20m rule. From the mass disagrees on NianticThia's intention of the 20 meter rule, and the several posts against it here, here, and all over the Ingress 2.90.1 Release Notes, I don't want to contribute things that will not be seen or used by anyone.

In Conclusion

Reasons to eliminate or revise the 20 meter rule in Ingress:

  • There are many cool things in the world which happen to be within 20 metres of each other. Sorry you can't get a fantastic sculpture in Ingress when there is already a generic plaque on the sidewalk 18m away.
  • No one will actively contribute wayspots that will be lost to the Lightship (literal dirty work). There is zero satisfaction to contributing things you (or anyone else for that matter) can't interact with.
  • No Lightship map/Intel alternative which was requested 6 months ago. Intel already works well enough, all you need to do is add all the Lightship-only things to Ingress and Intel.
  • Wayspots (for Ingress players at least) will almost always be nominated precisely at its real-world location and not be attributed to "lack of map literacy" or needing endless location edit requests.
  • Cannot edit Lightship-only wayspots in any way, shape or form.
  • Pin-pushers, as previously mentioned. It was okay if it stopped something from appearing in Pokemon GO but happened to be in Ingress as it could be edited (bar abuse examples), but losing things to the Lightship is the worst.

Reasons against:

  • No disambiguation function in Pokemon GO. <- maybe you should consider adding that?
  • No real application of wayspots lost in the Lightship (WU did have some wayspots that weren't used in Ingress, which was strange, apparently Pikmin Bloom also takes Lightship-only postcards, but postcards really?)
  • So-called abuse of "clustered portals" abuse (they have always been a thing with location edits and such, even before this lapse in the 20m rule)

The Ingress team is in full liberty to modify their gameboard at any time, so go do a refresh of the database and let everything be in Intel. Or go implement a function where Pokemon GO players burn out their couch Pokestops after five spins every four hours unless they currently have a paid $6.99 monthly subscription (for each of their accounts) or are in a park during an event only (kidding not serious legit).

Unless you have another application that uses not just a subset of the Lightship database, but every single little thing on it, then go provide a Lightship Map first. I just wish that you were more consistent. It's really just like portal scans, there is a constant mega push to get everyone to do scans, now to the extent of actually being able to activate frackers on scanned portals (just like powered-up Pokestops, every single Pokestop in Circular Quay is powered up to the max, have you seen any of them being removed?), but there doesn't seem to be any in-game application of it, other than just scoring not just one, but two scan-related badges!

Well, that was longer than I thought it would be but that kind of captures my two cents worth (just two cents) about the whole situation. It was nice while it lasted, but I guess its back to business as usual and submitting geodetic discs on the kerb 🤣 because people like those right? jk



  • HaramDingo-INGHaramDingo-ING Posts: 1,724 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 2022

    Figure 1: A screenshot of a Park sign (current portal with a 20m radius) and its playground.

    Figure 2: A tiny gap where you can thread a portal into.

    Figure 3: Discord screenshot portraying confusion regarding an approval that occurred on 30/10/2022 but for some reason appearing in Intel (during Spooky Sync).

    Figure 4: The cluster of portals in Auburn that I one day discovered on Ingress during a train ride back home, Intel also shown the cluster.

    Figure 5: Twitter post about the roadtrip.

    I don't know why I posted this, but the photos were only posted in a second post so they weren't lost to the mega-slow weekend moderation.

  • AgentX1976-INGAgentX1976-ING Posts: 577 ✭✭✭✭✭

    While I agree with much of you statement I can understand why there is a 20m rule. Just too much going on when they get too close.

    What I would like to see implemented is some sort of system to get the best possible PoI pushed to the front. As you said a new statue could be blocked by a generic memorial bench 18m away. I think most statues would and should be part of the games first.

    Also have thought we should have a "Replace PoI" option when submitting. This could be used to replace an old PoI with new when something is changed. Like a mural that has been repainted, or a statue replaced.

  • MargariteDVille-INGMargariteDVille-ING Posts: 2,754 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Wow - you've put a LOT more thought into it than anyone at Niantic. Please take care of yourself.

    Turnaround is so slow where I live, there wasn't time to plan out anything. I'm AMAZED that you got stuff back in that small window!

    Maybe Niantic wants the 20-meter-rule so they can have invisible wayspots to use only for special occasions, like Community Days or Anomolies. Maybe the invisibles will somehow work into Ingress Missions or PokeMonGo Quests.

    I liked the 20-meter-rule being gone, but it's Niantic's database.

  • Shilfiell-INGShilfiell-ING Posts: 1,544 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am the rare exception that really doesn't mind the 20m rule at all. I don't like Prime's disambiguation screens, or any of that product's sliding-motion actions (well, besides glyphing) and non-clicky carousels. My dexterity is not good. I've had hand surgeries already and don't wish for more.

    Of course, I've also submitted Lightship-only candidates if they were worthy of inclusion. One never knows when the "live" POI will be removed, and give a previously non-game POI a chance to shine. I do strive for optimal placement that also benefits the games I play, but not at the expense of accuracy - it would be best, though, to have a Lightship map so that all "invisible" POI could be seen remotely.

  • Eric8809-INGEric8809-ING Posts: 1 ✭✭
    There are many cool things in the world which happen to be within 20 metres of each other. 

    You've said everything I wanted to say!

  • Gazzas89-PGOGazzas89-PGO Posts: 2,596 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Pretty much everything you've said in agree with. I'm kne of those thats thinks the s2 cells could be lessened slightly (like, having one in the op left corner of one means it would block something g in the bottom right despite then being further than 40m apart, seems dumb) but I at least understand why it's there now that we have spawns gyms, stops, rocket balloons and rocket battles, it is clustered very quickly with no easy way to pick anything. But ingress doesn't have that issue, it has items dropped and it has portals, thats it (or there's shards and artefacts? Dunno what those are, never done them) and they have a selection screen to pick what you want to choose, be it items or portals, so apart from rare instances, there's never a problem with portals on top of each other. The fact that the last few months didn't have the 20m rule and nothing broke, in fact everything worked as it always does, shows its not needed

  • ZinkyZonk-INGZinkyZonk-ING Posts: 300 ✭✭✭✭

    Thanks @HaramDingo-ING brilliant encapsulation of the history and such sensible reasons why the 20m should go away.

    I can give many examples like figure 1 and quite a few like figure 2

    What an amazing road trip! I think I saw the boy reading the book silo art actually came through on my review - 5 stars -

    What am I doing here? - I have quit hahahaha - Just some tabs were open on my computer.

  • Gatsu8618-INGGatsu8618-ING Posts: 28 ✭✭

    I agree in everything .. since there was no longer the 20mt rule I had returned to nominate all the monuments that before I could not have nominated ..

    It was one more stimulus and now honestly the desire has passed .. moreover since they put the 20mt back I have seen a crazy increase of photosphere abuse because people are candid in completely wrong positions because because of the 20mt they would not appear.

    I hope they will reconsider

  • patsufredo-PGOpatsufredo-PGO Posts: 4,112 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Except..., Niantic still won't officially specify inclusion rule for each games, nor to admit that they use S2 cells system for GO's inclusion rule even though everyone already knew this.

  • CipherBlakk-PGOCipherBlakk-PGO Posts: 309 ✭✭✭✭

    Whether or not Niantic ultimately chooses to never ever specify inclusion rules is pretty irrelevant, though. We can still put forth the argument that they need to provide some clarity to the process (or improve it entirely). That's what these forums are for - to make a case for the things we think will benefit the system, and to keep arguing for it.

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