The c̶o̶m̶m̶u̶n̶i̶t̶y AI has decided
Seeing the words "the community has decided" in the majority of emails I've been receiving in the last month or so have been more false than I've ever seen at an increasing rate. I've been getting a lot of irrational title/description and photo edit rejections that I know the community would never have rejected, even if it took them some time. My efforts to sweeten and detail the information in the Lightship database are being shót down before any proper or righteous consideration.
I know when you (Niantic) are the ones that are intervening. The most insane rejections where the photos are good enough or show a proper change, or the titles that don't need a second to select such as fullstops at the end or what seems to be the actual title of an artwork. Or the capital letters still remain ugly and uncapitalised. There is no logic to these reject reasons that the community would have agreed with 100% with the suggested edits.
At what point do we start to determine that the community does not deserve the respect or autonomy that it governs by? When your Niantic staff members start to become the bulk of (poor) reviews? So you decided that after being up to date with appeals (which sure, that should questionably only be your only domain since we have no oversight on it) to just have your staff spill over to edits and nominations that are just days old? In the post above (pending approval), I showed a small collection of edit confirmations and decisions that are just a day away. And although Sydney's photo and edit queues have dragged quite slow this year, I stay stalwart that they will almost always get it right.
Lack of accountability
Why do you masquerade behind false information? It's your staff that is rejecting valid edits and photo additions but the email states that it was "the community has decided". When you say "our team", do you personally consider a rather poorly executed AI as a part of it? If your team has directly intervened with a nomination, title or photo (except in the AI's instance), I suggest the email wording to correctly reflect this, because you are not a part of the community.
It's now come to an inflexion point that you are starting to take over the majority of Wayfinding. Given your exceptionally poor track record with appeals, if you are going to start overtaking everyone's role as reviewers simply because your staff that were working with appeals have nothing else to do, then this is no longer a community with the ability to actually execute their best judgement.
Everything is now in the handling of either an American-centric, disgruntled Niantic team or outsourced to a business process outsouring subcontracting centre in [insert developing country here]. Not only that, but the AI is starting to unreasonably rear its teeth, and friends and Wayfinders alike who are making the most effort in their nominations are being pushed back unfairly by the AI. From fitness studios, park and nature signs, a golf club, trig stations and picnic tables, all rejected by AI.
In addition, Niantic decisions are void of reject reasons. A nomination could be erroneously rejected by the community for "Private Residential Property" but could have been a rather good wayspot, but when the appeal comes back, it's often just a "regular object with no significance" whatever that means. Niantic voting (when they are pulled) have no reject reasons whatsoever, so they could just blindly reject anything and dust themselves off. The community often gets told off or vent about incorrect rejection reasons, but Niantic can just go reject anything with made up reasons (regular is not a reason to reject) or no reason whatsoever?
Where does the community go from here?
When Wayfarer first started, it was a platform that allowed the community to explore, review their own countries and local areas. After a residential dispute, that case said that Niantic needed to review a "statistically significant" percentage of nominations. We saw this with nominations that were rejected with "." (dot). Or the reject reason only was the unhelpful "Niantic internal review" devoid of reject reasons.
These days, nominations are increasingly being pulled by Niantic at a terrifying rate, and if they are, the AI is starting to take more and more from it. The distrust Niantic has towards the community by confiscating its privileges and taking more and more nominations from it is reminscent of the way it's treating the community. Through the balance of ambassadors and those trying to do the right thing, the community is trying to self-govern itself, identifying abuse rings and understanding the local nuances of nominations. Instead, your most dedicated Wayfinders are being shut down with threats of bans and suspensions due to "incorrect reviewing" and "voting patterns".
The community is doing their best. How many appeals have you overturned when you accuse people of using third-party photos? Calling things "regular trail markers" or "no significance?" Where is your accountability for your staff and/or AI's misdoings?
The AI was meant to be just a coal filter, that's it.
In my opinion, the AI has overstepped its role as a coal filter when it was shadow-launched earlier this year. You can have a look through the forum posts about a lot of complaints about their nominations being auto-rejected by "our team". This is what it's meant to be doing:
...we’re able to deflect low-quality submissions, like those with pictures taken from a car or with blurry photos, etc. before they are presented to the community.
Instead, it's decided that photos that are predominantly brown and green are natural features and are thus rejected outright. It's now taken a war against cyphered letter boxes in the United Kingdom with Wayfinders devising ways to try and beat the AI. Some people have even posted winding posts of a whole list of nominations that may have been accepted by local communities but were refused by the AI because it doesn't understand Italian. I don't need to provide examples of these common complaints through the system, with fellow Wayfinders often voicing their commiseration. Many nominations that I've seen get rejected and reported in the forums have gone through lengths to beef up their nominations during the grace period, through links to criteria clarifications and comprehensive descriptions, but the AI ensures that they will never see the community's light of day.
Is AI not going far enough, or is it going too far? I strongly believe it is the latter. Sure, I'm grateful that I don't have to review genitalia (that was a very, very dark time), selfies, awfully blurry photos or so many random trees anymore, but the AI is not taking into account the "grey area" and reviewers using their "best judgment" to process nominations. But when the Wayfarer Discussion Discord's #coal-channel remains rather lively and I am constantly having to report nominations for being third-party photos, the AI still has a lot to do.
On the contrary, we've also seen unnatural rapidly quick decisions that are increasingly suspected to be the AI. AI-led approvals (while instantly nice for the submitter) have Wayfinders losing out on clear agreements. With the ramp up of both AI in both rejections for gray area (and even well-made nominations that would have been accepted without a doubt) and approvals, the community role is being sidelined and pushed out to greater extents.
At this rate, the community will no longer have a role in the reviewing process as it is overrun by the AI. And frankly, neither will the community also with the nomination process, with the giant import of Foursquare wayspots. Why not 'F' (Foursquare) the world? If I had to ask the question as to how much of the reviewing process should be done by Niantic, you will probably end up doing the entire end-to-end process, via AI and via the hefty amount of outsourced staff, shutting out the community.
My preference? Stay only in appeals or prioritise the backlogged areas. There is no reason for your staff to be dabbling in less than a year old photos or edits, or even the barely 24 hours-old requests. Entire countries and continents are years behind with slow zones and black holes of decisions, and abuse-laden areas such as the ongoing Netherlands are stll at large but you think a title edit I submitted yesterday afternoon deserves more attention than that?
And when we meant that Niantic should be reviewing, I didn't mean that they should have just one person make the decision. It needs to be joined up, and could based on a consensus (of staff perhaps?). Why not mix the community's reviewing with Niantic staff or outsourced subcontractors review? Then maybe see how much you actually agree with the community (which is most certainly not so well).
These are things that I'd like to ask in the situation where the community is diminishing at an alarming rate. I would've asked this in the AMA, but... there is zero chance that this would have been selected given the ongoing disrespect towards us. Not going to hold my breath for this.