Fiasco. Disaster. Painful to look at. A gross miscalculation. These are just a few phrases we could accurately use when describing the results of Google’s last foray into social with its Buzz feature. This essentially negligible section of the social networking scene seemed to show one thing quite strongly: Google should stick to what it knows, and that ain’t social networking. Now, however, it looks like they’re making a second pass at it by working social features into their Hotpot site.
Hotpot, the new places feature that has local business finding sites (Expedia, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.) in an uproar, is Google’s most heavily publicized site to date. In addition to promoting it through practically every other medium they have, including their Android OS, Google went out of its way in Portland late last year, giving aways tens of thousands of t-shirts and a veritable ocean of free coffee, as well as launching a full-fledged rating competition, as it tried to spread word. Now, the Hotpot blog tells us of the new “add a friend” feature.
When you’ve added a friend, which can be any Hotpot user, their recommendations will start to float to the top of your Google Map results and show up in your Hotpot interface. These results will be specifically labeled to indicate which friend rated it well. Considering how many people turn to social networks (especially Twitter, but let’s not rule out the others) when they want recommendations, the idea is certainly solid. The question is whether or not Google can actually pull it off, especially considering how unestablished Hotpot itself is.
They’re certainly giving it their best, and paying attention too. Vanessa Schneider, the Hotpot Community Manager, even responded directly to comment on the blog and seems to be eager to get community feedback on how the service can improve.