Keep your pikachus out of our parks!
September 9, 2016 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Milwaukee's beautiful Lake Park is "one of the most popular and concentrated Pokemon Go destinations in the country." There have been concerns about increased litter, parking, vandalism and bathroom availability due to the numbers of people using the park. This led to the county parks department asking Niantic, the game's creator, to obtain a permit. The area's Neighborhood Association allotted some time during its regularly scheduled meeting to discuss the matter. It did not go well.
posted by AFABulous (216 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
The quotes from the last link are gold.

"It was the sound of parks officials wondering what to do with some litter and a child wearing a top hat and a Ghostbusters T-shirt breaking down and asking the evil rich people WHY THEY WANTED TO DESTROY THE JOY POKEMON HAD BROUGHT HIM"

"Then came the Q&A. Oh dear, the Q&A. It was a Q&A that Peltz introduced with the kind of wariness and caution usually reserved for scenes in movies where someone walks someone else through a bomb diffusion over the phone. "

"a middle-aged white woman who suggested using the Black Panthers as a freelance Lake Park security team"
posted by AFABulous at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


"bomb diffusion"

(shrieks internally)
posted by boo_radley at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2016 [27 favorites]


This whole thing is so interesting to me because it raises all these issues about corporate access to public space and about when a difference in quantity becomes a difference in kind - Niantic doesn't pay anything to the public places it uses, right? And the public parks are incurring extra expense because of this usage, and would need to incur a lot more expense if they were to really make the parks Pokemon-capable? So in a way, Niantic is free-riding on the public, isn't it? Would there be a way to smooth that out? (Like, perhaps, with some kind of...permit?)

And then it raises all these other questions about....I guess, "quiet enjoyment"? I live on a very busy street (admittedly in a neighborhood that is somewhat Pokemon-underserved) and having people constantly too-ing and fro-ing really does generate lots of trash - so much trash! - and some weird encounters (grown adults who feel free to hang out on your porch or cut through your fenced backyard, for instance). I mostly knew this when I moved here, but if I'd been living on one of the quieter side streets and suddenly had all the trash, noise, strangers on the front porch, etc, it would be pretty miserable.

It seems likely that Pokemon-esque ways of interacting with technology are going to become more common, and it seems like it we need new ways to talk about how to handle when a game company (or any company) can abruptly drive large amounts of traffic through public spaces that were not designed for it.
posted by Frowner at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2016 [33 favorites]


a middle-aged white woman who suggested using the Black Panthers as a freelance Lake Park security team

I don't know this woman but I already love her and would subscribe to her newsletter.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


One note to non-residents [and then I'll step away]: This is the richest, whitest neighborhood within the city of Mliwaukee's boundaries. The adjacent houses are all $700k+, which I realize is a pittance on the coasts, but will get you 4000 sq ft with six bedrooms and five baths in that area.
posted by AFABulous at 9:07 AM on September 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


I was just reading somewhere about how the writers of Parks and Rec made no attempt to exaggerate the craziness that comes with an open mic at public meetings, and this article utterly proves it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:09 AM on September 9, 2016 [31 favorites]


The park is also the crown jewel of Milwaukee County's surprisingly good park system.
posted by The Gaffer at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


On a different scale, geocaching has been going through this for years.

Most geocachers (like most Pokemon players) are respectful, non-littering, everyday folk.

But there are a few who dig up parks looking for hidden caches, who hop fences, bushwack off trails, and a lot of parks respond with a heavy hand by banning geocaching entirely.

It's a balancing act and I'm sure that the right equilibrium will be found, especially once Pokemon loses most of its casual players and settles down to the hardcore and the children.
posted by madajb at 9:14 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not surprising! Our park system was designed by the same guy who designed NYC's Central Park.
posted by AFABulous at 9:15 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think Niantic has quite willingly adjust the game in other public places where large crowds started to congregate. So yeah, the crowds are a problem, but it's a problem that's easy to solve. My son plays Pokemon Go, he likes it, and I'm constantly astonished by the number of cranks who hate on the game... just because.

While a park may be a public space, and Niantic may be a private company, the people enjoying the game are members of the public with a de facto right to enjoy public spaces like parks. With everything there has to be balance. While Niantic is (likely?) making money from the game, it's not the same thing has a private organization getting a permit and staging an event in a park that closes the park down and attracts hundreds or thousands of people.

The latter private use of city parks in banned in my city, for good reason, but Pokemon Go is a low-impact game enjoyed by (gasp) youth and by nerds. Lots of pearl-clutching about the 2016 version of the Hula Hoop.
posted by My Dad at 9:16 AM on September 9, 2016 [31 favorites]


This whole thing is so interesting to me because it raises all these issues about corporate access to public space and about when a difference in quantity becomes a difference in kind - Niantic doesn't pay anything to the public places it uses, right?

I borrow maybe one book a month from my local library, shouldn't the person borrowing ten a month pay more than me? And shouldn't publishers be paying libraries for all of the exposure they're getting, greedily sucking up the commons?
posted by indubitable at 9:16 AM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Olmsted really got around.
posted by maryr at 9:17 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


How about when they put a gym in these people's home? I don't think Niantic came off very well in this exchange.
posted by sneebler at 9:18 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


And the public parks are incurring extra expense because of this usage, and would need to incur a lot more expense if they were to really make the parks Pokemon-capable?

Some parks do have a fee.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:20 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love Pokemon Go for exactly same reason I love Skateboarding: the activity itself is boring, the associated aesthetics are embarrassing, the proponents are annoying, but they both encourage people to actually use public spaces and to interact with their city and each other. Which is a fantastic thing.

If you work for the parks department and you're upset because too many people are using the park, it's time to quit your job and find something less destructive to do with your life.
posted by eotvos at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2016 [43 favorites]


This is the richest, whitest neighborhood within the city of Mliwaukee's boundaries. The adjacent houses are all $700k+

So basically, rich people who intended to enjoy a public resource paid for by taxpayers as their own private haven, and are incensed to discover this flaw in their plan.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2016 [81 favorites]


I was just reading somewhere about how the writers of Parks and Rec made no attempt to exaggerate the craziness that comes with an open mic at public meetings, and this article utterly proves it.

Yeah.. You can find public meeting videos on YouTube. Some of them are totally nuts and make you really feel for the public officials that have to put up with them.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]



I borrow maybe one book a month from my local library, shouldn't the person borrowing ten a month pay more than me? And shouldn't publishers be paying libraries for all of the exposure they're getting, greedily sucking up the commons?


But let's imagine that you design a library system to accommodate up to 20,000 users - you get all the extra Harry Potter books, you get all the computers, you staff accordingly, you have enough toilet paper, you have a plumbing service contract. Maybe you sometimes have a moderate increase in users over a short period but you can deal with it.

Then, suddenly...um, I'm making up a parallel here, bear with me...Walmart starts offering a 10% discount if you can show documentation that you've checked out at least three books that month. Suddenly you're at 35,000 users, your expenses go up, you have way more foot traffic, you have to manage more people and more books, the natural problems of any library (lost books, secret coffee spills, people washing their hair in the sink, etc) become more frequent.

The point isn't "those people aren't entitled to use the library", it's "we have a sudden, unpredicted, dramatic increase in demand on a public resource that was designed to bear a much smaller amount of traffic". What do you do about that? Can you collaborate with Wal-mart? Can you ask them to kick back some kind of fee to help support increased staffing and book-buying? Wal-mart is assuming that they can use the library as part of a promotion scheme at no cost, and while that might be fine if it were a small scheme, the fact that it's a big one changes things.

You don't have to hate books, libraries or Wal-mart to see that a sudden, dramatic increase in use of a public service has to be dealt with somehow.

"I think only [X] people should be able to use the library, these people should not" is a moral statement that only produces garbage. "We have to figure out how to manage or modulate a vast, sudden increase in library use" is a policy statement. Pretending that vast, sudden increase in use of public resources is somehow...free? simple to accommodate?....does no one any favors.
posted by Frowner at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2016 [81 favorites]


How about when they put a gym in these people's home? I don't think Niantic came off very well in this exchange.--sneeble

The lede of that story is this quote:
Every summer, thousands of tourists stop in Torrington, Alta., which is an hour-and-a-half northeast of Calgary, to check out the Gopher Hole Museum.
posted by eye of newt at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I fully expect this sort of thing to affect our local-ish Pokemon hot spot park. The park is in a pretty out-of-the-way part of Marblehead, and it's become super busy with people from the North Shore visiting to play the game. We recently spent a couple of hours at the park with our son, and it was such a fun and joyful experience talking to other people there and getting collectively excited when rare Pokemons popped up. But Marblehead is pretty snobby, so we'll see how long our fun lasts at this park.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:30 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh no! The public is using public resources! For ends they, not we, have selected! **scream, run in circles**

Time to make your case to the municipal, county, state, federal legislators and budget-makers, folks. Let's not blame Niantic, or any fad, trend, company, flashmob, weather event or whatever, for taking advantage of what a public space is meant to do - be accessed by the public. If resources are insufficient to meet demand, the problem is probably the throttling and starvation of public budgets over 30+ hostile years of tax reduction, not the human beings who are, you know, using the resources set aside for them. In other words, the solution is political and collective, not litigious and particular.
posted by Miko at 9:31 AM on September 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


You don't have to hate books, libraries or Wal-mart to see that a sudden, dramatic increase in use of a public service has to be dealt with somehow.

However, you are allowed to hate Niantic, the company that made Pokemon Go. Not because the game is terrible, but their attitude isn't very friendly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:31 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


So it was basically Season 1 Episode 2 of Parks and Rec?
posted by Agent_X_ at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


In some ways this in no different than any other restriction that a city could impose on sport playing. No one (or some very small minority) would be whining if the city said "you can't play baseball here" if the field were not designed for that purpose.

In another way it is similar to the hula hoop, as my dad pointed out, insofar as one company is making money off of something that is being used in a public place. I think that this is a way that it is dissimilar from other sports.

Also it brings up the right of some entity to place a virtual marker at gps co-ordinates. As frowner mentioned above, if this is to become much more common, some good thinking about it is in order.

>>If you work for the parks department and you're upset because too many people are using the park, it's time to quit your job and find something less destructive to do with your life.

eotvos, this is actually a huge part of parks management. parks can be truly "loved to death"
posted by tummy_rub at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


Niantic doesn't pay anything to the public places it uses, right?

Niantic is just producing a detailed augmented map of these places. A guidebook publisher doesn't have to pay the cities they write about, which seems like a decent metaphor.
posted by bracems at 9:33 AM on September 9, 2016 [22 favorites]


So basically, rich people who intended to enjoy a public resource paid for by taxpayers as their own private haven

Very very infrequently, but are bothered by others having fun.
posted by sammyo at 9:33 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does Wham-O have to take out their checkbook when lots of people are playing with Frisbees in parks, on beaches?
posted by ODiV at 9:33 AM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Then, suddenly...um, I'm making up a parallel here, bear with me...Walmart starts offering a 10% discount if you can show documentation that you've checked out at least three books that month. Suddenly you're at 35,000 users, your expenses go up, you have way more foot traffic, you have to manage more people and more books, the natural problems of any library (lost books, secret coffee spills, people washing their hair in the sink, etc) become more frequent. "

Or you have a park and then suddenly Walmart decides to have a sale on kites and frisbees and people buy them and go to your park to use them. Now there's more people using the park...
posted by I-baLL at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


"Pretending that vast, sudden increase in use of public resources is somehow...free? simple to accommodate?....does no one any favors.-- Frowner

There are different approaches you could take. It is interesting that you used the example of a library, because the library here (Sunnyvale) gave out free Pokemon pins if you could prove that you captured a Pokemon at the library. They would have loved it if Walmart started a promotion that encouraged people to visit the library. I think eotvos has it right.
posted by eye of newt at 9:35 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is the richest, whitest neighborhood within the city of Mliwaukee's boundaries.

Same here in Minneapolis. The city parks are seeing quite a few new visitors, but no one's complaining. All the griping is at parks in the rich suburbs that would much rather keep outsiders (gasp, minorities) out. Eden Prairie, the richest and most classist of the burbs, actually talked about banning Pokemon Go in their parks, although I think they ultimately didn't go ahead with that plan.
posted by miyabo at 9:35 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


How about when they put a gym in these people's home? I don't think Niantic came off very well in this exchange.

I think Niantic has made a lot of mistakes, and has also been over run by the popularity of the game. That being said, it is perfectly possible for:

-Niantic to make mistakes and handle them like entitled, boorish assholes;
-Players of the game to act like entitled, boorish assholes;
-Communities of people not involved with the game to act like entitled, boorish assholes;

None of these are mutually exclusive states. I play the game - largely because my kids are really into it and if it isn't on my phone, it's hard to entice them outside - and we've had a great time, met people, and are now developing an interest in geocaching because we were out at an ice cream shop one night, and the kids had Pokemon Go up and another family pulled up and started looking for the geocache there, and we both learned a bit about each other's electronic game/hobby that crosses into the real world. I like it for that reason. But I'm also interested in the meta of this game, and how it's pushing the boundaries between virtual and the real and how we respond to it as a society, and this meeting is a fascinating example of all kinds of things we need to figure out.
posted by nubs at 9:35 AM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


"." There have been concerns about increased litter, parking, vandalism and bathroom availability "

Wait, besides the increased need for parking, how does littering, vandalism, and lack of enough bathroom facilities tie into Pokemon Go?
posted by I-baLL at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2016


Niantic is just producing a detailed augmented map of these places. A guidebook publisher doesn't have to pay the cities they write about, which seems like a decent metaphor.

See, and that's what renders this a new problem! Niantic is producing a detailed, augmented map of these places that they know is going to really drive up foot traffic very suddenly in places that are not designed for it. This is the classic "when does a difference in quantity become a difference in kind" problem.

It is different from frisbee-making, for instance, because I can use a frisbee anywhere - frisbee-makers are not providing frisbee-sites on public land that are the only places where one can play frisbee.

And since Pokemon (and the presumable future wave of Pokemon-like stuff) is obviously harmless fun with a few challenging aspects, it makes sense to ask ourselves how we can deal with these sudden, game-driven turns. "Assume that every public park could attract a huge influx of foot traffic out of the blue and staff/build it accordingly" would be one way, but that feels like the story about the English nobleman who made his staff cook dinner at all his houses every night just in case he should stop by and be hungry. "Figure out some process to work with game-makers, the public and the state, balancing everyone's interests and recognizing that Lots! Of! People! is a specific challenge" seems like an interesting starting point.
posted by Frowner at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2016 [22 favorites]


Pretending that vast, sudden increase in use of public resources is somehow...free? simple to accommodate?....does no one any favors.

Raise taxes to pay for the public resource that the public is enjoying more. I don't understand why increased enjoyment of public resources by the public is seen as a negative in a forum that's usually pretty open to leftist political views.
posted by indubitable at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think that if we are going to ask people to pay for parks permits to exercise their constitutionally protected free speech because of increased traffic, it's reasonable to ask Niantic, a private company, to pay for increased traffic.
posted by corb at 9:40 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


"I think that if we are going to ask people to pay for parks permits to exercise their constitutionally protected free speech because of increased traffic, it's reasonable to ask Niantic, a private company, to pay for increased traffic."

...I don't know of any public park that asks people to have permits to walk around.
posted by I-baLL at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wait, besides the increased need for parking, how does littering, vandalism, and lack of enough bathroom facilities tie into Pokemon Go?

Littering and lack of bathroom facilities are a (virtually inevitable) result of more people being there. The vandalism, well, that's probably overstated.
posted by Etrigan at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


if we are going to ask people to pay for parks permits to exercise their constitutionally protected free speech because of increased traffic

Have we ever asked single individuals to get & pay for a permit before they use a park? I see I-Ball got to this too. My understanding of park permits has always been that they exist to manage a limited resource like a gazebo or ball court, not walking out onto the grass.

I think this is a divergence from what is pretty clearly going on with this strum und drang. This isn't upset over usage, it's upset over "outsider/not us" usage. These folks had the benefits of a gate-keeping system without an actual gate, accomplished just by distance and desirability. Now that something has made this desirable for folks outside of themselves - who they viewed as the actual owners/controllers of this resource - they're put out.
posted by phearlez at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know of any public park that asks people to have permits to walk around.

I do! And permits to park. And permits for access at certain times of year.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:47 AM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Niantic is just producing a detailed augmented map of these places. A guidebook publisher doesn't have to pay the cities they write about, which seems like a decent metaphor.

Geospatial property rights will be a thing very soon.
posted by MillMan at 9:48 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Man, people overrunning parks playing pokemon? Whatever happened to the good old days when people only went to parks to buy or sell drugs?
posted by happyroach at 9:48 AM on September 9, 2016 [24 favorites]


I'm having a picnic in a [different, smaller] local park this weekend. I expect about 10-20 to attend. What if I invited 100? 500? I'd have to get a permit, and there's probably some maximum number of people allowed. Humans gonna human, and I can't police 100+ people, so there would be litter. I don't understand how the Pokemon problem is any different.
posted by AFABulous at 9:49 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't know of any public park that asks people to have permits to walk around.

Pretty sure every Wisconsin state park has entrance fees. Every national park does.
posted by AFABulous at 9:53 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm a little surprised these people are having so much trouble getting a gym on private property removed. Niantic has an easily found form for requesting just that, and one of the suggested reasons for removal is "Private Property."

I've seen a lot of Pokestops and Gyms taken down since the game launched. (One local cemetery, for example, had about 20 at game launch, because the location has a lot of historical markers, and there are none present anymore) In fact, the predecessor game, Ingress, also had a policy against "portals" on private property and would (probably still will) take them down if notified that a location violated guidelines (must be publicly accessible, must not be unsafe, must reflect an actual point of interest, etc.)

This article notes multiple cases of Niantic honoring removal requests.

I also find the Milwaukee people flipping out funny because odds are the locations are there because Ingress players who live in their community submitted those locations with the goal of getting as many approved as possible. Basically, Pokemon Go "pokestops" and "gyms" are imported from the list of Ingress "portals". Those were initially seeded using a list of post offices, fire departments, and the geodata on several photosets of historical markers that belonged to Google. After that, they were submitted by Ingress players and then, if they passed a very cursory vetting process, added to the game with whatever name and photo the player submitted. There is no conspiracy, just crowdsourcing of points of interest, biased by players who wanted as many as possible in convenient places for them.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:54 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Because there's a difference between having a large picnic in a park with a specified start and end time and listed organizers and having a vague amorphous thing on the internet that could encourage some unspecified group of people to show up at some locations at some times whenever they feel like it?

People are showing up at the park and walking around. Maybe they even talk to a neighbor while they're there. Why must we blame someone for that?
posted by zachlipton at 9:56 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


When augmented reality "games" get turned to evil purposes the world will quake!
posted by Pembquist at 9:56 AM on September 9, 2016


Does Wham-O have to take out their checkbook when lots of people are playing with Frisbees in parks, on beaches?

Does Wham-O produce Frisbees that can only be used in specific public parks?

This really is a novel problem - as has been noted, it is in some ways analogous to organised sports usage of public parks, but in other ways analogous to the hula hoop situation. It's its own class of problem.
posted by Dysk at 9:58 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I love running using Zombies, Run and I will regularly run around public property while using it. It's bizarre to me to suggest that the company behind Zombies, Run should pay a fee to my town park because I am running while using their program.

Now, Zombies, Run does not have any strictly location-based content. Strava, however, does, and there are segments that people compete for best times, both running and cycling. Again, absolutely bizarre to suggest the Strava should pay for a permit because I am running in this area using Strava.
posted by gregvr at 9:58 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


On the possible derail of bathroom facilities in parks, it has recently come out that the London Borough of Wandsworth, an area of south London covering almost 35 square kilometres, which is home to three large parks (Battersea Park, 81 ha; Wandsworth Common, 62 ha; Tooting Common, 89 ha), has no public toilet facilities at all. Not one. This is apparently not just legal but the sort of thing a Tory-run council should be applauded for, and try to ignore the faint smell of urine.
posted by Hogshead at 9:58 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Does Wham-O produce Frisbees that can only be used in specific public parks?

I thought you could play Pokemon Go pretty much anywhere you could play with a Frisbee. Though I haven't kept up with the Pokemon Go happenings. Have they been restricting a lot of locations on request?
posted by ODiV at 10:01 AM on September 9, 2016


Raise taxes to pay for the public resource that the public is enjoying more. I don't understand why increased enjoyment of public resources by the public is seen as a negative in a forum that's usually pretty open to leftist political views.

I don't see anyone here saying that increased use of the park is a purely negative thing, just that it needs to be accommodated. And the public forum was a reasonable way to have a conversation about how the accommodation should happen (and pretty typical of the way government does things).

Also, there's probably a difference between what the rich people in huge houses lining the park might be asking for and what the actual park managers might propose as solutions. All Frowner and others are saying is that there may be issues that need to be addressed in some way and that they have empathy for the park managers needing to handle the situation. Even if eventually taxes are raised and more funding is given to the parks (hahahahahaha) there are still immediate conflicts that must be solved with the resources available at hand. That's not a negative against the Pokemon players, that's just reality.
posted by misskaz at 10:02 AM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


It is different from frisbee-making, for instance, because I can use a frisbee anywhere - frisbee-makers are not providing frisbee-sites on public land that are the only places where one can play frisbee.


Perhaps American frisbee sellers and park administrators need to step up their game. In Beijing, where parks are always crowded and always surprisingly clean, I have only ever seen kites and frisbees being sold in the parks. Anytime commerce police show up, the park using public see this as an attempted shake down and typically join the chorus of yells from vendors warning that the police are coming. This situation has persisted through centuries and no parks have been closed due to a lack of funding for increased maintenance caused by private kite mongers.
posted by wobumingbai at 10:04 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think some of the hate in this instance is also due to the fact that Niantic is a revenue-generating company, and there are some people who are always going to be suspicious about entrepreneurship.

I don't think private enterprise should have free reign over public property, but you have to look at the total impact Niantic is having on the park, whether Niantic is responsive to complaints, and how much Niantic depends on the park to generate revenue. On the balance, it seems pretty low-impact. It's not Walmart setting up a sale on toilet paper or whatever by the petting zoo.

Google Maps is also AR, sending people to specific restaurants and shops, etc. Waze is AR, sending drivers along specific routes.
posted by My Dad at 10:05 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I looked through the post and didn't see this anywhere - do we have any idea of how many more people are using the park because of the game? Do we know how many people usually used the park in the first place, or how many people would be considered 'capacity' for the park?

Because the main argument seems to be that Niantic is responsible for the park to be over capacity, and I'm wondering why that seems to be the case, rather than the idea that the park was operating under capacity earlier. (Also, specifically in this case, whether this is going to be an issue in two months when nobody wants to be wandering outside anyway)
posted by dinty_moore at 10:09 AM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


If you had a festival in a public park expected to attract 1000 people, you'd have to get a permit for it. If you had a flash mob in a public park expected to attract 1000 people, you'd...? Granted, a flash mob isn't going to generate the strain on resources a festival will, but the example has merit. Pokémon Go is like a decentralized festival where you can't easily point to any one agency as the organizer. Niantic has placed points of interest to attract people to this park, but it's not focused on this park like a festival would be, they put points of interest all over the place. It's an interesting social question, and I don't think there's a simple answer. If Pokémon Go style games are going to be a thing going forward public spaces are going to have to adapt, which hopefully means increased funding via whatever means they can manage.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:12 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


The first outraged pro-Go woman in the embedded audio BEGINS by calling it a First World Problem. I'm starting to have a problem with calling something a First World Problem. In this context, the phrase adds absolutely nothing to the discourse.
posted by kozad at 10:14 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


@dinty_moore: Your first question is good: How much more is the park being used? Your point, not so much: It's not hard to tell when a facility is being operated above capacity. If we had a room that could comfortably hold 30 people, but there were usually 4 or 5 people there, and more people started showing up, we might wonder how much the increase was. But we wouldn't say, upon 100 people cramming in, that this is fine because it was so underused in the past.
posted by tummy_rub at 10:15 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


The thing is that while I agree with Frowner et al that there is an interesting discussion to be had about public spaces and private profits, I disagree that it's really very relevant here.

It may be my own class warriorism, but when I saw the headline I said to myself "I bet it's about a park in a very rich, very white, part of town". And I was right. I'm honestly pretty doubtful that there really is a serious overuse problem with the park. Again, maybe that's just my own prejudice speaking, but I've noticed that rich, white, people are extremely skilled at coming up with excuses that sound reasonable for why they aren't really opposed to "those people" coming into their spaces, but when you drill down the result will be restricting "those people" from coming into their spaces.

The purpose of a system is what it does. And if the system being advocated for by the wealthy types is one that channels "those people" into a different, poorer, less white, space then clearly the purpose of that system is to produce a gated community minus the physical gates.

They kept talking about directing Pokemon Go players to Veteran's Park. I said to myself "I bet that's a much blacker part of town", and again, I was right. Veteran's Park is right next to Martin Luther King jr Elementary School, a few blocks from MLK Drive, and per various demographic maps I could find, in a very much blacker part of town.

So yes, there's a conversation to be had about how AR and other private enterprise stuff intersects with public spaces. But that's not what this is about. As nearly as I can tell it isn't just my prejudices acting up again and that this situation is just yet another iteration of rich white people having a problem with "those people" coming into places previously only for rich white people.
posted by sotonohito at 10:15 AM on September 9, 2016 [34 favorites]


I think we're all missing the bigger question here, which is: what is spawning at this park that's drawing so many people in? Evolved starters? Is there a dratini nest there?
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:18 AM on September 9, 2016 [31 favorites]


They kept talking about directing Pokemon Go players to Veteran's Park. I said to myself "I bet that's a much blacker part of town", and again, I was right. Veteran's Park is right next to Martin Luther King jr Elementary School, a few blocks from MLK Drive, and per various demographic maps I could find, in a very much blacker part of town.

You must be looking at the wrong park. Veteran's park is just north of and adjacent to downtown, next to a younger, more integrated area (college age). It's nowhere near MLK drive. It's an excellent suggestion because it's frequently used for festivals and can handle lots of people.
posted by AFABulous at 10:20 AM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


"Pretty sure every Wisconsin state park has entrance fees. "

There are fees for cars and for bicycling down trails but the Milwaukee State Parks website says that you don't need a permit for walking or hiking.
posted by I-baLL at 10:23 AM on September 9, 2016


It is a new kind of problem. When Oregon started limiting the number of boats going down the Deschutes River it was because of overuse/drunken WHOOO HOOOO! trash etc. and quite a few people were angry that their recreation had been taken away, (unfairly as they saw it.) Now you have the situation where the Deschutes River can get plopped down almost anywhere it seems.
posted by Pembquist at 10:24 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Littering and lack of bathroom facilities are a (virtually inevitable) result of more people being there. The vandalism, well, that's probably overstated."

Yeah, that's the thing. It's just a result of more people being there (though, only the bathroom part. I still don't understand where extra litter would come from if people are just walking around since, unlike at a concert or festival, there's nobody selling stuff en masse to the crowds.) If it wasn't Pokemon Go but some other activity then the issue would still be there. The problem is that the parks are being used more. Pokemon Go may have been the catalyst but so could a new game or a resurgence in kiting or whatever. (Which reminds me that I should get a kite.)
posted by I-baLL at 10:26 AM on September 9, 2016


There are fees for cars and for bicycling down trails but the Milwaukee [sic] State Parks website says that you don't need a permit for walking or hiking.

It's hairsplitting I guess, because you can't get to the vast majority of the state parks by public transit.
posted by AFABulous at 10:27 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


....but this one is in a city.
posted by I-baLL at 10:29 AM on September 9, 2016


For reference, screencaps of Lake Park and Veteran's Park. The blue cubes are pokestops and the red cubes are gyms.

I will note that "just moving" the points of interest is not going to happen. Each one is supposed to represent a specific point (a dedication on a bench, a sign, a fountain, etc.). If Niantic had photos and locations of a similar density in the other park, then there would already be pokestops and gyms there.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:32 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Eh, I should explain that I'm talking about city parks which might technically be state owned. I think we're thinking of different things. This park is like Central Park or any of the other parks in NYC. Easily publicly accessible.
posted by I-baLL at 10:33 AM on September 9, 2016


I still don't understand where extra litter would come from if people are just walking around

Mostly cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and soft drink cans, probably
posted by thelonius at 10:33 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


In re litter and people: The litter that is constantly dropped in my yard is food litter, and it's stuff that people carry with them, eat and discard. Part of this is human laziness, part of it is totally insufficient provision of trash cans on what is a very heavily foot-trafficked street. In public parks, I imagine that if you have a huge increase in litter, you can cut that substantially but not entirely by buying (and staffing the removal of) more public trash cans.

But people totally produce trash - they have a bottle of water or candy bar with them, they finish it and they drop it. Also, people lose stuff by mistake, so you get papers that fall out of people's bags, child care oddments, gloves, socks, etc. The human is a trash-producing species even when no one is selling us cheese curds and balloons.

A challenge is that this kind of thing is probably temporary - Pokemon is a success, some people will keep playing it for a long time but its faddishness will die down. Which means that there's going to be temporary and currently not-that-predictable demand for more trash cans, more bathrooms, more staff, etc. This seems like the kind of thing where some kind of public Office for Game Use might be valuable - work with companies to manage staffing and facilities ahead of time, figure out some kind of permitting strategy for these situations, etc.
posted by Frowner at 10:35 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I can't tell you the pure joy I felt at seeing my local park filled with at least three hundred people around sunset a couple of nights ago. Probably about half were children using the two brand new playgrounds that were added a week ago, and half or more were people playing Pokemon Go or supervising their kids while playing. I heard at least four different languages too.

While I was catching a Growlithe, two ten year old boys enthusiastically asked me if I was Team Mystic. When I said yes they high fived each other and said "yeah!" Another little girl went running across the park yelling to her friend "there's a pikachu over there! A pikachu!" Hundreds of people braving Texas's stupid hot summer temperatures to get outdoors, moving around, AND interacting with their fellow humans? I can't think of anything better.
posted by MsMolly at 10:37 AM on September 9, 2016 [19 favorites]


I live next to a Pokemon Go afflicted city park. I suppose the park in my neighborhood is already so well used that you can't really pin anything other than annoyance at groups staring at their smartphones clogging the running path on them. Like how underused was this park before?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:39 AM on September 9, 2016


This situation has persisted through centuries and no parks have been closed due to a lack of funding for increased maintenance caused by private kite mongers.

There's the difference - it's an established tradition, and the park system is set up to accommodate it. That is not the case with this, and can't become so until solutions are found for how to accommodate it.
posted by Dysk at 10:43 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


(There's also something of a difference in scale and... degree of formalisation(?) between park hawkers and a large companies like Niantic and Nintendo.)
posted by Dysk at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's interesting to me how what's happening with Pokemon Go should have happened a long time ago, there just hasn't been an augmented reality game that has been this popular for this long (I think the game is fun, but I'll admit, I'm surprised that P:Go is still so much of a thing -- I guess we'll see how it survives the winter).

There's a lot of issues with what's happening in this particular park in this instance, but I don't think the answer is to require Niantic to get permits for every public space where they put a stop. Seriously -- if you think that, as [previously] discussed there is a problem with unequal distribution of PokeStops, just imagine if Niantic was forced to pay for each one. If I were a decision maker at Niantic, I'd just pull out of smaller markets entirely.

In this particular situation, with this particular meeting, I think that the players are the ones who are kind of being boorish about this, and it would behoove players in that local area to channel their fears about "taking the game away" into action directed to reducing the impact that P:Go has on the park. Maybe form a "player's union" with dues that go towards deferring the increased park costs. Or arrange volunteer clean-up schedules. Or work to enforce reasonable norms amongst themselves (pick up your fucking trash, people). I think Niantic could maybe have a role in facilitating this kind of thing, but I also think that they'd get criticized for "putting all the blame on the players."

Absent (alongside?) player action though, the public policy questions seem like they have easy (if you aren't a NIMBY anti-taxxer) answers:

Long term, the answer of course is to fund, from the public purse, the public parks to the level necessary to support the members of the public who want to use them. This means taxes, and I think that at least part of the problem is that the kinds of people complaining about P:Go happening in their parks are also the kinds of people who would opposed any such tax increases.

Short, emergency-term, I think that the parks department is doing the right thing: there's more trash? clean up more trash! need more bathrooms? bring in port-a-potties, etc.

Medium-term, trash collection and portable toilets cost money, some one needs to pay. And I think it's reasonable to ask the users who wish to access that particular park to do so. The danger here is that user fees of this kind tend to get abused because once revenue is coming in from somewhere, there's no incentive to spread out the cost through taxes.

It's reasonable to have a discussion about all this, and it seems like that meeting went pear shaped because it was poorly planned/communicated (why were people getting the impression that the park was trying to ban P:Go?), and because the players and the homeowners both seemed hella entitled.

I loved Ingress (for a while), and P:Go is great, and I'm looking forward for the next AR games. The public is going to use public spaces, and municipalities need to plan for that.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:51 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


If people are using the park, then the park administrators need to collect some damn data and use it to get a larger budget in the future, or an emergency budget now.

It's an expected public resource. It doesn't really matter why the public is using it, just that the public is using it.
posted by graventy at 10:58 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


"bomb diffusion"

(shrieks internally)
Weird. Usually it's the bomb advection that's worth shrieking about.
posted by roystgnr at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think getting Niantic involved is a great idea. Heck, re-name it with sponsorship rights. "PsyDuck(c) Lake Park" has a nice ring to it. Park employees can be Niantic employees, complete with Ash and Misty-inspired uniforms. Entrants to PsyDuck(c) Lake Park will be asked to show their phones to demonstrate that they are, indeed, playing Pokemon Go, and will be asked to use incense at specified intervals to stay. Softball games will now be played with official Pokemon Go themed softballs. Frisbee and other Wham-O products are not allowed in PsyDuck(c) Lake Park.

[cut five years]

Unfortunately, due to declining interest in Pokemon Go and its related accessories, Niantic has announced that it is pulling out of all Milwaukee recreational markets. Existing properties under Niantic sponsorship will be liquidated to fulfill existing revenue commitments between the City of Milwaukee and Niantic/Nintendo.
posted by one_bean at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is a planning problem and Frowner is perfectly correct to point out that it is a novel one. How do you plan public areas for activities which require relatively small effort to generate but which might create huge traffic surges which might abruptly fail several months later?

You're talking about throwing any normal forecasting process right out of the window if someone on the internet puts something invisible on your park that drives volume.

This isn't about killjoys from the movie Footloose - this is about how on earth to plan around this kind of thing.
posted by winna at 11:23 AM on September 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


For a lot of parks, you need a permit for even as many as 15-20 people who are gathered there for even an hour, which it's easy to imagine Pokemon Go might hit in a night.

To be clear, I'm not sure that the answer is charging Niantic, but I think it's a problem if I have to get a permit to host a pick up football game or a barbecue (in some locales) but Pokemon Go can roll all night long.
posted by corb at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


...Though I will admit also some of this may be enforcement, as it suddenly occurs to me that I am a POC and most of my friends were POC when we were getting hassled by police for not having permits. Your mileage may vary.
posted by corb at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Interesting thought about taxes... I have spent money actually buying Poke coins to get more in-game items, but I don't believe there are any sales tax transactions. I mean, the game already *knows* my GPS coordinates. I realize the hellscape of having to accommodate every single kind of sales tax possibility based on GPS coordinates. But that could help offset some of the costs to the municipality. It isn't a tangible item, though, so I don't think it is like Amazon needing to charge sales tax now. Hmm.
posted by jillithd at 11:29 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pokemon Go can roll all night long.

Milwaukee County parks close at 10, and some at dusk. This is not likely to be strictly enforced, of course, especially with the spike in carjackings and shootings lately (unrelated to Pokemon Go!). But it could theoretically require increased law enforcement, or diversion of current resources.
posted by AFABulous at 11:54 AM on September 9, 2016


I have spent money actually buying Poke coins to get more in-game items, but I don't believe there are any sales tax transactions. I mean, the game already *knows* my GPS coordinates. I realize the hellscape of having to accommodate every single kind of sales tax possibility based on GPS coordinates.

This wikipedia page is out of date, as it lists my state as one that doesn't have rules for digital goods, but it very clearly does... a tax lawyer could maybe make an argument that somehow "in-game tokens" don't fall under "Online video or computer gaming," of course. But the visual is clear that it looks pretty patchy.

Regardless of the hellscape, there are plenty of companies super happy to help other companies comply with state-by-state tax laws (even for digital-only "goods"), so I don't think that there's any technical excuse for Niantic to not be collecting the appropriate taxes.

It's possible that, for the purposes of keeping the prices simple, Niantic is presenting prices to the user that include the tax (basically, the "price" varies by jurisdiction, but the total transaction will always be $4.99 or whatever). As someone who isn't actually familiar with tax law, I'm going to assume that that's legal.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:54 AM on September 9, 2016


Is it well-known that communities with lower mean income tend to have fewer pokestops? This has been my experience in the Boston area (I moved from Cambridge to Roslindale).

I respect that money for additional trash cans, maintenance, restrooms and staff needs to come from somewhere. But it's coming off as people saying, "go back to your separate and unequal side."
posted by giraffe at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is it well-known that communities with lower mean income tend to have fewer pokestops? This has been my experience in the Boston area (I moved from Cambridge to Roslindale).

I'm iffy on the methodologies of the article discussed in this FPP, but given how the initial set of pokestops was populated (a combination of a database of "places of interest" and crowdsourcing through Ingress and FieldTrip) it would stand to reason that density of stops would correlate with income.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


For a lot of parks, you need a permit for even as many as 15-20 people who are gathered there for even an hour, which it's easy to imagine Pokemon Go might hit in a night.

I think frisbee is a good analogy here: isn't a group of 50 pokemon players, there are ~25 groups of 2 pokemon players... This isn't a party of 50 people playing frisbee, it's 25 groups of 2 people who are playing frisbee.
posted by el io at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


I totally missed that FPP, sparklemotion. Thanks for linking!
posted by giraffe at 12:08 PM on September 9, 2016


In-game tokens are just paid for through the iOS store or the Google Play store, so if you pay tax on those, you pay tax on your tokens.
posted by graventy at 12:08 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Illinois has been having an issue with Pokemon spawning in state parks that are protected wildlife areas with very fragile environments, and people going off the paths to get to the Pokemon. They're also going at night where the phone screens are disrupting the breeding of certain nocturnal animals which is not the first problem that would jump to mind!

Anyway, Niantic has been so unresponsive to state DNR concerns that a law is working its way through the legislature to restrict future game-tagging or path-making in protected areas without state approval. It's an interesting problem; I don't know that this is a good solution but killing endangered animals because your company can't be arsed to move it's marker is clearly terrible!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:14 PM on September 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


For a lot of parks, you need a permit for even as many as 15-20 people who are gathered there for even an hour

I'd rather have a conversation about the degree to which our right to assemble in public placed has been unacceptably degraded than one about Pokemon Go players needing permits. Ditto public funding for open spaces (which could end up getting used for P:G at times).
posted by phearlez at 12:28 PM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


There's a lot of similarities to geocaching that this pokemon stuff has hit (as someone mentioned earlier), although geocaching probably hasn't had quite the backlash just because it doesn't seem to be as many people. On top of that, the limitations on caches not being closer than .1 miles apart can help cut down on just how much any given place gets impacted by it. And there's also a fair number of places that have just out and out banned it (such as national parks).

I can sympathize with people that get frustrated with the pokemon stuff though too. As an example, I live 3/4 of the way down a cul-de-sac street. One of the attractions to buying the house was that you know you're not going to get a lot of traffic down the street. A couple of months ago a house across the street from me burned down, and for the next couple of weeks, the amount of traffic down the street was far beyond normal, and it was definitely getting annoying to me and the neighbors. (Heck, while the fire inspectors were out doing their analysis, they ultimately blocked the street with their cars because they were getting annoyed with all the looky loos.) So I can sympathize that people may have moved to an area expecting certain traffic levels, and then all of sudden get inflicted with far more traffic and noise than was expected. (Now, if you're living across from a public park, well, you do have to at least expect some use of that, so that's a little harder situation.)
posted by piper28 at 12:44 PM on September 9, 2016


Meanwhile, here in DC they're selling Pokeball cookies in the museum cafes and tomorrow's a big Catch The Mall meetup. Get it together, Milwaukee.
posted by nonasuch at 12:55 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


One thing I haven't really seen people talk about with regards to the Lake Park Pokemon complaints is that the neighborhood essentially goes from East to West. Lake Michigan, Beach, Lake Park, Rich Neighborhood, the city's largest college campus with 23k+ undergraduates. It goes along way to explaining why it's the park that is having the biggest issue.
posted by drezdn at 12:59 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


@dinty_moore: Your first question is good: How much more is the park being used? Your point, not so much: It's not hard to tell when a facility is being operated above capacity. If we had a room that could comfortably hold 30 people, but there were usually 4 or 5 people there, and more people started showing up, we might wonder how much the increase was. But we wouldn't say, upon 100 people cramming in, that this is fine because it was so underused in the past.

No, humans can be really, really bad at this.

Think about times you've had to interact with people who were not used to sharing crowded public spaces: suburbanites having to take the bus or subway, or rural people having to drive in the city. A group of out of towners taking up the entire sidewalk. Their concept of 'too crowded to function' is probably a lot different than someone who takes those routes every day. Are the places actually over capacity? Possibly. Is it possible that the park isn't over capacity, but could probably use a reality check from the property owners and probably a little more consideration from the pokemon go players? Definitely.

And here's the thing - teaching people to pick up their own damn garbage and not clog the paths is difficult, and teaching rich people that they might occasionally have to deal with other people is moreso, but I think it's a much better idea than to try to get Niantic to pay for it. Because there's no way that they are going to set that sort of precedent for themselves. The most they will do - if it becomes so that they legally have to pay for park access - is pull out of those parks directly. Which means that the public goes back to not using that park. There are plenty of other places for pokemon go to happen.

And yeah, part of me just likes having more people in parks and the streets because it's then safer for me to walk around. But that's good for the community at large.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


do these parks have grills?

does anyone know of ways to dress meat to look like pokemon?

gotta eat em all

(i think this game is a sign of the utter bankruptcy and stupidity of our culture - or perhaps it's a way of practicing scrounging for survival in the post apocalypse wasteland only zombies will be eating your brains as you're hunched over your phone trying to locate a half rusted can of pork and beans and a can opener - or maybe the zombies are just looking for pokemon - yes, that's right, that day in the dead movie where all the zombies are going through the shopping mall was just a session of pokemon go gone very very wrong - and when are phone blockers going to be legal in the usa - i want them placed in some public parks so we are spared the drama of teenagers telling each other about their parents prescriptions and how much each of them one should take except tonya took this and that thing together and got pregnant but she doesn't know if it's by jim or terry and no, kids, you're going to have to do the laundry today because my yoga instructor's pulled his back out and i have to go crosstown and this meeiting is at 4pm and we need to coordinate the screw committee with the driver committee and i'm taking a total break from this and walk around the park looking for imaginary japanese creatures and the crows are watching you thinking that people are getting dumber all the time and they would shit on your shitty pokemon if they only existed and GET OFF MY FUCKING LAWN BECAUSE IT ISN'T A POKEMON NEST OF VIPERS OR CATHOUSE OR WHATEVER THE FUCK THOSE LITTLE SHITS BREED ON OR IN OR WHATEVER JUST SHUT UP!)

stop it - just stop it
posted by pyramid termite at 1:04 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anyway, Niantic has been so unresponsive to state DNR concerns that a law is working its way through the legislature to restrict future game-tagging or path-making in protected areas without state approval. It's an interesting problem; I don't know that this is a good solution but killing endangered animals because your company can't be arsed to move it's marker is clearly terrible!

Pokemon Go has been available in the U.S. for 65 days. It's been stable enough to play in the U.S. for less than two months. I'm ok with calling Niantic stupid for not anticipating some of the many issues that they've had with the release. But I don't know that it's fair to say that the company has been "non-responsive" or "can't be arsed" to move markers yet.

I wonder how enforcement of potential permits, or tag-registrictions is going to work? Are states/municipalities just planning on suing Niantic if they don't abide? It seems like Niantic would have a pretty decent free speech defense: all they are doing is marking things on a map, which seems like speech. Even though the government has a legitimate interest in protecting parks and other public spaces, it seems that the least restrictive means is to go after the people visiting the markers, since they are the ones actually causing the problems.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


teaching people to pick up their own damn garbage and not clog the paths is difficult

And this takes money - it doesn't happen by magic. Behavioral change takes a coordinated campaign that might involve staffing, literature, signage, PSAs, volunteers who are coordinated by someone likely paid for it, computer access, etc. It comes back to the idea that we need to invest in public infrastratucture so it can withstand a normal, low-impact, recreational use able to tolerate periodic spikes that represent new trends.
posted by Miko at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I go to parks to get away from people and I think this is doubleplusungood
posted by thelonius at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


if you think that ... there is a problem with unequal distribution of PokeStops, just imagine if Niantic was forced to pay for each one. If I were a decision maker at Niantic, I'd just pull out of smaller markets entirely.

The right way to do that would be to incentivize Niantic to serve smaller markets by making it less expensive or free to do so and charging fees for places like extremely popular public parks, etc.

This is kind like the time my old website (www.hairyback.com, long since lost to a domain poacher) got featured on Jimmy Kimmel without warning, causing me to incur a $600 bill from my web provider for all of the excess traffic. Sure, it was Jimmy's prerogative to mention my site and the right of the visitors to visit it, but it had a big impact on me and I sure could have used some warning.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:07 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


The web bit being akin to the sudden increase in park usage, not the unequal distribution of pokestops.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:15 PM on September 9, 2016


The right way to do that would be to incentivize Niantic to serve smaller markets by making it less expensive or free to do so and charging fees for places like extremely popular public parks, etc.

It seems like the problem here is that Lake Park is not an "extremely popular public park," except for the fact that Niantic has made it so. So if Milwaukee starts charging Niantic for use of Lake Park, why would Niantic assume that moving to one of the "free/cheap" parks that Milwaukee offers up would help?

As one of the players (somewhat reasonably) asked in the Meeting of Doom "What good is it to move everyone down the road?" Sure, there might be more preexisting facilities there, but that doesn't mean that they will be enough.

Better to just pull out of Milwaukee all together, and focus on places like Millennium Park in Chicago that are already built to accommodate huge waves of traffic.

I'm not saying that it's impossible to set up the right incentive structure, I'm just anticipating a lot of really bad ideas getting implemented in the next year or so.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:16 PM on September 9, 2016


I work at a bar directly on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It's in a landmark building. Lots of poke stuff goes on in the vicinity. People love to leave their phones on the bar top while drinking. I see that quite often they are running Pokemon Go. They don't seem to be doing much with it. Just running it, I would guess, because that's a thing now, like checking for email, text, or tweet mentions.

About a year ago the bar was made part of a large scavenger hunt---maybe something corporate---and we were invaded by successive waves of hunt teams, each of which wanted us to make the same four cocktails as quickly as possible (cause: winning!) which they needed to take their pictures with. They would then pay and depart, leaving the most minimal tip. Needless to say, we were increasingly less and less amused as the afternoon went on. I am guessing the organizers got feedback about encounters with surly bartenders and it hasn't happened again.

Having hordes of PG players descend on a public space seems somewhat analogous, even if they are "consuming" a virtual resource. It still takes up space and affects the environment.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 1:16 PM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, here in DC they're selling Pokeball cookies in the museum cafes and tomorrow's a big Catch The Mall meetup. Get it together, Milwaukee.

I have been on the mall when there are close to a million people on it. Your public facilities are designed to handle huge crowds. Of course, Milwaukee is on a different scale, but we do not have that infrastructure and that is the entire point.

It seems like the problem here is that Lake Park is not an "extremely popular public park," except for the fact that Niantic has made it so.

It's not so much that it's not popular, it's just not laid out for hordes of people. There are heavily wooded trails and bridges and waterfalls and so forth.

Generally people do not go to parks to be around hordes of people, but to enjoy the natural features of a park. I mean, you can be around hordes of people at a mall or an airport if that's what you want. If Pokemon didn't exist, and the park was crowded (e.g. really nice weather), people would likely just go somewhere else. But with Pokemon, you have to be in that location to do certain things with the game. Another location isn't going to offer the same attributes. This is why I think Niantic has an ethical responsibility, if not a legal one.
posted by AFABulous at 1:25 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think I see where Niantic is going wrong. If they were to damage the environment directly instead of having the public do it, not only would they be not under as much scrutiny, they'd probably get some sort of tax break.
posted by ODiV at 1:37 PM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


For a lot of parks, you need a permit for even as many as 15-20 people who are gathered there for even an hour

I'd rather have a conversation about the degree to which our right to assemble in public placed has been unacceptably degraded than one about Pokemon Go players needing permits.


When I'm planning an event I sure do like knowing that there is not going to be another event at the same place at the same time. So in that sense, permitting can actually help me assemble in public places. But like many things it comes down to the details. There are certainly parks where permits are too much money, hassle, and/or dumb restrictions to be viable for the sort of event I do.
posted by aubilenon at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2016


Generally people do not go to parks to be around hordes of people, but to enjoy the natural features of a park.

This reminds me of the quip -- you're not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic.
posted by miyabo at 1:49 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I apologize for my obtuseness, but can't we just ticket (or in severe cases, arrest) people who litter and vandalize?
posted by parliboy at 1:52 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


parliboy, we seriously don't have the resources in Milwaukee. Cops in my district (~5 miles west of that park) didn't even show up for an accident in which my car was totaled (no one was injured though).
posted by AFABulous at 1:57 PM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I apologize for my obtuseness, but can't we just ticket (or in severe cases, arrest) people who litter and vandalize?

Indeed. There's been some additional emails from the county board that people have been talking about over on /r/Milwaukee, which gives the following figures:
MPD – 40 traffic tickets written, vendors only advised to leave

Sheriff’s Department – 102 citations written, 50% for curfew and the rest for alcohol, dogs in park & mics.

MC Parks Rangers – 289 violations written
They kept talking about directing Pokemon Go players to Veteran's Park. I said to myself "I bet that's a much blacker part of town", and again, I was right.

Like AFABulous said, whatever you're looking at is a different park. You can't quite tell from their link, but Veterans Park, McKinley Park, Bradford Beach, and Lake Park form a 2 or 3 mile continuous stretch of lakefront area. I've lived here my whole life and I'm hard pressed to even tell you where the boundaries are between each of the parks.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2016


Someone upthread noted that asking Niantic to pay for a permit to place a Pokéstop or Gym is pretty much like asking the author or publisher of a guidebook pointing out notable places to pay for a permit to note that there is a historical marker or other point of interest at a particular location. I think they hit the nail on the head.

Ingress has Anomaly events periodically that are a major part of the game's story line, the outcome of which sometimes even effect global gameplay significantly. They attract hundreds or sometimes even thousands of people to a small area. They do (when appropriate) pay for permits for those.

That makes sense to me, because Anomalies are quite literally Niantic having an event in a specific place and directing players to that place. The normal gameplay, on the other hand? Not so much.

If players are engaging in antisocial behavior, that is the problem that needs to be dealt with the same as if they were engaging in any other leisure activity and being disruptive in the process.

Are there some portals/Pokéstop/gyms that should be removed because they are creating an attractive nuisance? I'd say yes, but Niantic does have a process for requesting that and has been reasonably responsive to such requests. If it's drawing people to a place that is not actually open to the public, I'm sympathetic, but if the problem is just increased traffic in an otherwise public place, boo freaking hoo.
posted by wierdo at 3:37 PM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


parliboy, we seriously don't have the resources in Milwaukee.

And that's because taxes are too low.

Seriously - what does it take for people to start talking about fixing problems, not symptoms?

No solution that is specific to "what Niantic should do" is viable, for the very good reason Frowner pointed out - we're only at the beginning of channeling human action via handheld mediating devices. Of course there will be more of this kind of project, develoepd by many more actors. If we don't figure out solutions that can actually support the creative use of public space by the public, we're going to start seeing a further enclosure of what's left of the commons.
posted by Miko at 3:44 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


but if the problem is just increased traffic in an otherwise public place, boo freaking hoo.

When there's increased regular car traffic to the point of over capacity the solution isn't just to let things be. I think a comparison between roads and parks is apt, because roads are also for public use, but I think it's more obvious when a road is over capacity just by looking at it. I don't think may people sitting in the middle of a traffic jam would say, "Well, since this is a public resource in full use, everything is fine."

And I think sometimes disruptive behavior is caused by increase traffic, so you eliminate the former by reducing the latter.
posted by FJT at 3:58 PM on September 9, 2016


I'm still having my mind blown over the ontological side of things. Like, do pokestops exist? If they do, they must be Niantic's. And if that's true, then Niantic is responsible for putting and leaving something in a public park. And if that's true, then they must be responsible for that thing, since it is theirs. And if they are responsible for that thing, well then they need to, err, take responsibility for that thing. That all seems straightforward, right? Again, I can't think of anything that really holds up as analogous.
posted by tummy_rub at 4:03 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Maybe the interesting analogue is google maps/yelp/whatever saying that a park is great, which would then drive traffic to that park. Of course, if the park then becomes overcrowded, perhaps the park would not be so great, worse reviews follow, less traffic, and perhaps equilibirum.
posted by tummy_rub at 4:10 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


To be clear, I'm not sure that the answer is charging Niantic, but I think it's a problem if I have to get a permit to host a pick up football game or a barbecue (in some locales) but Pokemon Go can roll all night long.

I kinda see where you're going with this, but I don't know that it fits.

I play P:G. In fact, my whole family does. If I go out to hunt with Elder Monster and Elder Monsterette - as we do a couple times a week - that's just 3 of us. If we come upon a bunch more people playing, who is responsible to pay for a permit? While there are some formal groups that play together, it's my experience that more folks are just out with a couple companions.

As an active player, I would not be upset if any of my local parks asked me to buy a "PokePass" or somesuch. $5/year to play in the park? I dunno. I think I spend $10 on a MI State Parks pass, and I only make it up to Grayling and Traverse once a year.

I don't know if there are really any answers that people will find satisfactory.

Ideally, people would just not be assholes and not litter, not vandalize, not trespass. Alas, humans gonna human.
posted by MissySedai at 4:25 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


the difference is, the crowd is not there for the park, they are there because the game has located virtual items in the park
posted by thelonius at 4:26 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


The crowd must be there, in part, for the park; otherwise they'd be playing one of the many other Pokemon games that doesn't require leaving your couch.
posted by roystgnr at 4:41 PM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Does it matter? They're using a public park. The fact that they're there to walk around while looking at their phones instead of having a picnic or tossing a ball or sitting and reading seems irrelevant.
posted by zachlipton at 4:50 PM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


As an active player, I would not be upset if any of my local parks asked me to buy a "PokePass" or somesuch.

The confusing part about this, though, is that the popularity of a spot is presumably because there have been lots of pokemon spotted there (in addition to pokestop/s)... and lots of pokemon only come from lots of people playing the game in the vicinity.

If you start charging a park poke fee, I would wager that fewer people are going to go to that park. And fewer people going to the park is going to result in fewer pokemon, which means what's the point of paying to hang out at a place that isn't full of pokemon?
posted by queensissy at 4:51 PM on September 9, 2016


This reminds me a lot of the issues with Google Maps providing directions to the Hollywood sign.
posted by xiw at 4:52 PM on September 9, 2016


The fact that they're there to walk around while looking at their phones instead of having a picnic or tossing a ball or sitting and reading seems irrelevant.


I don't think it's just that they're looking at their phones, it's just that there's many times more people. I think if this continues, they would probably have to start expanding the park. Not only more trash cans and staff to clean, but possibly changing the physical landscape by adding more benches, widening walkways, paving entirely new paths, and adding more parking spots to accommodate the influx.
posted by FJT at 4:58 PM on September 9, 2016


Like, do pokestops exist? If they do, they must be Niantic's. And if that's true, then Niantic is responsible for putting and leaving something in a public park.

Pokestops exist, but as pieces of data on a computer. The game determines that the player is "at" a pokestop by correlating the user's actual location with the data in the computer.

So, Niantic isn't putting anything in the park, though they are creating incentives for people to go to the park.

The closest analog to pokestops is, as mentioned above, markers on maps or guidebooks, and I think that it's reasonable to treat Niantic like any other publisher of information about locations.

One thing that I thought was interesting was how annoyed the software nerd in me was that this kind of stuff wasn't obvious to everyone. And I think that that is part of the overall problem here.
Niantic made a game for the players, but didn't think enough about how it would affect non-players. And now the non-players are freaking out because things are changing in the real world based on this crazy thing that they don't really understand.


Maybe Niantic thought about it, but because it hasn't been that big of a deal for the less popular games, they figured they could handle it. Maybe they scaled up linearly, but the real world effects of P:Go are an exponential increase over, say, ingress.

So, they have their "form" for reporting problem pokestops, but would non-players even think to go that route? I bet the DNR employees mentioned left a bunch of voicemails and sent angry letters, what game company expects to get important communication via those routes in 2016?

So, Niantic gets called "unresponsive" while they sit there saying "please, just use the form'
posted by sparklemotion at 5:00 PM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


And that's because taxes are too low.

Wellll... I agree, but now we're digging into a whole different strata of problems beginning with redlining and white flight. As I noted, the particular neighborhood that borders the park has high property values, but you can't raise taxes on one particular neighborhood. It has to be the whole county. Which has seen the tax base (i.e., white people) largely flee to surrounding counties.

I haven't played it so I don't know how this would fit into the gameplay, but what about shutting off a pokestop for a set time period after X number of people have "used" it. For example, if 20 people have captured the ... animal (?), it shuts down, and regenerates in 24 hours. This wouldn't be true for the entire park, there'd always be some pokestop somewhere, but there'd be no reason to stick around for hours if you're just playing the game. I think you're able to see what's available on a map before you go to the park, right? It doesn't prevent anyone from coming to the park. It just takes away the game-specific incentive.
posted by AFABulous at 5:22 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


The closest analog to pokestops is, as mentioned above, markers on maps or guidebooks, and I think that it's reasonable to treat Niantic like any other publisher of information about locations.

Except they aren't publishing information - they're creating the pokestops, which would make this perhaps more analogous to things like the jewelled hare treasure hunt thing that was the subject of an FPP a little while ago.
posted by Dysk at 5:26 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Timing stops/gyms that way isn't practical. This isn't a game that launched in just Milwaukee, not even just in the USA. It's worldwide. They barely vetted the locations adequately in the first place (hence the necessity of having a form to request removal). They're not even all spelled correctly, and I know of at least three near me that are for artwork that has been destroyed or moved. Adding an additional database layer adding specific open and close times per portal according to local community preference, over the entire planet, assuming local consensus is even possible? That's entirely too much human labor (because you can't auto-vet something as idiosyncratic at this).

I doubt even a cool-down period would have much effect in this case, because most people likely aren't spending hours in one place, it's a lot of people each spending a shorter time each. While there are maps of stops (places to get gear) and gyms (places to "claim" for your team), there is no map of where the creatures to be captured are spawned, and they only spawn for about half an hour each anyway.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:37 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I haven't played it so I don't know how this would fit into the gameplay

It doesn't really work in the way you describe (especially being able to see what's where before you go) but there are certainly technical solutions that Niantic could implement.

And at the risk of seeming like a righteous defender of a corporation that certainly hasn't paid me a dime, there are some very good reasons not to assume that just because Niantic isn't talking about gameplay changes, they aren't in the works.

Players (especially multi player game players) are really, really good about taking any sort of available info about gameplay running it through this crowdsourced optimization machine and determing the best "meta" to give the "clued in" an edge. Take a look at the discussions of IV in some of the more gameplay related P:Go threads that we've had (on phone or I'd find a link) for an example, and the info that we are sharing here is weeks behind.

It behooves Niantic to keep certain changes close to the vest until they are pretty close to release, so they can buy themselves some breathing room before the next game-breaking perfect optimization is worked out.

Except they aren't publishing information - they're creating the pokestops,

Pokestops are markers pointing to various objects of interest - a mural, a statue, a cool looking tree. Yes, Niantic decides which objects to call out, but so do the map makers.
posted by sparklemotion at 5:38 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


now we're digging into a whole different strata of problems beginning with redlining and white flight.

Right; but that is not a different strata. There is no history of public space that doesn't come down to this question of access: who is allowed it, who controls it, how and when can you have it, and what can you do with it. And those questions are very tightly bound to the ways we imagine and treat public space, including racial and economic dimensions of access and control. Which we are seeing play out here. The assumption that parks are not for certain kinds of people or certain kinds of experience is not a class-, age-, or race-neutral assumption.

This is why I can't fathom any different stance than allowing as much Poke-activity as wants to happen in a park. It is important to defend access, and to fund access. "Nuisances," whatever they may be, have a long history of being used in public places to restrict access. This is just a new flavor of nuisance.

they're creating the pokestops

Eh, it's not really different. For instance, a lot of the waymarks on Atlas Obscura are certainly not "official" monuments or destinations. They are places associated with a certain story - a fictional one, a movie filming that happened one time, a legend. (In addition, the PokeStop database incorporates the Historical Marker database, so most of these sites were already "created" as destinations in your formulation, and not by Niantic). There is no sharp line between "creating" a site and "publishing information" about a site. Through the publication, you create a site. It is self-reinforcing, as cultural production gives rise to unique sites, and more cultural production follows site naming and identification. That's tourism theory 101.
posted by Miko at 5:40 PM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


"I bet the DNR employees mentioned left a bunch of voicemails and sent angry letters, what game company expects to get important communication via those routes in 2016? So, Niantic gets called "unresponsive" while they sit there saying "please, just use the form'"

You've ... created a whole bizarre story in your head. As you may recall from the early kerfuffle over Ground Zero and the Holocaust Museum, as well as several private homes that were wrongly marked, there WAS no form at first to remove pokestops in awkward places. The DNR attorney were talking to Niantic's attorneys, as is typical when there's a legal dispute. When your endangered species has a 15-day breeding period and the company says "it's going to take us longer than 15 days to process that, we don't have a procedure," then, yeah, that's unresponsive.

Moreover, an ecologically sensitive site in Chicago, a site that is both state and federally protected, HAS been using the form, and Niantic just repeatedly refused to remove the pokestop. And, yes, a few players have been arrested for trespassing and, yes, the trespassing notices are posted all over. The contention of the players is, "But there wouldn't be a pokestop there if we weren't allowed to go there!" Players going off the paths to catch Pokemon in protected areas have already done tens of thousands of dollars of environmental damage to the recently-restored areas and taxpayers will get to pay for all of that a second time. And, still, Niantic remained unresponsive. So, yeah, contrary the story you've made up in your head, Niantic has been irresponsible and unresponsive no matter what method they're contacted with. It took more than 20 days for them to remove the Pokestop in question and only did so the day after the new law was proposed.

The proposed law would require apps like this, and possibly crowdsourcing apps (more on that below), to remove offending locations/paths/etc. within two days of a request from a site manager of an ecologically sensitive site, a historic site, dangerous or construction sites, or private property. There would be a $100/day fine thereafter, which isn't terribly onerous, and gives property owners/managers a way to enforce an order through the courts.

One of the things that was kind-of interesting that's come out of the discussion of the proposed law is that a number of legislators and law enforcement agencies have had low-level but steady reports of people who are using RunKeeper-type apps (where you can map and share your running path), especially ones where you can recommend trails and paths to other users, and sometimes someone posts a path that goes through private property. A number of people reported stories from constituents along the lines of, "It was fine when it was just that one guy cutting across the corner of my property, but he posted it to $App as a public path and suddenly there are dozens of people a day and some are on bikes and riding over my lawn ...!" And these crowdsourcing apps for bikers and walkers/joggers are great because map apps so frequently leave off foot paths and trail connections, but if they're pure crowdsourcing it's easy to see how mistakes can crop up, or how they could be used maliciously to target someone. And it's easy to think of a variety of scenarios where that could be a problem -- ecological sensitivity, property liability, crazy dudes with problems with trespassers and guns or dogs.

Anyway, it's turned into kind-of an interesting and surprisingly nuanced discussion of how these apps and games that use data out in the real world should be regulated and how they can be made to be responsive to actual problems -- without being non-stop hassled by busybodies who don't want pokestops in the public park.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:43 PM on September 9, 2016 [16 favorites]


Pokestops are markers pointing to various objects of interest - a mural, a statue, a cool looking tree. Yes, Niantic decides which objects to call out, but so do the map makers.

There's game content associated with them, right? They aren't just pointing to the monument that exists in the real world, they're also pointing to the gameworld stuff that Niantic has arbitrarily decided to require you to be at a particular location for.

For instance, a lot of the waymarks on Atlas Obscura are certainly not "official" monuments or destinations. They are places associated with a certain story - a fictional one, a movie filming that happened one time, a legend.

Right, but they're still reporting things related to the site - this happened here, that person set such-and-such a book here, they filmed this thing here - and not arbitrarily deciding to invest those sites with a significance entirely of their own fashioning.
posted by Dysk at 5:54 PM on September 9, 2016


You've ... created a whole bizarre story in your head.

I appreciate the correction.

As far as googling tells me, the form was up 8 days after release. I'm also not sure how angry I am about a company taking Three. Whole. Weeks. (almost) to respond to a request.

I agree that Niantic screwed the pooch royally as far as being able to respond to real life problems. But I still say that the problems are being caused by the players, who should be punished accordingly.

The details of the proposed laws still sound hella unconstitutional to me, but I am looking forward to watching that weave it's way through the courts. (is it sad that I wish Scalia was alive so we could get oral argument audio of him asking about level 16 Meowths?)
posted by sparklemotion at 5:57 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Like, Niantic could arbitrarily move their pokestops from where they are currently to other locations. People making maps of points of interest - even ones derived from fiction it history rather than physical geography - can't decide that that church is now two fields over, or that battle now took place on the other side of the valley. Niantic absolutely can do that with the locations they associate with in-game significance.
posted by Dysk at 6:07 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


yeah, I feel like I'm missing something. The reason people playing pokemon are going to a historical marker is because there's a pokestop there, not because they're intrinsically interested in the marker (though they may read it as long as they're there). There's no reason the stops can't be relocated to the middle of a field. It doesn't matter at all if anything's there. Yeah yeah I understand the history of how this came to be with Ingress and so forth. So what. I have a background in GIS. It's perfectly plausible and not that difficult to spread points further apart. If you have a zoning/parcel map of the city (which all cities have), it completely eliminates the issue of private property.
posted by AFABulous at 6:20 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


The proposed law would require apps like this, and possibly crowdsourcing apps (more on that below), to remove offending locations/paths/etc. within two days of a request from a site manager of an ecologically sensitive site, a historic site, dangerous or construction sites, or private property. There would be a $100/day fine thereafter, which isn't terribly onerous, and gives property owners/managers a way to enforce an order through the courts.

It's extremely onerous, because it presumes that literally anybody who owns or manages a piece of property (or claims to do so) can effectively use state power to force basically any game involving a map anywhere in the world to edit that map to remove features within two days.

The bill seems pretty badly written to me. It defines a "location-based video game" as:
"Location-based video game" means a game primarily played on a mobile device, including, but not limited to, smartphones and tablets, that encourages users to travel to specific real property sites, locations, or coordinates for the purpose of achieving specific goals within the game.
Does Waze count? It has some gratification aspects to it, though it doesn't exactly encourage you to go somewhere for achieving goals other than reaching your destination quickly. What about RunKeeper and Strava and the like, as you discussed? I presume the Field Trip app does; can this be used to force them to remove landmarks from the map?

If I'm in California, or Norway, and I create a location-based game app, the state of Illinois demands that I be available on two day's notice at any time to respond to requests?

And that's ignoring the abuse angles. Anybody can plausibly claim to represent pretty much any piece of property, so there's nothing to stop false requests. Now, Niantic can ignore requests they don't like the looks of, but under this law they'd have to immediately honor everything lest they be sued. So what stops a cranky neighbor from getting all the Pokestops removed from their neighborhood? What stops someone from declaring that every gym in their neighborhood except the one they control is "dangerous" or "on private property." There's no penalty for false requests (nor could one realistically be enforced, see also the DMCA), and virtually any location could be said to be "dangerous" as a justification for removal.

I'm sympathetic to situations where people are causing environmental damage, and agree there needs to be a better way to handle those cases, but this law seems like a mess to me.
posted by zachlipton at 6:24 PM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


The non-players here are darned lucky that there is a "Company" behind this game, one with an address, etc... and not just a group of internet people and a github account or something.... the next wave of games like this might just be anonymously crowdsourced, which would make things way harder to deal with, because there wouldn't be any officials at all to contact.

We live in interesting times.
posted by MikeWarot at 6:28 PM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


There's no reason the stops can't be relocated to the middle of a field.

Assuming the field is still in a public park, how would this solve what people are complaining of as the problem?
posted by Miko at 6:28 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Right, but they're still reporting things related to the site - this happened here, that person set such-and-such a book here, they filmed this thing here - and not arbitrarily deciding to invest those sites with a significance entirely of their own fashioning.

Here is a video (link goes to the part about pokestops at 15:33) showing how the basic version of this interaction works.

When a player clicks on a Stop, the game gives the player info about the Stop (basic stuff on the first screen, there's often more for the curious). The game then randomly awards "items" as a reward for going to the thing.

In a more complex interaction, players can choose to install "lures" on Pokestops. Those lures will cause more Pokemon to randomly appear near the stop of the player's choice.

Of course, when there are more Stops in a given area (that maybe also has bathrooms and trash facilities) players are incentivized to bunch up to some extent because everyone gets to share in the common good of a "lured" Stop. (socialism!) I've heard tell that MeFite's even sometimes all go to the same parks and chip in to keep lures on the nearby Stops for extended periods of time.

All this is background that I think will make it easier to address these points:

Like, Niantic could arbitrarily move their pokestops from where they are currently to other locations.

To the extent that Niantic's database of Stops is not the complete set of Places of Interest that exist for an area, yes.

There's no reason the stops can't be relocated to the middle of a field. It doesn't matter at all if anything's there.

Also, Niantic could in theory not tie the stops to Place of Interest at all. In practice though, most places of interest are, in fact, in public (or open to the public) places. I think that moving away from them is opening up a whole slew of dangers (see, e.g. Strava/Runkeeper routes crossing through private land).

The problem with this theory is that there are literally millions of pokestops. No one organization can keep a database of like that pristine, it requires too much human intervention. Niantic should be better about responding to actual humans that contact them with complaints, but I don't think that assuming that any AR game maker should vet every point in their database before launch is realistic, or desirable.

It's perfectly plausible and not that difficult to spread points further apart. If you have a zoning/parcel map of the city (which all cities have), it completely eliminates the issue of private property.

All cities in Japan? In Europe? Available for free, in a standardized format? With accurate data? (I live in the US, my county's zoning map lists 3 houses on this lot (with the same address). Not 3 units like an apartment building or a triplex was here. 3 Single Family Dwellings. (I'll gladly memail you the link and address, if you want to see for yourself)

It's easy to say: Well, Niantic should just do this, why on earth would they be stupid enough to put a Spot there, they are making money off of this so it should all be their responsibility.

I don't think that putting the onus on game devs to fix all of these problems is going to lead to desirable outcomes. Especially if we want indie developers to also be able to contribute to the art form.
posted by sparklemotion at 6:29 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


yeah, I feel like I'm missing something. The reason people playing pokemon are going to a historical marker is because there's a pokestop there, not because they're intrinsically interested in the marker (though they may read it as long as they're there). There's no reason the stops can't be relocated to the middle of a field. It doesn't matter at all if anything's there. Yeah yeah I understand the history of how this came to be with Ingress and so forth. So what. I have a background in GIS. It's perfectly plausible and not that difficult to spread points further apart. If you have a zoning/parcel map of the city (which all cities have), it completely eliminates the issue of private property.

Part of the attraction of playing the game is to actually notice more cool things that are in your area - I know where a lot of the little free libraries are in my neighborhood because they tend to be pokestops, and have noticed a lot of cool murals and walls of graffitti and electrical boxes that I've walked by a thousand times and didn't really know were there. It's also fun to look around when I'm not playing and sort of guess what would be a pokestop on that block. I don't really go to parks to play it, because there's plenty of walkable spaces in my neighborhood where I can play. I wouldn't play if I had to drive out to the middle of nowhere to walk around - I just don't have time for that.

Not to mention the fact that the field somewhere is definitely less likely to be built for an increase of foot traffic than a place that was created with public foot traffic in mind, and probably private property to boot.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:35 PM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


So what stops a cranky neighbor from getting all the Pokestops removed from their neighborhood?

A similar mechanism to what prevents a cranky YouTube user from having all of someone's videos taken down with bogus DMCA requests?


Assuming the field is still in a public park, how would this solve what people are complaining of as the problem?

It depends on the field, surrounding area, what strain it would put on surrounding infrastructure, etc. But really, it demonstrates that the locations for pokestops are arbitrary. As such it is an arbitrary decision made by Niantic. If they can put them anywhere, they're where they are because Niantic decided to put them there. There perhaps ought to be a way of holding companies responsible for the impacts of this kind of decision.


If I'm in California, or Norway, and I create a location-based game app, the state of Illinois demands that I be available on two day's notice at any time to respond to requests?

Yep! And if you operate in Norway, you have to deal with Norwegian laws relating to advertising, Norwegian sales tax potentially, and a host of other things. I mean, if you're in Oslo and someone complains about a location on Svalbard, it might as well be in Illinois for all your ability to reach it. So why does it make a difference?
posted by Dysk at 6:41 PM on September 9, 2016


"The details of the proposed laws still sound hella unconstitutional to me, but I am looking forward to watching that weave it's way through the courts. "

I'm not sure why. Even if you're just arguing they're adding data to a pre-existing map in a free-speech way, people have been held liable for bad map data or bad map overlays in the past. You can still PUBLISH your bad map, but you can be held liable for it. States and local government bodies certainly have the right to create rules for appropriate/legitimate use of public spaces (try running into a school during the day and announcing, "THIS IS A PUBLIC SPACE I AM GOING TO DO MY NAKED ART HERE IT'S FREE SPEECH!")

As for the Richie Riches going "But it's just to maaaaaany people in the park, our park wasn't made to accommodate that!" well, I'm positive their park already has capacity studies that are public information so it's not like a court would just say "BY JOVE YOU'RE RIGHT!" they'd say, "Uh, your daily use before Pokeman was three people and the capacity of the park is 600 and your own park district has been trying to increase use with a goal of 50 people a day ..." If it's an issue of too make pokeusers ruining a park intended for "quiet enjoyment of nature," that too is a thing that can be enforced about a park.

My husband works in historic preservation so we talk to a lot of parks people and historic site people and so on and almost all of them are wildly enthusiastic about Pokemon getting people to their sites, but they'll have a "BUT!" ... "But ... it would be better if they were coming to the front entrance instead of the service alley, I'm afraid someone's going to get run over by a garbage truck and they can't actually get into the site that way." "But ... it'd be nice if we could have them move the thing to the walkway area for viewing the protected wetlands instead of actually IN the protected wetlands where we're constantly having to tell people not to trespass, and then they're upset we won't let them get to the pokestop and we're getting a lot of complaints and bad reviews posted."

"this law seems like a mess to me."

It's a HOT MESS, but it's also proposed legislation being actively discussed so not, like, the final form. And it's an interesting, intriguing legal problem. (The "location based video game" definition is like the first thing everyone started jumping all over as inadequate and problematic.)

I don't actually think Niantic is a bad actor; I think they are a naive actor, as we all are in this space, and suddenly it's like "WHOA there are a ton of major implications to this kind of technology that have suddenly been revealed." and ..

"not just a group of internet people and a github account or something.... the next wave of games like this might just be anonymously crowdsourced"

Yep, these will be the bad actors who will create a major problem. Or a couple of 24-year-old dudebros with a get-rich-quick app scheme.

"It's extremely onerous"

I don't actually think this is a particularly good law -- I think it's an INTERESTING legal development, an obviously half-baked one, an obvious first attempt at regulating these real-world-map things. (And I think Niantic to an extent brought it on themselves by lack of responsiveness to what were very quickly very obvious problems.) But the liability for these apps will have to shake out in some fashion, and maybe it's simply not socially desirable for people to be able to crowdsource map apps with no employees checking them. Or maybe it will be a lucrative enough space that attaching all the liability to the app makers will make economic sense, and it'll be cost-efficient for them to use unchecked data and just pay penalties as the cost of doing business. (Or to, as Google decided, in the early days of streetview, it was easier just to honor every "take down that picture of my house" request than to sort them.) But there will have to be some way to deal with both trespass and liability, and some way to deal with deliberate abuse of either the crowdsourcing function or the takedown function.

I don't know, maybe the larger question is how badly we want to automate dealing with abuse of systems because it's cheaper and it lets us have very large systems (like Twitter!), when in the end some of these problems do require a human hand-checking every problem and making a human decision, and maybe some of these things are just too expensive to do in a non-abusive way.

(I think a lot about this problem because of plea deals and courts; we simply can't afford to prosecute everyone we've decided commits crimes, so we've created this abusive workaround that ruins lives rather than either increase the court's ability to process cases (too expensive to have humans look at cases!) or decrease the number of people we charge with crimes. I may be off in a personal philosophical la-la land as a result of too much pondering it.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:42 PM on September 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


But I still say that the problems are being caused by the players, who should be punished accordingly.

The problems are absolutely being caused by the players, but Niantic does not do sweet fuck-all to discourage those problems.

I've been dealing with Niantic since Ingress launch. I acquired a stalker - an particularly odious douchebro kept making comments at me and about me in the COMM. He used IITC to track every action I took in game, contacting me to remark on things I was doing in other states, time zones, even other countries. I blocked him, as you do when you don't want to deal with a toad. So he started using 3rd parties to try to contact me. Then started physically following me.

I went to the police. I sent a copy of the police report to Niantic. Their solution was to tell me to change my Agent name. Not ban the asshole violating the TOS, but to tell me to change my Agent name. Um?

So, yeah, Niantic are unresponsive and pretty much hostile to their user base. They don't enforce their own TOS.
posted by MissySedai at 7:19 PM on September 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure why. Even if you're just arguing they're adding data to a pre-existing map in a free-speech way, people have been held liable for bad map data or bad map overlays in the past. You can still PUBLISH your bad map, but you can be held liable for it.

Please don't consider this a [citation needed], but I'd be really interested to see an example of a case or two that you're talking about. My brief searching in the legal database I have access to on a Friday night turned up a bunch of cases where people were/won't held liable for actions taken based on bad maps, but I'm not finding anything involving government penalties for the publishing of a bad map. I trust they are out there however, and I'd be interested.

As far as the free speech/1st Amendment in US thing... I need to do more thinking on this myself. Governments can certainly regulate harmful speech ("Fire" in a crowded theater, naked art, etc.), but usually they have to prove that there isn't a better way to mitigate the harm. This seems closest to the yelling "Fire!" but the harm there is really from the panic that ensues. Generally, P:Go isn't causing panics ( The exception that proves the rule), so it seems like the harm can be mitigated by enforcement of existing laws, providing appropriate facilities/staffing.

I understand that I'm arguing that Niantic should get to be a freerider on public facilities. For me, it's because I think that, at 50,000ft, the good that P:Go (and other AR games, there will be more) does in getting people to at least somewhat interact with their environment greatly outweighs the harms being caused, and society knows how to fix the harms without asking Niantic to do a damn thing, but chooses not to. So, I don't mind them making money off of stuff that I pay for with my taxes (and I'd gladly pay more taxes to support the stuff)

This though:
So, yeah, Niantic are unresponsive and pretty much hostile to their user base. They don't enforce their own TOS.

Is shitty and pretty much inexcusable. I could see if they banned the guy but he kept gophering up on sock accounts but it seems like they didn't even try.

I think that P:Go takes steps in the right direction here by keeping user location details pretty much private (if you take over a gym, I think people can tell that you were there at that time, but it's not like how Ingress Intel publishes every portal interaction).
posted by sparklemotion at 7:55 PM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


The big Pokemon hotspot in Montreal is in Cabot Square, next to a recently closed hospital and close to the old hockey arena, the Forum. It's an area that has been somewhat depressed in recent years. The area has been home and meeting place to many homeless people, particularly those in the Inuit community. Well, it turns out that the neighbour there is an evangelical church, and they've been handing out free granola bars and water to players. They've painted a huge Pokemon Go sign in their front window. The pastor is thrilled, the players are happy and the cops ride by on bikes to make sure everything is ok, and maybe catch a few themselves.
posted by Cuke at 8:13 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think that P:Go takes steps in the right direction here by keeping user location details pretty much private (if you take over a gym, I think people can tell that you were there at that time, but it's not like how Ingress Intel publishes every portal interaction).

I LOVE this aspect of P:G! And, no COMM! The only way someone can tell you are at a gym is if they physically roll up on it as you are taking it. I learned this when I was battling for a gym near my house. You can see that SOMEONE is battling, but not who, until they drop a Poke on it.

The Husband and I spent about half an hour duking it out with a herd of grade schoolers. We got our asses handed to us.
posted by MissySedai at 9:47 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Completely crazy, yet wonderful PoGoing here, have caught three Snorlax in the last twelve hours. Though one only had a CP of 50. BUT STILL!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:24 AM on September 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


The name of the proposed law that Eyebrows is referring to? Pidgey's Law. It's been proposed by my state rep, who somewhat ironically, had a poke-get together spitting distance from that very pokestop in the protected dune restoration land in the first week of the game's existence.
The stop in question is in an already well-trafficked part of a larger public beach. The issue had been pokebros going off-piste in the duneland, where the paths were not very well delineated initially, and disrupting the restoration work. Currently, I'm not sure the stop is as much of an issue, as there are guide ropes and signage galore to keep everyone, pokebros and otherwise, to the designated path.
In a very small sense, the inaction by Niantic, in refusing to take down the stop, instigated an alternative solution that addresses a problem posed by any human walking there, not just those playing the game.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:45 AM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


they're where they are because Niantic decided to put them there

In the vast majority of cases, Niantic didn't decide, it used a previously marked set of coordinates logged by another entity. That's why I'm a little hung up on the concern that Niantic "created" these stops. In many cases, some local historical society in the 1930s "created" these stops. Or a fiction writer did. Or a mapping app did. Or a user did. Niantic overlaid an image on them, and incentivized people to find them. But similar value additions happen in my public history work. There are untold numbers of local-tour and waymarking apps that do the same thing; mark, add content, and incentivize (there are many examples that long pre-exist PG, but I love the Portland Museum of Art's riff on Pokemon). I think we need to have the freedom to mark geographical points in society and, if we want to, created augmented works on them.

Do we need to protect dunes, piping plovers, private property, etc.? Of course! But we've always needed to protect it. We may be finding that in our present era, our protections are insufficient - but whatever they are, they should apply to all users, not single out players of a particular game. As Cold Lurkey describes, if the dunes need more protection, they need it from everyone. If we need more enforcement, more trash cans, more volunteer programs, more public education and interpretation, we can have that, if we value it sufficiently to fund it. But we need to be able to use public space for recreation and for creative works that leave no physical traces as part of our rights of expression. This is just one example, and it's just the beginning. It's another signal that we need to shore up our starved infrastructure and increase empathy and tolerance in the society. When we are overwhelmed by something that probably doesn't even hit the biggest peak day envisioned by these sites, or maybe even the design day, something is wrong, and it's not people having fun.
posted by Miko at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


In the vast majority of cases, Niantic didn't decide, it used a previously marked set of coordinates logged by another entity.

...which Niantic decided to use as their pokestops. They could just as happily have made a different decision about how to place them. Unlike a tour guide app, there is nothing necessarily tying pokestops to the landmarks, except Niantic's decision. Again, Niantic can arbitrarily place their pokestops wherever. A map or guide app can't arbitrarily decide that that monument is now two fields over our that historical or fictional event now took place or was set on the other side of the valley.
posted by Dysk at 10:50 AM on September 10, 2016


AFABulous As a non-resident I apologize. I based my statement off looking at a demographic map. I hadn't realized that Veteran's Park is essentially just a continuation of the other park only further south.

But that just makes me even more puzzled about the whole thing and more suspicious that it's just rich people complaining about "those people" entering their spaces uninvited.

If Veteran's Park is just the southern part of Lake Park (or Lake Park is just the northern segment of Veteran's Park), than the entire proposal to move things south seems even more preposterous.

Also, looking at it from Google Map's satellite photos, it seems that Lake Park is a the real park with trees and interesting geography and so on, while Veteran's Park is just a bunch of fields with a few trees scattered here and there. Great if you want to play soccer, but no one wants to just wander around some empty grassland.

The entire proposal for moving the players south is just broken on a lot of levels, beginning with the fact that it feels like a move to sweep the riff raff away from the wealthy enclave, and continuing on with the fact that the reason why there are more people playing in the northern end of the park is because that's where the fun stuff is.
posted by sotonohito at 11:08 AM on September 10, 2016


Hi. I work in a park. It has several Pokestops in it. For one, to get to the side that is portrayed in the image in the game, you'd have to climb over either a stone fence or a chainlink fence. You can collect from it without climbing over either of those fences.

We've generally enjoyed the Pokemon Go players in the park - they're pretty friendly and obviously having a good time. We've had to ask a few to stop riding bicycles in areas that don't permit it, there has definitely been an upswing in amount of litter (I'm looking at you Dunkin Donut cups and half full bottled water bottles), but nothing that we couldn't handle with a little extra effort.

That said, if the volume of people was large, the amount of litter significant or damage great, I'd feel very strongly that it would be good to have a way to have some ability to request and get a quick response on changing Pokestop locations.

I've been able to ask geocache people to move their geocaches to locations which don't encourage people to walk through garden beds - and in exchange, when the local late night visitors have found the cache and tossed it into the bushes I put it back where it goes.

The budget for parks tends to be fairly small and having to divert someone from doing other necessary jobs to spending all their time picking up trash is really significant. Even with the opportunity to use people doing court ordered community service. I find that people who have never spent time picking up litter in a park have no idea how fast it accumulates. It isn't a once a week thing, it is every day and sometimes you turn around after cleaning and area and it is already strewn with trash again. There are only so many trash cans you can add. There are only so many garbage trucks that can make so many rounds picking up trash.

The other thing that isn't really being acknowledged entirely is that if I spend months preparing plants, planting them, watering them, grooming and deadheading them, weeding them, and you come and trample through that bed of flowers - that single plant you just destroyed cost all those hours. And it isn't replaceable. And it makes things look like crap for the rest of the season. Or if it is a tree, it looks like crap until I can source, plant etc and it grows as big as the old one that you managed to kill because you thought it was funny to break off parts of it.

So yeah, please remember that there are real live people who work in parks.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


Again, Niantic can arbitrarily place their pokestops wherever.

I'm still struggling with how you imagine anything would be different if the stops were placed in other locations that were still part of public space.
posted by Miko at 1:45 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that having the in-game point of interest be linked to some real world point of interest is a more responsible thing in the vast majority of cases than having them randomly strength about any public space. Ingress portals, and therefore Pokéstops and gyms, are generally in places where there is already an expectation a significant number of people will be anyway.

That means there are generally paths or sidewalks and trash cans around. Having a large number of people wandering around a turf area just turns it into a dirt or mud pit when the traffic inevitably destroys the vegetation.

(Obviously there are exceptions, most often due to temporary closure of an area or data that has become outdated due to redevelopment, but in general that is the case)
posted by wierdo at 2:53 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


If Veteran's Park is just the southern part of Lake Park (or Lake Park is just the northern segment of Veteran's Park), than the entire proposal to move things south seems even more preposterous.

Sorry, you're just not familiar enough with the geography here. Veteran's Park is on the other side of a major road from Lake Park. There are no houses adjacent to it - the closest residences are across the aforementioned road at the top of a bluff. Those are entirely high rise condos and apartments. I lived in one.

Veteran's Park is mostly used by people who fly kites in the field, sit on the rocks beside the water, bike/walk on the paths, and paddle around in a lagoon. It has also been used for large festivals, like the 100th anniversary of Harley-Davidson that brought tens of thousands of people to the city. Yes, it's comparatively "boring" in that there are not forested pathways and waterfalls and architecture and elevated vistas of the lake, but there are more bathrooms, much more parking, and more space to avoid globs of people converging on an area. I'd also imagine it's easier to pick up litter in an open grassy area than in a wooded one.

I'm just not understanding people who don't think Niantic is responsible in any way. If an eccentric billionaire set $100 bills throughout a park and told people where they were, would he be responsible when people converged on those locations?
posted by AFABulous at 2:56 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


The eccentric billionaire would certainly littering. If it caused a literal riot, that might even be a foreseeable consequence. Not so much with an AR game whose popularity has exceeded anyone's wildest dreams, much less reasonable expectation.
posted by wierdo at 3:58 PM on September 10, 2016


a litter-al riot

i'll just see myself out

posted by XtinaS at 4:22 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm just not understanding people who don't think Niantic is responsible in any way.

Responsible for what?

If an eccentric billionaire set $100 bills throughout a park and told people where they were, would he be responsible when people converged on those locations?

Let's say we call him "responsible" for that. So what? What does this responsibility of his mean? They are still public locations. Apart from the littering issue (it's already been pointed out that's illegal as things stand), if he wanted to use some system to create an incentive to visit locations in a park, and people want to visit it, what is the problem? If the problem is volume, we can handle that through maintenance and staffing, if we want to. If the problem is litter or illegal behavior, we already have mechanisms for dealing with that. If individuals while pursuing their activities break rules or damage property, we have mechanisms for that. Perhaps those mechanisms need to be beefed up and more strongly enforced at times of increased traffic (something that already happens, incidentally, in the public park I live on - during peak summer the police add bike patrols and the public utilities increase trash pickup, then scale back when it gets colder). We can talk about responsibility in some philosophical sense, but so far, there is precious little harm demonstrated, and what harm there is seems to be to already-protected resources and things that are already against ordinances. So I'm still struggling to understand why this game should be seen as a special case when it comes to park access and usage. If we believe the parks are truly public space, we must manage them as such.
posted by Miko at 4:55 PM on September 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm just not understanding people who don't think Niantic is responsible in any way.

For what - encouraging people to walk through a park that was designed for that purpose? I think I can say that Olmstead did not plan for the park to be used by as few people as possible, most of them rich (Olmstead's parks were designed to allow for the public to enjoy green space, not to be able to enjoy green space alone*).

There are other cases where Niantic could definitely be more responsive to concerns and the pokestops could be moved to a similar locations within the same area - the ones that are placed in ways that encourage trespassing or destroying fragile wildlife, for example. Pokemon Go players could also be more considerate pedestrians and park visitors. We could actually fund our parks. But I'm far more interested in solutions that would still encourage park usage.

I mean, the real thing this comes down to is that we've gone so long without prioritizing walkable areas that when things come by that actually encourage people to walk outside, it's an issue.

*Also, man, a ton of mefites seem to have a much different reaction to coming across an empty park than I do? Not actually an important point for this conversation, but still an unexpected one.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:03 PM on September 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I'm just not understanding people who don't think Niantic is responsible in any way. "

Niantic is 100% responsible for more people using a park.

I'm just not seeing why this is something terrible, or something that must be stopped.

None of the linked stuff gave any actual evidence that Lake Park was being hurt by the uptick in users, just some assertions that it was the case, along with pleas that "those people" be sent to the more boring, intended to concerts, park. Until there's real evidence of actual wrongdoing or harm, I'm not going to simply assume that the rich people aren't just being their usual exclusionary selves.

Look, the whole **POINT** of having interesting places is people going to enjoy them. A game like Pokemon: Go, or INGRESS, helps people be aware of the interesting places in their area and get up, get out from behind their computer, and actually go into the outside and check them out. This, I'd hope you agree, is a good thing. More people exercising, more people seeing really nice stuff, more people out and interacting instead of shut away.

An empty field is not interesting. Niantic didn't sit around cackling and making a conscious decision to route people to the northern end of the park where some rich jerks might be mildly inconvenienced. The placement of locations is based on there being interesting things to see. An empty field is not interesting, therefore there aren't many points on their map down in the southern end of the park.

Seriously, what is the actual problem here? Where is evidence of there being a real problem as opposed to just privileged jerks objecting to the presence of more people in "their" park?

Now, I'll readily agree that some people (including some people who play P:G) can be obnoxious and rude about their use of public spaces. Littering, failure to clear bike paths, etc. But that's not the sort of problem you solve by telling people to stop using a park.

I'll also agree that Niantic was slow to respond to legitimate problems with some of their points of interest. This problem is exacerbated by people (like the rich jerks around Lake Park) clogging their system with apparently frivolous demands that they stop encouraging people to get into the outside and see interesting things. Boy who cried wolf syndrome, no?

So tell me a solution that makes it easier for people to enjoy the park. I notice that so far all the proposed "solution" basically amounted to putting up a virtual keep out sign on Lake Park so the rich people who live around it wouldn't have to tolerate the presence of the lower classes. I argue that this is unacceptable. I note that they say parking and bathrooms are limited, but note that no one suggested tearing down any of the McMansions bordering the park to build more. Or even tearing out part of the Lake Park golf course to build more. Funny how the **ONLY** thing they proposed was getting rid of the lower class people enjoying "their" park.
posted by sotonohito at 4:49 AM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also think that we'll be seeing a lot more of this as the net permits more people to become aware of public spaces that weren't getting a lot of publicity.

The first thing, as evidenced by the links here, that the people who had previously been treating the public space as their own private domain will do is start demanding that the information be kept secret, that virtual keep out signs be erected, because the idea of the holli polli using public spaces is, apparently, intolerable to some people.
posted by sotonohito at 4:57 AM on September 11, 2016


And that's why I think it would be useful for to come up with some metrics to help people decide whether something is just "lots more people are here, that's what it's for", when it's "lots more people are here, we need these additional resources" and "lots more people are here, the physical environment can't handle it". (Like the river example given upthread, where there just needs to be a limit on how many people can raft a given river in a given season, even though that river is public.)

It might even be possible to start gathering a shared list of "sensitive places" that could be referenced by developers - parks that have fragile ecosystems, historical sites that are pretty solemn, places that have regular religious observances, etc. Some of these might be appropriate for some game use, others for no game use.

I think what we're seeing with Pokemon:Go is that this kind of game at a national scale needs more planning than it got this time.

I think that being able to point to some specific stuiff, like costs of additional staff or damage to fragile areas, would actually help clarify when people are just being unfairly exclusive - if people are trying to keep users out despite minimal disruption, it's easy to argue that they should not have a leg to stand on.
posted by Frowner at 7:03 AM on September 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


it would be useful for to come up with some metrics

In the case of public parks and ways, it's overwhelmingly likely that such use-data and capacity projections entirely exist - in municipal and state planning and management documents. For instance, everywhere I have worked contained public space, and we had this hard data for all of those spaces. We were also able to quantify maintenance investment because it was budgeted.

But that data question worth being careful about, because these are political constructions and easily become a battleground. If the peak day for a city park is expected to be 10,000 people, but a park sees more peak days per year than it has in the past due to a game (or anything else), there may be a push by those who wish to restrict access to reduce the highest capacity projected for the peak day and trigger limiting actions. "Hard data" doesn't always become a final answer, because where we set limits and levels that trigger investment, and what our tolerance for activity is, are entirely social questions.
posted by Miko at 9:01 AM on September 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


a litter-al riot

i'll just see myself out


In a lakeside park like this one it could cause a littoral riot.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:06 PM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Frowner I think what we're seeing with Pokemon:Go is that this kind of game at a national scale needs more planning than it got this time.

I think you're overestimating the size of Niantic, and putting an unfair and unreasonable demand on future creators of nifty things. Niantic has around 30 employees, most of them coders and support for coders.

The thing about computers and the net is that it's possible for a tiny number of people to do really amazing and nifty things. You don't have to be a big company to make a game that gets tens of millions of players. And tens of millions of players doesn't automatically translate into whole wads of cash either, nor a steady flow of cash.

The idea that before people make a kind of neat game they should sit around with hundreds of employees to do a national (or heck, planetary) assessment of possible downsides or impact is kind of weird and basically impossible for anyone but the very biggest of the big. I mean, yeah, people should try to avoid causing harm, but you can't predict everything. Making a law or whatever saying that before you can do anything new on the internet you have to present some sort of massive plan just shuts out anyone but the super huge companies and won't make people's lives better.

Again, the whole problem here seems to be that more people are enjoying a park. For this we've got governments seriously considering basically outlawing any and all augmented reality games. The response is so preposterously, laughably, disproportionate to the supposed crime that I'd be laughing except people are actually talking seriously about basically shutting down an entire aspect of human activity because of these frivolous and irrelevant complaints.

Telling game developers that the outside is not for them, that they must keep their players chained to their chairs or woe betide you seems like a really awful message to send.

Last I checked the moral panic of the day was people flipping their shit because other people (think of the children!) were spending too much time inside, not socializing enough, not getting out enough. So now someone makes a game to encourage the exact things that society has been scolding gamers about and suddenly that's awful too.

Can't make moral scolds happy I suppose, nor the neophobes tolerant of anything different.
posted by sotonohito at 4:58 PM on September 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Pokemon Go discussions can't seem to happen without loads of hyperbole.

AR games have the potential to impact the sites they augment. Some of the impact may be positive, some may be negative. When you are leveraging a franchise as immensely popular as Pokemon it can be safely assumed that the impacts will be vastly greater than they would otherwise be. Remember this is not just Niantic - Nintendo owns this. Revenue as of 9/7 was $199 million just from in-app purchases with projected yearly revenue at around $584 million. Ad revenue, not yet reported, is likely orders of magnitude higher. So they clearly have the resources to do impact assessments at major parks, landmarks, etc.

Some of the proposed laws are reactionary and overreaching, but that doesn't mean we don't need any legislation to deal with game companies leveraging public spaces for profit, which, by the way, is what they're doing.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:31 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


which, by the way, is what they're doing.

So what's the ultimate point? If they're generating revenue by leveraging public space, it's all the more evidence for why we need to support public space - that activitiy generates activity, presence, and revenue, not just for the originator of the activity but for every food truck, bottled-water-seller, nearby restaurant, parking meter, and downtown strip. This is what we say we all want when we justify setting aside public space for activities that don't directly generate their own revenue: that they generate ancillary revenue, they help the community achieve well-being and they promote a healthier economy.

When I think about just the local parks a few doors down from my house, I see it being used already by local yoga studios hosting a free Tuesday night class in summer to generate traffic to their studio; a "boot camp" fitness class run by a private fitness coaching firm; a pickup soccer league that is one of the most beautifully multicultural events I've ever seen; the afterschool activities of the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA and local school track team; umpteen private-market dogwalkers; a Tuesday-night Circus Arts group that offers training, collects tips and then makes themselves available for public events; umpteen private-market personal coaches; private-market babysitters and nannies occupying their charges with physical activity; a volunteer-driven running club that puts on a ton of charity races and supports local businesses and events; a bevy of workers in local offices enjoying the downtown quality of life by walking the .3 mile path at lunch hour to get their steps in; and a regular busy schedule of expos, fairs, culture-fests, Pride events, dog-rescue promotions, holiday events, police nights-out, and so on and so on.

Just observing this one public space closest to my house, it's clear that it functions to generate many good things in our community just by making the resource of pleasant, open, flexible-use space available to a wide range of public and private activities. It's an experimental and unprogrammed space where activity imagined by a range of actors can generate revenue, cultivate participation, and enhance public safety. This is all to the good. Any legislation that started to arbitrate and cut into which companies or organizations or individuals could promote activity in this park or earn money via activities conducted fully or partly using park resources, when they could do this, and why, would impact - hurt - all of these activities, not just the one identified as negative and "corporate" by a subset of observers.

One of the reasons we have and maintain public space is that it demonstrably promotes public interaction, healthy outdoor activity, and economic development, locally and globally. That's not an argument against wide access to public space and the private/public promotion of activity in that space -- it's an argument for it.
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on September 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think you're overestimating the size of Niantic, and putting an unfair and unreasonable demand on future creators of nifty things.

Something being "nifty" doesn't excuse its creators from recognizing its impacts, nor does the size of the team creating it. My understanding from this thread is when the game launched there was no way to get a waypoint removed. Throwing your game out there and being being overwhelmed by its success is one thing (though I would argue you should plan on something Pokemon being popular), but not even planning for the possibility that your game might drive people to places it shouldn't is a huge failure. The proposed laws look very reasonable in that context.
posted by edeezy at 12:35 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


The proposed laws look very reasonable in that context.

No, they don't.

One of the proposed laws demands that a site be removed from an AR game after 24 hours of someone sending a claim that it's disruptive. Not only is the time limit preposterous, there's no allowance for people (like the people in the linked articles) just being assholes and reporting sites for frivolous reasons. No provision for the game makers to contest the claims.

How does that get sorted out? Who makes the final call? How expensive is it going to be when the jackasses over at 4chan decide to start mass reporting **ALL** the sites in an AR game effectively forcing it to shut down entirely?

Sure, it'd be the work of a few minutes (or hours) of coding to just have a web page where a site could be reported and autowiped. Now you've really invited 4chan to eradicate your game, yay.

And, again, these incredibly onerous and oppressive laws are not being proposed in response to any actual, genuine, bad action or bad outcome, just in response to some cane shaking and rich people who hate poor people using parks.

It's a tactical nuke level solution for a problem that doesn't even exist. It is, basically, trying to ban AR games entirely before they even get off the ground. And for nothing.
posted by sotonohito at 4:03 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Something being "nifty" doesn't excuse its creators from recognizing its impacts, nor does the size of the team creating it.

I'd disagree here too. No one can accurately predict the future. Sure, malicious intent should be hit hard. But the idea that there's an obligation to spend millions, before a game is even released, hiring a future crime planning division is absurd. You're talking about essentially killing any sort of independent innovation, leaving any AR development that might still exist in the exclusive hands of the very biggest corporate entities. And they won't bother because the whole field will be filled with a myriad of pointless little busybody laws.

People try things. It's what we do. People try things on the net, because it's easy to try new things there. And we, society, benefits tremendously by that. Putting up unnecessary barriers to invention, to creativity, online is going to be tremendously harmful to the future.

Most of the stuff we have gotten from the net that we love and that helps us came about as the result of a very small group of people, sometimes even individuals. This could happen only because the net was unencumbered by the sort of laws you're proposing, the sort of laws that would shut out all but the megacorporations.

More to the point, no other aspect of human innovation is encumbered by the demand that before anyone can do anything they hire hugely expensive foresight agencies to try (and fail) to predict the outcome. When TV, radio, portable game machines, the Walkman, etc were invented they too changed society massively, and in ways that hurt some people. But no one was calling for their abolition, or for people involved in mechanical engineering to hire foresight committees before they were allowed to build new things.

And, repeating this because it is so hugely important: you're supporting these laws in the absence of any actual harm. WTF?

The fact that we're seriously discussing crippling, if not outright destroying, a whole branch of human invention before it even gets started all because some rich old people don't like kids chasing Pokemon would be absurd if it weren't tragic. Hey, some rich old people got upset, better demolish this entire branch of technology!
posted by sotonohito at 4:11 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


More to the point, no other aspect of human innovation is encumbered by the demand that before anyone can do anything they hire hugely expensive foresight agencies to try (and fail) to predict the outcome.

If this were true, we'd have no need for liability waivers, fire escape plans being legally required, or requirements for third-party auto insurance. There are all sorts of situations where people are expected to practice reasonable foresight and/or have plans in place to deal with things potentially going wrong.
posted by Dysk at 5:28 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


How does that get sorted out? Who makes the final call? How expensive is it going to be when the jackasses over at 4chan decide to start mass reporting **ALL** the sites in an AR game effectively forcing it to shut down entirely?

So why hasn't 4chan taken all of YouTube offline with DMCA requests? Because this isn't a hard problem to solve! Maybe require that the complainant provide proof that they own the property at the location in question, or represent an organisation that manages it. The legislation in its current state is stupid, but it is also in the early stages of drafting.
posted by Dysk at 5:31 AM on September 12, 2016


Youtube has somewhat more employees. Also, bad-faith DMCA requests make it through all the time. (For example, a bunch of reports got one of the new Ghostbusters official trailers taken down with complaints, on the basis of "it's got women in it and we hate it." It was restored eventually, but that took human intervention.) Proof of ownership also gets a whole lot more complicated when you realize that this game is not USA-only. Reference the problem Google Maps has in areas where entire countries have differing opinions about what territory belongs to whom, and what the name of the territory is.

I can say with pretty good confidence that Niantic does not have a vetting process that can handle that level of false-positives, because I watched them struggle and fail on a much smaller level with Ingress. It was a pretty common tactic to mass-report a portal that was convenient to the other team, not to mention submitting fake portals in convenient locations (i.e. accessible from a player's couch), and a lot of that bad-faith stuff got through.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:03 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


When I think about just the local parks a few doors down from my house, I see it being used already by local yoga studios hosting a free Tuesday night class in summer to generate traffic to their studio; a "boot camp" fitness class run by a private fitness coaching firm; a pickup soccer league that is one of the most beautifully multicultural events I've ever seen

Private enterprises which use parks negotiate for use of the space. Many parks require permits for large gatherings. More to the point, these entities have at a bare minimum someone local on the ground who can be held accountable if things get out of hand, and as an added bonus the organizations utilizing the parks have a vested interest in the parks being in good shape since it is, in effect, their office / gym / whatever. Niantic, on the other hand, is a remote entity which can cause a pedestrian traffic surge with literally the click of a button and no material interest in the well-being of the locations they turn into PokeStops.

Yes, this is a new paradigm with lots of unknown variables and potential upsides which should not be prematurely squashed in the name of NIMBYism. One can make the argument that Niantic couldn't have known the impact prior to the release of PG. That argument cannot be made for any AR games going forward. It is only a matter of time before an AR game puts a virtual cash prize somewhere and causes a stampede.

So, rather than wait until that happens, it would be preferable to set some ground rules, such as synchronizing the availability of AR hotspots with the hours of the locations, interfacing with (or at least notifying) local governments before deploying a new AR game in that location, etc. Yes, that increases overhead. That's OK. Niantic / Nintendo / Alphabet et al are creating games which have a material impact on the real world - it is incumbent upon them to take on the responsibilities that entails. And likewise, local municipalities should work with AR companies to ensure that their populace can enjoy the benefits of this new gaming mechanism because, as many have noted, there are lots of benefits.

The way to ensure that this becomes a huge shitshow is for parties to dig their heels in, refuse to compromise, and turn this into Pokemon Go Saved My Life vs. Evil Meddling Old Rich People, Boo!
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:50 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Dysk Maybe require that the complainant provide proof that they own the property at the location in question, or represent an organisation that manages it.

I disagree that mere ownership should convey the rights to wipe the property from a map. Especially when the property in question is public, like in the example here in the links.

I'm sure the rich people who object to the riff raff enjoying the park would love it if their park managers could just fill out a form and force "their" park out of a map. I also think that would be a terrible thing.

Again, I'm stunned at how fast the pendulum of moral panic has shifted. Go back in time to July 5, 2016 and the big moral panic about gaming would be that kids are spending too much time sitting around indoors. Now, less than two months later the big moral panic is that kids are spending too much time in parks and being outdoors and it's annoying professional grumpy people.

So why hasn't 4chan taken all of YouTube offline with DMCA requests?

They take videos, and Facebook pages, they dislike offline with fake reports all the time. For example, the anti-vax people coordinated to mass report a pro-science Facebook page and were quite successful at getting it removed by Facebook's automated system.

And the problem of corporate entities abusing YouTube's automated copyright system is well known in many circles, especially among gamers who do review videos. Jim Stirling managed to figure out a fascinating way to trick the abusers, but the fact that he had to do it is appalling and his workaround doesn't work in many situations.

The legislation in its current state is stupid, but it is also in the early stages of drafting.

I'm doubtful it will improve, or that it can improve. The premise is deeply flawed.

And, again, I hate to keep harping on this point but no one seems to be paying attention: it is a tactical nuke level solution to a "problem" that has not been demonstrated to exist. Again, the "problem" here is that more people were going to a public park. That isn't generally the sort of thing that produces legislation that may well close off an entire branch of technology.

grumpybear69 So, rather than wait until that happens, it would be preferable to set some ground rules, such as synchronizing the availability of AR hotspots with the hours of the locations, interfacing with (or at least notifying) local governments before deploying a new AR game in that location, etc. Yes, that increases overhead. That's OK.

What? No, that's totally not ok.

Per Wikipedia there are 39,044 local governments in the USA **ALONE**. And you think it's ok to demand that before anything can move forward people should go begging, hat in hand, for permission from every single one of them? "Please sir, may I invent something new?"

That's so far from ok I can't even conceive of how anyone, anywhere, could ever think it's a good idea.

Look, imagine someone invents, I dunno, a new kind of bicycle. Or a backpack. Or whatever. No one would propose that before they could do it they had to ask permission from 39,044 local government entities. Because that's clearly absurd.

Google didn't beg for permission before they made their maps. Or before they sent their cars driving around getting pictures.

It's equally absurd when the project is something virtual on the computer. More absurd, really.

I could whip up an AR game in my own spare time. It'd almost certainly suck, but I could do it all by myself. Under your proposal I'd then have to undertake a Herculean legal effort just to get permission to have it work in the USA. And then there's the international market. I don't even speak French, Italian, German, Russian, etc. Yet I'm supposed to contact every single local government entity planet wide and get their permission to allow my game to work there too?

I'll agree, sort of, that Niantic and other AR game devs should be responsive to complaints. I'll disagree that being responsive to complaints is in any way a simple or easy thing. But mandating it by law, with ridiculous 24 hour instant response requirements and enormous fees, is the most sledgehammer to swat a fly sort of approach I can imagine short of just banning AR games entirely. And really the currently proposed laws are just a blanket ban on AR games in disguise.

And, again, I keep harping on this because no one seems to be responding: you're talking about this massive, huge, onerous, legal remedy for a problem that has yet to be established as actually existing. Right now we've got some rich twerps mad because poor people dared to visit their park. And because of that you're supporting the end of all AR things forever.

I'm refusing to compromise because you're advocating for a horribly repressive legal setup that literally no other field of human endeavor is subjected to, and you're advocating it in response to what seems to me to be nothing but hot air and panic from a few grumps. So yes, I'm digging in my heels. Show actual need, then we can talk. Show a way forward that makes it possible for me, as a single person with a nifty idea, to actually get my idea working. It isn't enough for your proposal to work for a giant megacorporation. If it won't work for the solitary coder than it isn't worth consideration.
posted by sotonohito at 8:00 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'll add that I think a responsibility falls on the player too. Dealing with things being closed at certain times isn't a problem for the map makers, it's a problem or the players.

Individual players behaving badly is also a situation for which we have an existing legal remedy: ticket them, or in extreme cases arrest them. I fail to see how someone (hypothetically, because I don't think it's happened IRL) breaking into a closed park to hunt Pokemon is Niantic's responsibility.

It isn't Rand-McNalley's fault if I drive the wrong way on a highway, even though they printed a map showing the highway.
posted by sotonohito at 8:06 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


such as synchronizing the availability of AR hotspots with the hours of the locations, interfacing with (or at least notifying) local governments before deploying a new AR game in that location, etc.

You mean like the local police departments who can't even figure out how to deal with twitter-based death threats? Come on.

Fund the public spaces so they can accommodate use. Fund local governments such that they can handle deploying services to areas when demand uses shift. Accept that the public is gonna public. And let's be real about another thing: providing this notification to locales who are not willing to do the work and spending to support demand is about as good a use of anyone's time as teling the pool water you're about to jump in. So?

And aside from ALL of that, much of the above discussion completely ignores decades of settled law about liability for publication. To wit, there effectively isn't any. There's a reason The Anarchist Cookbook can stay in print all these years despite all the crap it has in it (including stuff that's just flat-out wrong.) - It is super hard to hang negligence around the necks of publishers who do the most basic of vetting and show some marginal responsibility and provide warnings.

Between Niantic's "hey, don't be an asshole about where you go" disclaimers in the app and a sensible expectation that human beings show some personal culpability for their choices, the change of going after them for creating these AR placements is pretty much zero. You can hate on the caselaw from the last decades all you want but it's not going to change things.
posted by phearlez at 12:16 PM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Private enterprises which use parks negotiate for use of the space.

...not universally. It is definitely not the case with most of the uses I mentioned, and I know, because I am involved with the neighborhood association that negotiates with the park. A big event needs a permit and port-a-potties and police detail, yes. Dog-walking, babysitting, pickup soccer meetups, fitness bootcamp, running clubs, and yoga do not.
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I fail to see how someone (hypothetically, because I don't think it's happened IRL) breaking into a closed park to hunt Pokemon is Niantic's responsibility.

It happens routinely in my city, where city-owned parks officially close at 11 pm but pokemon players will often be there much later in certain hotspots. How much harm this causes is debatable, and I haven't heard of anyone actually being ticketed for it (escorted out by police and/or bylaw, yes), but the "breaking in" part definitely happens.

In general, I agree that these issues aren't Niantic's responsibility. Parks are public space. "Too much public" being there is not the game designer's problem. Taking down stops in permanently restricted (i.e. non-public) areas should be done asap though (as I believe Niantic is constantly doing...with limited staff and a gameplay area of literally the entire world, I don't think it's reasonable to expect them to remove every stop immediately after it's been requested...).
posted by randomnity at 4:57 PM on September 12, 2016


city-owned parks officially close at 11 pm but pokemon players will often be there much later in certain hotspots.

Our parks also "officially" close at 10 pm, though this is never enforced. We routinely walk across it to get home, people run and walk dogs even late, and people hang out on the grass smoking and playing guitar. It's been that way for a long time. Before PG, were people in these parks after the closing hour?
posted by Miko at 5:22 PM on September 12, 2016


Probably, since it's so rarely enforced that almost nobody, including me, knew about the 11pm rule until people started phoning bylaw to complain about Pokemon players hanging out there (due to the noise/littering/etc).
posted by randomnity at 5:30 PM on September 12, 2016


So they only invoked the rule when they didn't like the particular activity or people doing the activity; previously, even though people were probably using the space, they overlooked it because those people were somehow acceptable. How good, how fair, is the practice of applying this rule?
posted by Miko at 8:08 PM on September 12, 2016


That's the norms where you are. Over here they gate the parks off at sundown, and much of the gardening work in the parks takes place while they're closed. People jumping those fences is not entirely without trouble for the people working the park.
posted by Dysk at 2:49 AM on September 13, 2016


So why weren't they enforcing the fence-jumping rule before?
posted by Miko at 6:46 AM on September 13, 2016


Possibly because the numbers were markedly lower? Nobody complained about Ingress. The real issue with PG is the popularity, which is bringing to the fore issues like this which previously weren't of notable scale. The attendant publicity probably increased attention to that sort of behavior and will no doubt impact the people who previously flew under the radar. It isn't like cops are going to patrol closed parks and only kick out people looking for Pikachu.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:37 AM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


No; if the community insists, they'll start kicking out everyone. They'll have to, otherwise be open to charges of discriminatory policing.
posted by Miko at 8:51 AM on September 13, 2016


The local news last night said they are looking into installing parking meters at Lake Park now. They don't have any detail on their website. To be fair, the city has talking for months about installing parking meters all along the lakefront, but as I said before, despite the name of Lake Park, that is a different location across a major road. Prior to PG it wouldn't have made sense to install parking meters at Lake Park because the demand was not that high. Hopefully the parking revenue will offset some of the increased costs caused by higher park utilization.

(The revenue won't just be from the meters; parking enforcement in Milwaukee is vicious and not to be trifled with.)
posted by AFABulous at 10:22 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


So why weren't they enforcing the fence-jumping rule before?

Nobody was jumping it.
posted by Dysk at 10:52 AM on September 13, 2016


So why weren't they enforcing the fence-jumping rule before?

Nobody was jumping it.


Then you have a problem of people breaking the law (rule? law?). Seems like a simple, non-PG-dependent issue. And an individual decision, especially if it's clearly posted that the place is closed.
posted by Miko at 12:09 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Then you have a problem of people breaking the law (rule? law?). Seems like a simple, non-PG-dependent issue.

Bylaw. And it demonstrably is P:G-dependent, what with the uptick happening since its release, and the motivation for it being P:G. Sure, we could take some of the very few police officers actually on the street at night and assign them to the park, but that doesn't sound like a particularly great short- or even medium-term solution, and as a long-term one it would require a complete about face from the UK government with regard to spending, so isn't likely a viable solution there either.
posted by Dysk at 4:41 PM on September 13, 2016


Point is it could be anything that has caused it. It could be a scavenger hunt, it could be drug dealing, it could be it's a good place to drink beer and have sex. The problem isn't a game, the problem is enforcing park closure as public activity ebbs and flows around the space. If you can't afford to police the park, and you can't organize to devote other resources to the park, maybe it should just be sold to a developer? Do you see what I mean? If you value the public space, you need to invest in the public space, no matter what activity is taking place there. In this case, people climbing a fence are breaking a clear rule. That can be enforced, so the solution is to enforce it. There's a rule in place.
posted by Miko at 6:27 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you can't afford to police the park, and you can't organize to devote other resources to the park, maybe it should just be sold to a developer?

What? No.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:28 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


What you're missing is that the park is not on the brink, constantly about to be overwhelmed by all sorts of activities. There is one problem of any meaningful scale in terms of problematic park use. One. You can dance the hypothetical dance all day, but at the end of the day, there was no issue until now, and this one thing is absolutely the cause. Yes more funding to deal with all your hypothetical situations would be amazing, but dealing with the one actual real problem there is would absolutely also work.
posted by Dysk at 11:08 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The one problem being that the community is unwilling to fund and support the public space sufficient to public use, yes. It would indeed be good to deal with that one real problem.
posted by phearlez at 8:57 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well you have a choice between closing all the public parks in Britain and some sort of utopian coup then, because we have a Tory government.

Or, you know, be willing to take a more fine-grained look at the problem than lumping every possible issue under the same banner, and deal with the new part of the "public use" problem.
posted by Dysk at 9:02 AM on September 14, 2016


Local (Milwaukee) talk radio talked about Pokemon Go today. Most people agreed it was a non-issue, and there was an interesting side discussion about the idea that as far as people taking over your parks go, gamers are probably a lot nicer than biker gangs or people shooting the place up. There was also some talk about the idea that sure, maybe this is down the street from your house, but it's a public park, and there's not really anyone who has more of a right to the park than anyone else.

In closing, Jeff Wagner also encouraged the "liberal eastsiders" to quit complaining, put down their New Yorkers, and go try out Pokemon Go, because maybe they'd actually meet people they like.

So, uh, I guess everyone's agreed.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:13 PM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


deal with the new part of the "public use" problem.

The difficulty with this is that you're going to require a uniquely fine-grained and particular solution for each "new" problem (asking for concessions/changes from sponsoring companies when you can identify them and when they exist), rather than having one solution - functional and responsive infrastructure - for any and all problems that represent illegal misuses of the park, regardless of origin.
posted by Miko at 9:30 PM on September 14, 2016


I also have a real issue with talking about dealing "with the new part" in a way that is so right out of the libertarian dismantling of public goods playbook. Oh hey, we set this minimal level of coverage for this thing but now the perfectly legal activities of Company X or Group Y are creating an additional demand. That demand is well within the remit of providing public use of this thing, but we're going to say that since they precipitated this new interest that they should pony up the cost and/or deal with it.

Eff that. That's the flip side of the coin that says that everyone should just a la carte pay for the things they need and we shouldn't do anything that makes people pay for stuff they don't use.
posted by phearlez at 9:48 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would still like to know just what "too many people in the park at night" means. Does it mean that there's actual legit inconveniencing levels of noise, litter and knock-on problems, or does it just mean that there's some people in the park at night?

While I am now mostly on team "responsive infrastructure", I would still like to be able to distinguish between actual new problems and stuff people only think is a problem.
posted by Frowner at 9:52 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also have a real issue with talking about dealing "with the new part" in a way that is so right out of the libertarian dismantling of public goods playbook.

It's also right out of the leftist protecting the public goods playbook. It's called "externality".
posted by Etrigan at 9:53 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would still like to know just what "too many people in the park at night" means. Does it mean that there's actual legit inconveniencing levels of noise, litter and knock-on problems, or does it just mean that there's some people in the park at night?

Over here, where they gate off and close the parks at night to drive large vehicles about and do a lot of the work that requires there not being people wandering around (like laying new turf), people in the park at night is a problem. I've worked as a groundskeeper for churches in Denmark, and there were absolutely jobs we could only practically or legally do when the graveyards and grounds were closed (notably the use of some weedkillers and fertilisers) so this strikes me as fairly reasonable with the way parks are set up and managed here (which I gather is a little different to the norm in the states, the various commons we have around here being more similar, and I welcome the increased use they're seeing at all hours).
posted by Dysk at 12:26 PM on September 15, 2016


It's called "externality".

But it's also called one of the public goods that parks and open space are supposed to generate: ancillary economic activity. This is the use of a public good to generate and leverage private economic activity. It's one of the basic rationales for setting aside open space, not really an externality for a private business. This is part of what parks are supposed to do.
posted by Miko at 11:57 PM on September 15, 2016


It seems like some portion of the people around the park are not enjoying the ancillary economic activity, so maybe it wasn't what they intend for this park to do.
posted by Etrigan at 6:15 AM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would still like to know just what "too many people in the park at night" means. Does it mean that there's actual legit inconveniencing levels of noise, litter and knock-on problems, or does it just mean that there's some people in the park at night?

People are more likely to have sex and use drugs in the (any) park at night.
posted by AFABulous at 7:39 AM on September 16, 2016


It seems like some portion of the people around the park are not enjoying the ancillary economic activity, so maybe it wasn't what they intend for this park to do.

Perhaps not, but it's not just their park and their intentions alone don't get to dictate its use. Also, if there is ancillary economic activity, there's no way they're not benefiting, even if indirectly (lower property taxes, greater public safety because more activity, more tax revenue to invest in public budgets, etc. etc).
posted by Miko at 9:48 PM on September 16, 2016


" if there is ancillary economic activity, there's no way they're not benefiting, even if indirectly (lower property taxes, greater public safety because more activity, more tax revenue to invest in public budgets, etc. etc)."

Wow, no, precisely the problem with big national or multinational corporations operating in public venues like local parks is that they frequently suck out all the profits to somewhere thousands of miles away while the ancillary economic benefits are so small they don't even come close to making up the infrastructure costs and increased public safety costs and so on. But even big box stores like Target and WalMart can be a net drain on public coffers because the amount of property and sales tax they bring in doesn't make up for the increased strain on local services and infrastructure, and they send the vast bulk of their profits out of state instead of circulating local dollars back through the local economy. Something like Pokemon Go that doesn't even pay local salaries is almost entirely extractive; it's literally turning public spaces into something to be mined for profit by overseas corporations who put nothing back into those public spaces, and to do it without asking permission from local authorities. That's totally different from the other LOCAL economic uses of it you mention, that circulate money within the local economy.

Which isn't to say P:Go shouldn't operate in public parks in the US. But the whole point of the business model is to leverage public spaces without paying for them to generate profits for a company unaffected by the use of those public spaces. Whether that's a tolerable burden that brings local benefits, such that local entities want to tolerate or encourage it, is an open question. But the business model is literally extractive, there is no profit to it if it doesn't remove local dollars from the local economy and concentrate them as profits for far-away investors.

It's totally possible P:Go generates enough foot traffic in one park that the surrounding businesses get a boost that pumps significant money into those businesses and local tax coffers! It's also totally possible P:Go generates enough foot traffic in the next park to significantly increase park maintenance costs without providing any local business boost or tax dollars and leads to public services being cut because of increased costs. Either way, it doesn't actually matter to Niantic; they have no skin in this game. Not like your proposed babysitters and dogwalkers and yoga studios.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:12 PM on September 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Why did you assume I'm talking about big multinationals? I'm well aware of the issue you mention, but that is not the planning consideration I'm talking about.
posted by Miko at 3:27 AM on September 17, 2016


I meant to respond in more detail, and I'm sorry, I was traveling at a conference and just didn't have time to tap out a lengthy comment on my phone.

Public parks have never been non-contested spaces. Public parks have always been designed with social and ideological goals, some of them profoundly utilitarian.

The history of public parks in western culture is not terribly lengthy. Until very recently - about the middle of the nineteenth century - open spaces and parkland were the province of aristocracies and their institutions of religion and government. Hunting grounds, royal forests, formal gardens, pleasure grounds, etc. With very few exceptions, these were not made available to commoners. Open space outdoors for leisure was for the privileged.

That started to change, oddly enough, with the development of garden cemeteries in the mid-1800s. Places like Mount Auburn in Boston or Greenwood in NY. These were an innovation on the old, utilitarian burying ground - sentimental landscapes that brought out emotion and invited people not just to visit graves and pay respects, but to stroll and even to picnic. Almost immediately, the designers and managers of these spaces found that they were uncomfortable with the range of activities going on in those spaces, and started writing rules and guides, as this interview describes a bit. The same was true for public grounds that were popping up in places like the US Capitol, and around Philadelphia's waterworks - places where people were supposed to stroll and be impressed with a cemetery-like sense of awe at the works of industry or government.

The interest human beings evidenced in expressions other than solemnity and awe led to the understanding that people were very interested in having more public space, and to the design of purpose-built parklands for leisure and recreation. Leaders of the time engaged in high-flown rhetoric about the expectations they had for parks: countering the weakening influence of industrialization, improving health, cultivating democratic spirit, elevating the character through the appreciation of beauty and genteel pastimes. Parks were reformist projects. The first of these took the form of "edge city" parks, which, like cemeteries, were at a pretty distant remove from where most people lived. Frederick Law Olmstead's parks are a good example. Central Park was an outlying area when it was built. But despite the democratic social--improvement rhetoric surrounding the early parks movement, these parks were used almost exclusively by middle- and upper-class people, who were the only ones who could afford the time and cost to get there. Public parks developed an ethos of gentility, termed "passive recreation," a set of implicit rules and boundaries around what they were for and who could be there, that still influences the ways we think about them, as evidenced in the objection of middle- and upper-class people to behavior they find beyond the pale. The term "passive recreation" is still embedded in planning discourse, even though it is ill-defined, and it is has often been used to define out more active pursuits that some power-that-be wanted to eliminate from parks in favor of quiet enjoyment: sports, music, playgrounds, etc.

By the 1890s-ish the City Beautiful movement had arisen. Public parks were now supposed to relieve urban congestion that followed on the Great Migration era of European immigration, clean up the city, help clear slums by replacing dwellings with open space, provide firewalls against disease outbreaks, and improve the value of surrounding real estate. Economics were never far from the minds of park planners. Parks were going to shore up the quality and character of the population, goose development, raise property values, eliminate costly disease, and generate economic opportunities in and around the recreational space.

Another wave of park development came with the playground movement and then the New Deal. The playground movement came up in response to urban density, which resulted in kids just in the streets. Kids played on streets, in streetcar tracks, in subway tunnels, on abandoned buildings, on fire escapes, etc. And kids died, a lot, and got hurt a lot, by falls, cars, streetcars, trains, and collapses. An urban reformist movement generated campaigns to create city playgrounds with climbing structures, swings, and slides. The very playground machines those of us in the 70s grew up with, and now laugh at because they were so patently dangerous, was a previous generation's solution to the very real dangers of playing in the streets. Playgrounds were going to concentrate kids in safe spaces, reduce vandalism, and enhance public safety. In the New Deal, funding became available to enhance and refurbish public parks in all areas. New parks were built with WPA labor, and old parks refreshed. City parks were closer than they'd ever been to achieving democratic ideals of social mixing, promoting public health, and increasing values by revitalizing city neighborhoods.

But there was a hitch: most of the new parks developed were developed around the automobile. This intensified after WWII, when suburbs and car-dominated planning started to draw park activity and funds away from the cities. Suburban parks were ostensibly open space, but also came freighted with the same values that promoted white flight, redlining, and conformity to middle-class ideals of suburban life. Suburban park development was definitely a tool for creating the attractive force that drew investment in suburbs, a feature that lured people with the money to move by promising Little League fields, green spaces for picnicking, places to walk the dog. But that very sense of ownership and of the parks' embeddedness in the suburban project also entailed the defining of implicit and explicit boundaries of who could participate and how. Some parks were clearly segregated, either openly with signage or by unspoken convention. Park rules aimed to curtail behaviors associated with particular populations - limits on group size, noise, facility uses, park hours. Parks became outposts in which middle-class ( often racist and classist) standards, extended outside of the home to order entire neighborhoods, towns, and regions. White flight resulted in divestment in city parks (along with everything else in city budgets); urban parks were less often well kept up and poorly policed, allowing them to become sites of illicit activity that further tainted "city park" with a sense of danger, crime, and "the wrong element," often cast in racial terms. The urban crises of the 60s/70s saw the parks all but abandoned to gangs, hippies, the homeless, cruisers, and other people whose interests fell outside the pro-social purposes of parks. Park maintenance also became a low priority compared to crime, drugs, and homelessness, so parks were further starved for infrastructural maintenance.

In more recent times, crime has dropped, and a re-evaluation of urbanism has caused a new interest in parks. Big city park projects have been recognized as generators of tourism and economic activity - think Chicago's Milennium Park or Brooklyn Bridge Park. The idea is to create an irresistible draw based on a unique environment, a place that can be actively programmed day and night to promote a busy, positive urban feel. The ancillary economic activity I mentioned has little to do with global multinationals sucking funds from local economies. It is a well-recgnozed benefit of including parkland in civic planning. It might take the form of street vendors, coffee shops and restaurants nearby the parks; the rising property values of nearby homes and offices with park views; the public health benefits achieved by providing space for walking, running, sports, and other active recreation; the enhanced public safety that comes as a result of more foot traffic and eyes on the space; the environmental benefits of green infrastructure cleaning the air, preventing erosion, maintaining habitat for wildlife and native species, and sequestering water from rainfall; cash revenue from hosting ticket-based events like food fairs and concerts or charging fees for large group events or facility uses; attracting public-private partnership and larger zone-investment projects; encouraging the interaction of people from different walks of life, strengthening social capital and improving civic collaboration; serving as anchors of tourism and sightseeing; and so on. Often embedded in regional master plans to revitalize and encourage investment in a city or town, parks are deeply connected to economic growth.

It is this history of parks I believe we must keep in mind when we talk about the Pokemon phenomenon. Parks exist for ideological reasons, and their history of implementation as ideological tools has often been exclusive and anti-democratic. But today, they also exist for evidence-based and highly pragmatic reasons. They produce good things for communities, helping those communities thrive. They do require investment to do this. An observation of increased park use is, in contemporary planning and community development terms, a sign of success and an indicator of social health. When resources prove inadequate to meet the demand, the pro-social choice is to respond with an equivalent commitment to further investment. Seeking to divest from parks, or to foist on park users the cost of maintaining the public space, is to step toward the widespread divestment in public space that made "public park" synonymous with "dangerous drug market" in the 70s and 70s; it is also to participate in the xenophobic nineteenth-century notion of parks as spaces to display and enforce the white middle-class decorum that characterizes passive recreation. To me, this is a confluence of justice concerns and community development concerns. Yes, we could save/earn money by closing parks for more hours or by demanding investment from private entities who make use of the park. But we would then risk turning parks into a more socially exclusive, cash-cow model that would begin to threaten many of the other benefits of parkland. What entitlements would the private entity begin to feel they could demand for their investment? What forms of competition would they tolerate, and which would they aim to drive out? When they (inevitably) eliminate the service, what happens to the infrastructural support their short-term involvement generated?

In my own lifetime, I've watched the dramatic change that's happened to rail and bus stations, which parallels that of parks. Once, the train station in the town I grew up in had a ticket window staffed by two attendants. They gave information, sold tickets, and kept the station clean. Today, the same station has endured decades of divestment. The ticket window is permanently closed, and the only information available is on faded posters under scratched Plexi, or via app, if you happen to have a smartphone. Trash and graffiti are everywhere. At night, it feels unsafe, particularly if you are there alone waiting for a ride. There is no one within helping distance. Ticketing is entirely automated, and too bad if the machine is broken, or if someone is hanging around it waiting to spare-change you. These are not positive developments for our communities. Divestment in maintenance infrastructure has perhaps brought more cash efficiency, with a "user-pays" model prevailing, but it has degraded our quality of life and our personal senses of safety and community.

This is not the fate I want for the parks. Increased activity is the best thing to happen to public parks, in that it demonstrates many of the positive outcomes their planning seeks to produce (increased physical activity, community interaction, tourism, local purchasing, maybe municipal revenue via parking, etc). If the parks find themselves unable to sustain what is doubtlessly a desirable level of activity, they, and their communities, need to work with municipal (county, state) budgeting to ensure that the parklands are adequately funded to keep generating these forms of value. In addition, I am concerned that using a presumed entitlement to "peace and quiet" as a rationale for eliminating or severely constraining games like this is a thin veneer for excluding people of a racial, ethnic, or age category some find undesirable, a municipal goal I find unsupportable, and one inconsistent with maximizing park value.

In short, invest in parks.

Some soures:
The Trust for Public Land: Measuring the Economic Value of a City Park System
The Trust for Public Land: Economic and Health Benefits
Project for Public Spaces: Placemaking Pays Off
Project for Public Spaces: General resources on parks
American Planning Association/City Parks Forum: Economic Development
City Parks Alliance: Economic Value of Urban Parks

There are also piles of scholarly books and articles on the history of urban parks and public space, with attention to social history, segregation, inclusion, class conflict, etc. Easily searched.
posted by Miko at 6:56 AM on September 21, 2016


The history of public parks in western culture is not terribly lengthy. Until very recently - about the middle of the nineteenth century - open spaces and parkland were the province of aristocracies and their institutions of religion and government.

Your history utterly omits the British common. These were and are very much public open spaces.
posted by Dysk at 12:05 PM on September 21, 2016


I wouldn't call those parks, as they aren't about leisure. If you have a point to make about the British Common (which existed in the US too), I'm all ears, though.
posted by Miko at 1:53 PM on September 21, 2016


Okay, but I was responding to the claim that the history of parks is all there is to public open spaces in western culture. And commons have very much been about leisure for a long time now.
posted by Dysk at 3:09 PM on September 21, 2016


Mmnm, not really. You're mixing things up there. First, I never made the claim that leisure parks were the only form of open space; that's why I specifically used the term "open spaces for leisure." Second, the preindustrial British commons was not about leisure. It should be clear from the first lines I wrote that my remarks are about open spaces set aside for leisure activity. Again, if there's something in there you contest, please go ahead.
posted by Miko at 7:08 PM on September 21, 2016


When exactly do you imagine industrialisation happened? By 1899, Parliament in the UK was passing a Commons Act placing the administration of city commons under national park authorities as well as local councils, in recognition of the fact that their use was primarily for exercise and recreation. It's not like your American cemeteries sprang up as the first leisure-use public green spaces in the world in the mid 1800s, British commons were already de facto functioning as leisure parks by that time.
posted by Dysk at 12:44 AM on September 22, 2016


1899 is post-industrial. Industrialization was happening in the UK by the late eighteenth century. When I say "pre-industrialization," I'm referring to what historians recognize as the early modern period.

Do you have a point of substance to make about access and the workings of exclusion and ideology in histories of open space? Or are you just enjoying nitpicking?
posted by Miko at 4:42 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean, if you want to throw in British leisure park history, you have Birkenhead Park, but that does postdate Mount Auburn. American park history, though, is particularly relevant to this post and the debate in the US.
posted by Miko at 4:46 AM on September 22, 2016


Oh, look, the goalposts continue to shift. This time, we've gone from "The history of public parks in western culture" to "American park history", and Oh, let's take a wide Homo economicus view here to You're just nitpicking.

We get it, Miko. You think anyone who complains about Pokemon Go attracting too many people to any particular park are wrong, and you're not going to change your mind.
posted by Etrigan at 6:12 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


No, I'm not. If a park is public, people have the right to use it.

Nothing's shifted. I'm trying to situate the question within this much wider understanding of how public space is used. Dysk hasn't said anything related to my points about it. If Dysk (or you or whomever) has anything to say about either American park history or Western park history or the history of commons that has to do with the patterns of exclusion of particular kinds of people and activities from parks that are designated as public leisure space, that would be relevant.
posted by Miko at 1:44 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Pokémon Go and the politics of digital gaming in public, Brendan Keogh
One could argue that these critiques – the inequalities of urban navigation, the arguably nonconsensual use of both public and private places – have nothing to do with the game ‘itself’. They are issues of the world that exist ‘out there’ whether we are playing Pokémon Go or not. It’s not Pokémon Go’s fault that American police keep shooting innocent black men. It’s not Pokémon Go’s fault that players might choose to trespass private property or digitally desecrate a sacred place. Niantic just provided the map data, and even the points of interest were chosen by players of a different game. As is increasingly becoming the norm with digital technologies, both the labour and responsibility have fallen onto the end user, leaving the corporate owner with nothing but the maintenance and profits. Airbnb owns no properties; Uber owns no cars; Pokémon Go is just some markers on a map. The politics is someone else’s problem.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:48 AM on September 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


It is a political problem; fortunately, we have in place a great political solution: taxation.
posted by Miko at 7:17 PM on September 27, 2016


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