This is a quick and dirty post, something I seem to be a fan of.


YELP IS INCREASING TRANSPARENCY

They are discontinuing the sponsored business listing “favorite review” feature which confuses the most complex of knuckleheads….. but they are also releasing their incredibly fault algorithm’s hold on hidden reviews. Instead of trying to *HELP* the user by engaging them with relevant, meaningful reviews, they are suspending the algorithm’s effort in hiding meaningless reviews. AKA – a whole bunch of shill positive or ridiculous negative reviews are going to pop up and appear on profiles; the funniest part is that business owners asked for it. Now people are going to be swamped and blindsided by a slur campaign or their old, mistaken reviews coming out of nowhere.

I think it’s interesting, in a lot of ways. It raises a lot of questions. One being:

Does this invalidate the contractual business agreement that yelp has with businesses?

I think what Yelp did was a smart move…. and if it didn’t save them from future semantic web issues, it will help usher in a simpler era where the USER has to be intelligent enough to engineer their own filtering process. I will actively pray that people aren’t so stupid that they can’t tell the difference between a helpful, earnest review vs. a rant or missive that has more to do with a blind date than the establishment.

But in the end, the real shake up isn’t for end users…. it’s for businesses. If you are a business that is a Yelp sponsor, you might want to ask what happens to your agreement, or sponsorship, once the changes take effect. I am not saying it was world altering, but having random reviews pop up before your chosen favorite might be a big deal for businesses that are honest.

If you are a Yelp business, I would love to hear if this is a concern for you?

If you are just a hospitality person, I would love to hear your thoughts. Basically, this is beyond the right move for yelp (like they might be reading my blog). But this will cause some short term road bumps to sponsorship that could help to implode the young 2.0 company not prepared for the openness of the 3.0 semantic web that everyone keeps referencing.

This is a huge decision for Yelp, and certainly a long term one.

Whatever their internal reasoning, the short term effects will be very important to pay attention to. If you don’t hear of this in the next couple days, Yelp very well might be getting to big to fail. If their management is able to make responsible and far sighted decisions like this, there’s no reason it should.

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2 Responses to “Yelp Increasing Transparency”

  1. george mahaffey

    Michael,
    My understanding is that users can look “behind” the filter to see what was removed, so they can judge for themselves, not rely solely upon Yelp’s filter, but the filter is still there. So shill reviews and harsh neg reviews will still be filtered, and won’t “pop” up in the ratings and reviews shown.
    My feeling is that most users are not looking for exact info, just some helpful hints at the “best” place for sushi, hammers, toothpullers etc.
    Will most users take the time to pore over the filtered stuff? Probably not. Will businesses? Maybe, but who has the time to focus on doing this sort of deep earth drilling?

  2. Michael Hraba

    Solid point. But Tripadvisor and Yelp both admit the way users behave on their sites is surprising, and they look at far more reviews and pages than people might expect. Still… these things are behind an invisible wall, for sure – The link for the filtered reviews of the businesses is small, in light grey lettering, at the bottom of the page. You need to be looking for it, and even then you need to be patient. Once you click on that invisible link, they actually have added a “Captcha” program, which usually exists because they don’t want spammers to get in, but in this case I think it just prevents people from getting to the filtered reviews.

    I think the reason they don’t want you seeing those filtered reviews is that they actually are quite good, and legitimate. Yelp *technically* won’t filter negative or positive review so much as “reviews that violate terms of service”. As vague as that is, the filter really seems to just remove reviews randomly. I have been through dozens of restaurants with filtered reviews, and, with a tad of hyperbole, *EVERY* single review is legitimate in some form or another. At least, they are quite comparable to other existing reviews on the real biz page. It just seems so random.

    I have absolutely no idea what or how yelp filters.

    Look at Gary Danko’s filtered reviews, or COI, another popular restaurant in San Francisco (George I know you know this, but some others may not. =)). Another example is Incanto (I love Chris so much).

    If you start going into yelp and looking at these filtered reviews, it really, really doesn’t look like that filter works. It is markedly subjective to pull some of those out.

    Again… who has time to sort through that. I am sure that’s what Yelp is hoping. =)

    Still – in the end – they exist as available words that coincide with your brand, and can effect business. What’s worse is that so many of those reviews *ARE* legitimate, and it’s obvious. In that regard people could start believing the words behind that “wall”. If it’s not going to be obvious why they filtered a review, I feel that they should clear that filter and allow us to interact with every review, regardless. I rather respond to lousy, shill reviews and show how we rise above as a hotel and organization, than allow hidden slurs behind a partial wall speak to our credibility.

    But this is all so young, and the benchmark and best practices for the social media organizations don’t even exist yet, so how can we trust how to react as a consumer or business. I think your level headed approach is more efficient…. and it’s a pleasure to have you commenting on the blog. Your points are dead on… casual users won’t do it, and businesses will therefore forget about them fairly quickly.

    My concern isn’t so much whether people will read them or not, so much as will anyone, *EVER* answer *WHY* those reviews are filtered, because they look like real reviews to me.

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