What’s wrong with Yelp (and how to fix it)

I think I finally put my finger on it. I used to hate Yelp because the reviewers are so often unreasonably whiney. But hey, all reviewers are like that, right? Now I’ve come around. Yelp is a great resource. By digging into the reviews and using my judgment to filter out the jerks, I’ve found some great places: Ethiopian food, LASIK, and a decent haircut. But I still don’t like the whiny jerks. And now I know why. I used to work in food service, and I can tell you this: in the five years I waited tables, I was the worst server you could ever get, and also the best server you’ve ever had. Sometimes even both on the same day. It’s hard, it’s unpredictable, and sometimes: shit goes wrong.

You can’t properly review a restaurant (or service establishments in general) in just one visit. You go, you order one meal, you eat it, it’s great or it sucks, and the same is true for the service.

Here’s what I’d prefer. How about “Visit Reports” instead of “Reviews”?

You log in, you write about your most recent visit, including a star rating, and it gets attached and aggregated into your general review of the place.

I log in, search for Ethiopian food, click a restaurant, and there, as usual, is the list of reviews. But each review is actually the aggregated experience report of one particular user.

The best part is, now I can sort by things like descending number of visits, so if I want to favor users who are “regulars” instead of one-time tourists, I can do that.

Meanwhile, Yelp sees the amount of user-contributed content increase as users vie to log the most visit reports to their favorite places. And since Yelp has recently “Foursquared” their site with a geo-app, you could even highlight the number of “verified visits” each user has logged. This increases everybody’s credibility, and helps Yelp promote its mobile app.

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