A Word on the Urbanspoons of the World

Gotta be careful here. As a food blog, we are not too distant a cousin to sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon, which allow you to look for quick info on eateries in whatever location you are. It seems that most of the people who come to this site are looking (though often disappointed due to our recent inactivity) for some insight on places to go to eat and why they should or shouldn't go to them.

All well and good. I have used Yelp and Urbanspoon in other towns when I wasn't familiar with the food scene and wanted to get an idea of what to do. I encourage that. What I generally do is look at the general info (number of stars, number of dollar signs, cuisine type and hours) and then leave my mind open. If a place has no votes, I avoid it. If it has lots of votes and a consensus low opinion, I avoid it. If it is a place where several people have voted it above average and it otherwise fits what I'm looking for, it becomes a possibility to be considered.

Where I part ways with these sites, though, is the commentary. Blog comment boxes are often the last bastion for the anonymous flamer. The only people who comment (other than the spammers who are trying to sneak a link into your blog) are people that read you a lot, people that strongly agree with you, or people that think you're an idiot. The primary population of people that comment at Yelp and Urbanspoon are those that really, really liked a place, or those that really hated it during one visit. Neither of those groups really offers a great deal of insight, and (unlike our blog) you don't get to see their opinions rendered again and again to decide whether they merit your trust or not.

JLowe, for one, was recently upset by Yelp. He was reading about a coffee shop he loves on there and, while there were some opinions rendered which were well-reasoned and fair, there were some absolute kooks there as well, clearly flaming the place without any really objectively reasonable basis. I've read the same reviews, and while I'm generally less likely to take offense at some of these sorts of things, I saw the "outlandish-statement-for-the-sake-of-having-an-opinion" sort of things that troubled him most.

So, by all means, go to Urbanspoon or Yelp for a quick idea. If you're looking for insight and opinion you can trust, check us out, or any of the other blogs in our blogroll, all of whom seem to care about being honest, forthright, and real with you.

1 comment:

Brunch Box Food Cart said...

Boy, you said it. We wrote a post along the same lines on our own blogspot site (http://brunchboxpdx.blogspot.com/2010/03/quick-thought-on-being-kind-customer.html).
We even had a problem once of some angry musician-traveling-kids we'd asked to move (they were playing LOUD on the sidewalk in front of our cart, we couldn't here orders)--they used yelp and every other review site they could find to give us 1 star and say they had hair in their food and all kinds of untruths about us.
We really appreciate good reviews, get real sad about poor ones from people who've only been once and didn't give us a chance to fix whatever may have upset them. The best reviews of all though are the thoughtful ones from reasonable people. Golden nuggets.