Before I dive into this... you should read this Wired article from a couple years ago about Yelp and some "fraud allegations."
Very short version is that Yelp was being accused (by many) of strong-arming small businesses into paying up to bury negative reviews and "favorite" positive ones to get a better overall review on the service.
Those are some pretty serious allegations for a site that is supposed to be user driven based on real experiences. Why bother having people post their reviews if you're not going to post them or be bribed into deleting/removing bad and promoting good?
Anyway, on to why this is now a post on my site...
I've never found a need for Yelp. The first time I ever even looked at it was when I was in San Francisco a couple years ago for work. Figured it might have some good info on food and such. To be honest, I didn't care for it. Didn't really find it that helpful for my own experience. And then the story above broke and I figured I didn't need to bother with it anyway! Even if the allegations were "untrue" ... they had to come from somewhere, right?
Where was I... oh ya, so last month Jen and I tried a new restaurant in Corning called Effin Texas. Supposed to be a Texas BBQ place. We basically had a terrible experience (and I've talked to a few others who had very similar or worse!). When I have a crappy experience somewhere, I want to tell people... and in this case, Yelp came to mind based on how popular it is with other people.
So I added Effin Texas to the site and added my (2/5 star) review. I was the first one to review it (they had only been open a week). Since then, I've added a few other reviews to the site for various things - bowling alleys to pizza places. Some good, some not so good. All them have been legitimate and honest experiences.
On a whim today I decided to check my profile and see if anyone thought my reviews were "useful." Well, in doing that, I saw the link to Effin Texas and wanted to read of some other experiences. See if they have improved. Shockingly, their review average was now 4.5 stars. And my review was no where to be seen. Turns out it had been "filtered."
I wasn't the only one. There are a total of 8 filtered reviews for this place. ALL of them are negative (most complain about them not allowing kids). There are only TWO visible reviews. Both positive. I don't know about you people... but this looks to me to be EXACTLY like that first article described at the top of the page. I'm not saying anyone paid anyone for anything in this situation.
But how can it be possible that their filter system magically filters ONLY the negative reviews for this place and leaves the good ones? I don't know. But I'm done with Yelp. Until someone can explain to me how the hell that works... I'm done.
Anything good or bad to say about a place, I'll share on foursquare. If you have a smartphone, they have an app for you. Even if you don't check in to places, the Explore feature is amazing - though it will be even more awesome if you do check in to places so it can learn what you like.