Checking Yelp’s Work

Frequent diners bitch a lot about user-generated reviews. Almost as much, in fact, as they complain about the reviews written by professional food writers. But few people do anything about it, which is what makes this Yelp semi-takedown by Tim Carman such an interesting read.

Carman became intrigued by a steady flow of positive ink over on Yelp about a place called Sergio’s Ristorante Italiano. So what did he do? He drafted a well-known Italian chef with more than 20 years of kitchen experience to dine with him at the place and size it up.

This is what journalism is supposed to do: find a claim, be suspicious of that claim, put the claim to some sort of rigorous test, and then report the results, whether they're good, bad, or mixed.

The result in this case is a good old fashioned punch-up of a review, tempered in the comments by, you guessed it, more favorable, if qualified, assessments by Joe or Jane Everybody. ("I also suspect Mr. Carman and Claudio dined at Sergio's on a bad night.")

All in all, a worthwhile meditation on how opinion on a restaurant forms, and how fickle it can be. Perhaps not coincidentally (is the Zeitgeist shifting? is Zeitgeist even a word we can use anymore?), DailyFinance has a thought-provoking if overly black-and-white story about how the era of curated content is back as the shortcomings of the masses and the damage done by astroturfing become increasingly clear.

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