September 26, 2007
Yelp Reviewed: Love it and Hate it == 2.5 stars
Category: User Generated Reviewer Community
So, I've been using Yelp for a while now. I use it regularly, but I'm finding it's increasingly annoying, and if it keeps increasing, I may not want to keep using it.
One of my favorite things is that when I'm driving or walking out somewhere, and need the number to a restaurant, I can google for "yelp restaurant-X city-X" and get it back on my phone screen, with the number as a clickable link, so I can just call by clicking. Faster and less expensive than calling 411, which I think on my phone bill is $2.98 and is really slow via Cingular/ATT.
Why I Love YELP
1. It's easy to review things there, add new businesses. They are very searchable in google. Just put in "yelp whatever-it-is" and it comes up to the top. And often, if you just search the entity on it's own in google, the entity comes up in the top three. It's nice to be able to have an effect on the business, especially if they have done something (good or bad) that needs to be documented for other's reference.
2. I also like restaurant reviews where people say what they liked and why, so that I can see if I'd like them.
3. I like browsing a topic or service type in a community. However, this works about half the time. Sometimes, I'm able to find the restaurant or store I couldn't think of the name for, right away. Other times, I've got browse-results that are all over the block I know something is one, and they have everything else but the thing I want. Once I google it, and get back to the Yelp page for that item I couldn't think of, i see Yelp has a gazillion reviews for that restaurant or whatever. And it's right there in the same locational block with the other entities I was just looking about before I had to get out, go to google, and then return to Yelp just to find the thing.
I think Yelp needs a serious search and discovery algorithm review.
But the idea of browsing a location and topic or service is fantastic when it works.
Why I Hate YELP
1. Their own internal search sucks. Half the time I search for things I know are there and even have sometimes reviewed, I don't get them. I've started leaving short reviews on places I need to find again so I can pivot on my own list of reviews.
Recommending again: a complete overhaul of the search and discovery algorithms.
2. Yelp's reviewers overall are a major downer. These people flounce around like they are on "happy-drugs" or in some fantasy tv-show they themselves are starring in, where they prattle on about some crap they experienced where somehow, however distantly, they associate with the entity they are reviewing. I don't know how this trend at Yelp got started, but there has got to be a way to develop a reviewer community that where each review doesn't have that tone in the reviews. I thought it was cute at first, but now they seem to have millions of these people running around with little balance for what you actually need in a review. It's over the top.
These flouncy-reviewers don't often say why something worked for them. They often just tell a personal story. Many times I've been convinced that something would be great, only to find out the entity I trusted due to the "happy people with no skepticism and lot's of personal stories" were just going on about something totally unrelated to the qualities of what they were reviewing.
When I review, I specifically take an opposite tone, review for specific acts and quality and say why, so that others can decide for themselves whether the product or service would work for them.
Recommendation: think about promoting reviews that tell why things worked by counting "useful" ratings more than "cool" or "funny." Also, could they pls add a "not useful" button to the bottom of reviews? That would help moderate this.
3. The emphasis in the Yelp community on "1st to review" is contributing to problem no. 2. Basically, Yelp reviewers get extra chits if they are first. I don't really care except I see more and more frivolous reviews just to get this status.
I have noticed on a number of occasions, for the products and services I either wanted to look up, or review myself, that the "1st to review" was totally bogus. They had clearly not used the service, often just
"seeing it from afar." To be specific, I noticed that a rental property company had a great review from someone who had never lived in any of the buildings managed by the company, never dealt with them in any way, and had totally made up stuff. Once I saw that instance, I started looking out for more of this, and have found a lot this sort of thing, with restaurants, services (and the associated products), other rental agencies, car repair shops... you name it.
Again, having a "not useful" button would really help us mod down the people who are just there to be first and add nothing to the actual solution Yelp is trying to solve.
As I said Yelp has it's uses:
1. reviewing something is satisfying if you have something useful to say
2. searching for things in google produces good Yelp reviews, and they have clickable phone numbers in my phone
3. browsing an "area" for some topic is great, when it works
However, the problems I outlined will soon make the service unusable if they take over. I think they need an algorithm review (and I hope they don't use the same ones for search and browse.. they need to be different and carefully crafted).
They also need to look at some of the community features to help temper this tone that the community has taken of writing personal stories that don't tell you much except about the person writing the review. That's potentially the most devastating thing that could happen to Yelp, if they don't keep it in check: being labeled as frivolous and silly, which translates to unuseful. For me, they are nearly crossing the line on that one. I like the service and hope they get it together and rein this in, or I'll start trying other services and abandon everything I've done at Yelp for a more reasonable and useful tone.
September 22, 2007
She's Geeky in One Month
Below is information on She's Geeky (http://www.shesgeeky.org). This will be a great unconference for women in tech. Register here.
I've been talking with a lot of great women who are planning to attend. Read below for info:
A Women's Tech (un)conference
October 22-23 in Mountain View, CA.
This event is designed to bring together women from a range of technology-focused disciplines who self identify as geeky. Our goal is to support skill exchange and learning between women working in diverse fields and to create a space for networking and to talk about issues faced by women in technology.
If you are a women coming or hope to come to the (un)conference, you could also talk about:
* what it means to you to be a geek?
* why you are excited about meeting with other women geeks?
* the skills you can offer others at the event
* the issues you hope we can talk about
If you can't make it we would love it if you could blog about it anyways.
You could comment on what you hope we can talk about the issues you think are alive or important to women in technology and the industry generally.
Please pass on information about the (un)conference to any other women who would enjoy attending, and contributing to, the event.
If you are planning on attending now is a great time to register before prices go up at the end of September there is a two step process
registering on the wiki & paying via paypal.
We are still looking for sponsors. If you or your company would like to contribute, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 16, 2007
ESnipe Snaps Up Nothing
eSnipe is a service that a friend of mine at Yahoo told me about. He loved it, so I tried it. The way it works is you give them your Ebay login, and an auction you'd like them to bid on for you a few seconds before the end of the auction. They put through the bid and mostly, with them I've won, until yesterday.
I've gone from a happy user on the first few transactions to an unhappy user. Not a great trend on their part. I think Ebay may be causing trouble for Esnipe (via anticompetitive behavior), but the reality is, I can't have Esnipe causing problems. I can't trust them to bid for me. Details below on the situation.
First, eSnipe lets you make three successful Ebay bids for free. Then, without really explicitly telling you, you can do three more, but Esnipe charges you 1% of the auction, on credit. Example, if something cost $100 on Ebay, they charge you $1.00 for 100 points in their system. It was a surprise when they stopped me from making a 7th purchase because they wanted money for "points" which I didn't understand at all, and they didn't do much to make clear what points were. The surprise was mostly due to the lack of notice on previous transactions, which I think they should have given. And then at the time of the 7th bid, when I needed to make the bid and run off to a meeting in a hurry, they wanted money. So I paid through PayPal, $10, and then they said they needed 7 days to put through the transaction, even though I know that PayPal notifies them immediately of the payment from me and I can't take the payment back.
UGG. That was so uncool. So I made another Esnipe account, and made the bid, and went on my way. But not without significant frustration and lack on information. They weren't helpful and the interface doesn't give you a lot of information about what's going on.
But the latest disaster happened yesterday. Far worse than the stupid payment fiasco. I put through a bid, and eSnipe confirmed on the page and in email that all was well. Then, for something I've tracked for 10 days on Ebay, I sat and watched as the item went for 30% of my top bid with Esnipe, to SOMEONE ELSE. Esnipe didn't put through the bid effectively.
I went to my account at eSnipe, which said "eBay weekly bidding limit" under status. WHA? Are you kidding?
I've had this Ebay account for years, and the Paypal account associated with it. I'm not a big fan of Paypal, in fact I think some of their procedures and behaviors are pretty ridiculous, but I do have a solid track record with both companies and a good history over several years.
So I ask eSnipe, what happened? I'm pretty annoyed that they've done this, and now made me lose the auction.
They respond with the following message:
eBay rejected this bid because you have "exceeded your weekly spending limits". This is a new security measure that eBay has added to their site. You can read the details on this by going to these eBay pages:
They will sometimes give this result if you are spending more than normal or your account has been inactive for a while and suddenly you are spending a lot, or have a fairly new account. Had you placed this bid directly, eBay would have prompted you to some verification process, but since Rovatron (eSnipe's system name.. like users even know what this is? I had to go read their FAQ to figure that one out...) can not answer questions for you, the bid was just rejected.
Um. Not true. I'm well within my normal Ebay use (about 10 a month, and this month so far, I've done 2 auctions, both of which I won and paid for on the spot). This is, according to the Ebay info, something that was instituted to keep new Ebay bidders in line, if they don't pay.
In the meantime, I use the Ebay interface to bid on another item a half our after the eSnipe bid fiasco, on something from the same seller. Which BTW is a seller I've purchase 5 things from over the past few months. Perfect transactions. And the bid was not at all rejected, and Ebay didn't ask for any verification.
So eSnipe writes back again:
eBay is the one who gave you this result of bidding limit and not eSnipe. I cannot explain to you why eBay is allowing bids to go in through their site directly and putting up the bidding limit notice on others. I can tell you that we are getting this notice which is why we are reporting it back to you.
Until you do the extra registration through eBay, your bids may continue to be rejected.
I reply: no way. I went to the link, which said these sorts of limits are put on new users (I'm in since 1998 as a regular customer of both EBay and Paypal), on users with unusually high bid rates out of sync with normal bid rates (I'm absolutely within my normal ranges), on users with low feedback scores (mine is quite high, with high recommendations), on users who need to submit a credit card to Paypal (PP has had credit card and checking info for me, consistently and unchanged -- other than expiration updates -- since 1998).
So what gives? I think Ebay is blocking randomly eSnipe transactions though I have no proof. And I think Esnipe probably knows or suspects this, but is taking bids anyway, with no notice to their users that they may fail, and causing their users to lose items (had they put through my bid on the items I tried for yesterday, there would have been no issue, I would have won well within my maximum bid, and won the auction. Damn!)
It may be anticompetitive, Ebay's actions, or something else. But the upshot is, I can't trust eSnipe anymore. I can't use them. Bummer, because the concept is great, and when it works it's great. But they don't have the interface, the documentation, the support emails or the bidding together. It's not just the bidding issue though that is significant. They can't tell me about their other issues and help me through them well at all. eSnipe has become high stress and unhelpful. And that's just not cool.
Update: a couple of people have suggested that I should share what I was buying: I had wanted a painting, and that's not something you can replace with something else, exactly. It happened to go for only 33 Euros, which is very reasonable, and so, you know, I was disappointed after getting my hopes up.
September 12, 2007
Thanks for the Surprise!
I've made the list of NxE's Fifty Most Influential Bloggers.
Thanks for selecting me!
One thing that didn't surprise me: there were many bloggers who were popular because they write about blogging, or making money on their blogs. Since blogging began, that's been a popular pasttime of blogwriters and the blogreadership seems to really enjoy it.
Some of the most popular posts at Napsterization have been examinations of old and new media, blogs in particular, and how the algorithms of search work for blog search systems, or how blogs game web-wide search.
September 11, 2007
Social Media User's Bill of Rights, Take 2
I've been thinking a lot over the past few days about the Social Media User's Bill of Rights I blogged about the other day.
I said then that I quibbled with the "ownership" model for user's data. That maybe it should read "co-ownership."
Well after thinking it through, in different scenarios, and talking with people at the Data Sharing Summit over the weekend, and a couple of our advisors, I've decided that it makes more sense for users to:
1. own their data, solely
2. give a non-exclusive license to sites they "partner" with when they put data at those sites.
3. be able to remove the data, to the extent the site can take it out (backup tapes are problematic)
4. part of the non-exclusive license to the sites needs to include that the sites can distribute the data (RSS feeds, etc) about their activities OR the sites need to have a way for the user to specify the lack of distribution of data or metadata, if the user chooses.
Web20, etc. (I still hate that term but I'm mellowing a bit) won't work unless we do this as a complete package, because users need, if they are using someone else's site, to be able to share data, make it searchable elsewhere, make it reusable and remixable, depending on the data. But they also need to know they have control over it. And sites like Dabble need to architect with this understanding.
For example, if I upload a video to Youtube or Photobucket, I can choose to make the video public, and from there to limit embeds elsewhere. I can remove my video as I please. In addition, I can ask Youtube or Photobucket to remove my account any time I want.
Anyway, I know this is a slight (maybe semantic) shift, but I think it matters, gives users more control, and makes the partnership between users and the sites that host functionality and activities more clear, more accountable, and more fair.
I think it's the right thing to do. And so I'm taking steps to make a slight change to the Dabble Privacy and Data policy to reflect this. It should be there shortly.
September 07, 2007
Social Media User's Bill of Rights
We publicly assert that all users of the social web are entitled to certain fundamental rights, specifically:
* Ownership of their own personal information, including:
o their own profile data
o the list of people they are connected to
o the activity stream of content they create;
* Control of whether and how such personal information is shared with others; and
* Freedom to grant persistent access to their personal information to trusted external sites.
Sites supporting these rights shall:
* Allow their users to syndicate their own profile data, their friends list, and the data that's shared with them via the service, using a persistent URL or API token and open data formats;
* Allow their users to syndicate their own stream of activity outside the site;
* Allow their users to link from their profile pages to external identifiers in a public way; and
* Allow their users to discover who else they know is also on their site, using the same external identifiers made available for lookup within the service.
My only quibble? I think the users should "co-own" so that there is no confusion that the sites we play on co-own a copy and so do we. And in some cases, depending on the TOU of the sites, when the data flows out, anyone else who reuses/remixes it can either co-own or have an open license.
But I still support it. Dabble's TOU has said these things from the beginning (co-ownership specified) and as we build out the one or two items on this list we don't yet have, we will follow the logic and make information available along these lines as well.
But overall, great work guys!
September 06, 2007
Apple Vacation Email Gone Mad
This past weekend I was gone for three days and decided (after past goading by others who said I really should use the vacation email system in my Mac Mail - and they are mac-heads so I figured they knew) to turn it on.
Well. I choose to only use it for my work email, and assumed it would be smart enough to:
1. send vacation email to any email arriving AFTER the thing was turned on
2. only send one per email address
3. no maillist replies and no mail in other folders (even if segregated during the period, should be touched -- which would include spam in the "junk" box)
What a disaster. People got a vacation email sent in reply to every email they'd ever sent me, including mail lists, spam, anything in any other box that I'd dragged over.
Not only did Mac Mail ignore the date, but it sent 5, or 10 or however many email I've exchanged with someone, back to them for messages that in some cases were years old.
I'm so sorry, if you got spammed. And if you didn't, well, you were lucky. All I can say is, what the hell is Apple thinking with this, and what were those people who told me to use it thinking? It's 2007.
This was all so amateurish circa 1997. I really couldn't believe it when I got home and saw what had happened.
I'll never use vacation email again. This is why I avoided it in the past. Because my experience with it from others has not been good. And now I'm one of those vaca spammers who are so annoying. Yuck.