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Yelp To "Clarify" How Advertising Affects Listing 53

Posted by kdawson
from the former-lawsuit-is-an-ex-tort dept.
WrongSizeGlass writes "Ars Technica is reporting that Yelp is going to change some features in the wake of the class-action suit brought against it. Yelp has been accused of extortion; the Yelp co-founder denies all. The NY Times Bits blog has more details about the changes Yelp intends to make. According to Ars, the business that filed the lawsuit says that the newly announced changes do not address their original complaints at all."
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Yelp To "Clarify" How Advertising Affects Listing

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:26PM (#31756780)

    One of the mentioned changes --- giving a link to see the reviews that Yelp's filtered out --- addresses some of the concerns, by at least making it possible to research what Yelp is filtering / not filtering (assuming they really show all reviews in the unfiltered view). The other change the article mentions seems totally besides the point though: the fact that businesses who paid could choose a review to always appear first was never the problem, because that was up-front and part of the advertising package. Removing that feature doesn't even seem necessary.

    What the controversy is over is: did or didn't Yelp modify its filtering for particular entries based on whether they were advertisers, and did or didn't they get people (employees or associates) to add positive or negative reviews based on whether they were advertisers? And, separately from that, did their sales staff offer or threaten to do any of those things as part of the attempt to sell ads (and if they did, was that Yelp policy)?

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:26PM (#31756786)

    Here's the inherent problem. Even if Yelp's policy specifically denies anybody's targeting non-advertisers for unfairly bad profiles, the sales team is made of individuals upset they're not getting a commission from the guy who decided not to buy ads. So, what's going to stop the sales team from trashing the profile of the non-advertiser? This is impossible to prevent unless the site has a staff-free sales system, like Google does with AdWords.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google has a premium service with a dedicated account rep once you spend 10,000 a month for 3 months.

      • True, but they're not knocking on doors of small businesses who don't want them to visit. Also, Google doesn't allow just anybody to tweak PageRank anonymously.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Google doesn't allow just anybody to tweak PageRank anonymously.

          That we know of.

  • by startled (144833) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:13PM (#31757068)

    I searched the linked articles, and several articles linked from those, but couldn't find the word "clarify" in any of Yelp's statements. In fact, the only use I found was also in quotes, in the Ars article.

    It appears Ars has decided to substitute scare quotes for "commentary." Readers ought to be informed that the "journalist" may be misleading them, because in fact, Yelp's changes (as "reported" by Ars) do not aim to "clarify how advertising affects listing."

    (Please note that my last use of quotes was not intended to scare, but to set off language that came from another source. Sorry if I frightened anyone.)

  • Screw Yelp (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Snap E Tom (128447) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:20PM (#31757112)

    If they were on the up and up to begin with, they wouldn't have to "clarify" anything.

    Stop using Yelp. They have no credibility. Google Maps is now aggregating reviews of businesses. Use them instead.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)
      Google Maps can be bad too. Looked up a bank branch the other day, and the comments were that it did not exist anymore, and that it was horrible because people asked them if they wanted to open an account when they walked in. Went there anyway, and it did exist (of course). Just people pissed off for some reason wanting to trash the place online.

      Basically, don't trust ANY online reviews.
  • Yelp has been around for quite a while now. They turn up pretty highly listed when you search for businesses (at least in the Silicon Valley area). Their reviews are written by people like you and I who have visited these businesses and wish to let others know what their experiences were. When I'm trying to figure out where to eat I sometimes hit Google for suggestions and Yelp is always right there in the top listings.

    Do those Yelp reviews affect where I'm going to go (and take others)? You bet it does.

    • by dark_requiem (806308) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:35AM (#31757912)
      Except that what is, to you, a few false reviews in an ocean of useful ones is, to the businesses impacted by them, everything. It's all fine and well to say that most of the reviews you see on Yelp are legit, and it's just a few unfortunate businesses being unfairly targeted by shady salesfolk, but to the targeted businesses, that's their entire reputation being flushed down the tubes. If Yelp, or rouge members of it's sales staff, are targeting businesses which don't buy advertising, those businesses have every right and reason in the world to seek redress of their grievances.
    • by ZekoMal (1404259)
      So, as a simplification...

      If someone tells you that a place is bad, but then you find out that person lies 10% of the time, will you still believe them every time that they say a place is bad?

      That'd be like going to a place that has been known to randomly kick people in the balls. I mean, they don't always kick people in the balls, so why possibly believe they will ever kick you in the balls?

  • by t0qer (230538) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:39PM (#31757572) Homepage Journal

    So last year the business I work for started getting AstroTurf by a competing business. I work in an entertainment type venue at night, yadda yadda yadda, whatever...

    Our competitor basically said that we were a dull venue, but if folks wanted a non-dull venue to please try theirs. They and their gang would re-write their reviews on a weekly basis just so it would float to the top. To the yelp staff, these fake reviews were deemed credible because one of the ringleaders of this astroturfing had an "Elite" next to his name, I guess that makes him special.

    One of my regulars, who is also a yelp "Elite" responded by rewriting his review, but included a ton of links to youtube video of our venue that wasn't staged, showing it was lively. Yelp removed the review saying "It contained to many external links" after the other "Elite" douchebag and his buddies flagged it. (When google was thinking about buying yelp, I sent snail mail letters to the google executive staff with a printout of the review and an explanation. I put in big bold letters googles mission statement of "DO NO EVIL". I hope it changed their minds when it came to buying them out)

    Back on subject though. NOTHING got yelp to let up. While all this was happening, we got emails and phone calls from yelp salespeople *CONSTANTLY* promising this would all stop if we joined their ad program. We even tried their "Owner comments" but after a few weeks they banned us because we didn't comment according to *their* guidelines.

    One reviewer said, "Your waitress looks like the hooker from hamburger hill, me so horny". I think I said something equally offensive to him. Yelp holds business's at a double standard for how they can comment from the reviewers, it's complete bullshit. We got banned from commenting for responding the way our reviewer did? Why didn't they ban him?

    Eventually I got tired of it. I recruited friends to start photoshopping the heads of some of the astroturfers on transvestites, gay porn, whatever. We'd post this weekly on our website. We also started dropping dox on our website on slobbleman and the rest of his crew.

    Like magic, our sort order returned to normal. Yelp stopped calling us, the little shittards that astroturfing us stopped as well.

    I hate yelp. I hate slobbleham and his whole fucking extortion scheme. I have no doubt there will be some slashdotters that are "ELITES" that will have a problem with what I say, and what I saw but let me ask you this..

    Have you ever worked at a business that was being actively astroturfed by a competitor? Did yelp offer to genuinely help you or did they tell you paraphrasically "Pay us or go fuck yourself?"

    That's what they told me, paraphrasically. Fuck you slobbleman, I hope you choke on a dick.

    • Links, photos, uploads, web.archive.org, please

    • googles mission statement of "DO NO EVIL"

      OH PLEASE. That has never been Google's "mission statement". It appears in a small subsection in their company page and refers to their particular way of placing and identifying advertisements. That's all it's there for.

      Can we just finally kill the "Google Promises To Do No Evil" meme? It is not Google's corporate motto, nor do they pretend that it is. Somebody just spotted it there and blew it out of all proportion.

      Please?
      • by bipbop (1144919)

        People are just trying to needle Google for "being evil". Setting aside the minor semantic point of whether it was their "mission statement" (does anyone at a corporation ever care about their "mission statement" other than overpaid execs?), don't you think "they never promised they wouldn't be evil" is a pretty weak defense to "they're evil"?

        All this is a separate question from "are they evil", which I have no interest in weighing in on here.

  • from the former-lawsuit-is-an-ex-tort department

    ex-tort
    extort

    Yelp was accused of extortion! I get it!

    No, really, I liked that pun; keep up the good work.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:07AM (#31758302) Homepage

    The fundamental problem with user review sites is that they don't work unless the number of reviewers is large compared to the number of things reviewed. Yelp needs a statistically significant sample size per thing reviewed to work. Movies, yes. Resorts, probably. Major restaurants, maybe. Local plumbers, no. Joe's Plumbing will be reviewed by Joe, Joe's brother in law, Joe's plumbing supply house rep, and maybe a customer.

    That's bad enough, but Yelp sales reps "making you an offer you can't refuse" is worse. There are small businesses that live in terror of Yelp.

    Back in the 1990s, the SF Bay Area had a "rating service" which got into trouble for extortion. This was before the Web got big. They used window stickers in participating businesses, and heavily promoted their ratings. Their sales pitch to businesses was "your competitor has one of our stickers, shouldn't you buy one too?". They were shut down.

  • -- check the history of the Better Business Bureau, it's rating system, how it is financed, etc.

    Yelp is just more of the same of the worst part of the BBB, but on the web.

    Nothing new here, move along, move along.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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