Thursday, August 14, 2008

User Generated Content must stay that way



If the recent reports are true that http://www.yelp.com/ (the Web2.0 online city guide that allows user to review particular businesses), is offering to tamper with negative comments to sell adverts to advertisers.... then it casts a significant shadow over their authenticity and credibility.

It beggars belief if the claims of several business in the San Francisco area are true [more detail found here] . Mary Seaton, owner of the Soft Outlet in San Mateo, claims:

"I didn't receive a phone call from Yelp until I received a negative review," Seaton said. "A week after I received a negative review, a sales person contacted me and she said...'We noticed that you have some very positive reviews. We can push your negative reviews to the bottom, so that your positive reviews will come to the top.'"
This activity is clearly different from moderating your comments or any form of user prioritisation (e.g. my favourites, "was this useful?", etc.) and clearly runs against the whole idea of transparency and openness, key qualities for any company relying on user generated content for its business model.

You hope this is just the action of a single disillusioned employee....... and in no way linked to the allegations that Yelp have previously paid people to provide reviews.
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