WAIT. WHAT’S A ‘YELP’?
Yelp.com is a web site that does reviews of restaurants, services, doctors, etc. and aggregates them. It’s got a clean interface and generally tries to highlight the well done, detailed reviews and minimizing the bad, poorly written ones.
For the people that participate, it gives them a chance to either drool or vent on a business, and the site makes it possible for you to personalize your interface. For example, my reviews are all located at http://kurtsh.yelp.com. (That’s right – a vanity domain name for my reviews. It only took Facebook 5 years to do something similar and they don’t even give me my own subdomain.)
SO WHAT’S THE ELITE SQUAD?
Basically, for the people that contribute either a lot of detailed editorial content or a lot of in-depth reviews & descriptions (personally, I believe I probably fall into the latter category being that I’ve only got 80 some-odd reviews but they’re all ridiculously detailed… but I could be wrong) they have regional community managers online that read through stuff and occasionally ‘recognize’ these individuals by ‘knighting them’ with the label “member of the Yelp Elite Squad”.
What does it matter? Well, Yelp Elite Squad members have the dubious distinction of having an special logo/badge next to their name that reads, “Elite ‘09” signifying the recognition. These folks are also given Yelp branded clothing from what I understand and are invited to social events, funded and put on by Yelp itself in the local geography that you were nominated in.
All it all, it’s kinda like being deputized as an OpEd Editorial Contributor in an online newspaper as well as a big ol’ “Look-it-me everyone – I’m special.” And everyone likes a little recognition once and a while.
OKAY. AND SO… WHAT?
Here’s the thing I’ve been pondering: I’ve read things about the Yelp business model and to some degree it’s always sort of worried me a little. Basically, if I crap all over a business (which I do from time to time) Yelp may contact the business and say, “We can bury Kurt’s bad review if you pay us a fee.” This fee amounts to something in the thousands of dollars according to one business I frequent quite a bit.
You can see the dilemma. I understand that Yelp needs to make a penny and I don’t fault them at all for that, but I also understand that this is effectively weaponizing my opinion, which by Yelp’s usage policy, they can in fact do.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m extremely flattered that I’ve been recognized by the community managers in Los Angeles. And being that there’s no shortage of opinions here in Los Angeles, this is a really nice honor. I just kinda wonder how it is my opinion is being used when I’m not around.
BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY…
Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter much in the long run though.
Yelp is easily the most credible online opinion site when it comes to restaurants. Epinions, CitySearch, and even Chowhound just don’t come close. And when I think about it, being that I’ve written so much into Yelp already, my opinion’s being used in this fashion regardless of whether I’m part of the Elite Squad or not, ‘eh? Might as well attend a few parties as compensation for my labor. Never mind. Forget I said anything.
“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”