Is Yelp Just a Bastion of Pollyannas?

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Photo: Venture Beat

We’ve heard plenty of complaints about Yelp from the advertiser standpoint, but what about from users? A pie graph over at Venture Beat shows just how many Yelp restaurants get three- or four-star reviews. Venture Beat points out that the median review is 4.3 out of 5 stars and only 7 percent and 8 percent of people leave 1- or 2-star reviews, respectively — something that would seem to render the star system rather useless. All this means, counters Yelp, is that you should delve into the reviews themselves instead of going by the star system. Plus, Yelp is working on social-networking features that will let you interact with reviewers you trust.

Obviously, it’s not hard to weed past the obvious shills on Yelp. Just ignore all the reviews that claim a place is “a great addition to the neighborhood” (classic shill line); or that say, “I’m looking forward to seeing what Chef So-and-So does next” (probably the chef’s mother trying to encourage someone to give him a better gig); or that point out flaws that aren’t really flaws (“my one complaint is that our server was too friendly and attentive, but then again I’m an antisocial prick so maybe it was just me”); or that go into way more detail about a place than the average diner could possibly know (“the waitress told me that the chef grew up on an orchard in Vermont and won a Bearded Chef of the Year Award from the Unicorn Foundation and loves adopting limp kittens and is a super nice guy — I wish him luck!”). And of course, ignore reviews such as the one left for Dutch Kills two months before it opened (“Sasha Petraske has done it again as far as I'm concerned”!). If you can think of any other ways to spot a shill, or have seen some particularly egregious ones, tell us in the comments.