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Why Yelp is useless (Boston discussion on their "Top 100 places to eat!" article

Here's the article: http://officialblog.yelp.com/2014/02/...

I'll distill the Massachusetts portion of the list down for you:

32: Dave's Fresh Pasta, Somerville

To save you the trouble, here's the rest of the New England mentions:

60: Fisherman's Grill, Portland, ME
69: Los Andes Restaurant, Providence

I'm not posting this here to discuss the merits of these restaurants, I'm posting this here to remind folks that looking at the rankings on Yelp is a terrible way to find a good place to go for a nice dinner.

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  1. The recurring Eater Boston feature "Board Wrap" is also a useful reminder of the differences between the typical Boston Yelper and the typical Boston Chowhound: http://boston.eater.com/tags/board-wrap

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    4 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Some of those yelp reviews are hilarious. Intentional or not.

      1. re: C. Hamster

        " 20% of the Time I Find Scraps of Metal "

        1. re: Luther

          Best thing about that.....how do you get to 20%? That involves 5+ visits at least! How much metal do you gotta eat?

          1. re: devilham

            He was served part of a broken fryer basket but went back for more!

    2. "This method takes into account both star rating and number of reviews", so it's not surprising that Dave's Fresh Pasta is on the list, since it has a high number of Yelp users (507 reviews) compared to most Chowhound favorites (Ribelle - 55 reviews).

      Plus, I would rank Dave's in my top 10 for sandwich places, so it's not horrible advice.

      1. there were some interesting and cheap places to eat on the list in NYC and Chicago - at least. But the metric used was strange. I think that there is a Big Bang for buck issue for Yelpers in general.

        1. I find yelp useful at times - but I don't look at rankings or ratings as I don't find that kind of thing all that useful no matter what the subject - I tend to read some positive and some negative reviews to get a feeling for type of experience I might have. To me its usually obvious when someone is unfairly giving a bad review, or the opposite - which isn't all that much different than chowhound reviews imo. But usually more helpful when I want to know if the place is kid friendly, or has a particular item on the menu, types of beer served, or if it accepts credit cards, etc when there isn't any other info about the place on the internet. To me its just another tool at my disposal, not something to wholly base your judgement on. Nor do I just write it off because of some preconceived notion about the quality of its members and/or reviews.

          4 Replies
          1. re: LStaff

            Yelp is useful, but overall ratings and rankings are nearly worthless. One must filter out a lot of noise to get potentially good information. Things like: dissing a place because of service, restaurant week reviews, judging a place on crab rangoons, not getting into a popular place without a reservation, obvious schilling, etc. etc.

            1. re: junior coyote

              Not always. I wrote a negative review of a restaurant in Boston because I thought their service was poor without even stepping into the restaurant. Their reservation person was simply non responsive.

              1. re: BlueMagic

                Bad service often over shawdows good food.

                1. re: libertywharf

                  I do not dispute this. It is hard enough to get an idea about the food. So many of the comments on service I find be useless, I just throw them all out. I'm just trying to decent food. I'll form my own opinion on service when I get there

          2. What is most offensive is the sheer number of places in California. Why would you share a list that proves your method for creating it is seriously flawed? I know no list is perfect, but this is insane.

            www.hungrytommy.com

            1. I find that the rankings tend to have places I'd be happy to eat at. Right now the top 20 for Boston includes:
              Neptune Oyster
              ICOB
              Zo
              Toro
              El Pelon
              Drink
              Roast Beast
              L'Espalier
              Galeria Umberto
              No. 9 Park

              Looks pretty good to me. But some great restaurants don't rank and some mediocre ones do really well, so it's always a bit of a mystery. And for some reason certain types of restaurant (eg. Chinese) seem under represented in the rankings.

              1. One problem I've always had with Yelp is the tendency of reviewers there to offer a rating and a full review of a place where they've only had one meal, oftentimes a small one... A fellow will stop by some place for lunch, have a salad and a diet coke, and declare it the Worst Restaurant in Boston ("ZERO stars!!!!") because the croutons were weird and the waitress wasn't sufficiently geisha-like. The "one-chance" approach seems to apply to 40% of these reviews, and--as junior coyote mentioned--it's especially unfortunate when they're judging a Chinese place with a 400-item menu based on a plate of crab rangoons and a chicken lo mein. Another problem is the lack of consensus over what 3 stars means (ever noticed how 75% of the restaurants have a 3.5 star average?). For all movie critics, 3 stars out of 5 means "a good, solid movie," but for many Yelp users anything under 5 stars is a PTSD-inducing experience. Finally, don't even get me started on all the 2- and 1-star reviews where they're docking points *only* for bad "service" (admitting, in passing, that the food was actually good!)

                7 Replies
                1. re: eatinjeff

                  Totally agree, thats usually my problem with yelp.

                  Chopping a place because it dosent serve food that it is not meant to serve. "this thai restaurant has the worst XLB ever!!" and poor reviews based on one visit.

                  1. re: eatinjeff

                    I've often noticed that no matter what the quality of the restaurant's food, presentation, etc, there'll always be a stack of 1-star Yelp reviews that admit how much they loved their meal but are "punishing" the restaurant because the server didn't fill their water enough, looked at them funny, didn't get them menus instantly, forgot someone's soup, or spilled coffee on the table. Or perhaps they couldn't find convenient parking, they slipped on some ice on a nearby sidewalk, or had a headache during the meal. WORST MEAL EVER!

                    1. re: eatinjeff

                      Just goes to show you what kinds of idiots retailers have to deal with, day in and day out.

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        Those idiots are not just limited to yelp. Yelp reviews are often more in depth than chow. One can find reviews on yelp on places where the average chow foodie wouldn't be caught near. Minus the food trucks of course.

                        1. re: libertywharf

                          That raises an interesting question of whether hounds are being infiltrated by foodies. ;)

                      2. re: eatinjeff

                        There's a (IMO true) notion that most 5-star public rating systems end up meaning:

                        5 star: liked it
                        4 star: it was ok
                        1 star: hated it

                        And 2-3 stars are rarely used.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          There might be a bias inherent in the system. It is only worth it to review if you feel emotionally or passionately about the experience. Probably lots of people who feel meh about places (me included) don't bother writing about them.

                      3. Well..to be fair..this is based on Yelp data on a national scale not local.

                        As far as the comments by other posters that people on Yelp have a tendency to "punish" businesses or review after only one visit..I contend that the same thing probably happens on every review site to some extent.

                        You want to see a site where reviewers punish businesses? You should try Trip Advisor..lol

                        Sorry Chowhound..but I tend to use Yelp much more if I want to know about a new restaurant or one that I've not tried before. Chowhound can be a bit snobby and if I want to know about a new burger or pizza joint or pub then I head straight to yelp.

                        18 Replies
                        1. re: BlueMagic

                          The big difference is that Yelp's ratings are 'star' based, averaged out with no weight, so one person's well-written and thoughtful four-star review is cancelled out by someone else's one-star review that just says "I will never eat here 'cause I tried to order and they were closed!"

                          It takes more work to get a full picture of a businesses' strengths/weaknesses from Chowhound, but since the ratings and reviews on Yelp are so untrustworthy, it's often worth the extra time.

                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                            Copied and paste a recent 1 star yelp review of a Boston steak house...

                            "I admit i haven't been to the Boston location but since I'm irritated that they don't list their prices on their online menu I'm going to be another one of those crank yelp reviewers. Ah, i feel better having that off my chest (that and giving them 1 star). Seriously, why so coy about the dinero? Are you afraid I can't handle the truth? Yeah, I probably can't but that doesn't stop me from asking."

                            At least this particular reviewer admits to never having actually eaten in this restaurant. The review is based totally on the web site and that 1 star gets averaged into the overall rating. This is why, when using yelp, one must read the reviews (not just the star rating) and probably dismiss the reviewers with just a couple of reviews - for better or worse. I do use yelp quite a bit especially when I'm in a new, usually smaller, town. And I take it all with a grain of salt.

                            1. re: bobbert

                              ...But my point is this can ( and does) happen on any review site. Perhaps Yelp has a larger volume of nonsense reviews because it is so much bigger and more popular.
                              In any event, one has to know how to read reviews. As I have mentioned numerous times..I disregard all 1 star and 5 star reviews. I think you get a better picture that way.

                              1. re: BlueMagic

                                BlueMagic-

                                I agree with you what Yelp certainly allows for reviews on all aspects of a restaurant, and, if you want to, there's plenty of useful information you can get out of Yelp by approaching it certain ways (as you do by ignoring 1 and 5 star reviews).

                                My, and i think many of the posts in this thread, aren't about whether Yelp *can* offer useful information, but, rather, by presenting the aggregated star rating on top- which will be used by the bulk of readers as the main piece they read- that can be based on anything from a bad site and no visit to multiple visits, is yelp being *fair* to the restaurants/industries.

                                or, to put a finer point on it, could we even say yelp is being deceptive in putting this average out there as though it were based on anything close to equal sorts of experiences.

                                As you could probably guess from that comment, i find the aggregated star rating to be misleading and a disservice (for one reason or another given different biases) to pretty much any restaurant.

                                That said, I do still read yelp reviews myself for specific info within reviews, and i also agree that people should have a forum in which to complain about websites, etc. But that sort of thing, I think, ought to be covered in something like a 'tips' section, not presented as full review.

                                But just because you *can* get something useful out of Yelp doesn't mean Yelp is therefore *justified* in presenting information in a certain way if that presentation is generally uninformative or misleading.

                                1. re: valcfield

                                  Star Ratings go back to The Buckman Tavern days when candles were used. Star ratings have been and will be used forever.
                                  It's up to the reader to go thru the reviews just as we go thru most things during the day and decide which ones are most credible.

                                  1. re: libertywharf

                                    1. Having a star rating versus *aggregating* star ratings are entirely separate issues. I'm lodging a complaint against the aggregation, not the fact writers can rate via stars (though that said, i still think 1 off 'i didn't like the site' or 'i couldn't get in' should *not* be in a starred review, but that's a larger argument).

                                    2. No, I'm sorry, but Yelp, or any presenter of this information, is not absolved of any responsibility because it's the 'readers' job. Yes, readers should be smart. But-Yelp takes active positions on what kinds of reviews are allowable, the order in which they are presented, and any other number of factors. Many of its policies are admittedly self-centered to help Yelp out. It's perfectly fair to say they also *ought* to design their system to fairly portray the restaurants or businesses they cover. Yelp's literal business is trying to collect and present information to a consumer, to intimate that it is beyond critique because readers can 'choose' how to read it is, frankly, silly.

                                    1. re: libertywharf

                                      I agree that people should comb through reviews. I think the problem is that many don't bother to do so, and take star ratings as a kind of handy shorthand when they really shouldn't.

                                      Also, star ratings are often employed without any contextual nuance: are you rating the hot dog stand in the context of other hot dog stands, or as part of a single scale that also includes L'Espalier-level places?

                                      The result is a highly unreliable scale that carries far too much weight with consumers. This is why most professional reviewers hate them.

                                      http://mcsimjb.blogspot.com/

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        LOL, most professional reviewers hate Yelp because they don't think anyone who isn't a professional should express an opinion!

                                        Critics have been around for a long time, and they never change.

                                        Not only would I give up Chowhound instead of Yelp, I would give up professional reviews instead of Yelp. YMMV

                                        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                          I do find most pro reviews to be pretty useless although I do like folks like McSlim who attempt to remain anonymous during the process. I never trust that the reviewer isn't getting VIP treatment.

                                          1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                            I know a few pros, and none of them remotely feel that way. Me, I'm an active user of and contributor to Yelp, and use its reviews as I do all amateur reviews: by doing the legwork to figure out who's trustworthy.

                                            As I have often said, I do find Yelp's (and other sites') aggregate star ratings useless.

                                            Pro critics hate having to award stars because many readers do not understand the context issue, and are likelier to skip reading the full review if they see a star rating.

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        2. re: libertywharf

                                          Can we go back to the candle thing?

                                          "Methinks Pho Viets Bahn MI deserveth FOUR candles!

                                    2. re: bobbert

                                      This review could be flagged for removal, yelps rules mandate a reviewer actually having had gone to the place.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        Yelp also offers the opportunity for the business to respond within the customer review.

                                        1. re: BlueMagic

                                          Yes they do blue magic and I've had a few respond to my reviews. Yelp reviewers tend to give specific dates on their visits, something I like.

                                    3. re: BlueMagic

                                      Yes, Blue Magic I tend to agree. I get the impression that chowhound reviewers get to these places within six months where on tripadvisor the reviewers never stay at the hotels of which they recommend.

                                      1. re: BlueMagic

                                        Well, to be fair, you missed the entire reason of Chowhound's existence, as I understood it. You know nothing of place and heard nothing about it? Then you go there and find out for yourself. Doing a search on any internet message board is not being a "hound" by any definition, literal or figurative. Don't whine about the fact other people haven't written it up. See for yourself!

                                        I came very close the other day of posting a review on Yelp about brunch at Beacon Hill Bistro (still excellent). And it would have been factually accurate! But very wrong: "DC and I came for brunch today. I ordered a meat lovers pizza. They told me they didn't have any pizza. ONE STAR" Most of the reviews on Yelp are like this.

                                        1. re: Alcachofa

                                          That's pretty obviously untrue. The majority of reviews on Yelp are 4 or 5 stars.

                                          I do enjoy reading the 9 (out of 814) 1 Star reviews of Per Se on Yelp:

                                          "The food is tasteless, bland, and genuinely unappealing. A Swanson's TV dinner from a microwave would be a considerable step up. They should add McDonald's to the menu (burgers, fries and shakes) so that guests will have something to eat."

                                      2. When considering a new restaurant to visit, I usually always go to Yelp. I almost never read the reviews. I like to look at the pictures.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Bellachefa

                                          The thing that bugs me most on Yelp is when reviews sound like they have been written by a Valley girl (regardless of gender).

                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                            Valley girls eat out too. I never see chowhound mentioned on yelp.

                                            1. re: libertywharf

                                              Actually, Chowhound does come up on Yelp occasionally. Their stereotype of Chowhounds is "stuffy old snobs", like ours of them is "sub-literate, inexperienced yobs".

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com

                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                That seems to be the description of many hounders of other chowhounders with a different opinion

                                                1. re: libertywharf

                                                  I think the moderators do a good job at managing intramural incivility here.

                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                            2. re: Bob Dobalina

                                              You've clearly never read any of my reviews :-)

                                          2. LOL, pretty snooty, some of you Boston Chowhounds!

                                            Actually, I'm an ex-Boston Chowhound (for almost 10 years), and to be honest, if I had to give up one of the two, Chowhound or Yelp, I'd give up Chowhound (fortunately, it's not a choice we have to make).

                                            Chowhound is much less active, covers very few cities in any depth, and tends to talk about the same favorite restaurants over and over. Unfortunately, opinionated posters (who me?) also inadvertantly discourage the more timid from expressing their opinions in public, which obviously doesn't happen on Yelp.

                                            Chowhound's greatest value comes from being able to ask specific questions (Yelp's discussion boards are pretty useless).

                                            In contrast, Yelp's value comes from the often huge number of opinions that many times include information that one doesn't find in the smaller number of Chowhound reviews (or even in professional reviews).

                                            If you spend much time on Yelp you will quickly realize that the overall star rating for a restaurant is not what you should be paying attention too (although it is rare for a good restaurant to have a poor star rating, the rankings are only of limited value for relative comparisons, as noted in this thread). You actually need to read the reviews and draw conclusions from them (and of course discount the ones that deserve to be discounted). It's no different than reading reviews of a blender or GPS on Amazon (and would your really buy something without reading them?). If you do that, you can glean a lot of valuable information.

                                            I travel a lot, and I've discovered more cool little places to try on Yelp, than I ever have on Chowhound, even though I often post requests for suggestions. Suggestions tend to be of less value without the reviews to consider. But both approaches are valuable.

                                            One other point: it is interesting to read several comments above about how Yelp reviews are useless because they are often based on single visits. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me for two reasons.

                                            One, the value of a large number of independent reviews is that they obviate the need for a single reviewer to visit multiple times.

                                            Two, personally (but this is probably true of the vast majority of consumers), if I don't like a place on the first try, I rarely go back a second time (OK, sometimes I'm a glutton for punishment, or I'm hungry and there's nowhere else close by to go).

                                            I've never understood the excuse of "having a bad night". Are you kidding me? No wonder so many restaurants go out of business. Consistency is the one of the most important thing in a service industry. It's a tough world out there, and every time you screw up you risk loosing customers. That is particularly true in our socially networked world.

                                            And what am I, a professional restaurant critic that has to try everything on the menu twice before I can express my opinion? If a place has a "bad night", why risk my money and precious time a second time?

                                            It's one and done with me. There are plenty of other places to try.

                                            Anyway, don't be so negative on Yelp, it isn't competing with Chowhound. Yelpers are cool too (I've met some great people there), and it's just a different resource that has its own unique value proposition.

                                            [As an aside, it's interesting to occasionally come back to the Boston board and see what has been happening in the 4 years I've been gone. A lot apparently, since I don't recognize many of the hot restaurant names anymore! I keep telling everyone in Philly that the best burger in the world is at Craigie on Main (or Speed's the best dog), but for some reason they refuse to believe me. LOL But it's good to see a lot of the same board members, some of whom I met back in the day. Actually, I've forgotten what my handle was back then!]

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. Repeating an old trope: trust individuals, not the faceless masses. Aggregate star ratings are particularly useless to me, given that many people from whom I'd never want to take restaurant advice have their opinions rolled up in them.

                                              Yelp is no different from any other amateur review site in this respect. It does look like the average age is lower there than at some sites, and I expect I won't shock anyone with the assertion that younger folks don't always have the greatest breadth of experience or sense of context about a restaurant, cuisine, and scene.

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                Actually yelp often has faces to its reviews. People put their personal pictures up and pictures of the places they review.
                                                I have many pictures of the places I review. Less is often more and yelp reviews are targeted to one place, where other sites give a long endless list of places to eat for someone in Boston on a short weekend.

                                                1. re: libertywharf

                                                  "Real People, Real Reviews" - is utter and complete BS. Back when I used Yelp heavily people would give me grief as I had an obviously fake picture & name, yet my reviews were sincere. This was cited as a reason I couldn't be elite (the horror!). However, all I had to do was put a non-obviously fake picture up and no one would have been the wiser.

                                                  The moral? Just because there is a picture there doesn't mean squat.

                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                    I've got real pictures with my reviews on yelp. Sure I've run across questionable reviews there. I have on twitter as well and most sites I visit. I tend not to make waves over them any longer.
                                                    But I can tell the amateur photographer and those are the pictures which give credibility to the review.

                                                    1. re: libertywharf

                                                      But I would have no idea if that is really your picture or not, so why does it matter?

                                                      It'd take someone 0.2 seconds to find a believable picture online.

                                              2. I would disagree that Yelp is useless on the whole. I think Yelp has its uses, while obviously not being a perfect guide to finding good food.

                                                I find it most useful as a starting point to find something good in an area I am less familiar with. I like to use the "Search Nearby" function to give me the names of some places within a certain distance and then I can independently look those places up. While I am not blindly following a 4-star review, I still get some use out of their mapping features.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: ebone

                                                  Does the "search nearby" feature still exist? I couldn't find it after they redesigned the site about a month ago.

                                                  1. re: Luther

                                                    I also haven't found that bit of functionality since the switcharoo.

                                                    I'll admit that I'm one of those people who normally bitches and moans at a site redesign anyways, but it's been a few weeks and most of the things I actually use the site for I can no longer find.

                                                    1. re: Luther

                                                      They did change it a bit, I think. I am not a power user by any stretch, but I think now you actually have to be in the location to search around you. Which is less useful if you are trying to research ahead of time.

                                                  2. I think Yelp need to do a better job of screening people who are putting up reviews with Q&A. That way, they might be able to delete the fake ones who are competitors vs. the honest ones with good or bad reviews. They probably should ask and verify the phone number and/or email address. The writer really should describe the exact date of the event, time frame, their expectation and what experiences they encountered, and who they got in contact with to make it a good or bad time on that day.

                                                    For some reason, I myself can not get into YELP website at all. It seems my server or IP address is NOT allowed for some reason. I did asked Comcast to help me change the IP address, but they say they can not do it.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: SantaClaraCounty

                                                      Exact date?

                                                      Perhaps it is just me but I only give weight to a review if it is clear that it comes from multiple (ideally more than several) visits. I don't know about you, but I couldn't tell you the exact dates of the last 10 times I went somewhere.

                                                      As far as I'm concerned, reviews detailing a single visit are close to useless - and part of the reason I dislike yelp.

                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                        Yelp is still useful to me, but I think it has seriously gone downhill.

                                                        Way too many first time reviewers who are venting after being kicked out of some place even though they swear they weren't drunk. Way too many first time reviewers writing about their own businesses. And a lot of really bad writers. If you want to see an overabundance of cliches and hyperbole, you'll find them there.

                                                        None the less, I still write occasional reviews and read them, but you are correct; make sure you look at the dates, the issue of a single visit and whether the writer is a dedicated Yelper or just venting.

                                                        1. re: mvi

                                                          I dislike Yelp but I still use it. At least in the local area I've developed over the years a pretty solid list of the people who I actually give a crap what they have to say. And in general I like to think that my mental spam filter is extremely strong. Between the two I can skim through the reviews pretty quickly and get some signal.

                                                          The main problem with Yelp reviews is basically exactly what you said - and I'd add in as an extension not just single visits but single visits that shouldn't count and/or need disclaimer (e.g. brunch only, resto week only, bar only, etc). Yeah sure, it matters if a place has crappy brunch, but I don't give a crap if I'm going there for dinner.

                                                          Add in the random venting, the personal stories (which has gotten better now that the elite crowd is less active in a groupthink sense) of who they were with and what they were doing before/after, etc ... there's a lot of dumb reviews there.

                                                          But all that said, it's still useful to suss out what's around me and a vague idea of what to expect. It makes a good compliment to CH and other such sites.

                                                      2. re: SantaClaraCounty

                                                        I seldom see exact dates listed here. Many reviews on yelp do give dates and specifics.
                                                        On yelp it's easy to pick the people I'm interested in. It's an easier format to see what's going on across the country.

                                                        1. re: libertywharf

                                                          You may not see dates, but the time stamp of the post would normally be indicative at least approximately of when the OP might of gone to a location....not perfect mind you, but at least indicative.

                                                      3. I’m not going to give any of my time to a site that will accept money to hide negative reviews or highlight positive reviews, and that’s the _kindest_ interpretation of what Yelp does (unapologetically).

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: enhF94

                                                          They don't actually do that. People have alleged that they do, but as we all know, we shouldn't believe everything we read on the Internet.

                                                          What actually happens is:

                                                          A new restaurant opens, and a Yelp page is created by someone (I go to a lot of restaurant opening nights, so I've created quite a few). People start to post reviews. A Yelp salesman calls the new restaurant, but the restaurant turns them down. Eventually the Yelp filter kicks in (new restaurants are ignored by the filter for a while), and it relegates questionable reviews to the "you have to click one more button to see them" category. These are often one-off 5-star reviews from friends of the restaurant who have never posted on Yelp before, and never will again. Restaurant owner correlates turning down Yelp salesperson with all his 5-star reviews disappearing, even though these are unrelated events. Owner complains to everyone, and eventually anecdote is repeated by professional blogger who never learned what real journalism is about. Repeat ad infinitum...

                                                          [However, I don't doubt that there are Yelp salespeople who say or imply things that are not true in order to improve their chances of making a sale. This is a real problem in any industry where salespeople are incentivized based on how much they sell. The temptation to break the rules is considerable. I actually work for a company that had such a problem with this, that we've recently removed all sales-based incentives for salespeople. Of course, how do you then reward performance? There is a reason why the proverbial "car salesman" is a cliche.]

                                                        2. I do both and I'll say that Yelpers don't care about Chowhounders on a personal level nearly as much as you guys obsess about Yelpers.

                                                          Chowhound is for the deep intel, Yelp is for the big dragnet. It's pretty simple. This is a real pointless discussion.

                                                          Chowhound the site hasn't changed in decades, it's basically a bulletin board. Yelp is at least a real web app. They add features. They have mobile apps, whoa...

                                                          18 Replies
                                                          1. re: tatsu

                                                            And their mobile app is so awful that the I never use it, and then in safari I tell it to give me the full site.

                                                            Granted the recent UI change to the full site sucks too.

                                                            "Chowhound the site hasn't changed in decades" - you might have missed the wailing and gnashing of teeth a couple of years ago.

                                                            1. re: jgg13

                                                              Well, the site changed at least twice in the last 10 years, but I see tatsu's point about how there are very scant new "features" aside from attaching photos to a post, or seeing a list of new activity on threads you've used.

                                                              1. re: Luther

                                                                I know, I was being snarky. It's just that his complaint sounded like the sort of progress for progress' sake that often comes up in website discussions. My absolute favorite websites are as simple as can be (e.g. hacker news). Less is often more as far as I'm concerned.

                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                  I'm a pretty practical guy and just switched over from my BlackBerry to iPhone last November. Even on my BlackBerry, I used the Yelp app a lot because it has GPS and I could quickly see my options. It's very useful. On my iPhone, it works much faster and more reliably of course. Who has time to punch up "chow.chowhound dot com / group / bulletin/ #18" or whatever for manhattan and enter search terms? Chowhound is ridiculously behind the times. It's truly the users who make it valuable, whereas Yelp is very well executed platform.

                                                                  1. re: tatsu

                                                                    I also don't look up stuff on CH on the fly, that's not what it is intended to do.

                                                                    But we're obviously going to disagree on a fundamental level. I think Yelp's mobile app blows and is borderline useless. I've never once managed to find someplace that I didn't already know about. And even when I look a place up in the mobile app, the reviews are 10x harder to use than on the normal website - not much in the way of sorting & filtering options and I'm stuck using their craptacular algorithm for ordering of the reviews. I already have a dim view of the quality of their reviews, this just makes it worse.

                                                                    Where you do have a point is that something which tells you what's nearby is a different use case than a discussion board. I don't know why you think that a discussion board not having location functions is "ridiculously behind the times" though. The expected functionality is fairly orthogonal.

                                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                                      I guess you don't get around much? What if you were in a another city that you don't know well? There is no way the Yelp app "blows". You click $ or $$, Open Now, choose a distance and a sort order, and blam, some choices. Sometimes I will cross reference with CH if I have time, but that's pretty unusual. If you want a suggestion on CH for say, Tokyo, you have to do it weeks in advance. You make a new thread, deal with snarky replies, etc. Who has time for this?

                                                                      Just like CH, I have a few users whose taste on Yelp I find similar. CH complain about Yelpers, but guess what, there are some good reviewers there. You guys just haven't taken the time to find them, but you chose instead to stay here. I don't like everyone's taste here, although it's closer on the whole than the Yelp aggregate. We've all gotten some "bum steers" once in a while, and we all bitch and moan on threads when we do. Most CH'ers are just super finicky that's all. Average Yelpers are satisfied with a good burger, so what?

                                                                      The thing is, Yelp has data and ways of presenting it better than CH does. CH has a bunch of text. Unless you are totally into the forums, CH is obtuse and will not be gaining users I'm afraid. They could do something with all this text but they don't. They could publish city guides, curate the stuff, but they don't do anything. It's not just a lack of engineering, it's a lack of ambition.

                                                                      1. re: tatsu

                                                                        Also the way to use Yelp is to have friends and follow reviewers you like. That way their reviews pop up when you click a restaurant. I have a distinct feeling most CH'ers don't get this. I think it's just a social media un-savvy group here for the most part. I have something like 650-700 friends on Yelp, not all of them I agree on with food, and "follow" like 25 or so.

                                                                        You can't even search a certain user's opinion on a certain place on CH. Yes, it's ridiculous, it's 1995 in here.

                                                                        1. re: tatsu

                                                                          Even if you don't go that deep into Yelp, there's good value there. There's lotsa pics which can be highly informative. It's a particularly good compass when you're in the dense jungle of an ethnic neighbourhood of another city and haven't done the homework. A quick scan of reviews and pictures, it's easy to pick up on the patterns that tell you where to go for gamjatang and where to go for sundubu. You'd have to slog your way to those answers on CH but would probably be rewarded with a more informed strategy.

                                                                          1. re: Nab

                                                                            I do really like the pictures - as they say a picture can be worth a thousand words.

                                                                        2. re: tatsu

                                                                          Generally I pre-research a list of places I'm interested in going. And yes, I usually do that well in advance because that is the type of anal nerd I am.

                                                                          When I use the app on the fly like that, I find that there's far too much wheat/chaff separation and since I can't easily sort/search the reviews like I would in the main webapp that the reviews are useless for said separation. I never said that yelp didn't have good reviewers, in fact I said that I keep track of the people who I do care about.

                                                                          My point re reviews is that I find the average post here to be more reliable than the average review on Yelp - by far. That's not to say that the error bars on both are quite large.

                                                                          And on your last paragraph, I still think that you don't seem to understand that a discussion board can simply be a discussion board. Is Hacker News "behind the times" because it's simply a discussion board? No, for the subject matter it covers it is arguably the *most* relevant website around.

                                                                          One of my beefs w/ Yelp has always been that they tried to amalgamate multiple types of websites into one, and in ways that weren't (IMO) always successful. For instance their Talk portion being separate from main entity pages. As I mentioned above, yes - these are somewhat orthogonal in that discussion about a place (or cuisine or whatever) will by nature be more freeform. Instead what happened was that the Talk boards really just became a random hangout for folks (and in the earlier days of Yelp Boston mainly just the playground of the local Elite, patting themselves on their collective backs) and almost not at all about reviews, locations, etc. Hey, that's fine - but it also means that Talk is meaningless in terms of Yelp's main content. In a lot of ways, it was kinda like the Yahoo! or C++ of the review world - mashing together every idea under the sun and hoping that some of it sticks.

                                                                          Chow has kinda tried to do the same thing but thankfully less successfully than Yelp. I *only* use CH for the boards, and would raise an eyebrow at someone who tried to use it for more than that.

                                                                          "It's not just a lack of engineering, it's a lack of ambition"

                                                                          Or perhaps that's just not what they want to do with the site?

                                                                          1. re: jgg13

                                                                            Hacker News isn't an archive of data like CH is. It's a newsfeed. It's functionality is fine for its purpose and it's not a good analogy to me.

                                                                            I guess you are satisfied with CH the way it is. I am not. I have my complaints about Yelp, but it's pretty clear what you are getting and how to get it. Also, they improve over time. They value user feedback. They engineer new features, like letting business owners respond to reviews, when people like myself lobbied for it.

                                                                            CH hasn't done anything in 20 years. The look and feel, primitive photo upload, and the ability to collapse already viewed posts. They spent more time deleting posts than improving. But maybe CH has got it right, because it seems most of the users don't like change that much.

                                                                            1. re: tatsu

                                                                              To put what I'm getting at - I don't think that every type of forum of information *needs* to change. Some things are what they are. This is a message board, I don't see why there is a need to innovate. I disagree that HN is radically different than CH - in both cases they're message boards where one can discuss stuff and in both cases if one chooses to they could dig up old conversations. I don't see CH as being a site good for digging up 8 year old conversations - much like the tech world, restaurant information isn't particularly useful after a short period of time.

                                                                              One of my largest gripes with the conventional wisdom in the webdev world is the constant need to add functionality & features. I don't see why. Admittedly I come from the older unix school where tools were intended to be good at one thing and one thing only, and then one used multiple tools. I like that approach, and I think that CH is very good at what it does and it sucks at other stuff.

                                                                              What I'm getting at w/ Yelp is that I think it does one thing about as well as it can (user reviews - my complaints about yelp reviews in particular are complaints I have about user reviews in general) but has all kinds of other features that simply don't work particularly well and in particular don't work well *together*, and I don't see why you think that's a model to advocate.

                                                                              1. re: jgg13

                                                                                I disagree, people come on here all the time asking about everything from obscure desserts to things they ate 40 years ago as kids but can no longer find. Chowhound is a bunch of boards but that doesn't mean it should be. The content could be organized but CH doesn't care to. Just because you think it's fine doesn't mean that's the way it should be.

                                                                                And that's really the dig Yelpers have against CH'ers. That we are stuck in our ways, happy with our flip phones and old-timer discussions and snarky as get out. Us Yelpers (yes I am well known there) may not be food-centric all the time, but yes it is a social thing too. Does enhance the dining experience sometimes however.

                                                                                Let's say they both have value and leave it at that. It would be harder to find good places without either.

                                                                                I'm young but had internet before the web. I was active on alt.food netnews. I had a chowhound account in the 90's or 2000's. I still found great places to eat, but yelp and chowhound has expanded my reach.

                                                                                You sound like a sys admin who is used to using tools and adapting to them. I am too, but also do web dev and iOS dev. 99.9% of people do not want to make workarounds. They want to press search and have answers.

                                                                                It's just a shame there is tremendous content here that is being wasted.

                                                                                1. re: tatsu

                                                                                  I'm surprised the mods haven't at least moved this thread, but what the hay.

                                                                                  Like you, I predate the web and remember when e.g. Mosaic came out. Like you, that makes me less old than one would think (though it's getting up there, sadly). Like you, I'm a long time Yelp member, starting in 2006 or 2007 I believe although I don't really have the time to hang out over there anymore, but you're likely to recognize the name were I to tell you. I intentionally keep the two personas separate though. Like you I've been using CH for a long time under a few different monikers. I believe starting around 2000 or 2001.

                                                                                  I'll just be very clear about what I'm getting at, since you seem to thing I have a "hang up" about yelp.

                                                                                  I think that as a review site, Yelp is a good one. That includes all of the warts and good parts of a review site. I think that its attempts to be something more are generally failures. I might diss the reviews, but I find most reviews on most review sites to be crappy - that doesn't make a review site itself useless. I use review sites all the time.

                                                                                  I think that as a discussion board about food, CH is a good one. That includes all of the warts and good parts of a discussion board. I think that Chow's attempts to make it into something more are abject failures. Personally I prefer to spend my time on discussion boards as I find them to be more dynamic. I don't have time to hang around both places so here I am.

                                                                                  I don't understand your innate desire to transform functionality into something which it is not. I also do not find Yelp's mobile app to be particularly useful, it has never actually helped me out any time that I've used it although admittedly part of that is how I use a review site. Like I said, I need to be able to read tons of reviews and form opinions on the reviewers themselves and the mobile app makes that difficult. My initial objection was that you seemed to be taking the stance of change for change's sake and a need to 'stay modern', which is something which I have disdain for in the webdev world in general.

                                                                                2. re: jgg13

                                                                                  Also, it is just untrue that people do not dig up 8 year old info. Ancient threads are routinely resurrected here. Hell when I first rejoined, I asked about Jim Kelly from Rauxa because I missed his olives. He happened to sign on that very night and replied, amazeballs. This is like plus ten years!

                                                                                  So it is just not true what you say, and finally, I really think you simply have a hangup about yelp. Sorry if that offends, but saying some app "blows" when it clearly works on some level, well that is not reasonable.

                                                                                  I'm not advocating anything except improve, it's friggin easy, it's a website, it's not like losing 20 pounds or asking Putin to get out the Ukraine. It can be done! Like, healthcare.gov works, right?

                                                                                  1. re: tatsu

                                                                                    I didn't say that people don't use it that way. I said "I don't see CH as being a site good for digging up 8 year old conversations - much like the tech world, restaurant information isn't particularly useful after a short period of time"

                                                                                    Yes, some information will still be valid 8 years later. Much of it will not be.

                                                                            2. re: tatsu

                                                                              There's definitely a barrier to entry with CH. My husband finds it useless and turns to me if he wants to know something about a new restaurant. I've done my time- I feel I can navigate and recognize enough names to get really good info out of the Boston board and most places we travel. However... I don't find I have the time or energy to duplicate this for another forum. So, who wants to share some of their yelpers that they follow? Would that be uncool?

                                                                              1. re: Parsnipity

                                                                                I dunno that is kinda creepy. But MC and I are there. There are a few of us that play on both teams. Heck I have a friend that was manager for citysearch and urbanspoon.

                                                                                CH'ers have to realize, we ain't the pinnacle of taste here. There is an "anti-snob snobbery" against us. We talk funny. We use old acronyms Yelpers wouldn't even recognize like AFAIK. They use things like SMH, do you know that one?

                                                                                It's like North Korea vs South Korea. The north froze in time, their language and everything, while the south become Seoul.

                                                                                This increasing divide freaks me out. Sometime I see Yelpers who say they lurk at my posts here, they don't even have accounts. They are watching us and are doing the whole SMH thing. Believe me, they think less of us than we of them, but they don't lose any sleep about it. But man CH'ers love to grumble about Yelp. They love it more than Greek frickin yogurt. Might as well start moaning about smartphones and telling kids to get off the lawn. Oh wait, we already do.

                                                                2. I briefly used Yelp... And felt like it was over run by folks who use it like "Complainbook"...

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: CaliforniaJoseph

                                                                    Chowhound has deteriorated significantly in the last few years. It is endlessly repetitive, full of "list posters", posters who clearly write about places they haven't been, posters who rarely answer the asked question, posters who send people looking for a place near Copley to Cambridge and Concord, etc. Whatever may once have made Chowhound more intimate and informative than Yelp is largely gone. I read for the handful of posters whose opinions I have found reliable. I don't bother with Yelp at all. But really, I think those of you who see a "huge" difference are delusional.

                                                                    1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                      That is a dark assessment, but I have to say I've had a very different experience on CH. Just in the last few months, for example, I...

                                                                      -Asked about the current whereabouts of the owner of the shuttered (and far from high-profile) Thailand Café, and got a response tracking him to the southern suburbs within 48 hours (I doubt a private investigator could have done it faster!)

                                                                      -Asked about the Chinese lettering on the sign for the forthcoming Dumpling House restaurant in Cambridge and got a proper translation within a few hours, followed up in the weeks to come by updates on its projected opening date (info which was not available anywhere else online)

                                                                      -Asked for recommendations on delivery pizza near Cambridge and got 10-15 leads within two days, many of them personally tailored to the details in my follow-up comments

                                                                      -Asked the board what their favorite brand of store-bought Szechuan bean paste/chili paste was and got something like 5 different useful leads, with some even including pictures

                                                                      -Whimsically asked the board about the weirdest desserts they've even in Boston and got some 20-30 responses full of funny and unusual desserts

                                                                      ...And this is just as a sporadic user, usually posting once a week or less. And that's not to mention all the good restaurants and dishes I've gotten leads on just by lurking!

                                                                      So I have to say this website has been really fantastic for me, and I've been batting 100% as an "OP." Just my experience, YMMV...!

                                                                      1. re: eatinjeff

                                                                        The Boston thread is very active, one of the most I bet.

                                                                        Does anyone have this bug when they click "Reply" the text box opens, but there is no Reply button? Drives me nuts.

                                                                      2. re: teezeetoo

                                                                        You definitely hit on a lot of my pet peeves with posts gone awry (though you've left out my personal disfavorite "that would be so much easier to just make at home!"), but I probably have a more positive impression as to the ratio of helpful-to-unhelpful posts (or maybe just more free time to read through the unhelpful ones ;).

                                                                        In any event, for me, it's a question of structuring: sure you can get bad results posting on CH, but I still fundamentally appreciate a structure where a poster can ask very tailored questions, where restaurants aren't accumulating an aggregate star rating that's displayed front and center, etc.

                                                                        In contrast, with Yelp, I profoundly dislike the aggregate star rating, especially when policy allows you to rate a place without even having sat down in the restaurant, etc.

                                                                        There's this continuous line of "Yelp's not useless because I can comb through the reviews for useful information" that's driving me nuts because that's besides the point: if i try hard enough, I can probably comb through HuffPost's listicles to figure out current events, but that doesn't mean the site isn't structured to encourage clickbaiting and kneejerk reactions... I can similarly find useful info on Yelp if i try hard enough (and i do when i think I need to), but that doesn't excuse Yelp for it's structural flaws and bad coverage of restaurants that it promotes.

                                                                        No doubt the CH community can use a reminder every once in a while as to how to be useful/friendly/not take itself so seriously (myself included!), but I at least like the message board format and the kinds of topics/responses it's designed to promote.

                                                                        1. re: valcfield

                                                                          I agree with the good parts you identify valcfield and much prefer to see what CH's are discussing compared to other boards and I do find posters on this board whom I trust and through whom I've discovered some delightful places I would not have found on my own (this is particularly true of the folks who love their neighborhoods, like East Boston and Allston posters). And I'm glad that people like eatinjeff find the board responsive and useful. I just think this "us" against "them" stuff is plain silly. It's food. It's an opinion. It's fun, not gospel.

                                                                        2. re: teezeetoo

                                                                          When I first started posting here I got the impression that not everyone had been or at least recently been to the rest of which they were commenting on.
                                                                          The deletions have become less, usually a sign of declining popularity.

                                                                        3. re: CaliforniaJoseph

                                                                          Most of these forums are full with complaints.

                                                                        4. Good Note, Another thing I dislike about Yelp is the fact that one place might be really a great music venue or have great drinks/ beer selection while the food is mediocre. For example, I will comment RedBones in Davis has awesome Beer selection, Ambience, and NC Pulled pork that is clearly not smoked nor does it taste like real BBQ. It would be nice to have a way to rate a place for Ambiance, service, Food quality, and service in separate ways. Also, i think it would be good as some others have said to have a matrix for how often someone has visited the place as well. Lastly, i would say it would be interesting to give raters a weighted score based on general food knowledge. In other words, a home BBQ smoker whos been to every place on the BBQ trail rating a bbq restaurant should be much more useful than a random person from Boston who has NC bbq for the first time and notes that the ribs were the best ever. If you have travelled the world in search of perfect dumplings, your review should count more than someone who tries Xiao long Bao the first time.

                                                                          1. Seriously missing the, now-defunct, mobile Zagat app. Reviewers tended to be real food lovers - maybe because for a long time you had to pay, but results were much more aligned with reality my opinion. The 30 point scale had sufficient resolution. (Everything on Yelp is 4 stars). Separate ratings for food, ambiance, service. It had a great filter, "find all 25 point plus restaurants within 1/4 mile". Yelp is useful only for the map. Now the Zagat rating you see on Google is watered down, less resolution and more people who don't know what they are talking about.