Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Technology Lesson: Yelp

Yelp is a website, search engine, and community designed to help users find goods and services and provide ratings for those goods and services. Or: Yelp is a popular website where people review businesses. (It has its pros and cons.)

Yelp launched in 2004. (The site was based in San Francisco, which explains why the city is the default location when you search for ramen four blocks from your office.) Today, you can use it to find food, doctors, or services where you live or are traveling. I used it once to help my sister find Italian food in California. I used it last week to find soup in Manhattan.

...But I did not find exactly what I was looking for. Yelp searches through reviews and data to find what you need. In my case, searching for French onion soup within four blocks of my office suggested Centre Melts, based on a (fairly negative) review about the Centre Street kiosk. (The benefit in the end was finding beignets, and a different soup.*)

So it's important that you have an open mind and objectivity when you read reviews. Yelpers can be harsh in their reviews, and to each other. As with each review you read online, it's always important to read carefully, to as to suss out biased reviews.

...Which is why I think Yelp is great for Old People. Old People know good food. (I think it's a good sign when a diner is full of old people.) Old People rarely have an agenda, and they have experience--so go forth, and Yelp! (I also really want my parents to join. It would be helpful and hilarious.)

Here are some search tips.

First, when you type what you desire (I tried pork buns, because I am always interested), Yelp will provide suggestions. If you see what you want, click it in the list.

Yelp remembered me and provided NEW YORK, NY on its own. You can type an address here if you'd like.

After you click SEARCH, you'll get this:

Filters, a list, and a map. I tend to use the filters first. (When I'm out with my roommate, he jumps to the list. It's usually sorted by relevancy and prestige. When we're out in the cold though, I wish he'd filter by proximity, as I am lazy and hate the cold.)

The filters are incredibly handy. I usually click the dollar signs and "walking distance" before I move on. Experiment, and be mindful of your flexibility. When you interact with the map, you can examine other other neighborhoods (and Yelp will expand its search while you do that). The list can be re-ordered based on price, rating, proximity, and most reviewed.

It's a pretty simple system, but it can really save you time when you must have French onion soup.

*I vowed up for Yelp and wrote a review when I finished this post.

Additional Information:
Pizzeria Employees Wear T-Shirts With Quotes From Nasty Yelp Reviews, Consumerist

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