I truly love the Internet and Apps and Mobile and the resulting improvements they make to my quality of life. But I have to tell you about two recent failures that leave me a little less enamored of today’s technology. The first involves one of my old standbys, Yelp, while the other involves newcomer Uber. First my Yelp disappointment.
I’ve been using Yelp for a few years now to find Restaurants, and it has proven itself a worthy if not perfect tool. I’ve responded to Yelp’s usefulness in finding good restaurants by adding dozens of restaurant reviews of my own. Last year I added a review of a non-restaurant, the cleaning service I use for my Seattle-area condo. A few days ago I glanced at Yelp’s entry for this cleaning service and noted that its rating had dropped to 2 1/2 stars, which seemed rather low to me. I read the reviews and discovered mine was not being shown. In fact Yelp was displaying only 10 reviews (all but 1 of which was fairly poor). Then I noticed a small link at the bottom labeled “filtered reviews”. I clicked on the link and discovered 44 reviews that Yelp’s automated filter had decided should be hidden and removed from the business’ rating. Sure enough mine was amongst them. Ok, now I was annoyed on two fronts. First, as a long-time and frequent Yelp reviewer I can’t understand why an automated filter would decide to remove my review. I do understand why it would take notice of an influx of new reviewers who suddenly came in and reviewed a business as this might represent an attempt to manipulate the business’ rating. But that didn’t explain why my review, or that of other heavy Yelp users, was removed. Yelp won’t say how the filter works and offers no way to appeal the automated filter’s decision. And what would happen if you included my review and those of other heavy Yelpers? This businesses rating would go up dramatically. In other words, the filter is removing good reviews and keeping bad reviews (although Yelp claims that should not be the case). Since I’ve never seen this problem with restaurants I’m going to chalk it up to immaturity with Yelp’s attempt to expand beyond restaurant reviews. Personally this situation means I’m not going to write any further non-restaurant reviews on Yelp, nor will I use Yelp to find non-restaurant businesses.
The second disappointment involves my attempt to use one of the hot new services out there, Uber. Uber is a service that lets you use your cell phone (or an app on some smartphones) to request a car service (e.g., Lincoln Towncar) pick you up and take you to your destination. So something nicer than a typical taxi service. Uber itself provides the request scheduling and billing services and contracts with various limo companies for the actual car service. I was in New York City, which is one of the cities Uber is active in, a couple of weeks ago and thought I’d give it a try. New York isn’t a city where you “call a taxi”, generally you have to flag one down. This should give Uber an advantage. So I ran Uber’s app on my iPad and looked at requesting a car, none were available. I waited ten minutes and tried again…nope none available. In fact I kept trying over the course of two hours and cars were never available. Finally when it was really time to go to the airport (and Uber still showed no cars available) I asked the hotel doorman to get us a taxi. He walked over to Avenue of the Americas and had one pulling in front of the hotel in 3 minutes. Uber failed miserably. The problem here is that unless you can rely on a service like Uber you will simply stop using it. The next time I’m in an Uber service area I don’t know if I’ll try it again. I might just go with tried and true, if not modern, solutions.