Monthly Archives: April 2010

Belated TedXAustin

I was one of the lucky 300 selected to attend the first ever TedXAustin, and boy was I thrilled to be there.  Along with the amazing talks, the energy and the people there were firey and alive.  Everyone I met had an interesting story, interesting accomplishments, and fun personalities.  The energy at TedXAustin was exciting like a rollercoaster; any second there you would be surprised with a great speaker, story, or remarkable person in the audience.  The theme for TedXAustin was to Play Big.  Playing Big was about building a community in a playground.  Judging from all the new friends made that day, I’d say TedXAustin got it right. If you haven’t seen it  by now, the cover of the Play Big program was created by the Bulter Brothers.  Kind of anyways.  It was actually created by kids.  Watch the video.  It was amazing.


Two of my favorite talks at TedXAustin were Doug Ulman and Steven TomlinsonDoug Ulman from Livestrong speak about many things that were related to cancer; rather he spoke about things that helped people cope and beat cancer.  As oxytocin and health is one of my research areas, I couldn’t agree more with Doug’s message.  If we all give, we all profit.   Building a community of support, especially for those who need oxytocin the most, benefits us all.


Steven Tomlinson reminded me of myself.  He’s a man with many different passions, none of which are seemingly related.  I have different passions, and they used to be unrelated.  Hypermiling, Food, Beer, Cooking, Dogs, and, skating. They actually are becoming somewhat related now that I’m combining events involving multiple passions.  Steven’s advice was to integrate all the things you enjoy, and don’t worry about having a career.  Once you are good at the loose collections of hobbies, the lines dividing them will blur, and you’ll do something you love.  Do something you love, do it well, and market it in a way that people will pay for it.  Also, he says to say yes to everything, which sounds eerily like me already.  As I’m nearing the very end of my graduate career in the depths of analyzing data, it was wonderfully uplifting to see what I might be able to to do just by doing what I like and trying to do it well.  Thanks, Steven for that glimpse into what it’s like to have passion for many things and doing it well.


I’ll also add that Ruby Jane was incredibly talented.  She had amazing stage presence, and certainly a bright future.  She was so stunning that I kind of want to start listening to Willy Nelson.  TedXAustin was a wonderful experience.  I can’t wait for the next one!

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Yelp Changes means Businesses need to Clean up their act

Yelp is trying to turn things around.  Public distrust.  Angry business owners.  Three class-action law suits.  Yelp has been on many people’s naughty list lately, and they have implemented something new to turn that all around.  They have allowed previously “filtered” or “suppressed” reviews to be viewed by anyone and everyone.  Here’s several links to the details on that, and I’ll avoid rehashing all that information.

Yelp’s Official Blog Post about Filtering

Mashable’s Blog post about Filtering

However, I spent a large chunk of time studying Austin business reviews, and here’s what it means to users and to businesses (from my limited information that is).  I noticed that some businesses has only 10% of reviews filtered while others had more filtered reviews than reviews visible (i.e. 28 reviews visible, 47 filtered).  The percentiles were highly variable.  I haven’t seen any patterns to them yet.  A few other things I gathered included:

1. Yelp has increased it’s transparency, and that is bad news for sneaky businesses out there. With the filtered reviews exposed, I easily found many businesses who wrote themselves shill reviews either using their own names or only writing positive reviews for other businesses they owned.  It appears that even if reviews are flagged by the community as being fake (i.e. the master debater’s thread) they are either filtered or deleted due to violation of terms of service (TOS).  While I can’t be absolutely certain due to the limits of information I have, I think they are deleted and placed below the filtered reviews.  You can’t read the reviews anymore, but you can see who wrote them.

2. One thing I do notice is that the filtering system is fairly ineffective.  Sometimes it filters out people with 20 reviews, yet it leaves people with only one review unfiltered. Sometimes it filters out people who have spent a significant amount of time writing a thoughtful review, yet it leaves people with one-line reviews visible on the business page. That’s the problem with having an algorithm do your work.

3. The users who have filtered reviews (if everything is truly computer run numbers) should have all their reviews filtered.  I did find this to be true for the few people I researched on Yelp, but I can’t be absolutely sure that this is true for all users who have filtered reviews.  Also, on the user(s)’ profile page, it does not show whether or not their other reviews have been filtered.  It is also unlikely that any of these users know that their reviews have been filtered.  Theoretically, there should be a waiting period for all new users who have to work their way out of the filter by crossing whatever threshold the algorithm uses.  Yelp does not inform new users about that they are being filtered, which can be good or bad.  New users probably have a difficult time understanding the concept of filtering, and it might scare off new users from joining if they have to read a bunch of rules and regulations.  However, I think that if new Yelp users were informed of this filtering mechanism, Yelp might see more engaged new users.  That’s all speculation though.  I can’t think of any psychology studies examining commitment to a social community if there was a heavy time investment upfront without immediate reward.

4. It appears that some administratively removed reviews are never shown in the deleted reviews. I noticed very recently that Yelp had administratively deleted all reviews for a business if they were written before the business officially opened (i.e. Urban An American Grill and Lick it Bite it or Both).  After the business opened, those reviews did not reappear nor did they appear in the filtered or deleted review section.  It is my understanding that Yelp administrators would send an email to each of the users informing them that the review was removed.  However, there have also been some claims about missing reviews without an email from administration.  It does appear that all other administratively removed reviews that were flagged by the community do appear in the deleted review section.

My advice for businesses is to scroll through your filtered reviewsIf they were written by yourself, your employees, or your friends, delete them as soon as possible. These reviews might have been previously filtered and not visible to the Yelp community.  Now that they are visible to the Yelp community, users might feel as if you were trying to fool them with fake reviews and retaliate.  You might have escaped the master debater’s thread previously, but now you can’t hide those filtered reviews.  Even if users flag them now as shill reviews, they might still end up in the deleted section.  Deleting them now from the accounts you’ve (or employees or friends) created is the only way that they will disappear.  Additionally, reviews that are deleted are not searchable and do not come up in Google searches.  Threads, however, have no delete or edit button.  If you are called out on a thread, it is there to stay forever.  *Google can find quotes from filtered reviews though.

Yelp has taken steps to be more transparent, but that also means that the businesses must also be more transparent.  You can run and hide, but not for long.

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Filed under 34298571, filtering, transparency, Yelp, Yelp for business owners