Tuesday, April 19, 2011

DAY 198 – YELP!!! Reviews Locked Up

Yelp, in my vocabulary, has always meant a sharp cry or bark, usually arising from an animal or human, startled or hurt. Today, in this writing, I use the word both in its common meaning, as I have known it throughout my life, and the modern, referring to an online website dedicated first to reviews of restaurants, and now to reviews of all manner of businesses, including chiropractic practices.

My son, Kenn, recently used www.Yelp.com to find a dentist for himself in New York City. What a success story! The reviews he read lead him to a dentist that provided exactly the care he was looking for.

My son’s experience got me thinking about the power of online reviews for helping folks find just the service they are looking for. It provided me the opportunity to recognize how limited, if not outdated the Yellow Pages are. The Yellow Pages, of course, are mainly a compilation of business owners' own reviews of themselves; possibly not the most helpful. It’s the customer, the client, the patient that we want to hear from.

Thus inspired, I located the Yelp-created shell of an online listing of my chiropractic office, and began to fill it in with information about the practice. The next step was to publicize that we were Yelp-friendly.

Having been in practice for 28 years, and currently serving satisfied new patients each week, I figured there would be a few who would start Yelping "with something to say". And I was right.

Over a period of 4 weeks, reviews trickled in. To date, 12 have been posted. But within a week of the first review being posted, I had my first encounter with the grim filterer. You’ve heard of the grim reaper? That’s old school. The grim filterer is a computer algorithm used by Yelp to try to determine if a review is bogus or legitimate. Apparently there are risks, some deadly, inherent in trying to sort human expressions by computer.

As the reaper, uh filterer, came through on its periodic mission of cleansing, one review was destroyed completely, 8 were banished to a purgatory-like existence called “filtered”, and 3 remain, as of this moment, on the net, easily accessible to those who might be trying to find their perfect chiropractor in Ventura, California.

The “filtered” existence of these reviews is an invisibility, not unlike having been swept under a carpet. The dust can be found by lifting a corner of the carpet. The “filtered” reviews can be seen by going to the bottom left corner of the last visible review and clicking on the grayed-out link “(8 Filtered)”. Presto, the dust, and the suspect reviews.

One can read the remaining 3 reviews of my practice at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ventura-chiropractic-and-massage-ventura-2 , the “filtered” reviews at: https://biz.yelp.com/r2r/af9pJZ24DSobDPpCPNTtzw/filtered_reviews , and, like I said, you’ll never find the 12th review.

For clarity, each and every one of the 12 reviews that have been written about my practice, Ventura Chiropractic & Massage, are legitimate reviews, written in each case by patients of mine.

Lest a rebellion get underway, I want you to know that I have not been singled out. There are thousands of the sharp-cry-or-bark-usually-arising-from-an-animal-or-human-startled-or-hurt type yelps ricocheting around cyberspace, some resembling profanity, that decry the removal of legitimate complimentary (4-5 star) reviews. Nonetheless, I believe that Yelp.com is committed to benefiting all of us as best it can.

For now, let me say that I support Yelp.com because I believe that Yelp is working on providing a functional network of feedback that can help you and I find better matches in our lives.

Finally, as with individuals in purgatory, I am told that some of the "filtered" reviews may be moved once again into the light, if their creators become "Yelp-established" rather than one-shot, questionable reviewers. There is hope; these reviews may not be on their way to hell.

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