This is a response to President Obama’s recent initiative regarding higher education costs, value and affordability, but I will start by talking about Yelp.
I don’t like Yelp. I’m not as disestablishmentarian as Jaron Lanier (defining Wisdom of the Crowd as Mob Mentality), but I understand that multiple variables color the aggregation system on a company’s reviews, expertise perhaps one variable, perhaps not. This concerns me. The LA Times discussed Yelp’s business backlash yesterday. Yelp continues to deny that failure to advertise with their website results in the site’s algorithm casting less favor on a business, but business owners are convinced that Yelp runs like the mafia, and see advertising as a necessary evil to cull favor with the site.
The most obvious solution to this standoff would be for Yelp to publish their algorithm, but that will not happen. I imagine Yelp would say publishing such sensitive data would destroy their business, equating their success to the algorithm and not their developed branding and affiliation. What publishing the algorithm would certainly do is show the numerous variables that dictate a company’s ranking and placement within a community of businesses, and those variables could spark discussions about the efficacy of crowdsourced commentary (for example, prolific users’ comments hold more weight than irregular users, meaning certain quantity is valued over potential quality). Continue reading