Yelp Snub – Nightwood & TeeCycle

June 12, 2009

I’ve previously mentioned Yelp for their “community censoring” — deleting unflattering reviews and allowing obviously faked positive reviews to remain posted.  For a while it was just interesting “Web 2.0” type news, but I’ve recently had a number of reviews removed from the site for various reasons.  That’s fine.  Yelp’s a private entity that can do what they wish.  (Thank God for Google cache).  I’ll post the stuff that was deleted below (including emails explaining why).

Unfortunately, the first one was for a restaurant called Nightwood, and was deleted.  I assume this is because I wrote the review based on Time Out Chicago and a few other sources commenting on the place before it even opened… ha.  Yeah, I love Lula’s and I couldn’t resist breaking the news that a sister restaurant was opening. Anyway, I received this email on 5/25 from Yelp HQ:

Hi Brian,

We’re writing to you regarding your review of Nightwood. Your review was flagged by the Yelp community, and after looking it over we’ve decided that it falls outside of Yelp’s review guidelines because it links to outside content.

We’ve also noticed that several of your other reviews also contain such links to outside content. Rather than removing these reviews, we’d like for you to use the edit function to remove these links from the body of the reviews in question. Please make the necessary changes by week’s end, or we’ll have to take them down.

We hope you’ll understand our stance here, which is meant to keep Yelp reviews fresh, fair, and original.

Thanks for being a part of the Yelp community.

Regards,
**************
Yelp User Support

Aside from my enthusiasm for the Nightwood owners and the area of Pilsen in general, my review was based entirely on other sources and, as a good blogger should do, I linked back to the stories that I drew from.   I wasn’t about to take what I’d read and pretend it was my own.  Anyway.  The plot thickens I guess.  I wrote to our Chicago Yelp liaison, who is a very nice gal….

Hey ******,

I got this email and I’m confused.

Yelp is going to take down my reviews because of links to “outside content”.

What they’re referring to as “outside content” are my references to sources I’ve used to write the post.  I.E. if I hear about someplace from TimeOut Chicago (which is what happened in the case of the Nightwood), I’m going to reference it as a source as opposed to plagiarizing.  Or, in another case, if the Art Institute used Johnny’s Grill as a place to re-imagine “Nighthawks“, finding an image online and reposting it on Yelp as my own is stealing — acknowledging outside content, I would feel, is the right thing to do.

As a site that depends on community and member reputation, I would think that transparency is of the utmost importance.  Blogging without referencing where your information is coming from, to me, would seem like the antithesis of what Yelp is about.

I would ask that Yelp reconsider what they consider “outside content” compared to proper citation.

Regards,
-Brian Battle

Meanwhile, in the world of actual journalism (as opposed to the cult of passive criticism that is Yelp) Chuck Sudo of Chicagoist wrote a review of Nightwood, in which I got made fun of… deservedly… on 5/27

To review Nightwood after one night would be a disservice to Hammel and wife Amalea Tshilds, Executive Chef Jason Vincent and the humping-to-please staff we encountered last night. (Although it didn’t stop Brian B. on Yelp, who apparently gave Nightwood a four-star rating based on TOC’s preview without even visiting). We’ll have a full-on review after a few more visits. But the Chicagoist food and drink staff have had cameras at the ready lately, so we took photos of some of the dishes we sampled. Enjoy.

Then I got this email at 7pm that same day:

Hi Brian (and *****[Yelp Chicago liason]*****),

After much careful review and discussion, we’ve decided to remove your review of Nightwood. We’re doing so for a number of reasons, but primarily it’s the copious linking and quoting, which do not represent a firsthand experience with this business. And yes, granted, we have in the past allowed “coming soon” reviews, and so, of course, a firsthand experience with a business that has yet to open is impossible. In these instances, we look to the user to write something useful about the business based on firsthand knowledge (i.e. past businesses operated by the owner; location; likely menu), but these reviews must contain firsthand information; additionally, this type of “coming soon” review is only left on the site for one month.

We hope you’ll understand our decision in this case, Brian. We also strongly urge you to make sure your reviews comply with Yelp’s review guidelines because we’ve also removed your reviews of teecycle.org since you state yourself that you have a conflict of interest with this organization.

Thank you for your understanding in this matter and thank you for being a part of the Yelp community.

Regards,
********
Yelp User Support

————— Original Message —————
From: ***************
Sent: 5/26/2009 9:33 AM
To: ******************


Subject: FW: Message from Yelp.com HQ

Hey all…

Hmm, he has a point. Any thoughts? I think his outside content is mostly just images, etc. And the Nightwood post was actually very helpful (moreso than people posting before an opening saying “Can’t wait to check it out.”)

He’s elite, and very well behaved…

Thanks,
********

*********** *******
Chicago Yelp Community Manager
Yelp.com | *******

Ha!  I love the chain of command!  Our local Chicago community manager calls me “very well behaved”!  Yay!  I should get a gold sticker.  Despite that, Yelp San Fransisco pulls my review… after the suspicious use of the word “copious”.  (Copious = 3, btw).

Anyway, the review clearly mentioned I’m fond of their owners, their chef, their other restaurant and also describes the menu.  Yet, they deem it unworthy of Yelp.  Which, considering what gets onto Yelp,  hurts bad.

What’s worse, upon further dissection of my posts, Big Yelp pulls my review of TeeCycle.Org too.  Ouch.  Ah, well.  The nail that sticks up, yada yada yada.

More on a tirade about a Lincoln Park puppy mill later.

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The Digital Switcheroo

May 22, 2009

Photo Courtesy of CNL822 on Flickr

Watching baseball last week with all the jitters, smears, and pauses of digital broadcasting,  I realized I haven’t officially bitched about the digital switchover. All this info (well, except for the Kanye part) I think is pretty valuable:

  • With good reception, digital broadcasts look good. It is a huge step forward for television clarity.  Admittedly.  It does work.  So, if you get a new TV, yay, you get a new TV with potentially much better quality and more channels.  Everybody wins!(?)  The following bullet is much more important…
  • DIGITAL SIGNALS ARE NOT CRYSTAL CLEAR. It’s true.  Before I got a digital converter I didn’t realize this, my coworker didn’t realize this, so I assume some of you have been (or are in the process of being) mislead as well.

Now that people are using digital receivers, we’re realizing that digital TV reception is as bad or worse than analog TV.  Those that haven’t gone digital yet (or in some cases can’t even afford to), hear the Networks pitching the switcheroo and it’s like they’re doing you a favor.  It’s important to know that TV Networks/the government/Big Businss are NOT just doing it for your benefit.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, hell, any rant that mentions “the government” usually makes me tune out.  But this is true, apparently: The initial digital switch plan (I shit you not) was a delayed reaction to  Post-9/11 communication issues. According to Bloomburg

The government mandated the switch to free up airwaves for advanced wireless services and emergency workers’ radios, to raise money and to provide clearer pictures and more programming.

Broadcast networks volunteered to give their analog frequencies over to  emergency police and fire communications.  Though, “volunteered” is a stretch.  Television networks were well aware that this act, which appears fairly selfless and sensible, had an overwhelming business-minded upside.

Giving up these frequencies and moving to a digital signal would mean that every American that does not subscribe to a cable subscription (~20% of the population, skewed towards the less affluent) must buy a brand new TV, update their televisions on their own dime (that’s 285 million sets as of ’05),  or  get cable.  It was a sweetheart deal all around, exemplified by the nifty bullet points below:

  • Government gets low-freq emergency channels (Which is great… whoopdie-doo.)
  • Broadcast Networks, who have been trying to go digital anyway, get to do so with the government bankrolling them, and in the name of public good.
  • Broadcast Networks now have multiple channels to run second-tier content on, which can steal share back from cable stations like The Weather Channel, Univision, Telemundo, and in NBC Universal’s case —  ESPN.
  • Cable companies  profit off of new subscribers unwilling to make the digital switch
  • Electronic stores (namely Radio Shack) make a killing on digital converter box sales, and on selling peripherals around the digital conversion.
  • Everybody gets to pretend they’re helping John Q. Public

That last bullet is the kicker, because, if you installed the digital converter box you quickly realize that reception can, and does, still suck.  What’s worse, broadcast channels that used to come in a little fuzzy on an analog television will not even register through the digital box.  No longer do you have the option of watching a fuzzy screen — it’s all or nothing now.

Digital TV is a snob — if it’s not crystal clear, you’re not allowed to watch it.   You cannot even manually tell your digital converter to include a channel that is not registering — this is what is happening to CBS (WBBM) on my TV and a friends in Chicago.  I wonder if they’re losing ratings because the digital boxes they forced on their viewers refuse to recognize it as a channel.

The funniest part is those antannae… you know the ones you were supposed to be able to throw away…  those rabbit ears they made fun of in the “swtch to digital” PSAs earlier this year?  Yeah… you have to buy a new one.


BPRB Updates – The Fork, The Whistler, and The Nineties

March 17, 2009

New stuff added to the “Bored People Are Boring” things to-do list

Photo from Flickr by Steph Wesolowski

Wow, it’s been a while since I updated.  First July show is up, Pitchfork has announced some of their lineup, and people, namely TimeOut Chicago and Chicagoist, have already begun tittering about Lollapalooza.

I’ll talk about a few of the new exciting ones coming up later (HELLO Yo La Tengo all-request show?!?!), the ongoing free shows at Logan Square’s The Whistler and the continuing resurgence of Early 90’s Alterno-rock… two more of which are from Chicago.  Hi Smoking Popes!  Jesus Lizard! Also, hi Toadies! Make up your mind… MAKE UP YOUR MIND AND I PROMISE YOU!

All dates added on 3/16:

March:

  • Cut Copy (DJ Set)
  • Knightlife
  • Daisy O’Dell
  • Jordan Z
  • Mr. Russia
  • Amrita
  • Raise High The Roof Beam
  • Surrender Dorothy
  • D. Rider
  • Bobby Conn
  • Monica Bou Bou
  • Blue Ribbon Glee Club
April:
  • Barcelona
  • Northpilot
  • Tight Phantomz
May:
  • Ponytail
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Crystal Antlers
  • Vivian Girls
  • Manchester Orchestra
  • Audrye Sessions
  • Winston Audio
  • Loney, Dear
  • Chin Up Chin Up
  • Yea Big
  • Kid Static
  • The Hood Internet
  • Mad Happy
  • Melvins (performing Houdini in its entirety)
  • Toadies
June:
  • Smoking Popes
  • Built To Spill (Pitchfork Music Festival)
  • The Jesus Lizard (Pitchfork Music Festival)
  • Yo La Tengo (Pitchfork Music Festival)
  • Tortoise (Pitchfork Music Festival)
  • The National (Pitchfork Music Festival)
  • Pharaoh Monch (Pitchfork Music Festival)
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Pitchfork Music Festival)

July:

  • Explosions in the Sky

Take My Stuff and Pay Me For It – Genesis (not the band)

February 23, 2009

I don’t like giving stuff away, even if it means getting money back in return.  This must change.

It seems I’m increasingly less impressed just by my collections of things, especially because I went about all such collections half-assedly. I also had to concede that, because most music is now bought and enjoyed digitally, having CD jewel cases on display not only seems like a waste of space, but also a somewhat dated (dare I say cliché?) male interior design choice.

Seriously – what’s the point of displaying jewel cases anymore – to prove that you go somewhere and buy proper albums instead of going online?  Is that a claim to fame nowadays?  It’s seems pitiable, and very nearly a failed attempt at elitism. Now, if I was a vinyl junky it would still be cool to have crates of that shit sorted in my apartment, Rob Gordon style, but I am not.  I never got into vinyl. I do not own a record player.  So it’s time to say “bye-bye” CDs and hello to whatever money a record store will give me.

I can’t get rid of ALL my albums at the same time though… they’re my most-prized, but still poorly maintained and disorganized collection. Baby steps.

I decided to start weeding out the ones I never listen to, or will feasibly never take out of their cases again.  Everything was fair game, so long as it is also stored on my external hardrive backup.  This logic only half makes sense. Apparently, I’m only comfortable giving up something I never use so long as I could feasibly use it sometime in the future.  However, this does explain why I have pairs of jeans in my closet that have never worn, never plan on wearing but can’t bring myself to give away.

“So”, I comforted myself, “you’re not really losing any of these albums, just the physical manifestation of them.”  Yes.  That’s still off-putting though, isn’t it?  What is it about saving things on a computer that makes you feel still slightly uneasy?  Why do we still print out important emails?  Why am I abstractly distrustful of Google’s “cloud computing”.  For me, I guess the physical presence of an item is a comfort — an increasingly wasteful, expensive, and unnecessary comfort.  (Just like most comforts!)

So, recalling some Buddhist-like advice (“It doesn’t matter where you start, only that you finish,”)  I grabbed my topmost CaseLogic that was topped by a fine layer of dust, and opened it up to the M-through-P discs.  I then sat my ass down in front of my cheap sleek Sweedish black-painted wood media center and got crackin’…

I’ll try to document my little adventure more later this week.


Pay Per Yelp?!

February 19, 2009

GapersBlock reports, via an East Bay Express article, that user-generated review site Yelp.com suppresses bad reviews, but only for good money…. Hmmmm.

John’s restaurant has more than one hundred reviews, and averages a healthy 3.5-star rating. But when John asked Mike what he could do about his bad reviews, he recalls the sales rep responding: “We can move them. Well, for $299 a month.” John couldn’t believe what the guy was offering. It seemed wrong.

GB also posted another a link to about a martial arts specialist blog about what seems like more Yelp scrubbing here in Chicago… either than or rampant flagging by someone.

This is when the problem began. After a few days, the reviews started disappearing one by one on the Yelp site until I went from 28 reviews to 18 reviews. I was pissed. I know you can flag reviews, and I suspected that maybe a competing business who’s reviews weren’t so glowing was flagging my students’ reviews.

Yelp is indeed a cool company, and useful (ed. note; I am a Yelp Elite member).   But I’ve had a few experiences when there definitely seems to be tampering going on, whether it’s internal or with other parties abusing the site.  First instance was the failure of Mojoe’s Hot House in Avondale on Belmont.  It went under new management and the place just went to shit. (As evidenced by not only the reviews on Yelp, but the crafty graffiti stencils found all over Avondale that read “MoJoe’s Sucks Now”).

Despite all the verbal vitriol, and spray paint that spoke the opposite, at some point positive posts started cropping up on Yelp.  While it’s possible they did, indeed “turn it around”, two of the final eight reviews of the place (which eventaully closed) were most definitely “inside jobs” — both 4-star reviews of the place written by people that I knew actually worked at Yelp (Though, I’m not naming names).  This, of course, is just one place I was directly familiar with —  I have no idea how common this is.


Valentines Day, out. Fun Day, in.

February 11, 2009

I, personally, am a big fan of slamming V-Day.  But for once, I will not waste valuable blog space complaining about couples.  I will simply point out that, if you’re a dude, 2/14 is pretty sweet this year.  If you’re a taken dude, you will be so sad you’re committedand will not be able to partake in Saturday’s events.  (Though, you could probably convince your gal pal to go with you if you can somehow convince her that it was her idea…

February 14th, 2009:

12am to 11:30am

Sleep.  Then maybe some Madden ’09.

12:15pm

Handmade Market at The Empty Bottle for FREE!  In which they “…strive to create a  market, with affordable handmade, mostly local items. There are a ton of crafters in the city, and we try to make this accessible to up and coming designers, jewelry makers, and others. Come out and help support your monthly crafter’s market”

event_photo

 

3pm

The Chicago Auto Show!  Yes!  If you believe what you hear on the news, I think no one in the United States has bought a single car since the Spring of 2008.  Now’s the time!  And, since American automobile companies are so ahead of the game, I’m sure all that well-invested electric car research has already produced a car that runs on a hybrid of electricity and energy expelled by resorting your coworkers recycling after they’ve left for the day.

event_photo

 

7pm

Impress everyone around you by informing them what The Minutemen was referencing when they named their stellar double-album “Double Nickels on The Dime”.  Everyone at Quimby’s bookstore will be impressed.  Accept, of course,  Michael T. Fournier… the writer/critic/historian who will be in attendence, speaking about his most recent entry into the 33 1/3  lit canon.

8pm

No one’s cared about the NBA All-Star game since Magic Johnson came back to chuck up 3-pointers over Isaiah Thomas for the feel-good story of, well, the last time anyone cared about professional basketball.  But what’s this, The Skillz Challenge?  Eff yeah, I’ll check it out.   Especially since my boy Derrick Rose is playing against Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson and Tony “Shit Tattoo”Parker.  The challenge is legit too, as the past winners are sweet (and much more impressive than the dunk/3-point champs… hi Craig Hodges!) — Steve Nash ’05, Dwayne Wade ’06-’07, Deron Williams ’08.

10pm

Your choice of awesome concerts:
Flosstradamus and  Gatekeeper at The Abbey Pub;  The Chamber Strings, Kevin Tihista, and Lonesome Cougar at Cobra Lounge; Fucked Up, A/V Murder, and Boystown at The Empty Bottle, or drop a hundo wit your shorty to see Jeff Tweedy @ the Vic.  If you can’t afford a hundo, just make a video and you won’t have to worry about spending money on a g/f:


“Bored People are Boring”

January 9, 2009

If you’ll note, I recently started listing Events that I am interested in attending in the greater Chicago area entitled Bored People are Boring.  Because, yeah, there’s a ton of stuff to do in this area and what I post is a small, small fraction of possible events to check out. 

Most of these will be music shows, but I’ll also put up drink deals, art exhibits and other stuff if it piques my interest. I’ll update it at least once a week (changes will be in orange), and I’ll try to stay at least 4 weeks ahead to give y’all some fair warning.

Check out January and February which are up right now.