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.


Who’s NOT Playing Pitchfork This Year

March 26, 2009

Thanks to the idiotic “Radius Clause” inflicted on Chicago every summer, while we eagerly anticipate which bands are announced to play its  two major music festivals every year, we know immediately who WILL NOT be playing.

"Sad hipster" courtesy of Aubs on Flickr

Time Out Chicago explained it well last year:

For 60 days before and 30 days after their Lollapalooza appearance, Lolla performers are prohibited from booking a show within 250 miles of Chicago (which includes Madison, Milwaukee, Champaign, Indianapolis, Ann Arbor and Iowa City)

Because of these bullshit protectionist agreements we know that any band that plays P-fork (July 17th to 19th) cannot play Lolla (Aug 7th to 9th). Boo, fucking, hoo. But it gets more interesting than that.

Provided that Pitchfork also follows these festival rules we know that any band playing between ~May 18th and ~August 16th will not be sweating it up on stage in Union Park.

This includes TONS of bands, most of which are inconsequential. But there are a few groups that are well-regarded by the haute-indie online tastemakers that now cannot play. (Pitchfork ratings in parenthesis):

I’m especially suprised to see SXSW * bloggy sweethearts School of Seven Bells and Passion Pit on this list. St. Vincent, though only registering one album on p4k, has been a favorite over the years.  As has Art Brut who will be doing a 5-day residency at Schubas over the summer.


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.


Passion Pit Drives Schubas Crazy

January 28, 2009

Just reviewed Passion Pit for UR Chicago here.

Will re-post the article below, and extend it with some more rambling commentary…

 

In a giddy fit of keyboards, falsettos, and saccharine dance beats, Boston newcomers Passion Pit are charming their way west during their first national tour.  P.P. bounced their way through a congenial but criminally short set last night at Schubas, as Michael Angelakos engaged the audience with the same disarming manner and sky-high vocals that seep through every track of his debut EP, Chunk of Change.

PassionPitSchubas1.28-7 

The set started out playful and keyboard-heavy with Angelakos’ ear for pop melody pushing to the forefront.  Flanked a guitar, drums, two Rolands, a Moog, and sitting behind a Yamaha synth himself, Angelakos’ dare-you-to-sing-higher-than-me octaves pierced through riffs, piano lines, and programmed back-beats. Espousing sentiments that in lower vocal ranges might be cringe inducing diary entries, the proper set ended with the dance-happy electropop of “Sleepyhead” and “Better Things” to which the sellout crowd lost their collective brains to, bloggers and ALTBros alike.

Angelakos apologized repeatedly for the abridged set, but, the audience couldn’t blame them for succinctness – Passion Pit just haven’t been around long enough to have a full set.

In a backstory that’s impossible not to repeat; Passion Pit’s origins couldn’t be more endearing: Originally a late Valentine’s Day present for Angelakos’ g/f, the “Chunk of Change” CDR made the rounds at Emerson University, made waves in Boston, and made headlines after some stellar sets at this year’s CMJ music fest in New York. A few months later, after some east coast practice gigs, they’re on tour backed by new label Frenchkiss, playing the six songs that everyone knows and road-testing a few new ones.

Passion Pit’s sincerity and DIY style fits with just a few other bands who somehow dodge be criticized for being goddamned “sincere” all the time — people have seemed to get really sick of that recently. (The fact that, as 20-something culture consumers, we already have issues with earnestness is fodder for a different blog).

I see Angelakos along side other singer/songwriters like Khaela Maricich (The Blow), Ben Gibbard (a-la The Postal Service), and Robert Wratten (Field Mice) as artists that manage to be shmultsy but nevertheless loveable.

Let it be a lesson to those aspiring coffeehouse guitar wankers… if you’re inspired to put your love / breakup letters to music and share it with the world, do two things:

  1. Sing higher and/or softer than you’re comfortable
  2. Put some good fucking beats behind it

You’ll be a blogosphere hero in no time.


Drew Peterson Murder Countdown: Update

December 18, 2008

Hey hey!  Sun Times finally posted a picture

There is also a Chrissy Raines on Facebook but with no real connection to Chicago… and there’s a NUMBER of Christina Raines none with many local connection.

 

 

Yesterday, I gave you a quiz to see if you were good Drew Peterson Date Material… today, in keeping with the Shock-Jock & Peterson tradition, Chicago’s Q101 scored an interview with a gal named Jenny who is, allegedly, Drew Peterson’s fiance’s cousin.  That’s hot.  Check out the audio here: http://www.q101.com/blogs/shermantingle/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10016864

Based on the interview,  here’s what we know now, I guess

  • The unfortunate fiance’s name is Christina “Chrissy” Raines Reigns/Rains
  • Her cousin, who she used to live with, is named Jenny
  • Chrissy’s has a kid
  • She was dating a guy who was taking care of the kid
  • She’s a “hard worker”
  • She likes bad boy types
  • Christmas Dinner will be AWKward

In related news, Chicagoist via the Sun Times dropped that Dead Chrissy’s dad is also (understandably concerned)…

“I said, ‘You need to take that back. If you don’t want to, I will,’ ” said Ernie Raines, 53. “I said, why would you want to marry someone like that anyway? He’s my age for Christ’s sake.”

Ernie makes many good points.  What should make Ernie 80-times madder?  Well… Einstien Wbbm780 reports that Chrissy decided to pop the question to Drew

Hmmm.  I smell a Reality Show that combines the criminal glam of Growing Up Gotti with the assured behind-the-scenes beatings of Being Bobby Brown.

Also just learned alterno-Christina Raines was a 1970s actress.


2008’s “Best Of” Best Of (Continued)

December 17, 2008

Rolling Stone and Spin have released their top 50/40 so here are the updated “Best Albums of 2008” if you broke them all down number-like:

Top 10 based on any TWO nominations (by Rolling Stone, Spin, Paste, Meta, Mojo, Uncut)

1. B.B. King – One Kind Favor 3.00 (tie)
1. Shearwater – Rook 3.00 (tie)
3. TV On The Radio – Dear Science 7.50
4. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend 8.00
5. Beck – Modern Guilt 8.75
6. REM – Accelerate 9.50
7. Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust 9.67 (tie)
7. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago 9.67 (tie)
9. Amadou & Mariam – Welcome To Mali 11.00 (tie)
9. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Real Emotional Trash 11.00 (tie)
9. The Bug – London Zoo 11.00 (tie)

Top 25 based on minimum THREE nominations (by Rolling Stone, Spin, Paste, Meta, Mojo, Uncut)

1. TV On The Radio – Dear Science 7.50*
2. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend 8.00
3. Beck – Modern Guilt 8.75
4. Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust 9.67
5. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago 9.67*
6. Randy Newman – Harps And Angels 11.25
7. Santogold – Santogold 12.00
8. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive 16.00
9. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark 17.33
10. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes 20.33*
11. Portishead – Third 20.50
12. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lone 20.67
13. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) 21.00
14. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid 22.33
15. Fucked Up – The Chemistry Of Common Life 22.33
16. Duffy – Rockferry 24.00
17. Hot Chip – Made In The Dark 30.00
18. Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night 35.00
19. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! 35.00*
20. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III 35.33
21. Lucinda Williams – Little Honey 37.75
22. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular 39.80
23. Metallica – Death Magnetic 40.25
24. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges 42.50
25. No Age – Nouns 44.67

*Nominated in ALL SIX Magazine’s “Best Of” lists.