Yelp should be more like Netflix

I don’t use Netflix any more, but when I did, I liked how it tried to guess what you might like based on how you rated things. They would look at people who rated things similarly to you and then say something like “85% of people with tastes similar to yours also liked this movie.” (I don’t remember exactly how it was phrased.)

When Yelp just started getting popular, it was the best restaurant-rating resource around. Now, though, I’m finding the reviews to be less and less useful. Even if a restaurant gets an average of 5 stars, I have no idea if it’ll be excellent, good, fair, or terrible. Really. No idea.

The problem is I don’t know what reviews to trust. If you get a few reviews saying “This is the best gnocchi I’ve ever had” and a bunch saying “The pasta is bland and tasteless,” which ones do you believe? What if you have ten reviews all saying the sushi is the best, but you’re really picky about sushi and so you don’t know what “best” means to these people?

The solution is obvious, and I don’t know if it’s too much effort for Yelp to implement, but they should allow you to rate restaurants (without necessarily writing reviews) and then try to recommend restaurants to you based on how people who have similar tastes rated those restaurants.

For example, let’s say I’m in San Diego and have no idea where to eat. I go to Yelp and search for restaurants in San Diego. Instead of a bunch of random restaurants coming back with average review ratings of 5 or 4, only targeted restaurants would appear in my results, based on how those reviewers’ ratings on other restaurants compared to my ratings or the ratings of those similar to those with my ratings. That’d be awesome.

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