Friday, October 5, 2007

Yelp and GarageBand should fail

I've been amazed, in Web 2.0, that some sites assume their users will provide extremely top-notch reviews on their obscure little sites for free. I enjoy most Web 2.0 sites anyway, as they allow me to rate and track and list things and ohhh, do I love that. But a couple of sites have such a horrible give:take ratio that it bears mentioning. The absolute worst I've found is GarageBand, which provides some of the music-you've-never-heard-of to iLike. One day when I had extra free time, I signed up with GarageBand to see if I could discover some good new music. I couldn't. I listened to clips of 20 songs (you have almost no control over what songs you hear), and nearly all of them were truly awful. Approximately two were a solid 4 stars out of 5, which is still not enough stars to make me a fan of something new.

GarageBand then wanted me to not only write them a quality review (with footnotes and citations) of all twenty of these mediocre songs, but it also kept reminding me that the most likely audience for my review would be the fledgling artists themselves. For me, there's no contest -- between "flattering" and "soul-destroyingly honest", flattering wins. I recall with horror comparing some terrible thing or other to Elliott Smith. I'm going to hell for sure. After you've struggled for (nice) words, some mysterious exalted category of music insiders reads and rates your reviews. So for the honor of giving GarageBand free content, you get picked apart by sad music snobs who have nothing better to do than shit on free Internet reviews. I bet you're Googling furiously to find out more about this wonderful GarageBand service!

Only slightly less annoying than GarageBand is Citysearch-wannabe Yelp. Yelp also expects extremely high-quality free content, such that after I spent most of a night giving star ratings to dozens of my favorite places in Portland, Yelp sent me a scolding email to inform me they'd deleted all my ratings (without warning!) because I hadn't written text reviews. I was stunned, and I immediately closed my account.

Sure, there are some good, free reviews on Yelp and GarageBand. But most quality writing about culture is still done for money or personal blogs. It's like on Flickr. I have some okay pictures there. I pointed my camera at something interesting to me, and I pushed the button. You can have my pictures for free, but some of them aren't very good. Photographers who really know what they're doing can, do, and should charge for their skills. Analogously, on review sites, if you want a free opinion, it's going to be the time-investment equivalent of pointing and shooting: a star rating. If I'm writing complete sentences involving cross-references and use of the "Shift" key, Yelp and GarageBand, I shall quote "Goodfellas" via Jay Z: Fuck you. Pay me.

Update: Restaurants are priming Yelpers with free food and drink. Weird.

1 comment:

Thomas J. Brown said...

It's sad to see a good idea executed poorly.

I talked about this a bit on my blog (and mentioned yours).