And what did I find on Yelp a few days ago? One can write his or her review of one Michael Bauer of San Francisco Chronicle under a Yelp entry. It already had two reviews and already looked suspect as shillers are being recruited. The person which started the entries obviously does not appreciate Bauer and his or her entry was followed by a raving fan of Bauer. Shilling rules say any bad review is to removed or balanced by a (fake) good review to keep the scores up. I doubt if that will work for Michael Bauer in the real world.
The idea of reviewing the reviewer makes a great deal of sense and has always been around. I think they call it ‘feedback.’ However, a proper arena for such proclamation is needed or otherwise the ‘feedback’ will fall on deaf ears. That is what is happening with the illustrious San Francisco Chronicle and 10000 people can write negative things about Bauer or any other Chronicle writer in response to the blog posts while none of that will ever reflect in how Bauer is portrayed or presented. How about giving the readers a little power by allowing the blog posts written by the staff of a publication to be rated on a numerical system? They will be shocked how many low scores a prominent writer, such as Bauer, would get. That system is unlikely to happen soon but a general system of similar nature can come to existence.
Yelp is the worst place for things to be evaluated but has one advantage for our purposes. Yelp does use a numerical system of 1 to 5. Yelp is a reviewing platform and nothing is wrong with reviewing people of public stature as we do restaurants. As a matter of fact, this can prove to be very productive and positive because some very good writers can find better recognition by using a numerical system. Patty U or Josh Sens will beat Michael Bauer any day in a fair game by the quality of their writings and opinions. The only problem is one cannot look at them side by side. Advertising tells us who is who and Bauer does the most damage systematically to get the most attention. If they were compared on an objective, or close enough, basis, many readers would seek the works of the better writers the same way they seek better restaurants, stores and so on by following other people’s review scores. The written reviews are good for having substance and credibility. I would not trust a reviewer that assigns a numerical score to something and writes nothing or one line of some opinion or claim. The opposite is a review that has writing based on experience but not a numerical score to summarize everything on a limited but countable basis.
As the numbers of reviews, or blog comments, increase, the value of a numerical system becomes more and more obvious. It will be difficult for a restaurant to get 5000 reviews and without a numerical system, it will be impossible to have an opinion of the place before a visit because nobody can read even a fraction of those reviews. It will be however very easy for a public person, such as Michael Bauer, to get 5000 reviews and a numerical basis would give a strong indication of what the public think of the quality of his work. This system will also help the readers find better writers that do similar work, such as Patty U and Sens, and by readers’ opinion (I claim as such) are a delight to read. You can see how the public opinion would gravitate to what is of benefit and not what has become established by advertising. If someone writes for a big newspaper, that does not qualify as final in the business though we are led to believe whatever a big establishment claims and states goes and who are we to argue. If Chronicle says Bauer is such and such, that is supposed to be final. If we can compare Bauer on a numerical basis with others, we won’t need Bauer or Chronicles edict.
Some food writers operate as prize shows do. The restaurant is automatically enrolled in the competition for a prize (recognition and higher sales) or a loss (loss of reputation and sales) by being within the geographical proximity of a publication. This prize show picks whatever restaurant it wants as a player (without any say on the part of the restaurant) and how you play it is judged by mean, biased and moody judges (such as Bauer). What if a restaurant does not want to play? That is not how it works. The more play, the bigger Bauer and his show (column) get and so you have to play even if you don’t want to.
And who said what Bauer says counts at all? San Francisco Chronicle did. They are the establishment and they do the saying. Bauer is their guy and what he says goes. If we have a numerical system and a fair enough platform, the public can pick their own judges for the (not mandatory) prize shows. Yelp is a good start and other paltforms should follow. And yes the Chronicle and Bauer will try to stop the numerical ratings and if they cannot, they will direct their own shillers to manage reputations (damage control?). The only good thing is the population of this area is almost 1 million and not enough shillers exist to counter the complaints about so called top writers such as Bauer if a numerical system can be used.