Moving on to Thing #19, I read about the Web 2.0 Award winners. (I noticed the awards are given each May, so am wondering when the 2009 winners will be announced...?) Anyway, I was already familiar with many of the sites, such as Craig's List and Geni and of course, the wonderful Google applications. I did notice a lot of duplication: several similar sites for entering family tree data or doing word processing or displaying & editing photographs. Guess everybody grabs the same idea and tries to do it just a little bit better. How about some original ideas, something no one has ever tried before?
I decided to focus on Yelp, not because it's particularly original but because I'd never looked at it before but had heard others sing its praises. Basically, it's a site where anyone can post reviews of local service providers, businesses, events, etc.. The concept is very familiar because whenever we travel, before booking a hotel, I go to Trip Advisor to read what "real people" have to say about their experiences there. So - what I like and find useful about Yelp is that I can get other people's impressions of a particular Sacramento doctor, auto repair shop, restaurant, or whatever. Such personal recommendations seem far more likely to produce satisfaction than my usual, eenie-meenie-minie-mo method of selection.
Of course, one downside is that Yelp is far from comprehensive. It's just the luck of the draw whether a particular place or person will have been reviewed at all. Furthermore, some of the reviewers are probably just bitter people who had one bad experience and are out for revenge -- trying to ruin someone's reputation and hurt their business. So just as with all the information gleaned from the Net, users have to take it with a large grain of salt. If there's just one review and it is either extremely good or terrible, I would ignore it. But if there are several and they all lean the same direction, then that can be revealing. You begin to discern a pattern. For instance, we've been using a dental group that seems rather shady. Sure enough, on Yelp I found 4 reviews of that group -- all negative, validating the concerns I have. That has convinced me it's time to find a new dentist!
How could Yelp be useful in a library setting? Well, folks often come in asking where they can find a good plumber or pizza restaurant or whatever. Now they can just jump on SPL's computers and go to Yelp for advice!