I’m an ardent (some might say pathological) Yelp user, and since I am incapable of putting anything in my mouth without first validating its viability on Yelp, I try to contribute back to the community by sharing my own perspectives and information, particularly on the all-important subject of artisanal ice cream.
But today I got censored on Yelp for the first time. Last summer, during our family vacation in the Okanagan, I posted this review of Gorgeous Georgia’s Homemade Ice Cream Truck:
Attention: this is not actually ice cream. I somehow missed that when reading the online descriptions. It’s ALL nondairy, coconut-based frozen ice creamesque product. Couldn’t persuade the kids to try it, so I haven’t actually had a real try myself.
Here’s what Yelp says about why they removed it:
We wanted to let you know that we’ve removed your review of Gorgeous Georgia’s Homemade Ice-Cream. Our Support team has determined that it falls outside our Content Guidelines (http://www.yelp.ca/guidelines) because it lacks a firsthand customer experience.
The content guidelines describe “personal experience” as follows:
Personal experience: We want to hear about your firsthand consumer experience, not what you heard from your co-worker or significant other. Try to tell your own story without resorting to broad generalizations and conclusory allegations.
I understand the importance of focusing on reviews that offer personal experience, and I imagine that most of the time, that constitutes direct experience from someone who purchased the product. But I was sharing a personal experience — the personal experience of discovering that, despite the name of the food truck and its place in the “ice cream and yogurt” category, this isn’t actually ice cream. That seems like useful and relevant information for anyone thinking of visiting the food truck, and is certainly information I would have wanted to know beforehand as a Yelp user.
This strikes me as an interesting example of the dilemma social networks face when they depend on advertising rather than subscription revenue (or better yet, a mix of the two). I’d gladly pay as much as $50/year for Yelp, in addition to the effort I put into creating Yelp content, in order to have a site that offers comprehensive information about the businesses and restaurants I may want to patronize. But of course, as an advertiser-supported business, Yelp is in a bind: it depends on retailers not just as content but as sponsors. My assumption, in a case like this, is that the deletion was precipitated by a complaint from Gorgeous Georgia — but of course, I’d love to hear from Yelp or Gorgeous to find out if that hunch is correct.
UPDATE: Gorgeous Georgia tells me via Twitter that the deletion request didn’t come from them, so I’m following up with Yelp. My favorite working theory comes from this comment on my Facebook thread, suggesting I angered a vegan…which we all know is very, very dangerous.
What’s your take? Is this kind of review a useful contribution of “personal experience”, or do you prefer to hear from people who’ve actually made purchases?