Recommendations > Reviews. Yet no one is doing it in the local space.

19 Jun

My earlier post started my train of thought, but 24 hours lated I’ve decided:

The focus should be on recommendations, not


Let me indulge myself. When we launched iBegin Toronto years ago, I not only added a reviews component, but also a Favorites option. My reasoning was simple – there is a stark difference between ‘liking’ a place and considering it a ‘favorite’. I’ve been to a ton of restaurants I would say I liked, but only a few I would ever really recommend to a friend.

Think of it as LinkedIn connections, but based purely on recommendations. Lets call it ‘’ (which is actually registered!). No reviews on this site. You simple toggle ‘I recommend this place’ with optional text. No rating numbers at all. When searching for a business, you end up with X of your friends recommend this place, Y of their friends recommend this place, and Z people recommend this place. It would be light, fast, and useful! Of course this is the damn chicken-egg problem – but hey, pull a second-generation social network and spam the shit out of their email contacts!

Kidding on the spam … we have space for only one MerchantCircle :)

You could then expand it – make something like our Explorer. Browse around for other people’s recommendations. Limit them to your friends (and their friends if you want). And so forth. And then extend it to support Facebook, OpenSocial, Open ID, Android, iPhone, LinkedIn, and so forth. Hell make it an open API even.

I am aware of sites like GigPark and Loladex – what I’m recommending is simpler than them (and also more exploratory). And I’m aware of the spam considerations. But still worth a try.

Reviews: A dime a dozen, often times more a story than an actual review, little trust in what other’s say, highly involved (in writing a review), can be negative (creating moderation headaches), and (worst of all) a moving target (someone’s 3 is someone else’s 5)
Recommendations: Rarely used, simple, based on your friends, low impact, implicit negative (with no recommendations), and no moving target.

Hell I actually want a site like the above (especially with connections into other APIs/platforms) that I’m willing to sell our data at half-price to see it happen. Any takers?

11 Responses to Recommendations > Reviews. Yet no one is doing it in the local space.


David Cramer

June 19th, 2008 at 6:07 pm

I agree. Reviews suck. You get one person who has something up their ass and they’ll badmouth your place of business.

Recommendations is where the web is going.



June 19th, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I think that’s a really good idea. I’d like to see an iPhone Application like that where I could recommend places, and see my friends recommendations then tie it in to Google Maps to show me where the place is.



June 19th, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Perhaps as a refinement to ‘recommends’ (where you still explicitly vote), you base this implicitly on a users (anonymous) service data.

So to your analogy of LinkedIn connections. You instead allow folks to build a list of places where they’ve been, and where they’d consider returning; or for services, those they’ve used and who they’d consider using again.

Then whenever I look up a business, I might get systemwide aggregate statistic (how often included on anyone’s list – maybe up to a threshold like a paypal rating), but more importantly, how often included on my friends and/or their friends list. The first statistic could still be gamed, much harder to game the second.


Tim Tracey

June 19th, 2008 at 7:43 pm


I agree re: ratings. We don’t need an arbitrary rating. And we do need social information that search engines don’t provide.

This sounds like the “Connect-gine(TM)” (connection engine) concept that is based on. It works on the exact same principle that word-of-mouth has succeeded with for eons.

Example: When I ask a friend to recommend his local contractor or professional I want to know who he trusts – not what rating he’d give.

YouGottaCall includes the opportunity to reward referrers and new customers with a voluntary payment. In turn, this payment may be donated to a not-for-profit organization, so everyone wins.

– – Tim



June 20th, 2008 at 11:32 am

Just to clarify: you’re saying that if we developed a local site using recommendations instead of reviews, you’d give us a 50% discount when buying your data?



June 20th, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Pretty simple Dave – I’ll email ya.



June 22nd, 2008 at 12:47 am

reviews are still very useful in a lot of areas, maybe not business listings which get < 10 reviews, but resorts, hotels etc, are very important. Take tripadvisor for example, you plan a trip, spend lots of money, you want to read lots of reviews.



June 22nd, 2008 at 11:28 pm

I’m not so sure about that Andre – the reviews have 900 details which just make the entire experience even more cumbersome. If I knew the hotels my friends thought were the best … basically that is WOM right there.


Noah Godfrey

June 23rd, 2008 at 9:08 am

Cool thought, Ahmed. Totally agree … recommendations from people you know and trust trump random reviews any day.

We’ve tried to make GigPark pretty simple (and we try to make it even simpler every day) so I’d love to hear more about your concept. Wanna chat?

Noah Godfrey
Founder, GigPark
noah AT gigpark DOT com



June 23rd, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Hey Noah – I’ve been talking to Pema for a while (before you guys even went beta) – the difference here is that I am advocating a site that has full business listings, whereas yours the businesses must be entered via the user.



July 14th, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Wow… that was nearly word for word our startup’s competitive advantage. Now that our model is exposed to thousands, I better kick up the development. At least we all see the need!