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Yelp, Gowalla, foursquare, Urban Spoon etc. are walled garden data silos of Doom that don't provide useful recommendations

Submitted by Roland on Sat, 2011-04-16 21:05

Part 1 of Rant - Recommendations from Yelp, foursquare, etc  are useless because there's no way to validate expertise and no identity

social+local+expert data = relevant recommendations aka Yelp, Foursquare, urban spoon, etc are walled garden data silos of doom NOT destiny and they don't really help you find the awesome restaurant  or espresso g*d shot you are looking for despite Fred Wilson's experience (an exception that proves the rule)

Part 2 of Rant - Don't trust your review data not to be compromised and not to be deleted when using a service like Yelp, foursquare, etc

You may be elite-2011-taster-273487 on yelp or urban spoon but or other such location based or recommendation based service, but:

  1. you don't own your data e.g. your reviews
  2. you can't export your data
  3. why should anybody believe that it's you or trust your reviews when it's impossible to figure out who you are e.g. who is JudyS_240394 ?
  4. your data will be sold (only Apple seems to have the guts not to sell user data)
  5. what happens when the wonderful service goes out of business or "pivots"? 

Part 3 of Rant - Solutions - for now: copy to your site, future: open formats are the only long term way to get out of the silo

It's unfortunate that in 2011 that the best way to build up a consistent reputable, verifiable, track record for reviews or anything else that's structured beyond mere text is still to to have your own site e.g. a blog .

The best pragmatic compromise is to somehow copy the data you post in walled garden data silos of doom back to a site you control on your domain (unfortunately most walled garden sites don't allow you to get your data out without compromise; exceptions that prove the rule: flickr and

Or flip it around: Make your site the master and copy the data out to walled gardens like twitter, yelp, facebook etc is probably a better short term pragmatic solution. Not surprisingly the usual suspects :-) like Dave Winer and Tantek are pioneering this (check out Tantek's falcon system).

And in the long term, a "beyond unstructured blog of text" open API or data format for things like reviews which we have been discussing since 2004 (e.g. microformats) will actually happen. I remain optimistic about that :-) !


I think Urbanspoon is the only one that took the aggregation approach. I'd like to see more of this federated-by-default approach, but it seems like the sites that people are using as their home base are actually getting less capable of hosting / integrating that sort of approach.

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