I finally made time to watch the video of this lecture. "Mystery Guest" certainly brought up a lot of issues that amateurs reviewing restaurants should consider before hitting that "Post" button on their computer.
I think another lecture could be devoted solely to the issues raised in this paragraph describing the October lecture:
"Or does it even matter? The traditional critic no longer holds a monopoly on restaurant reviews. Thousands of amateurs post their critiques online on blogs, social networks and web sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon, adding new perspectives to the mix. But are these reviewers the ordinary "real people" they claim to be, or do they have an agenda to promote or an ax to grind? Is someone paying them to praise or condemn a restaurant? Do they recognize fundamental media ethics principles like avoiding conflicts of interest, refusing special treatment, or correcting mistakes?"
"Mystery Guest" correctly pointed out that you don't know who is writing these online reviews. We have all seen posts plugging restaurants on this forum, only to get blown away if they were obviously written by promoters.
But after reading reviews on this site and the ones mentioned in the lecture description, I find that with some practice I think I can tell which reviews are genuine and which are planted. Some of these sites offer an advantage to big city readers: just about every joint gets reviewed, something a newspaper can't do due to lack of space. Amateur reviewers do help provide a list of what Lynne Kasper is looking for - dumps to avoid. There seems to be no end of people who sign up on those other review sites just to vent about the bad meal they just had at some truly dreadful place.
The one thing I am still looking for is a muckraking expose into why reviews disappear from certain restaurant web sites. Payola, maybe?
<message edited by David_NYC on Tue, 11/13/12 6:08 AM>