Why Yelp If I Can Google?

Google now makes it easy to read ratings, reviews and other associated information about businesses you find on Google Maps. Google has taken its usual approach of aggregating the participation of multiple services and communities across the web to provide a fast way to consume related information. It’s an impressive effort since no metadata or microformat standards exist that make it easy to produce.

Lets use a local Philadelphia business, the Khyber rock club as an example, to contrast and compare Google’s approach with that of its competitors.

Click to open a new window: Google Maps page for the Khyber.

It’s a very tight page featuring most of what you need to know about the Khyber at a glance. Contact information. Hours of operation. Reviews and ratings posted from various services across the web, including Citysearch and Yelp. There is a details page with aggregated information about the Khyber including the club atmosphere. There is a link for me to go to the Khyber’s home page, but at this point, do I need to? I have the many of the vitals I need right here. Except for an events listing.

Now lets check out Citysearch.com and AOL’s Digitalcities entries on the Khyber. Citysearch and Digitalcities have been around for as long as I can remember.

Click to open a new window: Citysearch Khyber page

Click to open a new window: AOL Digital Cities Khyber page

Both Citysearch and Digitalcities incorporate hosted user communities to provide ratings and reviews, these accompany information provided by editors and the businesses themselves. The additional information, which in this instance includes an Events listing – very important for this kind of business – makes them well rounded resources. There is even less reason here for me to visit the Kyber home page.

The last two services I want to compare are Yahoo!’s and Yelp’s entries for the Khyber. First Yelp.

Click to open a new window: Yelp Khyber page

Yelp’s page on the Khyber is information sparse. No editorial reviews. No business provided information. No information aggregated from any other source. Businesses do have the capability to add some basic info to their Yelp page however.

What you do find is an intense social networking focus. Yelp encourages reviewers to maintain profile pages like those you would maintain on Digg, Facebook, Myspace, etc. The kind of information you would share on your own personal blog if you had one. The intersection of sharing local places and services you use, with social networking, provides social opportunities along the lines of MySpace.

So is Yelp a good place to learn about businesses in your area? Maybe. In comparison with Google Maps or Citysearch? No. But it maybe a good service to meet people.

Lastly, lets look at Yahoo!. Yahoo, provides elements of *all* of the previously mentioned services. Aggregated reviews. Editorial content. Some social networking. But participation is lacking. I get no sense of an existing Yahoo! local community I want to interact with.

Click to open a new window: Yahoo! Khyber page

Some thoughts

Local newspapers have been urged by many to go ‘hyper-local’, precisely because they used to have the market cornered for such information. Each of these services attempts to be a regional information and community home page and if the papers don’t look out, these services will eat the last of their lunch left over by Craigslist.

If you’re a local business owner, you have to be concerned. Why? Because these pages are indexable by search engines and will compete with your own home page for visibility in search result placement. Where before a local business would only need to concern itself with an advertisement in the Yellow Pages, and local advertising, now it must gain competency in online marketing to compete for attention-share across enumerable services. It’s a whole lot more work. And if your product isn’t one that is globally deliverable – lets say – pizza – then that work offers no real reward for effort.

Yahoo! is a sad case. If it leveraged Flickr, deli.icio.us, upcoming.org and its other engaged online communities in a coordinated fashion, could be a winner here, but for now, especially since search is the biggest ‘front door’ to this kind of information, it’s Google for me.

And I’d be at Yelp if I was single or looking to network with others.

Update 2/2/07: It looks like Yahoo! is working on *exactly* what I suggested above! GigaOM: Yahoo tests Local mashups. I wonder how long they are going to take before rolling this out. Like Om, I think missing Yahoo! Map integration is a mistake. That, and adding Yahoo! local and Yahoo! Answers to the mix, could make it a useful service to any particular region.

Philly Future’s Newest Team Member

I’m very happy to share news that Ron Burkhardt, local technologist, and fellow Philly family guy, has joined Philly Future’s all volunteer team. His feedback over the past few years has been invaluable and having him take an official role on the team will benefit the community tremendously.

Friends, especially those of you familiar with technology and business, you can be a huge help right now in helping Philly Future serve our region. If you want to take a direct role in the service, let us know.

Never say “last bad news for a while”

You’re not going to believe this, I’m still laughing at the irony, but last Thursday, while walking to the train station from my first physical rehabilitation session – I fell down six or steps – and chipped my right lateral cunieform – a bone on the top of my right foot!

It’s a small chip and my orthopedist said I should be safe to put weight on it, if I can handle the pain, which I can. But damn man. That’s just too friggin’ ironic.

On a far lighter note, we’re looking forward to Emma’s first birthday next month. Just a couple weeks away. We have a small house, so the party will be just family, but it will be a great day. I gotta post some new pictures. You should see her walking technique – it looks like a martial arts stance 🙂

Get all the tech news you need in 5, not 20 minutes, every day

Nick Douglas, at Valleywag has a concise list of services to visit to get a daily dose of tech/social software/media business news. He suggests using a feed reader to save time if you’re so inclined.

Here goes a simpler suggestion – visit OriginalSignal.com and Popurls.com.

There you will be able to scan the latest stories published by the services Nick Douglas mentions (except for Paul Kedrosky – bookmark him or subscribe), plus those of many more.

And it will take you less than 5 minutes.

Publishers of tech biz-news news have embraced RSS and Google, and have adapted their writing styles to suit. This has created the opportunity for services like OriginalSignal and Popurls to coalesce conversation in this niche and provide useful filters for news and information flowing around it.

There are *only two* reasons to visit tech biz-news services when simple views into whats being talked about on them – right now – like OriginalSignal – exist: to read the rest of stories that catch your interest (not as necessary since most follow a terse, fact based/keyword rich headline/lede style to improve their their standing in search engines), and to participate in related discussion threads.

OriginalSignal and PopUrls provide a convenient front door for both purposes.

It’s a blessing for consumers of this kind of news and information. I wonder how publishers plan to make money if services like OriginalSignal and Popurls proliferate.

So save yourself the time spent following separate tech-biz news services and spend that time being creative.

Hopefully the last bad news for a while

I’ve been handling pain associated with my isthmic Spondylolisthesis for many, many years years now. Back in 2005 I did some physical rehabilitation to strengthen my torso muscles. Since then I’ve inconsistently kept an exercise routine that has more or less, kept my pain level at a “2” or “3” on a scale of 1 to 10. Every once and a while I’d fall off the exercise bandwagon and pain levels would increase to around “6”.

Last November the pain I feel started to sometimes increase near an unbearable point, accompanied by a shooting pain down my left leg. My friends and family really couldn’t notice a difference in me, since I’m so good at mentally managing it. I figured the increase in pain was due to Emma getting older and me needing to learn better techniques to pick her up, or stand while changing her. But I scheduled a MRI over the holiday break, just in case.

It turns out I have a massive herniated disk. Same two vertebrae affected by the Spondylolisthesis, L4 and L5. Hard to know how long I’ve had it. Probably earned it sometime in November. The good news is that the doctor feels that since my pain level is variable, and not constant, that I look much better than my MRI suggests, going back to physical therapy might just do the trick.

I think the NovaCare center I’ll be going to has a pool. I think I’m going to take the time to learn how to swim.

Martin Luther King Jr. On War

Today America honors a great man who fewer and fewer wish to see eye to eye: Martin Luther King, Jr., Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution:

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.

I am convinced that it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war in Vietnam has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the Vietnamese people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor.

It has played havoc with our domestic destinies. This day we are spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill every Vietcong soldier. Every time we kill one we spend about five hundred thousand dollars while we spend only fifty-three dollars a year for every person characterized as poverty-stricken in the so-called poverty program, which is not even a good skirmish against poverty.

Not only that, it has put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation. And here we are ten thousand miles away from home fighting for the so-called freedom of the Vietnamese people when we have not even put our own house in order. And we force young black men and young white men to fight and kill in brutal solidarity. Yet when they come back home that can’t hardly live on the same block together.

The judgment of God is upon us today. And we could go right down the line and see that something must be done—and something must be done quickly. We have alienated ourselves from other nations so we end up morally and politically isolated in the world. There is not a single major ally of the United States of America that would dare send a troop to Vietnam, and so the only friends that we have now are a few client-nations like Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and a few others.

This is where we are. “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind,” and the best way to start is to put an end to war in Vietnam, because if it continues, we will inevitably come to the point of confronting China which could lead the whole world to nuclear annihilation.

It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine.

Elsie Knott July 24, 1916 – January 11, 2007

Last Thursday morning we got the news that Richelle’s Aunt Elsie had passed away in her sleep. I’ve known Aunt Elsie for 16 years. The following picture is of Emma and Aunt Elsie, taken this Christmas. She loved her visits with Emma and would call her my ‘little schatzi”.

Thursday, while the family was dealing with the news, Emma started to walk. I mean really walk. Across the living room. Back across the living room. Down the hallway. Anywhere she had a path to go.

Today is her funeral and memorial. We’re going to miss her.

Mom successfully weaned from intubation tube

At around 6:30 tonight they removed the tube and mom was breathing regularly under her own strength. It was scary along the way, with fears growing that it wouldn’t be possible.

I’ve been at the hospital the past few days, leaving Richelle alone to take care of Emma, who has a cold (snot everywhere!) which I’ve caught. So none of us have been sleeping well.

It was great to hear my mom’s gravely voice say to me, “see you tomorrow”, with a smile and a happy tear in her eye, when it was time for me to head home.