Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Urbanspoon, Zomato, Facebook and new beginnings

In the first year of this blog, I tied the fortunes (figuratively speaking) of the RJG to Urbanspoon. I liked Urbanspoon because it was blogger friendly. The content was solely mine but it was linked to Urbanspoon. I quickly became a Prime member, and I personally added an extraordinary amount of content to the website, including many restaurant fixes. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. I had access to the folks who ran the site, and could make suggestions that were actually listened to. Over time, the RJG became the #1 blog for DFW on Urbanspoon, which is a badge I displayed prominently. I was kind of proud of it actually. A small reward for hard work. Nothing financial of course, just pride of ownership.

While I took the last year off, I still frequented Urbanspoon to see what was new in the NE Tarrant area. And I noticed that they were purchased by a company called Zomato. Some of the features I liked started to disappear, but I figured they were tweaking the site to ultimately make it better. Oh they tweaked it alright. Yesterday they unveiled the new look and feel. What a complete and utter disaster. It's appalling. I couldn't figure out anything on my own (and as stated in the link above, I'm technical by trade), and all my correction privileges were taken away (though I'm still technically a Prime). It's a terrible interface. Now if you want to look for a restaurant, you have to go to the actual town first - not the area! So if you're a tourist in DFW and you want to find the name of a restaurant you heard about, then you better know exactly the suburb it's in. Say you want to go to that restaurant everyone's raving about Chef Point Cafe. I seriously doubt anyone will know it's in Watauga instinctively. But they know it's somewhere in the Dallas area. You'll have to use Google now. They took away all the cool features like "most popular" restaurants. Or if it's still there, I couldn't find it.

I don't like the new look and I don't feel a part of it. So I'm ending the relationship of Zomato with this blog going forward. I'll leave the links, and I'm sure I'll be the most popular blog in DFW forever there (but no one will ever know, because you can't find that either). It's no longer a blogger friendly site. I plan to stick with the site itself and continue to rate as the RegularJoesGuide. One thing I do appreciate about Zomato is the 10 point system (0.5 to 5 stars). That's far preferable to me then Like/Don't Like. If only I can find the restaurant I want to rate...

Zomato has done what a lot of websites try to do: Emulate Facebook. Social media. Ebay even did this! Whatever happened to the concept of "core competency"? Ebay is an auction site, not a social media endeavor. I don't want to "share" which dealers I buy from, what I buy, nor my personally built search engines. Those are my trade secrets and gives me an edge on my fellow collectors. Just like brewers don't publish their beer recipes, and major corporations don't share their inventions. It's called competitive advantage. I'm all for sharing knowledge. It's ideal for many things - and Facebook fills that void admirably. But it's not for everything in life. Urbanspoon was a restaurant rating site with reviews from users. That's sharing enough for me! But nope, Zomato has that familiar post-it note look. The as-it-happens-real-time feel. No sense of history - and no perspective whatsoever of who's posting and rating (background, biases, etc...). I go to Urbanspoon to read the reliable reviewers and I ignore the others. I'm not interested in "We're here now and umm... yummy... it's like soooo ama-zing right now. Carter is so cute when he sticks the carrot in his ear". As my friends in the deep south are fond of saying: Wellllll.... good.

So now what? Yelp isn't blogger friendly at all, and never has been. There are other, smaller sites, but their database of restaurants are so insufficient, it's not worth the hassle.

Well, that leaves Facebook. I've resisted Facebook all these years. Both personally and on this anonymous blog. I could go standalone, and just hope people see my blog via a Google search (and the few people who actually follow it on their own accord). There was a time when Google gave search advantages to blogspot, since it was their own invention. But probably some judge ruled against that, or as a proactive measure, Google stepped in front of it and changed the algorithm. I just hate the idea of featuring a restaurant, and have no one see it. My goal here is actually one of altruism: I want to see good restaurants succeed. I don't benefit personally at all, except the place in question might stay open so we can eat there. Hence, I'm completely anonymous. Believe me, I get offers all the time for a free meal via the e-mail for this blog. As they say, there is no such thing as a free meal. They want placement and advertising. I don't blame them, that's how business works. But we're not for sale. This is strictly a hobby for me and my wife (and Mr. Music!). Actually eating out is the hobby, the RJG just documents it.

So with all that said, I went ahead and created a Facebook account for the RJG.

The RJG Facebook page

The way I built this blog was based on the way Urbanspoon linked their application to it. In effect, I turned the blog into a website with links, etc... I'll probably continue that to some extent, but will also get back to it being more of a blog. So without Urbanspoon, I'm going to do things different. There will be all new reviews (with some recycled language of course - hey, I'm lazy too!) going up for each place we visit. And perhaps a new style to the reviews (still working that in my mind). I'll work from the last month's visits onward. I will link the old posts to the new ones. Of course, many restaurants on this blog will never see an update as we probably won't go back.

Don't worry, we also plan on featuring many new places never covered in the RJG prior.

We begin anew.

2 comments:

Peter Schott said...

I appreciate the update. Just started reading the reviews in the iTunes store on the new app and it's getting pretty widely panned. I haven't tried the website yet, but it sounds like it's just not what doing what UrbanSpoon set out to do. That's disappointing as I used UrbanSpoon quite a bit to find nearby restaurants and get an idea of how good they would be before going. I don't trust Yelp reviews based on quite a bit of feedback about good/bad reviews being hidden or at least less visible depending on whether the business owners paid or not. That doesn't leave a whole lot of options for finding a decent, honest review of restaurants.

I look forward to reading about your experiences as you get a chance to go out to eat and appreciate that you stay unbiased. Thanks for sharing with us and taking the time to do that.

RJG said...

Thank you Peter, I appreciate the sentiment and comments!