A new app offers an easy way to spot those trying to game the system.
It’s happened to all of us: You search online for a great new restaurant to try, you find one with wonderful reviews, but when you actually go there, the food is only just okay. Short of only counting on word of mouth referrals, it’s hard to know what kind of experience a reviewer really had. It could be a friend or family member of the restaurant trying to improve the restaurant’s ratings, or even a diner who had a one-off terrible or wonderful experience.
“Fake reviews and blackmail attempts threaten to undermine trust in the ‘wisdom of crowds’ — reviews that many of us have come to rely on before we part with our hard-earned cash,” said BBC writer Ian Hardy.
Developers of a new UK app called Twizoo may have come up with a solution. Their app uses tweets as data, and they claim that their information is more reliable than typical reviews.
"We left 24 fake reviews on Yelp and all got through within a couple of hours," said Twizoo co-founder and algorithm writer Madeline Parra to the BBC. "But Twizoo expects users to have a full social media profile, tweeting about lots of different stuff, so it's a lot harder for a fake review to get through to us."
How are tweets any different from typical reviews? Firstly, they are accompanied by a whole social media profile. Twizoo is able to discard tweets that come from users with a brand new Twitter account and people earn a “Twitter credibility score” over time. Furthermore, multiple Tweets coming in at the same time about the same restaurant are also a red flag. That might indicate a friend or family member trying to game the system.
Parra emphasizes that their algorithm gives recent reviews more weight than older ones. After three months, they only count half as much towards a restaurant’s score:
"Because our volume [of tweets] is so high we want to give our users not what was awful five years ago, but what is great right now," she said to the BBC.
Hungry Twizoo users don’t need to have a twitter account to find restaurants near them. They simply need to download the app — available for Apple and Android. The screen shows bubbles with nearby eateries and they are color coded and sized based on how highly they are recommended. “Like a stoplight, green = good, go. Red = eww, stop,” Twizoo says on their website. “The bigger the bubble, the bigger the buzz.”
Does it really work? I guess there’s only one way to find out. Get reading and eating!