Yelp and How Not to Run a Community

3505035923_23c034315f_qI used to like Yelp. Despite the occasional rumblings about “extortion” tactics[1, 2, etc], I found it to be useful. I also got a kick out of “playing the game” of checking into locations. It was fun, at least until they changed their frecency algorithm*. There were badges. My friends did it so there was a social aspect to it. I like to write reviews of things so this seemed like a good place to do that.

Then last year I signed up for “Elite”. This gets you a little badge on your page that says you’re one of the frequent users of Yelp. I tend to scan most restaurants’ reviews for the elites as they tend to have a bit more weight compared to the casual users. They’re the worldly ones. The people who’ve been around a bit and know what they like — even if their tastes aren’t always the same as mine.

But you know, writing reviews takes time. I’ve been really busy this year with work and I don’t have the same amount of time for personal writing. And I have this blog that I neglect. You know, excuses.

Then I got this “compliment” from the local Yelp Ambassador (their name for community manager):

The world needs more from the master of the grill… just sayin’

If there’s one way to sap the fun out of something, make it an obligation. Or worse, a veiled threat. I’ve had 3 “reviews of the day” this year. I’m pretty sure at least one of my reviews helped one of the local restaurant-bars out during their opening. I was writing quality reviews, just maybe not in the frequency that the Yelp Overlords liked. So I wrote less.

Then this weekend I received this:

AUG 30, 2013  |  09:57AM PDT
Hello,

As you know, Elite Squad members are viewed as role models for the rest of the community and that comes with the expectation of maintaining a certain level of activity on the site. We couldn’t help but notice a drop in your contributions on Yelp.

While we’d love for you to continue to be a part of the Elite Squad, we’re going to go ahead and remove your 2013 badge at this time, with the hope you’ll continue to participate on Yelp to whatever degree you’re comfortable. If you should choose to become active again, and would like to regain Elite status, you can nominate yourself here: http://www.yelp.ca/elite.

Regardless of your decision, we think you’ve been a great asset and are truly thankful for your contributions to the community.

Regards,
Yelp Elite Squad Messenger
San Francisco, California

My reply:

“Yelp Elite Squad Messenger”,

There are different ways to run a community. When people volunteer to provide content for a site that generates value for a business, it’s nice to recognize that. To give them a little something. Maybe a badge. Maybe a night out for a fancy dinner.

But when you start to pester people to keep it up as one of your own did previously to me, then it starts to feel more like an obligation on the part of the contributor. “I must do this thing that I thought was fun or I will lose the small token that was given to me” is not a nice way to motivate your contributors. The people who create the valuable content on your site.

As a result of this action, I will be deleting all of my positive reviews from your site and will no longer contribute.

If you would like me to reinstate my reviews, you may return my badge.

Thank you.
Rob Campbell

 

And then I proceeded to delete my content.

Thanks for the good times, Yelp. I won’t be adding value to your service anymore.

* – Their changes to the “frecency” algorithm they use to capture “dukedoms” and “feifdoms” was also a part of the reason I stopped checking into places. Dukedoms and “regularity” — whether or not you’re considered a regular at a location – expire after a very short period of time now.

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