A little Yelp from my crowdsourcing friends / by Mike Takahashi

Logo of Yelp

What is crowdsourcing? Think of it as taking a task performed by an employer or contractor and outsourcing it to a large group of people or community. It's been done on review sites like Yelp, articles on Wikipedia and even voting for contestants on American Idol.

Let's take a look at Yelp. Review sites have been around forever. You'll probably remember Citysearch as one of the more popular ones. So why has Yelp been so successful? In July 2009, it had an estimated 8.6 million unique visitors and 80% growth from a year ago.

Yelp has been able to successfully create ownership through the contributions and collaborations of its users through crowdsourcing. People on Yelp are passionate and involved within their online community. The site implements a social network where users have profiles and other members can rate their reviews and vote on whether they were helpful or not. One can even become an "elite" member. It also allows other users to follow people who have similar interests. For example, if I'm looking for a new restaurant to eat, I can see what other members who have similar tastes have reviewed and favored.

We feel a better sense of connection and trust with our peers and Yelp's community helps foster it.  If you're looking for a new restaurant to try, are you going to go on the merits of a single critic? Or are you going to go with 500 reviewers from Yelp who gave that same restaurant 4 stars out of 5? Here's something else to think about. What does this mean now for newspapers and magazines who are supposed to know everything about the local scene?