"We've started replacing actual experiences with someone else's already digested knowledge. We're forgetting the pleasures of not knowing."
This is one of several statements that resonated with me when I read "Rate this article" by Chris Colin in Wired.
I guess I'm one of the few who think that all the reviews of everything add little to no value. Honestly I hardly ever take into account the reviews by faceless strangers on Google Places, Yelp and all the rest. I have favorite restaurants like Whiskey Cake, but if I paid attention to some of the reviews on Yelp I might not have ever tried it. In the article Colin calls this the problem of "contamination" -- "when the voices of hundreds of strangers, or even just three shrill ones, enter our heads."
For me, reviews are just a directional resource where I look at the ratio of good to bad. Most of the time the reviews skew postive (4 stars or more) in which case they are of no help in comparison shopping. But in the rare case that the bad reviews equal or outweigh the good, I reconsider my choice and do more research.
I really feel for local business owners who are at the mercy of a few very vocal critics, especially the annoymous ones who may not be authentic and don't represent the majority of customers. Now business owners need to spend a lot of time and effort asking customers for positive reviews in order to offset the bad ones. And in the end, that just accelerates the contamination effect. So while I'm the definition of a digital consumer, in this case I've gone back to the analog approach of just asking my close friends whose recommendations I trust.