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February 09, 2006

A Fishy Tale

Today a user reported a "fishy" rating on Zipingo. Turns out, it wasn't fishy at all. It was more like barbeque. BBQ wings, that is.

Hey, I know you're out there. I can hear you breathing. (taps microphone) Is this thing on?

OK...

A Zipingo rater entered a new business listing and review for "buffalo wind wings" in Fredericksburg, VA. The correct record was already in the database under "BUFFALO WILD WINGS GRILL & BAR." It wasn't really a "fishy" review, per se, but the feedback sender got the point across that I needed to do something about it. So I asked database maestro Jay to help by moving the review over to the correct business record and deleting the incorrect user-entered record. And he did, so all's right with the world.

Of course, I might not have caught that mistake if the feedback sender hadn't been kind enough to "say" something. I love our users. Because there is just no way I could possibly monitor the millions of business records in Zipingo. Well, maybe I could, if I gave up that little thing I do between midnight and 6 a.m. Let me do the math on that...

Anyway, I admit that I rely very much on the user community to send me a quick note when they notice something "fishy," especially when it comes to . Now that more users are starting to visit and rate on Zipingo, I am starting to see more feedback on "fishy" ratings, duplicates, misspellings and other things related to user-entered content. Not too frequently, but enough to make me curious as to why it occurs.

Which brings up the subject of search. For one thing, I wonder if users are entering new records for existing business listings because our search isn't smart enough yet. Or is it because users aren't sure about actual business names and there are just so many search combinations the logic will recognize? Or is it something else entirely? Now, if you're computer literate or you get this db stuff, you can skip the next paragraph or I'll just bore the heck out of you.

Yesterday, while Jay about database stuff, I got a brief rundown of search logic and scoring algorithms and how it relates to Zipingo. In essence, when a user enters a business name into a search field, the system "scores" the input against the database before it presents search results. In other words, there's logic behind the scenes that attempts to deliver the right record based on several factors, which I won't go into here because, quite frankly, reading about it is like watching sausage being made, for me at least. But I do promise that there are no monkeys behind the scenes resetting the pins in the bowling alley.

From a user viewpoint, trying to figure out what works when searching on any given Web site, is part of the learning process. Certainly, users who've cut their Internet teeth on the major portals before visiting Zipingo have established habits and expectations about searching. And who can blame them? Just so you know, the team is actively working on ways to meet or beat industry standards in these areas. And that's why we're in Beta.

The bottom line? Users don't always find what they're looking for when they're searching but thankfully, it's improving in leaps and bounds. And I'm also very thankful that our user base is a very vocal group, so we can react accordingly to meet their needs on the product.

By the way, a user-contribution system plus its community create a very synergistic relationship. We need each other. You need us to be a central repository of user-contributed business reviews. We need you to police our community and content, and alert us to quality and other issues.

So and tell us what is and isn't working, especially when it comes to new features you'd like to see in a future release of Zipingo.

We're listening. I promise.

~ ZipingoKim

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