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  • The individuals who post here work at Intuit and are some of the best and brightest. The opinions expressed here, while probably right and certainly smart, are their own, and are not necessarily reviewed in advance by anyone but the individual author. Sometimes, the author is audacious and decides to post an opinion without a buddy reviewing it, and at other times, he or she may seek counsel of a friend. Regardless, these opinions do not necessarily reflect the view of Intuit or any other person or company. Although, since these people are smart to begin with, Intuit might agree with them - or might not.
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March 27, 2006

Pride and Prejudice in User Feedback

I try to keep an open mind when someone contacts us to suggest a change to content on Zipingo. For example, a fishy review might be one that appears to have been written by the business owner ("This place is wonderful!") or by a competitor ("This place is awful."). But not everyone agrees. Personally, I think the "Sounds Fishy" link should go away, in favor of a user-driven rating system. Only time will tell.

Since we launched the Zipingo ratings feature in , the number of reported reviews has increased. Here is some of my favorite "sounds fishy" user feedback:

  • A review of a Hooters Restaurants said the waitress outfits were tacky. A user reported the review as "fishy" because "Duh, it's Hooters!"
  • A review of a Mexican grill gave it 5 stars. A user said the review was "fishy" because "How can you rate any fast food restaurant 5 stars. These restaurants are marginal to say the least!"
  • A review of a KFC generated a similar skeptical response from another user who wrote "service at a fast food place? You gotta be kidding....."
  • A review of Walmart, with a large Payment Range, caused one user to comment "The last time I spent over $500 at a Walmart, the credit card company called and wanted to find out if our card had been stolen since nobody spends that much at a Walmart."

So, you see? Everyone has a different interpretation of what's "fishy" in a business review.

Besides "sounds fishy" comments, we also receive feedback on other site content.

Recently, a user suggested we change the text on our and pages. The user claimed that our one-star rating example (i.e. "Poor -- Ugh. I'd rather drink sour milk.") was offensive because some peoples [sic] do drink sour milk. The user then suggested we change our writing to encourage or "stimulate refinement." So here are my thoughts. Feel free to disagree, especially if you think I'm being snotty. I probably am.

The sour milk example could be viewed as "tasteless" -- no pun intended -- or even thoughtless. Some folks on our launch team may not have been aware that consumption of sour milk is an accepted part of some diets. Other than using sour milk as a substitute for buttermilk in baking, I can tell you that I wasn't aware personally. And I can also tell you that the sour milk text was not meant to be exclusionary or prejudicial toward any socio-economic group or culture. It's a fact that most people in U.S. culture don't like to drink or even smell sour milk, for whatever reason. I even remember a 1980s movie and its spin-off TV show () where the aliens drank sour milk and it disgusted the humans who knew them. So if that sour milk reference brands us as myopic or lacking a working class perspective, I sincerely apologize.

On the other hand, I disagree with the opinion that Zipingo should change its style to "stimulate refinement." Yeah, we expect our users to avoid or vulgar comments, or reviews that are intentionally deceptive. But we're inviting real people to share their honest opinions in everyday language, not grooming Nobel laureates in literature. That said, there is no artificial refinement barrier to participating on Zipingo. And I always hope that most people who read reviews are evaluating them for valid points, rather than evaluating the rater's ability to pen expressive poetry or draft a doctoral thesis.

We're a community Web site rather than an academic, corporate or military Web site. Sure, you'd expect to see more formal prose on a Web page for an institute of higher learning or a governmental information resource, depending on its focus. It might be a subtle distinction, but we're serving the Average Joe, so our style has a certain slant. If we wanted professionally-written reviews rather than user-generated content, it'd be a different site entirely.

Overall, I'd say the voice of Zipingo is relaxed, rather than stiff, notwithstanding this blog post. Such informalness may not be pleasing to a grammarian or a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, but it has a large following and is a widely accepted part of standard American vernacular. For now, we're focused on the United States. If and when goes international, we may have to mend our ways.

I'm open to debating our Web style with well as other aspects of Zipingo content and community. Feel free to enter a comment on this blog post or .


Zipingo Kim

"Oh, if you want to be really refined, you have to be dead. There's no one as dignified as a mummy." ~ Elizabeth Bennett (Greer Garson), "" (1940).


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Megan O'Regan

WTF? Do you have a college dictionary in your pocket?

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