Friday, March 19, 2010

Yelp Tries to Explain Review Filter with Video

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 10:00 AM

In light of three recent lawsuits against Yelp alleging extortion, the San Francisco-based company posted a video yesterday on its blog in attempt to explain how their review filter works. Yelp's algorithm has been the subject of confusion for some business owners who don't understand why reviews come and go on their page. According to Yelp, the explanation is that its automated system removes reviews by users who do not post frequently in order to ensure that they’re not written by shills or competitors. However, what Yelp’s video doesn’t address is why, according to the businesses involved in the lawsuits as well as others, some Yelp sales reps offer to remove negative reviews of their businesses if they advertise, or why positive reviews (even ones written by Elite Yelpers) suddenly disappear immediately after being contacted by Yelp sales reps while negative ones remain (or negative ones appear), or why Yelp sometimes refuses to take down reviews that apparently violate their own Terms of Use. And, in some cases, Yelp sales reps have removed negative reviews and then explicitly told the business owners that they’d done so in order to get them advertise.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

UPDATED: City Goes After Lawbreaking Berkeley Official

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Building inspectors have halted work on the home of a Berkeley official who has admitted to violating city construction laws, the Berkeley Daily Planet reports. Ryan Lau, a member of the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board, has confessed that he turned his garage into a living quarters without pulling the proper permits or paying for them. As a member of the zoning board, Lau is entrusted with upholding the very same laws he broke.

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Big Oil Is Trying to Kill California’s Climate Change Law

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 10:38 AM

Two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, which both operate Bay Area refineries, are financing a statewide ballot initiative that would roll back California’s historic climate-change law. According to the CoCo Times, the big-oil backed initiative also would cripple the state’s green-energy industry.

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Philip Huang Shamelessly Pimps Himself

After that East Bay Express article, "I feel like I've become a woman."

by Rachel Swan
Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 10:35 AM

The provocateur strikes again:

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California Turns to the Right

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 10:16 AM

In clear evidence that Californians have grown increasingly unhappy with the Democratic Party, a new poll shows that two Republican candidates are now in a virtual dead heat with longtime US Senate incumbent Barbara Boxer. The new Field poll shows GOP moderate Tom Campbell leading the liberal Boxer 44 to 43 percent, while the more conservative Carly Fiorina trails her by just 45 to 44 percent. Pollster.com, which aggregates poll results, has Boxer just barely ahead of Campbell:

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whitman's Wealth Pays Off

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 11:59 AM

The $40 million that Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman poured into her own campaign has paid off. According to pollster.com, which aggregates polling nationwide, Whitman now leads Democrat Jerry Brown after trailing by nearly 20 points a year ago:

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New Critical Habitat for Red-Legged Frog

by Phil Marshall
Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 11:27 AM

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated more than 1.6 million acres of critical habitat for the California red-legged frog in 28 California counties. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the “population has declined by at least 90 percent, and the frog is gone from 70 percent of its former range — only four areas now harbor more than 350 adult red-legged frogs.”

The Bay Area supports numerous populations of red-legged frogs including several in Eastern Contra Costa County and Alameda County. Although development can still occur in areas that have been listed as critical habitat, federal agencies must make extra efforts to protect the features of an area that are pertinent to the species, including space for population growth, breeding, and feeding.

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Bay Area Businesses Join Yelp Lawsuit

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Eight businesses have joined a class-action lawsuit against Yelp, including three Bay Area-based companies — Sofa Outlet of San Mateo, Astro Appliance Serviceof San Carlos, and Mermaids Cruise of San Francisco. As we previously reported, the San Francisco-based online user-review site has become the target of two recent lawsuits for alleged extortion.


In an amended complaint of the initial class-action lawsuit filed yesterday, businesses claim that positive reviews disappeared or negative ones appeared after they declined or stopped advertising with Yelp. The allegations are similar to the ones we printed in two stories about Yelp last year, and which are also quoted extensively in the lawsuit filing.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Campbell Closing In on Boxer

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 11:41 AM

Republican US Senate candidate Tom Campbell is now just two percentage points behind Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, according to a new poll. However, pollster Rasmussen, who conducted the survey, tends to lean more Republican than most other polls. The poll shows the liberal Boxer leading the moderate Campbell 43 to 41 percent, which Rasmussen is calling a statistical dead heat. About 10 percent of likely voters reported being undecided.

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Judge Orders More Suburban Housing

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 11:16 AM

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch has ordered the suburban East Bay city of Pleasanton to build more housing, in a move that promises to worsen suburban sprawl. According to the CoCo Times and the Chron, Roesch ruled that a 1990s era voter initiative that capped the number of homes in Pleasanton violates a state law that requires cities to meet their share of regional housing needs. Pleasanton has added tens of thousands of jobs in the past decade, but very few homes.

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