Posted by: mbhcity | September 5, 2008

Yelp This, Amazon That, Chowhound on this! Ratemyprofessor and so on and so forth…..

About a decade ago, it seemed as if there were only a few places to go when you wanted to know what others thought about anything, be it a restauarant, computer, school, or even a freeway. One would have to pick up a newspaper or tune into Siskel and Ebert to find out if one should check out the latest motion picture or save their money and wait until its out on video. Ditto for restaurants, museums, art galleries, circuses and whatever imaginable tangible element.

Enter the digital age, and what was once the job of overpaid, smarmy authoritarians, critics if you will, has now become a task millions and millions more pursue. Word of mouth has always been an effective means of decision-making among common living citizens, but now it’s gone into another realm, cyberspace.

The estimates of people using message boards and review websites vary depending on the source gathering such data, though most would say it is tremendous, all this to feed a new habit of critiquing. Websites ranging from Amazon to Chowhound and Yelp! allow users to visualize themselves as overpaid, smarmy critics, keeping other informed and enterained on a plethora of nouns and topics ranging from shoes, restaurants, supermarkets, textbooks, gizmos, gadgets, cities, and even highways.

Take this article from yelp for example written by Michael L. in which he critiques Interstate 405 in Southern California, one of the nations busiest throughfares.

“I get road-rage… and  the 405 just ignites me! I guess tolerating it depends on where you’re going and your urgency, but I cannot stay below my boiling point on that stretch of hell.”

There are several more from where that came from as I-405 received a two star (out of five) rating.  The critiques can found here

Needless to say, unlike the glamourous world of critiquing freeways for cold hard cash, this job, if one likes to call it that, is nothing but. After all, it is an open forum and a public service. Unless, another member is willing to offer a reviewer currency for their work.

But what could this mean for those smarmy, overpaid critics at the Times, the Post, the Chronicle, and the thousands of broadsheets around the world? Could this signal the end of the paid critic or could it spawn a new form of journalism, a journalism where the general public is invited to voice their ideas in the forum taking away from the trained authority?

Well only time will tell as such as form is still in its infancy. In the meantime, the future of critiquing ones daily commute to an audience of anywhere from six to a million could be interesting.


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