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Introducing ExperiencePlaces.com

6 years ago

These days millions of people go online to check reviews and score of a business before going there. This is great of course as people can get an idea about what kind of service to expect there. But it seems there is a problem when it comes down to today’s review systems. Businesses can buy reviews, likes, etc. And on the other hand if someone gets angry at a place – they can also just go online and smear the place with dirt for no reason. Better yet they can go and get some of their friends to do it too. And there is really no way around this problem when the people that do these things are savvy enough with computers.


When I was working on the first release of ExperiencePlaces.com, which never really saw the life of day, I never thought of making a review verification system. I thought I will just make a website similar to other business directories available online today, but with better design and cleaner presentation layer. Reviews were allowed to be written by anybody back then. Although a lot of work went into ExperiencePlaces v1.0 – there was nothing truly unique about it as compared to multimillion, or even billion dollar monsters on the internet business directory arena. For a one man show I had to do some really hard core work to even have a chance. I never applied for funding, at least not yet, as I really wanted to see how far I can go, and whether the thing I was building was really worth it.


Back when I just finished version 1.0 – I was also making websites for local businesses. One of my clients invited me over for a Christmas party she was hosting. I came over. There were a lot of people. Some were entrepreneurs, some were working people that also had their a small business on the side part time. Of course we discussed various things at the party including who was doing what, what interesting things were going on at the time. The regular stuff. Then I mentioned in a conversation what I was building, or rather what I built. When it came down to reviews part – one of the guys asked me: “How do you make sure that he people writing the review were actually there?” I thought about it and didn't have an answer. All I thought at the time was to build some sort of reputation system for reviewers, but that in turn meant that some people had to really get into ExperiencePlaces, and be committed to building their reputation as a legit reviewer. Now how does a one man startup pull that off? I have no idea.


I really wanted to find a way to verify reviews, and it meant that I will most likely have to have some custom hardware to accomplish this objective. I had a few ideas, but in the end I decided to build a review ticket printer prototype. I took a few months to build the first prototype, and almost 2 years to build the ExperiencePlaces web app, but now these things are here – ready to be Beta tested for the first time. I will explain my adventure of creating the web application and making custom hardware in future blog posts.


The idea behind the review printer is that in order to review the business – person actually has to shop there. Then at the time of the transaction – the shop owner, or business associate will print the review ticket and hand it to the customer along with the receipt. Then the customer can write a review on the ExperiencePlaces.com website.


Some people might argue that it gives business too much control over their rating. However, when it comes to it – it only levels the playing field. It removes a possibility of fake negative reviews and defamation where a competitor or a disgruntled employee writes a bad review about a place to artificially hurt its rating. This way the problem of defamation and fake negative reviews are solved. It leaves only keeping an eye on businesses trying to engage in a funny behavior of artificially inflating their own ratings. I do not recommend doing it though. There are many data points used even by other review websites to reasonably detect fake positive reviews, and we use similar systems. I will not disclose how these systems work to pick up on such actions, but I can tell you that we will know about it sooner or later. Better for companies considering such actions to focus on building an awesome customer base for the long run, rather then trying to cheat in the short term.


So to summarize – we have systems in place that protect businesses from getting any reviews from people that are not customers. They protect against defamation and fake negative reviews. At the same time we use special algorithms that pick up on attempts by dishonest businesses to game the system and artificially inflate their ratings. This levels the playing field as most online review websites are very concerned about positive fake reviews, but tend to ignore negative fake reviews and attempts of defamation. This is what leads me to believe that ExperiencePlaces.com features a fairer review system.


As you know no web application is ever truly complete. It may work as it is, but there are always more features that may be added to it. We will keep a close eye on what may benefit our website visitors and add such features in future releases of ExperiencePlaces.com. If you wish – you can have a part is such improvements by sending suggestions to us via out contact us page.


This is all I wanted to say for now. I invite everyone who is interested to check out and register with ExperiencePlaces.com. Right now the site in pretty empty as we did not start our beta test yet, but that will change very soon.