Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Events

April 26 Yelptucky Derby party shows community connection

RECOMMENDED READING


Stilt walkers and ballet dancers from Busch Gardens, games from Lowry Park Zoo, two bands, 30 restaurants and more than 600 people from all around Central Florida will converge on the Winthrop Barn in Riverview tonight — because nine years ago a man in San Francisco found the old yellow page business directory to be ineffective.

Yep, a Yelp party is on the rise. The Yelptucky Derby arrives at the Barn with Wimauma restaurant proprietor Amy and Gary Moran serving as hosts.

For those who don't know about Yelp, it's an online business directory — the 21st century version of the yellow pages (hence the Yelp label) with one significant catch. It's driven by customer reviews. Every business receives a rating from one to five stars based on the critiques of "Yelpers."

The founders crafted the idea after one of them had a bad experience with a dentist he dialed up from a yellow page listing, according to Yelp Tampa Bay community manager Brett Nehls. The founders reasoned that a directory with customer comments would prove to be a better guide.

As of January 2013, the site reported having 100 million unique visitors in 20 countries. Although it includes all manner of businesses and retail outlets, it's wildly popular with foodies.

Nehls said some use Yelp as a barometer for new restaurants and a tour guide when they travel.

Although the site is not without controversy (more on that later), Amy Moran believes in it. She continues to help her husband at Wimauma, the popular South Tampa destination known for Southern cuisine. But she assumed management of the Barn this year and says tonight's gathering will serve as sort of a grand reopening for the event facility on Bloomingdale Avenue.

All the food and drink is free, but it's open only to frequent users of the Yelp website — those designated as Yelp Elites — and folks who open Yelp accounts and RSVP by noon today. Every attendee must RSVP, but it appears a lot of folks already have signed up.

Moran expects people to come from as far north as New Port Richey, as far south as Sarasota and as far west as Orlando. Nehls says it's not uncommon for Yelpers, who tend to be more affluent and mobile, to drive miles if spurred by a good review.

The Yelp Elites earn such a designation by offering high-quality and high-quantity reviews. The reward for frequent, fresh critiques? Invitations to exclusive events and special deals at participating restaurants when they "check in" with their smartphones.

Of course, a danger lies in this formula: competing businesses or just mean-spirited "trolls" can post harsh reviews that can undermine business. It proved to be a problem during Yelp's infancy, so the computer whizzes created a filter (an algorithm, to be technical) to weed out posers and fake entries.

Here lies the latest controversy. Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks recently wrote that some businesses believe the filter weeds out positive reviews — unless the business pays Yelp to be showcased on the site. Yelp, of course, denies any involvement in such a high-tech extortion scheme.

Meanwhile, Moran and other restaurateurs take a more commonsense approach. They hope for good reviews and seek to correct the problems raised by adverse but fair criticism.

"I love Yelp," Moran said. "It's a chance to get feedback from your customers. You can't let it drive yourself crazy. You take the criticism and then you figure out how to make it better."

Criticism aside, it became clear to me that Yelp fosters greater connectivity in the community. It not only links people through the Internet, but it gets people out and about to events where they talk and communicate. It's how I met a couple and really learned about Yelp's impact.

In an age where instant messaging and Facebook posts have begun to supplant face-to-face communication, any vehicle that brings us together can't be all bad.

That's all I'm saying.

Comments
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 21

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 21

Ice Skating at Tampa’s Winter Village: Even in Florida, you can get in the holiday spirit by ice skating on an outdoor rink in the park. Each 90-minute session includes skate rental. Stop by the cafe for themed drinks and holiday snacks. 10 a.m., Cur...
Published: 11/20/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 23

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 23

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens: More than 2 million twinkling lights transform the park into a holiday wonderland with Rudolph, Sam the Snowman, Christmas-themed entertainment and visits with Santa. Included with admission on select nights through D...
Published: 11/20/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 22

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 22

Much Ado About Nothing: William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy gets an update by placing lovers Beatrice and Benedick against the backdrop of the Florida Keys as World War II is drawing to a close. Through Dec. 10. 7 p.m., American Stage Theatre Compa...
Published: 11/20/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Nov. 20-26

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Nov. 20-26

Thanksgiving Day races: Get those calories burning early on Thursday, so you won’t feel as guilty about that second piece of pie. The Times Turkey Trot kicks off at Clearwater High School and features a buffet of races, including the 1-mile Gobbler, ...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/19/17
Holiday-themed events dot the East Hillsborough landscape

Holiday-themed events dot the East Hillsborough landscape

East Hillsborough residents will have three holiday-themed events to help brighten the season this year.Christmas Lane, the long-time holiday celebration that started on an area farm, launches another season of festivities at its current spot, the Fl...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/19/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 18

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 18

CraftArt Festival: More than 120 fine craft artists from around the country will be on hand for this annual street festival with a children’s activity tent and an artists’ demonstration tent. From ceramic artists throwing on the wheel to glass blowin...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

TAMPAWhile her teenage daughter and 6-year-old son glided effortlessly across the outdoor ice rink at Curtis Hixon Park on Friday, Danielle Engram, 35, stood nervously on her rented blades.This would be the lifelong Tampa resident’s first time on the...
Published: 11/17/17
With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

ORLANDO — Christmas has finally come to Hogwarts at Universal Orlando in a new holiday attraction opening Saturday. In addition, Universal Studios has completely upsized its holiday parade with more Macy’s balloons, stunning floats and snowy effects ...
Published: 11/17/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 19

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 19

Randy Newman: The legendary Oscar-, Grammy- and Emmy-winning singer-songwriter is known for hits like Feels Like Home, You’ve Got a Friend in Me and Sail Away. Every ticket purchased includes a physical or digital copy of his forthcoming album Dark ...
Published: 11/17/17
Storytelling company hosts poetry contest

Storytelling company hosts poetry contest

TAMPA HEIGHTS — Hive Over Matter will award its inaugural Herstory Poetry Award & Scholarship at the Pinot & Poetry: A Toast to Herstory celebration event from 7-10 p.m. today (Nov 19) at the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, 2005 N Lamar Ave. ...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/19/17