Anonymous Posters Bedevil TripAdvisor

Hotel ranking site shows dangers of crowdsourcing

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 20, 2009 2:35 PM CST

(Newser) – Some recent snafus have taught TripAdvisor the hard way that crowdsourcing may be powerful, but it isn’t always reliable. In one recent incident, a new boutique hotel shot to the top of the site’s Miami Beach hotel rankings on a flood of positive reviews—until one reviewer implied they’d all been written by friends of the owner during a free trial period. “This possibly explains why none of the reviews so far mentions the fact that the hotel is not completed.”

Hotel management says the reviews came after the free trial period, but potential guests have no way of verifying either story. The Big Money also found a job posting in which a hotel offered freelance writers cash in exchange for 100 glowing reviews. TripAdvisor admits it’s had trouble with hotels secretly reviewing themselves, though it tries to flag suspect posts. But new sites like Oyster are stepping in with professional reviews, betting that crowdsourcing is fatally flawed.

This screenshot from the website of The Betsy, a Miami Beach hotel whose TripAdvisor reviews have been called into question.   (The Betsy Hotel)
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