A few years ago I decided to write reviews on Trip Advisor. I had often found trying new places without a recommendation to be very hit and miss so, once I had worked out how to ‘mine’ the reviews, I found it very useful.

It seemed only fair to then contribute reviews as a form of giving back. My rationale was that drawing on my experience may help others make informed decisions.

I set a personal policy for writing reviews so that if I had a bad experience I would make a point of providing honest feedback and giving the manager the opportunity to respond so that any subsequent negative reviews were based on having spoken to the establishment in person first.

So, having spent a few years reading and writing reviews on Trip Advisor, I wondered, ‘What is it we’re really trying to communicate and how mindful should we be about it?’

For example, is it OK to write reveiws anonymously? Should we be accountable for what we publish or is it understandable to want the protection of anonymity?

To what extent should our one bad experience be allowed to potentially ruin another person’s livelihood?

What should happen when a business doesn’t provide a good service or product but continues to take people’s hard earned cash and distorts the ratings by getting family and friends to write glowing reviews?

Not having answers to these questions, but keeping them under consideration allows me to question my engagement with such a tool and whether I want to be part of something that potentially does as much harm as good. At the same time, I like being part of something that allows freedom of speech. I’m still thinking it over.

In the meantime, what amuses me the most about Trip Advisor is how establishments choose to respond to the reviewers. In this example, the manager’s tone is unlikely to persuade people to try the restaurant. In this example the hostel’s approach is cleverly targetted to reach the specific audience they want in their business.

My last thought, before I get back to the important business of today; is a site like Trip Advisor an example of really bad communication or is it a showcase for freedom of communication? What does it induce? Does it motivate people for the right reasons? or does it spread fear and promote adversarial practices?

How could something like Trip Advisor be better?

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