Update -- Welcome Eater shoppers. Additional Yelp/conspiracy stuff here, and an alternate universe where the Cod joins Yelp. Also, are restaurants that display the "people love us on Yelp" decals the same as the parents who actually buy "Who's Who in American High School Students"?
Some Yelp news:Small business owners have been loud and vocal in their criticism of Yelp and its reader reviews. On Tuesday, Yelp will make two significant changes to its pages to address those complaints. On Yelp, where users rank and review local businesses, readers will now be able to click on a link to see reviews that Yelp filtered out, and advertisers on Yelp will no longer be able to post their favorite review at the top of the page. “I hope that these changes will debunk some of the myths and conspiracy theories out there about Yelp and its advertising and whether those are linked,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s co-founder and chief executive.
The Gurgling Cod continues to struggle to understand why anyone would take Yelp seriously*, but evidently, there are those who do. What's interesting here is the use of the phrase "conspiracy theory," both in the quotation from Mr. Yelp and their official blog. In colloquial terms, a "conspiracy theory" involves some sort of crackpot notion about presidential assassinations, or maybe underground mail delivery systems. The OED has "A combination of persons for an evil or unlawful purpose; an agreement between two or more persons to do something criminal, illegal, or reprehensible (especially in relation to treason, sedition, or murder); a plot." The critical difference between the colloquial sense and the actual definition is in the "two or more" clause. A conspiracy derives its power from a secret alliance involving two or more people -- comes from roots meaning "to whisper together." In this case, there could be no "conspiracy," because Yelp is acting as the sole agent. This is no more conspiracy than a bully giving you a choice between giving up the Oreos or getting a swirlie is a conspiracy. I do not know if Yelp is strongarming business owners into advertising or not, but allegations that they are are not, by definition, "conspiracy theories."
*Do you want people who review Ruby Tuesdays at outlet malls informing your dining decision? And where to begin with this review of Snake and Jake's?