I don’t think that the internet has changed people very much – we’re still a mix of emotions and analysis – but it has radically changed the way we can communicate. We can now pump data around quickly and easily and the belief that data, being objective, is more meaningful than opinions is in the ascendant. Middle-men such as travel agents, estate agents, and opinion formers whom we used to rely on for advice and guidance are now often bypassed.
But we struggle to engage with data. Statistics – the idea that a crowd of people will together produce the right result – lacks a personal touch, an emotional feeling of connection. So when we turn on tools such as TripAdvisor and its ilk to get star ratings our emotional cravings seem to kick in: what did people actually say? Give me the worst, give me the best. We look to the outliers (whom statistics seeks to isolate) and suddenly we are relying not on respected names such as Egon Ronay but on people whose names may be Egon or may simply be Ron. The fact is we don’t know, and where there is ignorance there is also dishonesty masquerading as help: the review written by an employee or a competitor.
So the pendulum swings again and iShake is invented. People have been shaking their phones for a while now apparently, not to get the bits out of the bottom, as we did with fizzy drinks bottles, but to carry out a variety of essential tasks such as locating yourself and getting water to the developing world. iShake has patented the shake to rate feature: if you are in the restaurant/bar/retailer you can rate it by shaking your phone. The result is objective – nothing written – and authentic because you are there.
But the need to feel good about the results remains. Despite being an accountant I absorb information intuitively, according to Myers Briggs. I do remember numbers but I’m more interested in trends. Maybe iShake will include the trend of the ratings of the hostelry in question? Whether or not it is improving, whether it has the right attitude, is key (to me). I have tried waving wildly in restaurants and failed to attract the attention of anyone except nearby diners, who seem to be aware that the hand motion, currently, indicates a need for attention. A restaurant that tried to improve its service would surely get a rating commensurate with its rarity?
iShake seems to be an excellent way to provide reliable data, because of the way it’s collected. But its founders and all good business people know that what matters is how it’s interpreted and acted upon. Maybe there’s a gap in the market for a written Guide to Good Food: what could I call it? iEat?