Say Hello to HearBy 2.0

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For the past month, Matt and I have been cranking away on a new design for HearBy that will let you know all the best recommended places faster, more reliably, and more relevant to you than ever before. We’re proud to announce HearBy 2.0 is live today!

You might notice from the splash page that it looks a whole lot simpler. This HearBy is all about finding what what you want in your area immediately. Just switch on whether you want to eat, drink, shop, or see everything and dive in to what’s around your current location.

No muss, no fuss, just finding great places as easily and as quickly as possible. So give it a whirl over the holidays and find somewhere we guarantee you’ll love.

HearBy is LIVE! Learn More about the Rotten Tomatoes of Places

As you may have heard, HEARBY.CO is now a living, breathing site and the best place to find bars, shops, and restaurants in Philadelphia!

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Like what Rotten Tomatoes did for movies, we’re bringing together all the best critical reviews for the best places, so the bars, shops, and restaurants that the critics love the most rise to the top. These recommendations come from everywhere from The New York Times to Philadelphia Magazine, Anthony Bourdain to Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

You can search for everything the city has to offer (pizza, cheesesteaks, museums, boutiques, etc.), based on whatever budget might suit your needs, and by proximity to whatever address in the area. Try it out to find anything that suits your fancy.

For those of you who have been following HearBy from the start, you might notice this version as a bit of a departure from the original concept which was an app that aggregates the favorite places of professional sources AND your friends. By no means are we done with bringing together the reviews of your friends. Matt and I want to provide you with the best and most useful content on day one, which we believe is best accomplished by first aggregating professional reviews. Right now you can find a drink or a meal without any set up and that’s what’s most important to us. 

That said, we’re always looking for ways to make it better, so if you have any suggestions whether that’s finding an error, adding another source, or even if you have another feature in mind, we want to know about it! Please shoot us an email (info@hearby.co) and we’ll do everything we can to make it happen.

So for now, we hope you enjoy what we’ve made and that it helps you find some great places. Stay tuned, this is just the beginning…

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All Roads Lead to Flavortown: A Plethora of Proprietary Apps

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If you’ve ever surfed basic cable for more than forty seconds, chances are you’ve stumbled across the Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Triple-D follows bleached-blond grease enthusiast Guy Fieri, as he travels across this great nation in search of “the most interesting and unique restaurants” he can find.

The show’s been a smash hit, spanning 17 seasons and showcasing hundreds of restaurants. With all the great spots featured on the show, it’s only natural for viewers to want to have their own map to Guy’s Flavortowns. The Food Network hesitated, and several independent developers leapt in to make their own. There are currently no less than 11 iPhone applications on the iTunes store devoted to mapping the locations featured on the show. There are even more for tracking food shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No ReservationsMan vs. Food, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Chowdown Countdown, amongst others.

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The proprietary location app market gets even more saturated when you include print sources like blogs, magazines, and newspapers. Serious Eats has an app, The New York Times has an app, Food and Wine has an app, Bon Appetit has an app–having a dedicated app to host your content is the new standard, but is it really the most useful? If I want to follow the reviews of six different sources, I have to download six separate apps even though they have relatively similar design and the only difference between them is the content (text and pictures).

But as we see in the Diners apps, that content is valuable and useful enough to warrant all the fuss of building almost a dozen different apps. If there was one standard platform that all of the content providers could post on–in lieu of making a proprietary app–it would be better for users because they wouldn’t have to switch between multiple apps/sites to get what they want and better for content providers because they wouldn’t have to invest in developing their own app that was just going to be lost in the noise anyways.

That’s what we hope HearBy can accomplish. One app for all your sources and the best way to Flavortown (or somewhere else if you find Flavortown disgusting).

The Problem with Crowd Sourced Reviews

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On September 23rd, the New York State Attorney General’s office busted almost two dozen New York businesses as a result of its intricately planned sting investigation “Operation Clean Turf”. The companies in question weren’t dodging taxes, selling drugs, or cooking the books–they were posting fake reviews on on sites like YelpGoogle, and CitySearch.com.

You’ve been there before, scrolling through page after page of Yelp reviews, and you keep coming across plugs that are so painfully enthusiastic you’re sure someone paid for it to be there. Well, you’re right–a lot of them have been paid for.

Having positive online reviews for your business has become so vital that entire consulting firms have emerged specializing only in producing fake ones to inflate that precious star rating. The practice has been dubbed “astroturfing”–as in the opposite of “grassroots” and the source of the name, “Operation Clean Turf”.

The Attorney General’s office hired one of these astroturfing firms while pretending to be a “yogurt shop in Brooklyn”. The firm, in turn, hired freelance writers in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Eastern Europe and paid them around a dollar per review on the targeted companies. Investigating these channels led the AG to no less than 19 New York businesses that had also hired the firm to pump up their image. It’s illegal to lie to consumers, and these businesses will pay anywhere from $2,500 to $100,000 for a collective total of $350,000 in total fines for all 19 companies.

Yelp has lauded the crackdown and thanked the office for helping keep their site clean, but Attorney General Eric Schneiderman believes that the problem is much bigger than just one sting, “This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution.”

This isn’t the first time Yelp has struggled with fake reviews and it most likely won’t be the last. The system that sites like Yelp have imposed on small businesses has created an environment where even a half star rating difference can equate to 30%-49% more sales. It forced businesses to keep the numbers up by any means necessary, and that desperation created review fakers. A recent study on all the reviews in Boston determined that as many as 16 percent of all the submitted reviews were fakes.

Online reviews are here to stay, and any system where you can’t confirm the identity of the critic is going to be exploited. Using the wisdom of the crowd can be an invaluable tool when exploring and discovering in a new area, but be aware, the crowd might be using you…

Thursday Three: Val Wirtschafter’s Rio de Janeiro

This week’s Three come from Valerie Wirtschafter, a global health consultant whose post has taken her everywhere from New York City to Kuala Lumpur. Her latest escapade has her spending a few months in the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro. And although she’s only been on the scene a couple of weeks, Val’s already found some amazing spots worth seeking out if you ever find yourself in the “Marvelous City”.

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Rio de Janeiro represents the best and, for lack of a better word, the most challenging aspects of urban life blended together and splashed along the coast. Whatever your perception, it is unlike any other city I’ve ever been to. Awe-inspiring for its natural landscape – the way picturesque hills rise up from the ocean and the calming water of the lake sits not a mile from the bustling beaches of Ipanema – and shocking for its gritty and overt glimpse into poverty – the favelas, looking like neglected building piles that are eternally under construction.

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Rio is already in the spotlight and will be even more so in the years to come, what with the World Cup and the Olympics and all. I’m here for a few months working on possibly the third biggest event to hit the Cidade Maravilhosa, a global health innovation conference (just kidding, that would be a nightmare to help plan).

As an avid food junkie and a fan of scoping out the best cocktails in town, I’m excited to bring you my top three spots in Rio de Janeiro so far, and I’ve got five weeks to go.

1.     Eat: TT Burger

$ Rua Francisco Otaviano – 67, Arpoador, Rio de Janeiro – RJ

Even though they may not know it here in Rio, TT Burger is the latest in a long line of culinary dynasties to expand to the masses. For anyone who lives in New York City (or Dubai?), think what Shake Shack is to Danny Meyer of Blue Smoke fame. Run by the next in line of the Troisgros dynasty – a family of chefs that goes four generations deep and is famous for its Nouvelle Cuisine Française adaptation of “meat on a sword” – TT Burger makes one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had in my life. No, really, I was shocked too.

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At TT Burger the menu is essentially one item: a giant patty of delicious Brazilian ground beef, with guava ketchup, minas cheese and pickled caju. They opened in late August of 2013, and they’ve still definitely got a few kinks to work out in the system, but boy is that burger good. Take it to go and eat it while watching the sunset at Praia Arpoador. It will be the best sequence of decisions you make all day.

 2.     Drink: Beco do Rato

$ Rua Joaquim Silva 11 – Lapa – Rio de Janeiro

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As far as I’m aware, Beco do Rato is a quintessential samba bar. Seated samba to be exact (so that musicians can drink their beers too). I went on a Friday night with a co-worker, and it was a fantastic time. Everyone is friendly. Everyone is dancing. Everyone knows all of the lyrics to all of the songs. Get a nearly frozen 600ml bottle of Antarctica, one of the national beers (It’s definitely not pronounced the way you’d think. Neither is “feedback,” which is also a word in Portuguese). I guarantee you won’t be sitting for too long, though, as one of the 70+ year old samba “roundtable” regulars will sweep you off your feet to teach you the steps.

Runner Up: Azteka Rio in Ipanema, because who can resist the lime-y deliciousness of a perfectly prepared caipirinha?

NOTE: Although there are tons of people around on weekends, Lapa isn’t the safest part of town, though it’s a far cry from the worst. Just don’t be stupid, and don’t roam into dark alleys, and all those rules you learned when you were a kid.

 3.     Visit: Pão de Açúcar + Urca

$$ Av. Pasteur, 520 – Urca, Rio de Janeiro

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Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) is one of the most tourist-y sites in the city. However, not only is it a gem, but the surrounding neighborhood of Urca is also a site to behold and welcomed respite from the bustling streets of Copacabana and the crowded beaches of Ipanema. Here’s how you make a day of it. Take the bus (the 511 to be exact) to Urca. Hop on the cable car (who doesn’t love a cable car!?) up to Morro da Urca. Continue up to Sugarloaf Mountain (get it, because it looks like a loaf of sugar?). Gasp at the views of Guanabara Bay, Copacabana, Cristo Redentor and those crazy rock climbers trying to get up to the panoramic vistas for free (entrance fee: about US$25).

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Once you get back down to sea level, take a walk along the Claudio Coutinho Trail. There are so many adorable monkeys along this trail. Don’t get too close, though. I hear they bite fingers off! Once you’ve taken a nice stroll, reward yourself for your exercise by heading over to Bar Urca. Sit along the stone wall with dozens of Brazilian day-drinkers; drink an ice cold beer and snack on some bolinhas de bacalhau (fried codfish balls); enjoy the day and the beautiful view of the Guanabara Bay.

Map of Val’s Places

Any interest in featuring your own Thursday Three? Shoot us an email at info@hearby.co or tweet us @hearbyco.