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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.

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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…

Welcome to the HearBy blog!

Welcome to HearBy, THE BLOG!

This blog tracks us, founders Matt Star and David Shuck, as we build HearBy, a new way to find and recommend the best bars, shops, and restaurants.

HearBy utilizes a Twitter style follow model to let you keep track of your favorite people’s favorite places. Whether that’s an old friend, your local paper, your favorite blog or magazine, or even your mom–HearBy puts all their top spots into one list and one map relevant to wherever you are in the world. That means no more relying on anonymous user reviews, scouring dozens of websites and magazines for recommendations, or forgetting that great bar your buddy was raving about–HearBy has it all in one app.

We’re close to finishing version 1.0 and will be launching a private beta in October. So if you want to be the first to hear updates, watch the ups and downs of founding a startup, or are looking for easy fodder to make fun of us–STICK AROUND! We’ll try to keep it interesting.

For more HearBy, sign up for our mailing list and follow us on Twitter, on Instagram, and Facebook. Or if you have any questions or comments, shoot us an email at info@hearby.co.

Founders Matt Star (left) and David Shuck (right)

Founders Matt Star (left) and David Shuck (right)