Reviews and recommendations has been a tough feature to crack for all local search players. Although, Justdial and Asklaila have made it big in giving you info for local places of interest but when it comes to rating those places, they still do not have user generated data. Burrp has been the storngest in this space and has managed to garner quality content.
The big daddy Google, has launched its own local recommendation and rating engine, Google HotPot based on user fed information. One key differentiator between how Google is attempting it and what others have done in the past is that Google has your search history and your social graph, which makes it easier to find trustworthy reviews and also throw relevant results.
With search history the other advantage that they have is they can recommend you places that you could possibly review. One always looks for info of places he has never been to and cannot drop a review then. When the next time i come to the site and it shows me my past searches, there is better chance that i would have experienced it and am in a better position to share.
Google has additional features of looking at recommendations from friends, giving it a more social look. The recommendations based on your past reviews is also algorithmically a strong feature which not many have tried in the past.
But the question remains of what is the user’s motivation (read: Understanding User Needs – The Fundamental Motivation Theory) of taking pain to generate the content. On an impulse user might give out a one click rating but why would he take the pain of typing a review? There are chances of you reviewing a place if you had a one time extreme (-ve or +ve) experience but what for the other places? HotPot is taking the Orkut route by doing the motivation-with-numbers game but would that generate quality content? And is that something that would motivate the likes of you and me? (Read: How Smart Companies Understand User Needs And Exploit Them)
It would be interesting to see how Big G cracks this, without scrapping content form sites like Burrp and Tripadvisor etc.
Recommended Read : User Generated Content in India: What web can learn from Radio and TV
PS: I have been a part of the team at Onyomo which tried to do exactly this and banked upon social (activity ranking system) and materialistic (gift vouchers) motivation to encourage user generated content. The strategy worked pretty well, though we failed due to a different reason. The game got tougher trying to draw a clear line between social networking site and social recommendations site.
[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]