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[dupe] ‘The Shed at Dulwich’ was London’s top-rated restaurant. It didn’t exist (washingtonpost.com)
92 points by gk1 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments




To me, this suggests the value of professional food critics as well-known sources of... well maybe not truth, but at least honest opinion.

It's easy to fake a crowd. It's a lot harder to impersonate a well-known individual's trusted name.


Depth (well-known individual who built their reputation over time) versus Breadth (crowd).

We seem to increasingly incentivize breadth of appeal over depth. TV Shows that appeal to the lowest common denominator, etc.


Breadth makes more money.


Depth competes on a different level. Depth works when a market becomes cheap enough to cater to (or the market is so large that a small fraction is worth it) that you get long tail economics. The benefit for the producer is less cost petition. We're almost there with television. We're almost or possible already there for some select markets for YouTube, but coming from the other direction (high production vs low production).


More accurate to say breadth tends to scale bigger, and depth allows for focus and better product/market fit in a smaller market.


I agree that professional food critics are making public their opinion, backed by their reputation. But nothing can be inferred about this opinion being honest, since it can be (and is surely often) bought.


Is this surprising, that you can con gullible people into something. One cannot reliably question every single thing for fear routine will allow a false result from loose heuristics. Plus, many people are very trusting and will be taken advantage of at one point or another in life, IRL or online.

If you put up enough effort, sure, you can trick people into believing all sorts of near-realities.

The bigger story would be a review site complacent about fake reviews or tacitly allowing fake reviews undermining people's confidence.


I think the issue being highlighted is that the ratings sometimes have not just little to do with the restaurant, but nothing to do with it. To become number one is something in itself. What happens afterwards (to not spoil it) is something above that entirely, and while it plays into the narrative being put forth, it goes well beyond what it needs to support that narrative and expose quite a bit of hypocrisy.

Fashion is subjective, but there's supposed to by quite a bit more to restaurants than just fashion, and I think it's obvious that sometimes there isn't much more. This whole story says a lot about people. Whether you think it says something about a certain type of people that you can look down on, or about people in general and how our expectations can lead us to weird places and inform our opinions much more than we would think, is up to the person watching.


Yes, it is surprising that you can manipulate the world’s top review site into having a completely fictional location full of fake reviews sitting at the #1 spot for a major city for a long time. If that’s not complacency, what is?


“You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”

There is beefing up a steak house, however, inversely this can be a vector of attack. If a restaurant has .2 or .4 star rating higher than the other restaurants in its class they will do well. It is hard to give a restaurant 1 star without getting noticed. However, it is possible to get their rating to drop a few small notches below their competition without getting noticed which can badly hurt their revenue.


I live in the middle of nowhere. I always see "news" headlines of the top 5 restaurants in the nearby town. I wish I could report them. There isn't a single restaurant in that town or anywhere close. I'd love to tell Google to never show me anything from those sites. They don't have news, but they do a great job looking legit.


You can't spoof into michelin, because michelin stand behind their name.

Tripadvisor has a huge buried EULA which basically says "nope: nothing to see here don't blame me if its lies"


You can probably buy a spot in Michelin. Whether that happens frequently or is accepted is an interesting question.


Vice episode on how they managed to do it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqPARIKHbN8


I have also observed that TripAdvisor seems to have rather poor fraud control on their reviews.

Recently I was driving home after cutting a trip short due to health issues, and then to compound difficulties, my car was overheating. I asked my girlfriend to help me find a motel - I knew of one on the way back to town, about 20 miles closer, and requested she look up reviews online. She told me the one I was thinking of looked fine, and had several positive reviews online. One even said “the best part about our trip to Colorado”, she quoted as I parked and walked inside.

It turned out to be decidely not the best part about anything in Colorado, unless you are a Satanist who pairs a fondness for shabby 70s decor with an aversion to cleanliness. I had already paid when I fully realized this, and only spent 25 minutes at the hotel before I essentially fled in terror.

When researching how this could have happened, I found that Yelp gave this motel only 1.5 stars, and had several reviews with similar stories, noting things like how the clerk seemed to be on drugs and was wearing a large pentagram necklace. This man looked somewhat like an elderly mixture of Frank Zappa and Bowie with anorexia, and insisted on walking me to my room for reasons unknown. I was not provided with a key, and the room had no way to lock from the inside.

Google has mixed reviews for them, with some likely fakes standing out and also reviews sourced from TripAdvisor. The TripAdvisor reviews are mixed as well, with many glowing 5 stars reviews balanced by many 1 stars for a total of 3 stars. Many of the 5 star reviews are defensive about the specifics of other negative reviews.

I looked into this motel on FB, and found it had the highest rating there - 4.4 stars. Not a trace of anything negative. I was also able to find the personal page of the man I talked to, who was cited as seemingly drug-addled and pentagram-adorned in other reviews as well as my experience. His page mentioned how his partner, owner of the motel, promoted him from clerk to manager on their 30th anniversary as a couple. He had many pictures of their satanic altars, references to demons, the pitbulls (referred to negatively in reviews) being ‘possessed’, and pictures around the motel. I feel somewhat lucky to have escaped.

So, in summary, Yelp had the most accurate reviews and presented the most realistic picture. Facebook presented the motel as they would like to be seen. Google and TripAdvisor are in between, showing equal amounts of true and false reviews.


The tenor in this discussion so far seems to be a bit on the condescending side. Frankly, I'll pick it up for this guy. What an incredible job – and a great reminder that marketing your service is often times more important than the service itself.

Maybe it's the prankster in me, but I don't feel like this is the end of the world – and it's not an indicator that the world is coming to an end. Fundamentally, people follow the rules and trust structure. That's probably why society can exist.

For the many people who don't have their glasses on, this was a brief glimpse at reality.

I'd recommend watching the Vice video I found in another comment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqPARIKHbN8


These things, while fun, are frankly rather scary to me. They show us how far society has moved away from truth, in our value of other people’s opinions, rather than the institutions that actually factcheck before they spread false information.

If you watch the vidio in the vice article, they even open up their fake restaurant and serve pre-processed “shit-foods” to an audience who then willingly rates their powdered soup and frozen lasagna as above average.

Of courses I laughed at it and it’s certainly a well done troll, but it’s also a microverse of how we ended up with a bunch of flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, and, a reality tv star as president of the United States.


I don't think so. Snake oil salespeople are a thing of history because people are willing to believe and people are willing to con. Many other major beliefs it can be argued have similar traits.


It's nothing new, as a large group of people are raised with the values that believing is better than knowing. It's the core of every religion. As long as we accept religion, we tell people that it's ok to just believe whatever someone says or writes, instead of employing some critical thinking, and demanding facts,


Social Proof [1] in action. I'm always shocked at how much faith people put into anonymous review sites. Really? You're going to believe a bunch of strangers on how good something is, and actually spend money based on this belief? It's a marketer's wet dream. You don't need to actually prove a claim anymore: You only need to spin up enough sock puppets shouting about it, and people will substitute that for proof.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_proof


How do you know you wouldn’t fall for frozen lasagna in the same situation?


>flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers

Seriously. It hurts me to see the "anti-vaxxers" term thrown around so loosely. There are very legitimate reasons for being skeptical of vaccine research. Events like this appear quite frequently [1]. It is not at all in the same league as "flat-earths".

[1] https://slate.com/health-and-science/2017/12/flaws-in-the-cl...


Assuming that "flat-earthers" potential to cause harm is fairly limited, but that "anti-vaxxers" potential to cause harm is rather significant - population immunity comes to mind - I would rather say it hurts me to see the "flat-earthers" term thrown around so loosely.


We had a huge HPV debate in Denmark in 2017 because of the problems surrounding it, but as usually it turned out all the fearmongering was completely unfounded and that the vaccine was much safer than the alternative.

Flatearthers are harmless. I’m not even completely convinced they are not just collectively trolling us. Anti-vaxxers mean while are responsible for weakening herd immunity in western civilization and by doing so, the killing of hundreds of people who got sick and died because of it.

The measles were basically extinct, now they are even killing people in countries with low amounts of anti-vaxxers. And why? Because a group of stupid people got together on Facebook and decided they wanted to create a version of reality where vaccines were evil.

Vaccines have side effects. Not taking them, however, has much worse effects. Worst case means you’re quite literally murdering people who can’t survive neither the vaccines nor the disease, best case is things like the HPV were it’s just you or your children getting completely avoidable cancer (still extremely tragic).

Hell, even Donald Trump has done far less lasting harm than anti-vaxxers.


What you are starting, is a different debate. This is the issue with this topic. People usually have a hard time differentiating the subtleties involved. Hence could be easily mislead.

What I was arguing is that, there are valid reasons to question the validity of vaccine research. But right now, every one who question the research or application of any single vaccine is labeled an anti-vaxxer and is collectively attacked/ridiculed, and considered to be in the same league as flatearthers. This end up being a situation where there is less and less incentive to put the required effort into safety of vaccines (because there is a huge negative stigma in questioning the safety of a vaccine), that are used to inoculate generation after generation of human beings.

What could go wrong. Right?

>Worst case means you’re quite literally murdering people who can’t survive neither the vaccines nor the disease, best case is things like the HPV were it’s just you or your children getting completely avoidable cancer (still extremely tragic).

So you are telling me that if I don't get vaccines, I ll literally murder a bunch of people. Or I ll get cancer or die of a vaccine preventable disease. Right?

If that is so, flawless logic. Actually the utter stupidity of these kinds of arguments put forward by pro-vaccine people is one of the biggest reasons one can start questioning the safety and necessity of vaccines.


I will say, if nothing else, this guy will have a great career in marketing. His shed's online presence was top notch, half the restaurateurs I know would do well to emulate him.


They put all their effort into looking legitimate and none of it into being legitimate, which confers a certain advantage.


SoDoSoPa




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