Nanaimo Restaurants Forum: Ethics and Rules
This is a great opportunity for us to exchange useful information about Nanaimo area restaurants.
It's been really difficult to know how to moderate this forum and site, because business owners are understandably upset when someone slanders their operation in this static, public environment. Bad reviews can stay on the web for years, long after the business cleans up its act, or changes hands. This medium seems dangerous, a threat to anything about which people might express their opinions.
But, it's also true that the web is smeared all over with emotional graffiti, especially ALL forums, and readers just expect to find that. It seems unlikely to me that businesses should really be threatened by these publications, which are as likely to draw interest as they are likely to promote a bad reputation for the business.
And what about the liberties of communication ("free speech?") we enjoy so much about the web? If massive centralized corporations run our media, then isn't it a relief to have a free public forum, where people can publish their own opinions and perspectives?
It's a tough one to think about.
Nanaimo Information does have a bias, and it might prove satisfactory to most people; we want to publish what is useful for many people. But in order to do so, we must be able to expect some measure of accuracy in the information published on our site. How can we do this?
One answer is for us to be critical of our members and their motivations. Users who join the forum simply to post negative opinions, and don't demonstrate any other aspect of themselves, will be assumed to have a vendetta, or perhaps a Machiavellian interest in the business's hardship. A user who is known on the forums, however, and has demonstrated an interest in the sharing of useful information, will be better received.
Another necessity is for people to get involved as much as possible. If enough people state their opinion, that breadth of criticism draws a clearer image of the "truth". A balance is more likely.
So, get involved, people. If someone says a restaurant is gross and you don't really have a strong opinion, but you wouldn't exactly call the place "gross", then say so! Posts don't have to be long - they just need to be honest.
There is another matter: what is useful information?
"The chicken was just one of those pre-frozen breaded cutlets" is useful for readers. It can warn a future customer to interrogate their server before ordering the chicken.
Some negative reviews are more about venting than about really empowering other consumers. "The service is slow" is not very useful if you're basing your opinion on a couple visits; you should have heard this echoed by other diners, as well, or you should have verified it after repeated visits (in which case, you must like the place after all).
This forum is intended for the kind of reviews usually associated with journalism or a group conversation, not bathroom walls. Be prepared to take responsibility for your opinions. The more melodramatic your review is, the more you're required to back up your claims.
Rants about abusive or unethical business owners should be saved for an official authority ; and if the authorities don't see fit to sanction against the business, how can we conscionably do so?
Now that it's all on record, so I can refer offenders to this "sticky" post.
PS - This is open to argument, here.
Last edited by riverrat; 01-17-2008 at 10:52 PM.
As far as moderating, I wouldn't worry too much about it. I agree with you, if you see some implausible new poster show up and only post one entry about a restaurant, good or bad, it's suspicious. But there are examples of that all over the web . . . Amazon and the iTunes store (apps) are two of the worst, where you know people are writing fake reviews.
As far as restaurants go, you have only to peruse Yelp for a minute or two to see that restaurants are panned all the time by angry customers.
I'd refer any outraged restaurateur to a great book called Garlic And Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. She was the NYT restaurant critic who used to dress up in different wigs and eccentric garb and see how the best restaurants treated her. Then she'd write her review. Those restaurant owners who treated her badly and served her cruddy food were angry about those reviews, too. But the restaurants all over New York started to get better.