At the risk of going to jail for copyright infringement, here's what AA Gill said about Tripadvisor during a review of Ognisko restaurant in the Sunday Times last week. Some things just really deserve a wider audience.
“I was going to dump him because he was creepy. He did the creepiest thing. Guess what he did.”
“Left anonymous love notes in your tampon box? Slept with a small Mrs Rabbit that smelt of cellars and contained a spoonful of his mother’s ashes?”
“You! How do you think of stuff like that? No, he was worse: he wrote reviews on TripAdvisor.”
“God, that’s really loathsome.”
“I know and he couldn’t stop. I’d catch him doing it in the middle of the night. He’d be hunched over the computer with a sort of glazed look and I’d say ‘What are you doing?’ And he’d say, ‘Oh, nothing, just leching at interracial, lesbian, barely legal porn.’ ‘No you’re not,’ I’d say, ‘You’re leaving an anonymous review of that B&B in the New Forest we’ve just been to!’ He was always at it, little thumbs a blur of postprandial bile. What sort of man has the solitary need to get off on reviewing stuff?”
“What sort of man, indeed?”
Here’s the thing, having an opinion is not being a critic. As you always say, everyone has a right to an opinion, and indeed they do, but not all opinions are worth the same; most are only of use to their owners and, even then, they’re not terribly reliable. TripAdvisor and all those user-generated grading sites online are worse than pointless. It will come as a surprise to only the eternally gullible among you that most of the content is either spitefully competitor-generated or onanistic puff. You can employ companies who do nothing but manage your online profile — most of the big hotel chains and restaurants do. Having an urge to be an amateur critic is like wanting to be a self-employed traffic warden or a hobby air-controller: it’s train-spotting but out loud.
TripAdvisor and their ilk work on the assumed wisdom of crowds, the great wish fulfilment truism of egalitarian socialism that wilfully believes 10 idiots will add up to one wise man by some democratic magic. It’s like the saying that if enough people put their hands on a Ouija board they could write Cole Porter lyrics. It doesn’t seem fair. I understand it’s a bitter pill, but criticism isn’t an equal-opportunity employer. The greatest idiocy of the collective internet is the fallacy that quantity is a measure of quality.
Ognisko is No 1,996 out of 14,984 restaurants in London on TripAdvisor. I hope that’s useful. So they can put on their menus “One of the top 2,000 restaurants in London.”