An introspective examination of my blogging habits reveals that the most popular category for my posts are the food and drink category with well over 150 posts, and yet there are only 3 posts in the last 9 months that are in this area. How has this happened ? What happened to my ambition to be the next A.A. Gill or Jay Rayner? How has this affected my credibility within the Urbanspoon blogging community?
The reasons are, as with everything, many and various: other priorities, a shortage of new places visited and a certain irritation with Urbanspoon. This last is an illogical attitude and should not have prevented me from writing about places we eat and drink at. The primary purpose of reviewing places was a way of thanking and supporting in some small way those that had provided us with good food, drink and service. A good word. I did, I confess however, become a little seduced by adding my blog post reviews to Urbanspoon, an online restaurant review site.
Urbanspoon is similar to Tripadvisor but restricts it’s remit to places to eat and drink, it started in the USA and also has a big following in Australia. Its UK site has taken time to develop and is only now gathering momentum. Where I feel it has more credibility than Tripadvisor is that, in addition to the quick review that can be posted online by anyone with the time to register and add a one liner, it also encourages bloggers to write about places. Without pretending that a blogger’s opinion or view is any more worthy or valid than a quick posting diner, it is probably a good bet that a blogger who has written about several local places is less likely to be contributing a view on somewhere for other reasons than sharing his or her own opinion. You have the opportunity to examine their other opinions in considerably more detail. You have more evidence to consider their opinions than the Tripadvisor contributor with 1 review who is most anxious to tell you how the car park is extensive and how friendly the owners are.
In it’s early life, Urbanspoon seemed to have a quirky view of British geography. In the UK at the top level there were only London, Manchester and Birmingham with various adhoc places below so reviews of restaurants and cafes in Leeds or Liverpool, for instance, were allocated to Manchester. This couldn’t last as more places were added so slowly but surely the Urbanspoon view of UK geography became more rational until a few months ago. They then decided to categorise everywhere using the 9 regions of England. Why did I find this irritating ? My postcode is SK6, unashamedly Stockport and part of Greater Manchester. A certain pub restaurant ,100 yards away, shares an almost identical postcode. Urbanspoon in their wisdom have decided to recategorise it as being in High Peak (which they call High , not High Peak) which in turn is in the East Midlands!
I do not live in the East Midlands, this a fact. According to Wikipedia, The East Midlands is one of nine official regions of England at the first level of NUTS for statistical purposes. (NUTS, appropriately enough, stands for Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics.) It’ s not how people live and think. New Mills has little in common with Northampton geographically and is only grouped together within this artificial construct. Another major user of this system seems to be the NHS who seem obsessed with pathways and signposting these days.
So partly due to this slur on where I live, I temporarily withdrew my labour from being an unpaid contributor to the Urbanspoon empire. But I need to rethink this attitude and start again. There are lots of places that deserve some praise that we have visited in the last few months so I will step back from the picket line, stop sending emails saying SCAB to other Urbanspoon contributors and get back to sharing my opinions online. I also promise to drip feed them to prevent terminal blog boredom on both our parts.