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January 2012

January 30, 2012

A Day in the Life of Yelp Engineering Interns

The Yelp Engineering team loves their interns! So much so, we had a bunch of amazing interns join our engineering team during the summer of 2011.

What’s it like being an intern at Yelp, you ask? Coffee runs? Making besties with the copy machine? Nah. Our interns quite literally become part of the team and work side-by-side with our engineers to make a big impact on the external and internal applications here at Yelp. In fact, some of our interns will actually be joining us full-time on completion of their school year!

We’re super proud of the work they did and wanted to share some of the things they built, designed and created in their time with us. Check out some of their stories below and if you like what you see, get your resumes ready because we’re hiring!

Stephen J., Engineering Intern, Case Western Reserve University
Steve worked on critical new features for mrjob, Yelp's framework for processing large data. Job flow pooling was one feature that Stephen worked on during his internship. His changes allow Yelp mrjobs to automatically reuse Amazon Elastic MapReduce job flows across teams, improving engineer productivity and lowering infrastructure costs. You can make use of Steve's hard work yourself by downloading and using mrjob at https://github.com/Yelp/mrjob.

Scott T., Engineering Intern, University of California - Irvine
Scott spent his summer messing with Markov Chains and Mutual Information and managed to build a reasonable quoting model that we are rolling out in a series of controlled A/B tests. Say what? Turns out that a search for [great views] in [san francisco, ca] doesn’t work so well, as both "great" and "views" turn up tons of businesses. However, if you search for the phrase ["great views" (in quotes)], you get fantastic results. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks to add these quotation marks to their query, which is why we asked Scott to build a system that would automatically do this quoting for users. To read more about our search group, you may be interested in this blog post.


Molly S., Engineering Intern, Carnegie Mellon University
Molly was the fire burning in the heart of our newly launched mobile site. She developed the lion's share of the front-end code for the core pages, while tackling the numerous challenges of developing for the new era of smart phones. Molly built the home page, business page, and business photo page (including a swipe-able photo viewer) for the mobile site. The next time you use the Yelp mobile website from your iPhone or Android, think of Molly, and know that she hand-crafted that lovely HTML5 and CSS3 for you.

But she didn’t stop there. Molly’s project was also featured as one of our favorites in our Hackathon 5 video for her hack of Side-by-Side!

Allison S., Consumer Product Manager Intern, School of Visual Arts
To celebrate Yelp’s 20 millionth review, Allison worked with our data folks to get all the information she needed, then used Processing to render an image of the United States. The rest of the infographic? That’s just pure design magic. Check out the infographic based on Allison’s work.

Fred H., Engineering Intern, Case Western Reserve University
Fred worked on migrating a major part of our content-serving architecture to Amazon S3, which was no small task! Previously, Yelp served user photos through a complicated pipeline which ultimately ended up going through our servers. Fred jumped in to make a series of changes that allowed us to remove our own servers as a bottleneck, while maintaining the same access control properties we previously had. For us, this alleviated a major architectural pain point, reduced strain on our servers, and most importantly, provides a better experience to our users. Hurrah!


Toby W., Engineering Intern, Case Western Reserve University
Toby worked on a rewrite of our Weekly Yelp editing system to fit more closely to the work flow of our many Yelp Community Managers across the world, making it more relevant and easier to use. On top of that, the back-end code was much cleaner, making some developers squeal with delight. The project wasn’t quite wrapped by the end of his internship, so Toby will be finishing it up when he comes back to work for Yelp full-time.

These are just a few of the interns who have spent time with us at Yelp, but the good news is our engineering intern program is growing and we are looking for the best and smartest coders out there (aka YOU!) So if these projects sound like something you might code in your dorm room, you live and breath HTML5 and would love the opportunity to really, truly build some kick-ass stuff, then give us a holler at http://www.yelp.com/careers. We’d love to hear from you!

January 23, 2012

Don't Lose Your Cool

While not a common occurrence, several recent news stories highlighted situations where business owners used social media to lash out at dissatisfied customers. We won’t rehash those stories here, but it’s important to note that this approach often results in unwanted publicity for the business involved -- see Barbara Streisand.

We know that negative reviews can sting, especially after dealing with a difficult client or customer. But instead of unleashing your frustrations on the reviewer, take a step back, take a deep breath, and reflect on some other, more productive ways to respond.

Now more than ever, consumers are likely to share their experiences -- both good and bad -- with others online. With that in mind we’ve outlined five steps to success for managing your reputation:

  1. Start with great customer service  Generally speaking, most successful businesses place an emphasis on making sure their customers feel great after they walk out the door. A recent Forbes article noted that with the popularity of social media, business owners should “treat their customers as if they were newspaper reporters.”
  2. Stay cool  If you find yourself getting too emotional over your reviews, you may not be the best person to respond. Try appointing an office manager, or employee you trust as the point person to manage your online reviews. Also note that if you see a review written by someone with an “orange head” and no friends, it may not be worth losing sleep over. Consumers on Yelp naturally gravitate to reviewers who have an established presence, and that’s generally where your time is best spent, too.
  3. Respond diplomatically  Use Yelp’s free review response tools to join the conversation about your business. You can respond privately or publicly, but always take the high road. If you feel like a review goes against our terms of service, you also have the option of flagging it for evaluation by our user support team.
  4. Implement feedback  Online reviews can help savvy business owners figure out what they’re doing well, and what they can improve on. We’ve met with several business owners who go over Yelp reviews with their employees during staff meetings, and implement constructive feedback accordingly.
  5. See step number one  Yelp is about connecting people with great local businesses. If you consistently put your best foot forward, people will notice!

January 19, 2012

How the Yelp "Burst" Came to Be

We are often asked how Yelp got its recognizable logo, or “Burst”. In 2004, around Yelp’s inception, I was hired as the company’s designer. At the time, Yelp had a cartoon-like speech bubble logo that had actually been designed by Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube. While no doubt an exceptional entrepreneur, we thought Chad should stick to video (heh) and decided to give the original logo a face lift. Thus, I was tasked with my first project: to give the brand and site a new look.

Our team wanted something fun that captured the spirit of writing reviews, something more unique than just a simple exclamation mark. I set out sketching about 100 different ideas for the logo. I expanded on speech balloons, abstract shapes and even a dog in attempt to "own" the yelping noise that a dog makes -- despite the fact yelping dogs really don’t have anything to do with where the name Yelp came from.

My ultimate inspiration came from comic strips, where often times a little asterisk would appear above a character's head in a moment of funny discovery. So I explored the more abstract exclamation direction and the Yelp Burst began to emerge.

At first it appeared too flower-like, so I pushed it into a softer asterisk-like shape. As I was finalizing the mark, I tried a few more last minute ideas that were even further abstractions on the idea, but the Burst ultimately won out with the team.

And for the typeface, for some reason I was obsessed with all caps and a lower-case 'e' and I even explored some slab serif treatments. But what emerged was a fun, rounded typeface called Mesmer, with the counters in the 'e' and 'p' offset to give it just a subtle touch of irreverence.

So, there you have it, the story of how the Yelp Burst came to be. And if you’re intrigued, we’re also hiring designers (just sayin!)

January 13, 2012

What Makes a Yelp(er) Elite?

Hard to believe 2012 marks the eighth year of our Yelp Elite Squad! It seems like just the other day we were asking ourselves whether this whole “meeting yelpers in-person” thing could really work. Fortunately, you know how the story goes -- it did! So whether this is year number eight, or your first run as a Yelp Elite, we wanted to take a moment to welcome and congratulate the newest members of the squad.

Oftentimes we get asked how folks become Yelp Elite and we have this handy Yelp Elite page you can always refer to. While there’s no set check list, overall we look for someone who is a stellar Yelp community member - both online and off - and role model to yelpers, new and old.

If those actions listed don’t already get you or someone who you think is deserving noticed, you can always nominate yourself or your peers during the course of the year. Just check out the Yelp Elite page to see which cities currently have a Yelp Elite Squad, then send an email to your city (eg. miami@yelp.com) with a link to your Yelp profile page and the reason why that Yelp Elite Badge belongs on your profile. Our National Elite Squad Council will review your nomination to see if you have what it takes!

So what comes with being Yelp Elite? Aside from a sparkly badge that you get to rock with pride on your Yelp profile page, you’ll get the opportunity to attend exclusive events, meet yelpers from your community in-person, and discover a variety of local businesses you may not have previously tried. What kind of events, you ask? Check out our Yelp Community Blog for some of the amazing soirees, bashes, dinner parties, even weddings that are taking place throughout our communities near and far. Hey, you may also snag a free Yelpstick. SYOY!

January 05, 2012

Top 10 US Yelp Restaurants of 2011!

Whoa, did 2011 go by quickly or was it just us? With a New Year comes many things, including those pesky resolutions: eat well, work out, manage stress, drink less. You know, the usual good-for-you type promises that last less than a week (or maybe that’s just us...). Well, what better way to get on top of “Eating Well” than by resolving to visit our top 10 list of most popular* US restaurants in 2011 according to yelpers!

You may remember our list from 2010 and while there are some familiar faces, there are also some upsets as well as new additions. Namely, the numero uno spot. East Coast may have reigned in 2010, but now it’s West Coast’s time to shine with -- of all places -- a pizza joint taking the crown!

Los Angeles’s Bottega Louie jumped two spots to take the title of the most popular restaurant in 2011 according to yelpers. With their mouth-watering and colorful assortment of macarons, selection of Italian favorites like their margherita pizza and yelpers’ all time favorite dish -- portobello fries -- no wonder Bottega Louie has over 3,519 reviews and counting!

Taste the rainbow! (Photo Credit: Smitcha B.)

The rest of the US Top 10 for 2011 boasts some strong contenders, as well, and we have a feeling that our resolution for “Eating Well” is one we’ll definitely be keeping for longer than a week:

  1. Bottega Louie, Los Angeles
  2. Bruxie, Orange County
  3. Ippudo NY, New York
  4. Wurstküche, Los Angeles
  5. Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco
  6. Daikokuya, Los Angeles
  7. Phil's BBQ, San Diego
  8. Ike's Place, San Francisco
  9. Griddle Cafe, Los Angeles
  10. Animal, Los Angeles

*How’d we do it? Rank was determined by how many people in the Yelp community have bookmarked the business in 2011, as well as combined with average star rating, total review count, and total check-ins.