A new social networking site called Lunch.com is a cross between Yelp.com, which is great for reviews of restaurants, movies, gadgets, music, etc. and Facebook, which is for connecting with people you know. Its chief focus is reviews of life, letters and anything else that crosses your mind.


 The two sites are not simply copies. Yelp is sort of an expanded phone book for the U.S. and Canada; more than 20 million people have looked up a business there in the past 30 days. It also has reviews of doctors and hospitals and there were 349 such reviews just for our hometown. Doctors have told us they hate being reviewed, because they feel patients know little or nothing about what they do. We noticed, however, that doctors like to look at reviews for other people’s services.

 The reviews at Lunch are oriented more toward an international audience and are somewhat similar to what you see at web sites like Amazon.com. The site is presently in beta testing and you have to ask for an invitation, which may take a couple of weeks. But readers of our column who enter “OnComputers” as their “invite code” can join immediately.

 You start your Lunch meeting by playing a game which will seem familiar to anyone who’s played a Facebook game where you rate movies. The Lunch game is called “exhilarate,” and it lets you rate absolutely everything and then check a “similarity network” which compares your tastes to the whole Lunch.com community. This sometimes works well and sometimes doesn’t. Joy was rated 75 percent compatible with “Design Dude” in Culver City, California, the highest similarity rating she got with anyone, despite the “dude” describing himself as a “staunch lefty,” meaning ultra liberal. Joy is definitely not a “staunch lefty.” But they agreed on ratings of Simpson characters, Seinfeld characters, books, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan.

 As with Twitter.com, you can follow someone who interests you and get notices when they post new reviews. You can also add what they call “data points,” to include links to articles and videos you’re talking about. A movie review might link to the movie trailer, for example; comments about a magazine or newspaper article can include a link to that article. Joy enjoyed the comments she got after writing what she thought of the new James Bond movie (she hated it).

 J.R. Johnson, founder of the site, also created VirtualTourist.com, which carries personal travel accounts. He says people want you to stand behind what you write, rather than hiding behind an avatar that represents you. He says it’s like the reviews on Amazon, where people use their real name.

 Speaking of Amazon.com, you can post your photo and email address if you want people to know you better. There’s a whole Amazon reviewers community out there. If you see a reviewer you respect, you can add them to your “interesting people” list. You can also invite them to be an “Amazon friend.” This can be helpful for trusting a review; we have often wondered if some rave or highly critical review was written by a person with connections to the product’s manufacturer or to their competitor.



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