We all lived through the heights of the social media craze when every new product needed a social aspect in order to succeed (success is defined as getting funding). My personal favorite was the backyard grill thermometer that posted the temperatures of what you were cooking to Facebook and Twitter. (Okay, there was a little more to it than that, but not much).

But as an Internet fad, social is starting to cycle down, meaning that another Internet fad needs to take its place. My nomination: blockchain.

You have doubtless heard of blockchain, although the odds are you don’t know exactly what it is or what it does. Most people don’t. My understanding of it is sketchy. But when it comes to the Internet, complexity is a benefit because everyone salutes when they hear about a new service using blockchain, without being able to ask any tough questions about how or why.

A great example of this is a restaurant review site called Munchee. Munchee plans to disrupt sites such as Yelp and Zagat in part by using blockchain technology. Think about that for a while. Or better yet, don’t think about it. You’ll get a headache.

Munchee has a few interesting twists to it. First, it’s meant to be more granular than sites like Yelp, by focusing on the individual dishes a restaurant serves, based on the belief that all dishes served by a particular restaurant are unlikely to be of equal quality. You might doubt the need, but it’s a plausible idea.

Munchee also wants to correct for sample bias in reviews. It’s well understood that people are more likely to post a review when they are dissatisfied. Munchee wants to get around this problem be rewarding all reviews with tokens that can be redeemed at restaurants or even sold to other Munchee participants for cash. If you are getting paid for every review, the reasoning goes, you’re as likely to create a positive review as a negative one. Again, an interesting idea.

To get even more accuracy, Munchee wants all reviews to be peer-reviewed by other Munchee users. Munchee intends to recruit peer reviewers by using (buzzword alert) machine learning to find the other Munchee users best qualified to pass judgment on the review. Still again, the notion of peer review is an interesting one.

So where exactly does blockchain come in? Does it, for example, somehow definitively tie the reviewer to the restaurant, in order to eliminate false reviews? Well, no. Instead, those award tokens that Munchee offers are actually crypto-tokens that are tied to the Ethereum blockchain. That’s it.

Munchee actually has some fresh approaches to review platforms, but it apparently couldn’t resist the temptation to bolt on a tenuous blockchain application to sound even cooler and more cutting-edge. Unfortunately, that works to obscure the more basic ideas it has that are likely to be where the real value is created. We all need to be careful not to fall into the trap of rushing to adopt new technologies just because they get a buzz around them. You’ll only end up confusing your customers … and yourself … about the true ways you offer value.

 

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