Everyday LSAT: Urban Spoon

    LSAT Prep



    The other day I was in the mood for sushi, but was in an unfamiliar town. I was a bit apprehenshive about where to indulge my craving, because while expertly prepared sushi is a blessing, poorly prepared sushi truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

    So, being wise in the ways of mobile technology, I turned to my Urban Spoon app.  If you're not familiar with Urban Spoon, it's an app for your mobile device that uses GPS to find restaurants near your location. It's a great app, and I use it constantly when I travel. But to get the most out of its recommendations, you have to employ a little LSAT insight to sift through the reviews. 

    Just like when navigating an LSAT question that employs numbers and percentages concepts to trip up the unwary, I've learned to pay closer attention to the percentages on Urban Spoon that pop up next to a restaurant's name.  The uninitiated may be lured in by a high percentage approval rating, but I know there is more to consider. 

    So, like in an Evaluate the Argument LSAT question, there are certain questions I'd like answered to help me pick the best place.  Certainly, there is the question of how many dollar signs are listed.  Four dollar signs and I'll likely take a pass.  One dollar sign and it's definitely in my price range.

    Also, how many people have reviewed the restaurant?  I'm skeptical about a restaurant's 100 percent rating with only a couple of reviewers. Think about all the potential issues there.

    Since Urban Spoon is essentially a survey site, you've got all the problems that arise from any survey.  Who are those two people who voted?  Are they the owners, or the owner's friends or relatives?  Even if the reviewers are legitimately unassociated with the restaurant, did they happen to eat there on the same, above average night?  Are they just ultra-kind people who can't help but say something nice, and feel compelled to post positive reviews whenever they dine out?

    With sushi on the agenda, I'm not adverturous enough to entrust my digestive system to a two-review minefield potentially teeming with survey issues like self-selection bias and improper sampling.  Ultimately, I found a nice place with an 83 percent rating based on more than 100 reviews.  The sushi was inventive, flavorful and, more importantly, non-lethal.

    So, the next time you use Urban Spoon, give the data a little more thought and count it as some LSAT prep time.  If you've had an Urban Spoon disaster, when the high pecentage approval lead you into a kitchen nightmare, do share! If you have, what questions do you wish you would have asked before you sat down at the table? 


    Photograph courtesy of Flikr user ayesamson under a Creative Commons attribution license.