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Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Grayboxx ranks Burlington

Grayboxx has been generating some buzz online recently with its impending launch… which happened today. And lo and behold, its first target is our very own Burlington, Vermont. From its press release

Grayboxx Inc., a Silicon Valley-based online local search firm, today announced that Burlington is the first city to gain access to the company’s unique “neighbor-recommended” local search service. By using patent-pending techniques to accurately determine the community popularity and approval for local businesses, grayboxx.com provides the most meaningful local recommendations on the Web. Grayboxx will roll out its service to other communities across the United States in the coming months.

For people who live outside of the largest metropolitan areas, there are few, if any, online local search options that provide extensive business rankings and recommendations. Grayboxx’s unique approach to local search has enabled it to assemble a critical mass of community feedback on more than 3,000 of Burlington’s businesses. The site features more than 12,000 “neighbor recommendations”, covering everything from antique shops to violin stores.

Wow! Burlington’s population is about 38,000… a little more than 12,000 households. Here’s how it works, according to the company…

Grayboxx’s innovative PreferenceScoring™ engine is able to translate everyday actions people take with or about businesses into meaningful expressions of business popularity and quality. For example, when a user checks out a restaurant online, makes a reservation, and then a week later makes another reservation, this can be considered as a positive recommendation of the restaurant.

Online reservations are just one of the many methods used by the powerful new local search engine to assess the top recommendations in Burlington. Grayboxx works by processing anonymous information from a variety of sources to create implicit neighbor recommendations in more than 6,000 yellow page categories in Burlington or in any city. This approach differs greatly from that of current search giants, which rely on manually entered user reviews for their recommendations.

This sounds interesting. Wisdom from boiling down databases… the final dish depends on the ingredients (data) and the chef’s technique (Grayboxx’s software). Let’s see how it tastes…

The following are samples of grayboxx’s top results for businesses and services in Burlington, as ranked by the Burlington community.

The top neighbor-recommended “jewelers” in Burlington are:
* Fremeau Jewelers, with 34 neighbor recommendations
* Von Bargen’s Jewelry, with 12 recommendations
* Hannoush Jewelers, with 3 recommendations

The top three neighbor-recommended “taxi” services in Burlington are:
* Benway’s Taxi, with 38 neighbor recommendations
* Yellow Cab, with 8 recommendations
* Airport Taxi, with 5 recommendations

A search for “computer repair” in Burlington returns with the following:
* ReCycle North, with 47 neighbor recommendations
* Computer Rescue Squad, with 7 recommendations
* Pine Computers, with 4 recommendations

I just plugged in several other items… groceries, computer dealers, newspapers, shoes, pizza… maybe some of the databases they hope to mine are not quite ripe or fresh. As a local, I haven’t had one search produce what I would call “good advice from a neighbor.” Makes me wonder about the chef’s secret recipe (mysterious ranking criteria)… hard to trust when initial tests come up with what I’m seeing.

I know Grayboxx is taking aim at smaller markets, but this seems more suited for large anonymous metro areas. If I didn’t know anyone local to ask for a reliable and a reasonably priced taxi option, I’d be happy for this kind of service.

Burlington, and all of Vermont, is so reasonably scaled, that lots of this kind of information is near at hand. Ask a few co-workers, friends, etc. Indeed, this is one of the most common types of messages posted among neighbors on Front Porch Forum. People get real “neighbor recommendations” in Burlington everyday this way.

At this point, I’d rather ask a couple hundred neighbors for a computer repair recommendation through FPF than turn to this kind of service. Or I’d sooner take a peek at the local successful reader survey that our weekly alternative paper runs, the much coveted Daisies, by Seven Days. But Grayboxx may be more attractive than some of the other non-local data-driven behemoths stomping through the local online scenes these days. I’ll have to keep trying it… fun to have it here first.

And thanks to Greg Sterling for the lead.

Posted in: Burlington, Front Porch Forum, Local Online, Local Reviews, Local Search, Vermont


9 comments

  1. Bob C. says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for covering grayboxx. Your comments are on point when you say that people can get local referals from one another. In no way do we seek to replace that dynamic, but instead offer a complement where requesting advice may be too time-consuming or inconvenient.

    grayboxx isn’t perfect, but we hope to add some value through local recommendations, especially since the Yahoo Local’s and CitySearch’s have very little content in towns like Burlington.

    Best,
    Bob


    Bob Chandra
    Chief grayboxx Officer, grayboxx

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks Bob. I look forward to using Grayboxx here in Burlington to see how it develops, as well as following how your rollout progresses in other cities. Best wishes. -Michael

  3. Cathy Resmer says:

    I talked with Grayboxx founder Bob Chandra yesterday but haven’t had a chance to write up anything about it yet.

    I just tried to check out the site again, but it didn’t seem to be working…

  4. Cathy Resmer says:

    I take that back. It is working, it’s just slow.

    I noticed in their press release that they made a big deal out of ReCycle North being the best place to go for computer repairs… but I had a hard time even finding ReCycle North when I search for “computer repair,” (you have to search, then ask it to display the results according to what’s top ranked). Not that I would take my computer there to begin with.

    Of course, the top ranked “computer repair” destination is the Vermont Panurgy Corporation:
    http://www.panurgyvt.com/

    Huh?

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  8. Caleb Robinson says:

    Hello Everyone, especially Bob Chandra!!!

    Grayboxx.com went belly up on Feb. 13th, 2008. I was a data entry contractor with the company. My final check from grayboxx BOUNCED, so I’m looking for BOB so I can get paid!

    So Bob, if you are out there, Myself and a few others (so I hear) are looking for ya!

    If anyone has Bob Chandra’s mailing address or telephone number I would very much appreciate having it!!!

    thank you!

    Caleb Robinson
    ex data entry contractor @ grayboxx.com

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