I’ve been using tripadvisor quite a bit lately and believe more and more in its model. Customer reviews are the only ranking system they use and customer use whatever criteria they like. Look up any hotel or attraction and you’ll find ratings and most important, reviews. These reviews are usually more important than the rating since they reveal bias and often details that validate the rating. Reading the through the various reviews and you’ll be pretty certain what you’re getting into.
The social networking is evident in the contributions users make and the benefit of learning from each other. Users can opt to leave the email address linked to their name if you have further questions. There likely no reason for anyone to give a good or bad review (unless they are working for or are competitor’s of the facility). Reading the reviews after the fact, usually verifies your research in some form and by adding to the comments, you richen the data.
Critical thinking is essential in that ratings alone can be misleading. For example, one hotel reviewer might give a bad rating because they discovered they don’t allow pets. This may not be an issue to you so the poor rating may be dismissed. You tend to read several reviews in order to form an educated opinion. Checking a user’s other reviews to see if they are particularly negative or positive also provides insight.
Unlike wikipedia where it is an attempt to provide truth, tripadvisor allows users to express their opinions and experiences and in turn allow readers to make educated decisions.