The new feature, which can be found at www.DanvilleWeekly.com under the "Restaurants" section, has been developed by a Palo Alto start-up company called BooRah, which plans to eventually roll out the system nationally.
"Embarcadero Publishing Co.'s Web sites are the testing ground for BooRah's service," said Danville Weekly publisher Gina Channell-Allen said. "This cutting-edge technology will enhance the usefulness of our Web site and further our commitment to engage our readers in the content of the site."
The name says it all, according to Eric Moyer, co-founder and CEO of BooRah. Boo means thumbs down; Rah means thumbs up, he pointed out.
But the simplicity stops there, he said, as the system behind BooRah is a highly sophisticated "natural language processing" (NLP) technology. NLP automatically compiles evaluations of restaurants (or about anything else, such as hotels, local shops, movies or professional services) from the Internet. NLP is a specific area of the artificial intelligence field of research and development.
The official launch of the system this week at DanvilleWeekly.com and PleasantonWeekly.com followed Embarcadero's Palo Alto Online and sister paper the Pacific Sun in Marin County. It will soon be rolled out in New York and Los Angeles, according to Moyer.
While many Web sites offer restaurant information, online reservations and reviews, the unique feature of BooRah is how it searches the Web and compiles all reviews that have been written about each restaurant, creates a summary review and rating, and allows users to easily access the reviews, Moyer said.
It also encourages users to write their own reviews, rate restaurants and submit updated information about local restaurants. In this way, local restaurant patrons help to keep the information current and can post their opinions about their dining experiences.
Moyer said the idea for the startup emanated from conversations with a longtime associate, Nagaraju Bandaru, who is now BooRah's chief technology officer. Bandaru formerly was vice president of engineering at MetroFi and has 16 years of experience in management, technology and new-market development, including holding management positions at Covad Communications, Lockheed Martin and Exodus Communications. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's degree in computer science from the University of Hyderabad, India.
Moyer handles overall strategy, marketing and business development. He formerly was vice president of marketing for MetroFi, where he led the service launch of residential broadband wireless service. He has 18 years of experience in the field and met Bandaru when he was with Covad Communictions. He has an MBA from Harvard University and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Johns Hopkins University.
What users can find with BooRah
Those using the new restaurant review feature get instant access to reviews and basic information on more than 800 restaurants in the Bay Area, including:
* A summary assessment based on all the reviews that have been written about a restaurant.
* Links to both professional and user reviews available from other Web sites.
* Ratings on food, service, ambience and overall quality.
* Address, hours, driving directions, maps, etc., for all local restaurants.
* An easy way for users to post their own reviews of local restaurants.
* A search feature allowing users to search by name, cuisine or location.
* Online reservations.