This has been the kind of week that reminds me why I insist on writing about something good on the Internet every Monday. I've got a backlog of ideas - I played the new Warhammer this weekend, and I've been kicking around more dice ideas, but the simple ritual of stopping and thinking about the good things out there is too important to my sanity to stop.
Today I want to talk about Angie's List. This has been on my mind as people on various vectors have been talking about buying or repairing their houses, and my thoughts go back to our own very mixed experiences. I only heard of Angie's list because they're an NPR sponsor, but that worked out better for them then buying a radio ad would have. It made me curious enough to check out their website, and I'm glad I did.
Angie's List is one of those ideas that reflects the practical application of the things that technology promises us. It's a review site, but what makes it noteworthy is that it's a review site that focuses on local workers (contractors, repairmen and so on, though they've recently been branching out to things like doctors). The 'local' part means they don't cover every area, but their definitions of metropolitan areas seem suitably flexible.
The model is very simple. You hire a plumber and, after he's done, you can write up a review of your experience on Angie's List. When someone else in your area needs a plumber, they can hit the web site and see all the reviews of local plumbers. Simple as that. It's even a little crude, since user generated data can create weird redundancies or crossovers, but it works, and it works well.
It's been going for a couple of years now, and the amount of information on the site has gained a nice level of depth. Yes, that also means its accrued some false reviews and otherwise been gamed, but it's nothing that a little critical reading can't get you past.
Now, the rub is that it's a paid site. They were smart and had a long free period so they could accrue a lot f data before going paid, but eventually they needed to make money. On it's own, the price is a little high ($60 for a year, $7.50 for a month, with a $15 signup fee to deal with the sane and reasonable folks who would just pay for a month when they need it) but given the cost of most home repairs, it's very small as a percentage of total cost, and especially small compared to the cost of having a bad job done.
In many ways I consider an Angie's List membership as something comparable to a subscription to Consumer Reports online. I don't bother to remember it when I'm not using it, but when the time comes that I do need it, it's a very cost-effective investment.
So, if you're in a position where it will matter that the people who install your windows or fix your plumbing know what they're doing, it's definitely worth your while to check out Angie's List.