Apparently Yelp has a no-fly list

Edit: My students are adults, which wasn't really the point of the article (and wasn't clear). Their ridiculous exclusion policy is. As smart as kids are these days, I'm not sure a "Pinterest scaling talk" is something I'd take kids to.

So I took my class on a field trip (hah!) to an event put on by the SF MySQL group at Yelp's offices. The event itself, a talk by the Pinterest engineers on how they scaled their product, was pretty great. Certainly, I learned a lot from it, and the pizza was pretty nice too. However, the venue left a bad taste in my mouth. Let me illustrate.

Quick, tell me, what do you know about the man they call Jon Blakely?

The only sensible response to that demand is, "Which Jon Blakely? There are hundreds!"

Imagine my surprise then, that Yelp's security team seems to be entirely insensible. When we arrived, one of my students was told that she was not allowed into the Yelp offices. I pressed further, and they informed me that she could not be let in because she was an "undisclosed security risk." I was also told I could email 'yelp.com' to clear things up. Thanks.

I was completely stonewalled by security, and I felt terrible. As a teacher, it's very hard not to feel protective of your students. Maybe it's a holdover from childhood, when you look at your teachers as the final authority on everything; from the other side, you feel the pressure to be that authority.

But here I was, helpless. The only thing I could do was direct her to BART and join the rest of the class inside. Once in, I did a little snooping, and got nothing at all from the Yelpers I found. Like as not, they didn't know anything about this mystery security policy. It wasn't until I ran into Erin O., the event organizer, that I got any useful information: when an event is hosted at Yelp, it is policy to provide them with a guest list. This list is composed of the full names of attendees and nothing else.

So, Yelp security team. You banned an attendee from your venue based solely on her name. Knowing nothing else about her, you decided she was an undisclosed security risk. Perhaps you have a policy of having only so many people with the letter 'Y' in their name, so as not to run afoul of fire codes. Maybe she shares a name with an internationally renowned thief, known for stealing restaurant reviews and selling them on the black market. Or maybe you were just taking a page out of the TSA playbook because it worked so well for them and it was not a terrible idea at all. Whatever the reason, bravo.

I don't hold it against the security guy, he was just following instructions. He was even polite (and contrite) about the fiasco. And I get it. Yelp is a grown-up company now, and they have to wear the big-boy security pants. You can't have anyone just walking in off the street and stealing all those reviews. But I'll be damned if that isn't the dumbest security policy I've ever seen. As crummy as google restaurant reviews are, Yelp's getting uninstalled.