Yelp Proves that the Hipsters Are Right Where You Think They Are

Yelp released heatmaps that show the prevalence of certain buzzwords in their reviews across a city's geography.

Online restaurant review site Yelp has released cool heatmaps of major cities, including Boston, that show the prevalence of certain buzzwords across neighborhoods. The descriptions of various Yelp reviewers taken in aggregate offer data-backed evidence for some conclusions about Boston we’d already sort of taken for granted. Take the heatmap for the word “hipster” in Yelp reviews, for example:


“Hipster” heat map on Yelp

The map mostly confirms what we already knew: the “hipster,” whatever that means these days, seems to populate businesses in Allston, Central Square, Inman, and the Back Bay, land of the Berklee hipster. Of course, given this is a map of reviews that use the word “hipster,” it’s more likely a place where people point out hipsters than a place where self-professed hipsters (not that such things exists) hang. The map for “yuppies” similarly looks like a heat map of places where people complain about “yuppies.” There’s a lot of red in SoBo, you’ll notice.


“Yuppie” heatmap on Yelp

Yelp also includes a heat map for “PBR,” which you might consider redundant, given they already provided the “hipster” map. But actually PBR doesn’t necessarily act as a carbon copy. As We Love Beantown writes, the correlation between “hipsters” and “PBR” reviews is stronger in Cambridge and Somerville, but a lot of bars in the Financial District serve PBR without the “hipster” label. Remember, PBR’s image was just co-opted by the hipsters. It’s long been a dive bar staple.


“PBR” heatmap on Yelp

The maps yield some less obvious discoveries, too. Cambridge, apparently, is not for lovers. The heat map for the word “romantic” gives great advantage to one side of the Charles River over the other:

“Romantic” heatmap on Yelp

Yelp also provides some Boston-specific maps, like “Chowder,” (Other cities get their own, as well. Philadelphia gets “hoagies,”) though that particular one doesn’t reveal a whole lot of earth-shattering conclusions. When Yelp maps out more common words, like “hangover” and “bacon,” the results just look a lot like heatmaps of areas with a high density of businesses. Wherever there are restaurants, there are reviewers lauding their hangover cures, it seems.

But in general, Yelp reveiws are more useful when taken as a whole than when you invest too much into any one Yelp reviewer. And this project seems to be another way Yelp is trying to harness the wisdom of the crowd.