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Local Search, From Locals

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Online yellow pages are great for finding nearby businesses, but nothing beats a recommendation from a local in making a decision to patronize a business.

Judy's Book is a site that's blending the ideas of local search and social networks, tapping into the knowledge and experience of residents of cities across the U.S. to provide a guide to local businesses and services. It's an interesting notion, and tools that allow you to see recommendations only from friends or specific groups makes it easy to get recommendations limited to people you trust.

Judy's Book has local recommendations from most medium-to-large size cities in the U.S. The site is free to browse; to add a post or ask a question you need to register, but registration is free.

The site was inspired by a "little green book" of trusted sources kept by "Judy," the mother of one of the Judy's Book founders. The book contained a list of the best service providers in the Seattle area, according to Judy.

The site is clearly a work in progress—for example, I looked for restaurant reviews in my own local area of Boulder-Longmont Colorado, and saw an intriguing review for a place called "Cosmic Kitchen" that I hadn't heard of. "Cosmic Kitchen is the best Tex-Mex in town by a mile. We love the place - super hippy style, delicious healthy food, mellow relaxing atmosphere, and gigantic portions," the reviewer wrote.

I turned to Yahoo, Google and A9's local search services, but couldn't find the address. Only then did I look more closely at the review and discovered that the Cosmic Kitchen is nearly 3,500 miles away, in Homer, Alaska.

And calling itself "the only local word of mouth community on the web" is a bit of a stretch, given the variety of other similar services out there. Citysearch has long offered user reviews. Yahoo Local, for example encourages user reviews, and Google Local includes user reviews from Yahoo, Citysearch and others.

Nonetheless, Judy's Book is worth a look, especially if you're looking for businesses in larger cities. I plan to take a closer look at Judy's Book in an upcoming series of articles focusing on local search later this summer.

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