Oink Oink, Rating Rating Apps

In the midst of an accelerating race to have us review not only the restaurants and shops of the world but every book, music track, and menu item from our mobile devices, three rating apps have caught my attention lately. All three have adopted a unique approach that’s propelled them ahead of the pack.
I’ve tried them out and am turning the tables on them to review the best & worse points of the trio. I looked at how easy it is to make an account, find friends, share/rate content and what pulls me back into the app.

Tiny Review (App Store)

Tiny Review app screen

An app currently following the 500 Startups accelerator program. It’s like an Instagram for reviews. Their tagline says it all: “3 lines + 1 picture”.

The Best

  • Two-tap sign up process using Facebook.
  • The app forces users to write something, anything. That’s the killer feature of this app. Too many rating apps are content with a small pic and a thumbs-up. On the contrary, this app is building a huge collection of valuable content: witty, fun to read, bite-size reviews.
  • Your review must fit in three lines of text (often more like three words), written over the picture. It encourages people to think about what they are going to write, makes it impossible to write long-winding reviews, keeps it straight to the point and never boring.
  • People seem to enjoy it also as an actual alternative to Instagram where they get a chance to write captions on top of their photos and often forget (and nothing bad here) to “review” anything. I don’t mind this actually!

The Rest

  • Early app version I know, but the poor design is not encouraging me to stick around.
  • I only have a few active friends, and no nearby activity, I am bored. The app should make it easier for me to discover new people, in new places.
  • Not sure if this is an issue with the app or lack of imagination by the people I am following but I don’t feel comfortable rating anything non food related.
  • Help me seed content to my account when I have just joined. When I am adding a review, make my life easier and just suggest venues close to the GPS info embedded in most of my existing pics (like Instagram does). That would save me from having to remember location names at all. Hell, just show me my recent Instagram pics (or other similar services on which I am likely to have already uploaded pics of places I would want to rate on Tiny Review) and let me copy over a few interesting ones.
  • Don’t care to see my pics in my “Following” stream.
  • The app launches with the Nearby tab selected, which means that you always see the same picture at the top. First UX priority should be that I always get to see a new tiny review when I launch the app, even if not written by my friends. I would rather “Nearby and Recent but not by your friends” than “Same old nearby curry house review from 3 months ago”.


Stamped (App Store)

Google-backed NYC startup. The pitch: “Stamped is a new way to recommend only what you like best — restaurants, books, movies, music and more. No noise, no strangers, just the things you and your friends love.”

The Best

  • Sleek design overall and great font choice
  • Lovely personalisation touche: choose the colour of your stamp of approval
  • I like the fact that you are suggested a few personalities to follow (5).
  • I like the integration with Amazon on books recommended by friends but the screen’s a bit hard to find.

The Rest

  • Sign up form takes me back 5 years when I had to enter my name and phone number.
  • Judging from the number of written reviews I have seen in my stream, people enjoy stamping and not much else.
  • Integration with Google Places instead of the Foursquare locations Db makes it virtually impossible to find names of places in Japan.
  • I don’t really care for the To-Do (bookmarks really) feature.
  • With only a few friends using the app, I cannot see myself checking it on a regular basis. There should be a mechanism in place that would alert me when new stamps have been inked on items likely to be of interest to me even if out of my circle of friends.
  • Too many ratings possible. Where to start?!
  • I don’t find the limit of 100 stamps to be a motivation to rate only the best things around me.


Oink (App Store)

First project by Milk Inc., Kevin Rose’s new venture. The pitch: “Instead of just rating places, you rate the items inside.”

The Best

  • It’s easy the sign up and easy to find friends already on the service.
  • I like the fact that the app is about rating things inside places, not the places, because ultimately I am more likely to go to a restaurant because you recommend 1 or several items on the menu than just the restaurant.
  • Really like the Creds concept. It’s a great incentive to get users to add content. Instead of just rating anything aimlessly like Stamped, Oink tries to provide a guide by letting users choose Creds to specialize in. My creds are currently Dessert, Healthy, Museums, Tokyo.
  • The UI is beautiful.
  • Offers a few filters for the photos you take or add. Great touch to increase impact of the app’s content.

The Rest

  • Add interface feels totally backwards. It forces me to start by finding a location. Sure it suggests locations around me but what if I am oinking from inside my bed, in the evening, or the day after a visit to a great location as it often happens? Hook me into adding content by first securing the content I am trying to share (a picture of something) and then let me deal with the details of it (location etc.)
  • Too many steps to add anything. Choose a location, choose from a list of things already added or add a new one, then name it and add tags, then take or add a photo. Then when you think you’re done, you can add your own ratings upon which you are invited to leave a “mini-review” or a “comment” (apparently they are different), or even add a to-do (of something you are adding?!). Is there anything this app doesn’t do.
  • Like many rating apps, it forces you to remember to use the app while you are there or before you devore your food etc. The last cake pic I posted was of crumbs left on an empty plate. The cake was great though. 😉
  • I don’t care to see my oinks in my “Following” stream. I just want to see stuff from people I am following!
  • Help me seed content to my account when I have just joined. When I am adding a oink, make my life easier and just suggest venues close to the GPS info embedded in most of my existing pics (like Instagram does). That would save me from having to remember location names at all.
  • Why make me frame my pics in a square if the app will then recrop them in landscape?!


To wrap things up, I feel that both Oink and Stamped try too hard to make it sound like the whole world has caught “Rating Fever” with no vaccine in sight and that you’ve got no choice but to join the movement. Their elaborate UI feel like a knee-jerking contest and although dazzling at first, make me long for the simplicity of Tiny Review’s UX and Instagram.
Ultimately though, despite my likes and dislikes, I am most likely to stick with the app that will manage to catch on with the biggest number of contacts on my social graph. Oink has a clear advantage at the moment, if only my friends could start Oinking!!!

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  • Aka.me

    Based in Paris & Tokyo, Paul Baron is a senior product manager for hire. Ex-@AQworks. Co-founder of cultural platform Tokyo Art Beat.
    Service design, interaction design, startups, user research.
    Posts a few times a decade since 2003.

    Visit Aka.me for the full site.

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