Are 'most helpful' reviewers actually the most helpful?

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Initial post: 12 Dec 2011 11:38:52 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Dec 2011 19:22:41 GMT
gille liath says:
You don't have to be a genius to notice that a critical review of something is far more likely to get a 'no' vote than a postive one; and, even amongst positive reviews, the most votes often go to the blandest (I'm not bitter or anything...). But that's not what reviews are for, folks - just to say everything is brilliant, 5 stars. Or, as far as Amazon are concerned, is it?

Should they be giving a weighting to total *number* of positive - and maybe even negative - votes, rather than just the proportion?

In fact, do we need the 'no' vote at all? My experience is that it is usually dropped by people who already know the product (and for whom the review is therefore not intended), and rather than thinking it 'unhelpful' merely disagree with, and want to show their disapproval of, it. What useful purpose does the no-vote serve?

Posted on 13 Dec 2011 09:06:15 GMT
Nicktomjoe says:
Quite right. "Unhelpful" could so often mean "Don't agree" that it may be that we have no sensible ranking of reviews, merely a sign that the reviewer writes with the consensus.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Dec 2011 09:59:58 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Dec 2011 10:28:55 GMT
gille liath says:

To be honest I find the majority of positive reviews unhelpful, in the sense that they don't help me decide whether to buy the product. They tell you that X is great, but don't really explain why (and there seems to be hardly anything so lame that someone doesn't think it worthy of 5 stars). But it's petty, even a little vindictive, to vote 'no'; the only ones that arguably deserve that are the occasional troll-review, the ones that give one star to the product because it arrived late or something, and the people who bought something as a present and haven't actually used it themselves. Even then, though, it's enough to just not vote *for* them.

Posted on 13 Dec 2011 10:16:14 GMT
Ken Smith says:
I think these buttons are just another way for some spiteful people to attack the novel. They don't write a nasty review but go around ticking the 'no' boxes on your good reviews.

Aside - tis great to see the US reviews now linked to UK books. Long overdue.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Dec 2011 10:26:53 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Dec 2011 10:27:36 GMT
gille liath says:
Interesting - I've never really seen that, the reviews with a lot of 'no' votes always seem to be critical ones (including a few of mine). But I rarely look at fiction reviews, I'm talking more about music and video.

Anyhow, either way the 'no' vote doesn't seem to be a comment on the helpfulness of the review, as it's supposed to be.

I'm afraid I also disagree about US reviews - but there's another thread about that.

Posted on 19 Dec 2011 07:25:26 GMT
Sometimes I see the most critical reviews are the most spiteful ones. I read a lot of Christian books, and if another Christian disagrees with the content he will writes a review about it. The best negative reviews are the intelligent ones where the reviewer actually knows what he is talking about and has some reasoning in his arguments, but you'll get others who just don't agree with the author or the subject and so will go on the attack, but it is usually of the lowest sort. Example: "This author's doctrine is from the pit of hell. He is an antichrist. If you read this stuff you are in league with the devil and it proves you are not of Christ to begin with. BEWARE!!!" This kind of review deserves a "no" vote in my opinion.

Posted on 19 Dec 2011 22:03:57 GMT
Olly Buxton says:
I'm a dogged contrarian and I think I write more negative reviews than most. They're always fully reasoned and argued (that's not to say they're right) but they certainluy cop more than their fair share of negative voting (though that said I frequently get slammed for my positive reviews too!)

For my part I think it would be lovely if we get get over the tyranny of the algorithm altogether and recognise there are some reviewers who just write good, sincere, honest reviews whatever the feedback these people should be recognised for the value they add. It seems ludicrous to rank the book reviewers, and coffee machine reviewers in a single hall of fame - why not individually recognise "trusted science book reviewer" or "community voted gardening tools expert" etc...?

Posted on 29 Dec 2011 12:30:09 GMT
A. H. Ford says:
I often find that reviewers either wax lyrical about the author because they're a friend or they've done one of their courses or else they totally misunderstand and review the seller and not the book. I want to know what is in the book, what are the instructions/drawings/photos like, is it aimed at beginners or more experienced, are the raw materials available easily in my country or am I going to have to buy on line and pay import duties etc etc I get very hacked off when I buy a book because I've been swayed by a reviewers glowing review only to find the book disappointing.
I try to write any reviews I do to offer the sort of information I would want - can't do more than that can you?

Posted on 31 Dec 2011 10:04:19 GMT
i always read reveiws before buying and rely on them rather than publishers blurb. we need critical reviews - its no good just having "wow what a great book" type revoiews - it gives readers nothing to go on and i ignore them. i like to see that reviews are linked to other authors books so that if someone says " this book will be enjoyed by those who like sookie stackhouse and the night huntress books" it gives me an indication that i'll enjoy it as i love those two series. as for the "no" button - useful when its critical of the product rather than a book - i e recieved late or something. i just tried to rate a review on the us site as helpful - a critical one but well balanced and argued and made up my mind not to buy a book i'd wondered about but as a uk memeber i can't vote on us reveiws - why?
like the previous reveiwer i try to write reveiws that offer what i'd like to read. i don't review all the books i've read - no reason except i'd rather read than write but i feel as i use reviews i also ought to play my part in writing some!!

Posted on 4 Jan 2012 17:34:22 GMT
Ben Basing says:
I think the essential point in a USEFUL review is not quite like a professional book or music review. The only use I am going to make of an Amazon review (unless it is exceptionally erudite!) would be to guide my decision to purchase the product or not. Classical CD boxed sets are often listed with inadequate information to identify the pieces- Symphony No1 in B flat- yes, fine, but whose symphony! Similarly pointing out where the book/CD has been published before, identifying duplicates or different translations, more up to date technical info etc. is useful. Many of the reviews that people have suggested might be of little use are actually a great help in deciding what to buy if they are read in conjunction with the reviewer's other contributions, Someone who rates all of The Wurzels CDs ***** is obviously a pretty uncritical Wurzels fan and cannot really be trusted to give an unbiased review of their work, but this viewpoint might explain why she thinks so little of Stockhausen. I look for reviews from someone who has offered a range of ratings for several products similar to the one I might buy.

Posted on 8 Jan 2012 15:08:28 GMT
Patti says:
I like the button yes and no because it really frustrates me when I'm looking for reviews about products to help me decide, give me some feedback and they just go on about what they didn't like about it in a way that doesn't tell you much about the product anyway... When I look at the reviews, I am looking for information like: was the product good quality? Was it actually like it seemed from description or not? (e.g. I have trouble finding things about corset making because a lot of books seem like they will have patterns and techniques to help you make one but in fact they only have pictures and not even whole pictures but parts... and the only way I know about it is from reviews where other people got the same wrong impression from the description...). Is the product genuine and original? etc.
So if someone posts: great!, or not worth it or just something stupid (e.g. private opinion rather than feedback about the product itself, e.g the christian books comment above) then it deserves a no vote! : )

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2012 19:45:34 GMT
PR says:
I agree. And Amazon is using us to sell their books for them on a voluntary basis without giving us any training or support, relying totally on our wish to be heard. No wonder most of us can't be trusted, or work completely without reference to the likely needs of the customer.

Posted on 12 Jan 2012 02:24:30 GMT
Ben Basing says:
Trusting voluntary reviewers is always going to be a bit risky- the ideal review would be written by the sort of person the book/CD/etc. is aimed at saying 'Yes, it hits the mark' or 'not really what I expected'. Problems come when reviewers guess who the product really is aimed at, or assume that everyone else thihnks the same way. The perfect example is Heidegger's Book 'An Introduction to Metaphysics', which sounds like an undergrad philosophy primer ... unless you know something about Heidegger and it is quite conceivable that a newcomer to philosophy would not realise that Heidegger's ideas are notoriousaly opaque!
The whole process is bit like cinema reviews that say how many people went to see such and such film- 10,000,000 in the first week! Brilliant!! But it's a new film, they did not know what they were about to see, all the big number proves is that the advertising worked.

Posted on 14 Jan 2012 22:09:25 GMT
Bob says:
If they are genuine yes but I have recently noticed a worrying trend with books that have only a limited number of reviews. Often if you look at the 5* reviews the reviewer has only reviewed one book, has only reviewed books by one author or is another author. It does seem that these reviewers are voting for each other.
I have used ARAT to compare voting paterns and they are remarkably similar with these type of reviews.
I would recomend only take real notice of reviews when the reviewer has managed to review more than a couple of books. We all started reviewing at some time with only one review and I am not saying a single review is bad just treat with care.

Posted on 3 Mar 2012 16:26:49 GMT
Monica Czuba says:
Having done a few reviews myself i find it ironic that if its not a good one,it seems to be ignored, some of the the reviews i`ve done are what i felt were a darn good read or not. But alas they never appear. Decided to stop as i felt some good authors are been ignored (maybe because they wont conform) who knows. The other thing is why ask for a review at all if your not going to use it.People are not stupid and realise that the review is what the reader thought of that book.

Posted on 8 Mar 2012 12:09:42 GMT
meredith says:
i would like to say thanks to all reviewers for taking the trouble to write at all..i always check them out -providing there is one-before i buy anything..i read them all and then make my own judgement based on for/against as i'm sure most people do..i do agree that it helps when a reviewer explains how products perform, the gist of a story etc,many of which i have found quite helpful. in the end its down to individual choice on whether to buy-or not-and i'm sure most of us do so regardless of positive or negative reviews

Posted on 11 Mar 2012 13:07:27 GMT
The Slider says:
One must take into account that most people are a bit simple.
Caveat emptor.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Mar 2012 13:37:47 GMT
A. H. Ford says:
I think some people might be offended about the suggestion that they are simple! I like to read everyone's point of view. Sometimes people miss the point that the review is about the book rather that the level of service but it's no pain to flip past that review. By generalising about people's intelligence you risk missing the golden nugget!

Posted on 12 Mar 2012 20:30:59 GMT
Ben Basing says:
Maybe there are some simple reviewers, or reviewers with an interest in supporting or denigrating some particular products but if you read the review, rather than counting the stars this generally becomes clear. I wonder how many unfavourable reviews are written by people who bought a five star reviewed product and feel cheated. The problem is that if a review says 'This is rubbish' and I therefore don't buy it how do I know whether I made the right decision or the reviewer got it wrong?

Posted on 21 Mar 2012 01:08:02 GMT
Eric Generic says:
Many of the top music reviewers get their submissions immediately rated unhelpful out of spite/jealousy/envy, which is a shame but if you're especially good at something, I suppose some people will always try and shoot you down.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 May 2012 18:24:58 BDT
Freespirit says:
Totally agree with what this person is saying. You can give a 'critique' which is negative and people vote it as unhelpful. This is not the case at all. I have read some reveiws which have criticised products and they have saved me wasting my money as well as time and effort!!

Posted on 10 Jun 2012 00:03:08 BDT
Interesting comments here. I sometimes vote negatively on positive comments, because they don't actually tell me anything about why the book / cd / video is rated so highly. They tend to be of the "I never read ... before, but it's the best ever, and now I buy everything she writes!!!" variety. Nothing against enthusiasm, but it'd be a _lot_ more useful if people could say a bit more!

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Jun 2012 12:08:21 BDT
Keith Moyes says:
I don't think there is any reason for paranoia. I have noted the same thing on IMDb. A lot of people just don't like negative reviews - or even balanced ones.

Posted on 21 Jun 2012 18:37:48 BDT
Layny says:
I always read reviews on books before buying especially if it is an author new to me. My bugbear and the reason I am tempted to hit the "unhelpful" button is the length of some reviews. Amazon should set a limit on characters used then they may be more pithy instead of verbose and rambling.

Posted on 11 Jul 2012 15:02:21 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jul 2012 15:48:34 BDT
mancheeros says:
I've enjoyed reading the comments here and would like to add some of my own which I hope are helpful...

It seems pretty obvious (if you can be bothered to check; I'm almost ashamed to admit that I have) that the highest-ranked reviewers on Amazon give mostly 5-star reviews, which generally pander to the legion of uncritical fans who then descend on that review and give it a host of helpful votes, thus boosting the rank of the reviewer. Believe it or not, I wrote to one of the Top 100 reviewers and asked him why nearly all his reviews were 5-star reviews. Surely not everything could be so flawless? I suggested. Surely he entertained a few doubts about the quality of a product from time to time? No, he only wrote reviews about products he really liked, he replied. He did not see the point of writing a review about a product he did not feel enthusiastic about, he said.

So, there you have it from one of Amazon's finest reviewers. The surest way of attracting lots of helpful votes is to get in early and be the first reviewer of a product by a popular musician/band/author/filmmaker and give it the full 5 stars. 4-star reviews pick up a few helpful votes here and there, 3-star reviews tend to be ignored and 1-star and 2-star reviews attract the most unhelpful votes and abuse - I speak from personal experience of having to delete a few of my 1 and 2-star reviews because I'm tired of reading the personal abuse I receive from fans of that product who can't cope with robust criticism of their heroes however well formulated that criticism might be. So, yes, I agree with those who suggest that the NO vote button should be removed. Finally, I've noticed a growing trend among 'reviewers' to merely list the product information, or to merely cut and paste someone else's review from a published magazine or newspaper; it's pretty depressing to see those kind of reviews attracting helpful votes when some of us make the effort to write our own constructive reviews.

PS: Perhaps we should start a campaign - SCRAP THE NO VOTE BUTTON.
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