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Initial post: 18 Apr 2010 11:07:16 BDT
Damaskcat says:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/7601662/Leading-academics-in-bitter-row-over-anonymous-poison-book-reviews.html

More nasty goings on among Amazon reviewers
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In reply to an earlier post on 18 Apr 2010 12:28:51 BDT
OEJ says:
I knew nothing of that, and although it's a bit mild compared to the quickly deleted 'Vine Stasi' thing on Wikipedia a while back, it does once again make me wonder if the likes of you (Damaskcat) and me are part of an ever-shrinking proportion of the reviewers on Amazon, a minority group who actually have no vested interest in the products we write about, or their creators. I suppose it's inevitable that when something gets as big and as influential as Amazon is, that it attracts corruption of a sort and 'reviews' that are often deliberately aimed at boosting the sales of one product at the expense of another, or perhaps bad-mouthing a writer/musician/director on the grounds of jealousy, insecurity or unfounded cynicism.

At least we can sleep at night with clear consciences, knowing that what we contribute to the Amazon reviewing forum is in keeping with its original ideology - basically to help ordinary people buy or avoid the products we have experience of.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 13:00:19 BDT
JJG says:
God, all I could think about when reading that article was how infantile these people are. Pundit I'd like to have seen that 'Vine Stasi' thing, sounds just as ridiculous.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 13:39:19 BDT
Danny says:
I think implying that the majority of reviews on Amazon have a vested interest is way over the top. Possibly in certain niche categories, but in most run of the mill items available for sale the reviews in the main don't show any sign of corruption, for want of a better phrase. Academics have always been up to tricks like this. It is nothing new. The only thing new is that somebody admitted it.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 13:42:01 BDT
Damaskcat says:
Pundit - you are right - we are rapidly becoming a minority group who have no axe to grind when we write reviews. The Mail's article - badly written to the extent it is almost incomprehensible - has some interesting comments on it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1266860/I-blame-wife-Top-historian-accused-rubbishing-rivals-Amazon-reviews--wife-says-SHE-did-it.html

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 14:55:54 BDT
I think it's way over the top, and a bit pompous, to claim to be among a 'minority group' of reviewers with no axe to grind. Thanks for pointing this story out, though, I find all the Machiavellian goings-on very interesting. There's definitely a lot of this going on.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 15:13:10 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Apr 2010 15:17:35 BDT
JJG says:
I also don't think the majority of reviewers have a vested interest (at least not a personal vendetta like this case), but there are supposedly over a million reviewers on Amazon UK. I can't help but think there are an awful lot of double profiles out there, for use of writing extra reviews and so forth (okay, I know the new system has stamped a lot of it out). And I think this type of conspiratorial reviewing is largely confined to niche areas, where it may have an effect, though only may.

Also, I don't think Damaskcat means to sound pompous. I also genuinely think there is a small pool of people who regularly write reviews (I don't include myself in that group) with no real axe to grind (obviously people have their pet hates and likes). And who write to a good standard, avoiding plot spoilers, regularly checking for inaccuracies and covering as many bases possible in their review, without writing a monolithic essay.

I think there is a problem of the definition of a small group, I'm talking about hundreds and probably thousands of people.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 15:27:08 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Apr 2010 16:32:58 BDT
Damaskcat says:
I had no intention of sounding pompous and I know Pundit didn't either. There are so many things going on with Amazon reviews - though the new voting/ranking system has weeded out some. There are millions of reviewers on Amazon but there are many who only ever post one review - perhaps because they're reviewing for a friend or whatever. I'm not saying just because you review for a friend you won't post an honest review - I'm saying people who only post one review MAY have some sort of axe to grind.

Many people do take their reviewing seriously and try and write the best most accurate reviews they can - without fear or favour - and I know Pundit and I both take that view. If it is pompous to show that we have integrity - then I plead guilty

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 15:59:06 BDT
OEJ says:
Damaskcat has put it better than me (as usual) - yes, it is daft to suggest/imply that the majority of reviews on Amazon are 'bent' in some way, so I retract that. But the number of reviews of questionable purpose - for want of a better word - is definitely in the rise. Writers create fake IDs to review their own books, and create separate fake IDs to give 1-star 'avoid' reviews of books written by people they see as competitors. Reviewers slag off other reviewers. Huge numbers of reviews are one-liners of little value to anybody, and still other reviews are of products that haven't even been released yet. OK, it's a level playing field despite all that, the doors are open to anybody and everybody to post what they want and Amazon welcome the huge volumes of traffic that all this generates - but for me, if I want to know if a book's worth buying or a DVD's worth watching, Amazon remains my first port of call for guidance and it's a pity that I have to pick my way through so many useless or misleading reviews in order to find one of value or reliability; in the end the best way is to 'get to know' individual reviewers whose opinions can be trusted, because as things stand an impressive-looking, informative and lengthy review posted by someone unknown to me may in fact have been posted by that book's publisher or even by the author.

The changes brought in last month were welcome and I wouldn't want to reverse them, but there are still plenty of other changes I'd like to make that could improve the standard of reviewing here on Amazon.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 16:06:59 BDT
Danny says:
What was so badly written about the Mail Article?

A thoroughly modern literary scandal, it all began with an email: a puzzled inquiry from an eminent scholar as to why an academic colleague had apparently been making anonymous attacks on his rivals.

By the end of yesterday, it had become full-blown intellectual warfare, with bitter firefights between opposing armies of lawyers, and a growing realisation that when the battle ends, one or more formerly distinguished reputations may well lie bleeding in the mud.

Throughout most of this process, one of Britain's best-known historians, Professor Orlando Figes of Birkbeck College, London, was claiming that the anonymous attacks - savage reviews posted on the Amazon website - had nothing to do with him. His solicitor suggested they might have been composed by his enemies in a bizarre plot to discredit him.

-------

It won't win any awards, but I would hardly call it incomprehensible.

With regards to bogus reviews, I do think its a bit of a storm in a teacup, in terms of total numbers. In terms of specific niches, however, I would imagine it fairly rife. However, by their nature, they are in the minority. Lets face it, how many copies of that book actually sold?

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 16:37:33 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Apr 2010 16:37:49 BDT
Damaskcat says:
Maybe it was me then or perhaps it's been altered since I read it several hours ago. It looked when I first read it as though it had been chopped about by a sub editor and bits seemed to be missing - that was all.

There was a comment on the Mail article that I thought showed the sort of thing both Pundit and I would criticise. It was someone saying that she reviews books on Amazon using the 'Look Inside' feature and then writing a review of the book on the basis of what she's read there. Hardly a comprehensive review in my opinion.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 16:50:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Apr 2010 16:51:22 BDT
Danny says:
Fair enough. I hate it when people edit stuff like that. It makes perfectly reasonable comments seem completely out of place.

I saw that comment (incidently I can no longer see ANY comments there now, even though it says there ar 19) and didn't think they meant they actually posted a review on Amazon. I read it as them saying they judge whether to buy a book not by the reviews but by the first few pages they see in the "Look Inside" feature.

Its funny how different people can read the same paragraph and reach different conclusions. Thats not meant as a dig, just an observation on different perceptions.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 16:51:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Apr 2010 17:11:53 BDT
OEJ says:
Well, it's long past the point of not-mentioning-any-names but Top 20 Reviewer J Chippindale posted about 2300 book reviews, nearly all of which he hadn't read. He just copied and pasted info from other websites, usually a brief bio of the author, a brief synopsis and little else. He threatened to kill me with a rifle at one point, such was his public humiliation - but then he just stopped, and disappeared.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Apr 2010 16:54:11 BDT
JJG says:
Don't worry I read that comment in the same way.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 16:55:18 BDT
Damaskcat says:
The Mail's comments facility is frequently not working properly I find.

I know what you mean about reading things differently - maybe I did misniterpret the comment though I can't remember the exact text now. It just seemed to me she was saying that was how she wrote reviews!!

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 16:59:45 BDT
Ethereal says:
Even if not directly involved I wouldn't have thought Amazon would want to be associated with possible lawsuits, can't do their reputation much good.
I'm only surprised something like this hasn't happened sooner. Maybe this is a niche market case but one only has to look at these forums to see growing dissatisfaction with the review system. I would be surprised if there weren't more changes now, concerning anonymity and vetting.
If I wanted to sell a book I'd look at other ways than Amazon first, and if authors decided to vote with their feet that would make Amazon sit up.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 17:20:25 BDT
OEJ says:
Then there are the Amazon-savvy writers - usually self-published - who canvas reviewers aiming to send them a copy of their latest novel for free, in return for a review of course. But these are the kind of people , I've found, who you definitely don't want to rub up the wrong way by giving an honest but negative appraisal in public. One writer must have had about 25 different Amazon IDs, such was his obsession with negging a review I posted (which was a middling 3-star by the way). His book was so little-known - higher than 1 million in the bestseller list - that no-one would have discovered my review other than the writer himself or close friends and family. Lesson learned - stick to Vine for freebies (although that invariably leads to multiple negging too of course).

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 17:25:10 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Apr 2010 17:47:39 BDT
Danny says:
Mrs Braysher, you could say the same for just about any online store though. Personally if I had a book to sell I would be thankful to Amazon and any other retail outlet. Amazon stock far more books than I can get in any bricks and mortar book shop.

Damaskat, you weren't the only person to have thought what you thought. Somebody else posted a comment on the Mail saying just that.

Pundit, that chippindale chap is really odd. He's posted the same review of the Wind in the Willows on every conceivable Wind in the Willows product. What could he possibly have to gain from that? It certainly doesn't help anyone.

Posted on 19 Apr 2010 08:21:56 BDT
Damaskcat says:
Mrs J Braysher - personally I'm perfectly happy with the new system as it eliminates the bulk of the campaign voting. The peope who don't like it are those who went down in the rankings. No system can eliminate reviews such as those highlighted in this news article. Even though reviewers may be anonymous to people using the site they are not anonymous to Amazon in any case and Amazon rely on users drawing such things to their attention.

I can't see authors boycotting Amazon because they have such a wide market and because customers - in the main - like shopping with Amazon.

Mark Twain - glad I wasn't imagining things!

Posted on 19 Apr 2010 09:29:23 BDT
Danny says:
Here's whats left of the actual quote. I say whats left because now DM is displaying six of the posts (I can't get over how bad that blog is):

Reading below, I don't think Carolyn meant she actually published her thoughts on Amazon as a review, but that she draws her conclusions about the book based on what she can read using the Search Inside facility.

However, JW obviously thinks otherwise. Provided you don't hail from Spalding, Damaskcat, you can at least be assured that you are not alone in your interpretation!
---------------------------------------------------------------

Frankly, the only 'review' that matters is my own which I make when I search inside the book to read its first few pages. The first five are all I need to determine if the author can write or not.
- Carolyn, San Francisco, USA, 18/4/2010 07:59

So you don't actually read the book then before you post a review? Don't you think this undermines the whole reviewing system?

personally I always read the whole of a book before I post a review.

No web site which invites customer reviews is immune from this sort of thing though it is extrememly childish in my opinion. I'm glad Amazon acted quickly and removed the dubious reviews but it hardly seems to me to be a matter for lawyers.
- JW, Spalding, England, 18/4/2010 12:07

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Posted on 19 Apr 2010 09:51:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 Apr 2010 09:52:14 BDT
AnetteF says:
Mark Twain - I too, read the above exchange as someone called Carolyn saying that she pays no attention to reviews, rather that she makes up her own mind by sample reading any book she is interested in.

The thing that gets me in all of this is that reporters are acting surprised. On the one hand newspapers run articles on the danger of internet grooming, on the other hand they often quote comments people make on websites, be that Twitter or Amazon reviews as if they bear any significance. Makes me laugh. Anyone can be anyone and profess to know anything when there is no facility to check credentials. When it comes to dealing with information on the internet one needs to take it with more than just one pinch of salt. A basic truth that is ignored over and over even by those who should know better.

Posted on 19 Apr 2010 13:26:15 BDT
Damaskcat says:
Mark Twain - JW - is me actually! It does look as though maybe I jumped to the conclusion that she was writing reviews on that basis though I think I could have been wrong now on re-reading.

Yes you're right - I must say the Mail's comments facility gets worse.

Posted on 21 Apr 2010 08:17:11 BDT
Danny says:
Oh well, at least you agreed with yourself! If you ended up falling out over it I would have been a bit concerned.

Posted on 21 Apr 2010 11:42:54 BDT
Damaskcat says:
You're quite right - I'd have needed to take myself and my other self to the doctors if I'd not agreed!!

Posted on 23 Apr 2010 11:58:45 BDT
M. Dowden says:
I can honestly say that I have no vested interest and if people find my reviews helpful or not is up to them. How people can write a book review without reading it I do not know. If I don't like something and don't finish it I don't review it, I may comment somewhere that I couldn't finish it because it wasn't to my liking, but that would be it, although I usually just hit the rating button so that I don't get anything recommended to me similiar.

I was at a conversation with Sarah Waters last year and it was interesting that she said that she no longer reads on-line reviews like on here as people hiding behind anonyminity can be quite nasty, she says that she likes it if she gets a good review in 'The Guardian', as it is the paper that she buys but that is mainly all.
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Participants:  10
Total posts:  38
Initial post:  18 Apr 2010
Latest post:  26 Apr 2010

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