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Should Amazon Abolish the Negative Vote Altogether?

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In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2012 07:56:03 BDT
Damaskcat says:
No you're wrong in my opinion. Even though I ahve received a great many negative votes at various times I still think we need the negative vote.

Posted on 27 Mar 2012 15:45:17 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Mar 2012 15:58:26 BDT
JPS says:
Well, I can see two different reasons for getting rid of the negative votes altogether, and only leaving the positive ones.

One, as already mentioned, is to avoid the "trolls", or, as another reviewer once mentioned to me the "Vine climbers". I's referring, of course, to the rather unpleasant habit that some reviewers have of voting down ALL existing reviews, or at least the most popular ones, in an attempt to displace them just BEFORE they post their own review. I didn't even know that such a practice existed before I was warned against it and experienced it for my myself.

The other practice is the one that Neurosplicer refers to. Once (or several) people, who obviously have nothing better to do, accumulate negative votes or one (or several) of your reviews. HE mentioned some 25000 in his case. From my recent experience experience, I have just had 28 negative votes on a review posted just a week ago on, including several just today (and a review that I had posted over a year ago on, which also got slammed). Arguably, I didn't like the book I reviewed. I said so in no ucertain terms (while trying very hard NOT to be offensive) and also explained at length WHY this book was, in my personal view, rubbish (worth ONE star).

Obviously, someone didn't like it, which is fine with me. I don't really mind receiving negative votes because I don't necessarily expect everyone to agree with my me or share my own tastes. Where I am very much concerned is when one or a handful of few people deliberatly try to "game" the voting system, either in their own self-interest OR because they disagree with somebody's else opinion. After all, this is supposed to be about personal opinions to the extent that Amazon's systems do not reject the review as offensive or abusive.

Sadly, with the existing system of negative votes, when you don't like a book, mention it and take to trouble to explain why, you get slammed by the fans who come up with multiple negative votes. Unfortunately for them, I couldn't care less about being among the "top reviewers". This is not the reason why I have staretd to write reviews. I am not out to attract the highest number of positive notes by being "nice" to everyone. If I don't like a book, I'll make it clear, but I will also explain why. IT cuts both ways of course. The reverse applies to the books I like: I'll continue to try to explain why I found that a given book was great.

Posted on 27 Mar 2012 16:20:46 BDT
Quiverbow says:
"I don't really mind receiving negative votes because I don't necessarily expect everyone to agree with my me or share my own tastes."

And threin lay the problem. It asks whether the 'review was helpful', not 'did you agree with this'. You can disagree with as many reviews as you want but that does not make them unhelpful. Equally, you can agree with reviews but they can still be unhelpful as they don't tell you anything.

Even a review that says, "This book was terrible as it was completely unbelievable and the ending was ridiculous" is helpful, but something like that will garner many negatives because it's short.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2012 19:11:55 BDT
Quiverbow, you've hit the nail right on the head. I regard a review as "helpful" if it assists me in making a decision whether or not to purchase any given item (I use amazon reviews quite a lot for films especially, though also for different recordings of classical music if there are several to choose from, and other things besides - I find that most people are intelligent and sensible enough to leave constructive appraisals, which are invaluable to me in making such decisions). I don't set out to read a review to see if I agree with it; herein lies the problem. You can write a perfectly good review of something, but if some idiot disagrees with your review s/he gives a negative vote.
I write reviews of things because I care enough about them to let other people know what I think; I try first and foremost to give a comprehensive description, to which my opinions (as such) are largely secondary. I like to think I'm being helpful, as other people are to me; I don't think I (or anyone else) should get negative votes for such an action. If it's helpful, vote for it; if it isn't, then pass it by.
PS I often give positive votes to reviews that have attracted a lot of negative votes (provided they are basically sound and not obviously written by an imbecile) on principle - the same principle which I employ when I refuse to give negative votes.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2012 19:13:07 BDT
I hope you don't mind me getting involved here as I'm not a top reviewer but...

The question is actually: "Was this review helpful to you?"

"to you" is, I believe, one of the main reasons (ignoring trolls) for many of the negs cast.

It would be so much better if it said something like: 'Is this a helpful review?'

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2012 20:58:29 BDT
"Was this review helpful to you?"/"Is this a helpful review?"

Is there any significant difference here? I can't see any, unless I'm being obtuse.

Posted on 27 Mar 2012 22:12:53 BDT
I would like to see a method where people giving a neg has to give a reason. I have no aspiration of being a top reviewer, i just want to give helpful advice to people, and I would like the opportunity to improve my reviews.

It does bother me when a negative review gets slated when it is perfectly good, the neggers just obviously disagree.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Mar 2012 10:10:36 BDT

Taking your comment seriously, the significant difference is, as I said previously: "to you".

I can appreciate a review is helpful without it being helpful to me.

So, when asked if it is helpful to me I would just pass by but others might think 'no, it is not helpful to me' and neg it.

If it just asked "is this a helpful review?" only if it is definitely not helpful to anyone (e.g. one star for delivery problems) would it deserve a Neg.

Using a very simple tangible example: If someone included the measurements of a product in their review this would be helpful, but if the reader knew the measurements beforehand it would not be helpful to them.

Posted on 28 Mar 2012 10:27:58 BDT
Quiverbow says:
The biggest problem is still the, "I'm giving this a negative because I don't agree with it". To agree or disagree with a review must mean you've either seen it, heard it, or have it, in which case, why are you bothring to read reviews about it and, even less so, vote on them?

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Mar 2012 11:55:21 BDT
To Quiverbow

We would have to have some knowledge of the product to agree or disagree but we aren't being asked that.

The voters who interpret the word 'helpful' as 'agree' and the word 'unhelpful' as 'disagree' will always scupper the system.

But, it doesn't mean we won't read reviews of products that we know something about.

I read reviews about products I may wish to buy. I may have seen them elsewhere but don't know enough about them. I buy on Amazon and eBay and look at both (plus I do a lot of internet searching and YouTube viewing) to get the info I need. If I have been looking for a long time for a product I may well have acquired knowledge and read many opinions about it.

I've see numerous reviews that state the product is good but slate the seller, packing, or whatever. If they give it a low star rating this distorts the average rating for that product unfairly. However, the info they do give could well save others a lot of hassle. They subsequently acquire a lot of negs but should they? I would find their review helpful and I would not neg it.

By the way, I did neg a review some months ago but I later went back and 'removed' it. I just don't like doing it.

Posted on 28 Mar 2012 15:23:33 BDT
OEJ says:
About 1700 posts ago I said it but I'll say it again - this 'divison' between those who want the neg vote and those who don't is exactly what Amazon want. They're not fussed either way as long as we all keep talking about it, because the only way we can do that is to visit the Amazon website. That's just what they want us to do - there's a chance we might buy something!

This argument will go on ad infinitum but I doubt that anything will change. And it doesn't matter anyway, let's face it. None of us are paid to post reviews, and if you really want to climb the ranks or simply make sure that people read your reviews, you'd do well to follow the example of the new No.1 Reviewer. Frankly anybody could do it that way if it mattered that much! And if it doesn't matter that much, you ought to worry about something more important in your life.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Mar 2012 00:10:10 BDT
Is it still that lady that does video reviews?

I have seen her one for kindle and thought it was very informative, both written and video reviews, a little bit long but what the hey. I thought let me look at a few other ones and was flabbergasted to see a video review for a toothbrush cup. OTT and very sad IMO

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Mar 2012 09:31:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 30 Mar 2012 09:32:40 BDT
JPS says:
I agree with Quiverbow, the question might need to be rephrased, but this is only part of the problem. The other part - and the main one in my view - is that the system is set in such a way that it creates incentives for gaming it. There are all sorts of way of doing this. I mentioned only two of them but there are quite a few others, such as having five people writing reviews under the same name. Not supposed to happen, of course, but since there is nothing preventing it and an advantage in doing it, guess what happens in practice?

Posted on 8 Apr 2012 12:57:45 BDT
Sue H says:
I agree negative votes can be really unhelpful when you have spent time trying to write an informative balanced review.

I would be happy to see the negative vote go and for comments to be added for those who wanted more info which was not put in the reivew. Maybe these could be done at product rather than reviewer level and all reviewers emailed if a question is asked? Those with the knowledge could respond. This would be esp helpful for the high tech IT stuff. I would urge caution over replacing negative votes with free comments only though. I wrote a review of a piece of high end photographic equipment which did not do what it said on the tin, and which on examination in the shop (no Amazon reviews I was the first) did not meet my needs. So I said this also that I had not really evaluted the full product so as to not be mis leading. I expected some neative votes but the comments got really out of hand with people being quite rude about all sorts of things and each other. I deleted the review in the end. By removing the negative vote one would not wish to open the flood gates to nasty comments. If feedback for a specific review is to be given perhaps these could be categorised and you choose. 1. Review did not cover aspects I was interested in. 2. Disagree with reviewer my personal experience/view is not the same as theirs........

To reduce the trolls who want to get their own reviews up the ranking Amazon could change the way they do the maths. The most favourable review ie those with the most positives come out top so a review with 7 out of 11 helpful votes would be above one with 5 helpful votes but no negs. Amazon could also limit each account holder to only one vote per product which would make it harder to artificially increase reviews postive scores.

Amazon say they review forums so it would be good if they commented on the many ideas that have been posted. Some are perhaps not technically possible with their IT systems, it would be good to have their feedback....

Posted on 10 Apr 2012 10:19:32 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Mar 2014 11:06:12 GMT
Why do Amazon allow unhelpful votes at all?

The abolition question is one of the most frequently raised on Amazon. My thoughts on the issue can be summarized as follows.

None of us like getting those unhelpful votes on our reviews, but ....

1. Voting buttons are abused, period.

2. For every method of abusing the NO button, there is an equal but opposite method of abusing the YES button.

3. Plenty of people complain bitterly and publicly as well as to Amazon about abuse of the unhelpful NO button on their own reviews.

4. Plenty of people complain bitterly and publicly as well as to Amazon about abuse of the helpful YES button on other people's reviews.

5. I am one of the very few people who ever complained bitterly and publicly as well as to Amazon about abuse of the helpful YES button on their own reviews. I was ecstatic when the excess votes (a majority of my UK votes at the time) were finally wiped out, about 5 years after I started complaining, although I doubt whether my complaints had any impact.

6. If the NO button is abolished, the YES button would have to be abolished too in the interests of fairness.

7. There is plenty of cheating on Amazon, as well as plenty of things that are within the rules but which are widely regarded as unethical. Abuse of voting buttons is unethical, but like so many things in life, abolition is not the answer. For example, would you abolish political elections because politicians are corruptible? Would you abolish traffic lights to stop motorists jumping red lights?

8. Amazon's software detects the worst abuses but it ain't perfect and could be improved.

9. Most people get upset when Amazon improve their abuse detection software (more commonly called anti-campaign software), because they lose YES votes as well as NO votes. Abuse is abuse, whatever voting button is involved.

10. Amazon's software attempts to sort reviews by helpfulness, so that customers seeing a product page are presented, as far as possible, with the most helpful reviews in the spotlight positions on the main product page.

11. It would be too expensive to employ staff to sort product pages, so a computer has to do the work, and that means an algorithm that by its nature is imperfect.

12. The algorithm that Amazon use to sort reviews is contentious, and certainly has plenty of room for improvement, but the basic idea is sound.

13. Despite whatever flaws the sorting algorithm has, products with plenty of reviews invariably end up with three decent reviews being spotlighted as most helpful
14. Without those NO votes, it would not be possible to sort reviews effectively; see next five points.

15. Nobody who supports abolition of the NO button has come up with a credible alternative method of identifying the most helpful reviews without them. 10 out of 500 and 10 out of 10 would both become just 10 in the aftermath of abolition of the NO button, if the YES button were retained.

16. Abolition of all votes would likely mean the end of spotlighting reviews at all. We would be left with looking at reviews in the order of most recently posted, with no alternative option.

17. You have the option to sort reviews by newest first as things are. This is a useful option, especially for stuff that is subject to wear and tear, but if you compare the three most recent reviews with the three reviews currently spotlighted as most helpful, you'll find in most cases that the three spotlighted reviews are better. (Yes, there will be exceptions.)

18. Generally, the earliest reviews for each product get the most votes. While there are exceptions, those exceptions would be far fewer if customers could only vote YES, since it would be much more difficult for customers to push unhelpful reviews off the main product page.

19. Early reviews are not always the best, especially as people who take time to assess a product don't often post early reviews. This is particularly significant with products that are subject to wear and tear, such as toys and gadgets, where some faults only become obvious after extensive usage.

20. If the NO button were abolished, the YES button would still be abused if it weren't abolished.

21. If the NO button were abolished, customers would be more likely than they are now to use Report abuse in an attempt to delete reviews they don't like.

22. If the NO button is changed to require a comment, the YES button would have to be changed to require a comment too in the interests of fairness. The result would be far fewer votes all round.

23. Identification of voters (whether directly or by enforced comments) would create a whole other set of problems.

24. If the NO button were abolished, newly posted reviews would make their debut near the bottom of the most helpful order, being placed only above other voteless reviews, rather than somewhere in the middle of the order as they do now.

25. If the NO button were abolished, it would remove the only safeguard there is against the proliferation of placeholder reviews.

26. If the NO button were abolished, the biggest beneficiaries would be bad reviewers who naturally attract and deserve plenty of NO votes. This would be at the expense of both customers and good reviewers.

27. If the NO button were abolished, there is a chance that Harriet Klausner, the most infamous bad reviewer of them all, would again become the #1 reviewer in America, though it is more likely that she would have to settle for a high ranking short of #1.

28. Finally, please remember that the reviewing system is there to serve customers. The vast majority of customers either don't post reviews at all or don't take reviewing seriously. These customers use reviews to make buying decisions. The system as it is serves that purpose. Amazon aren't likely to make changes unless they improve the experience of most customers.

Posted on 10 Apr 2012 10:50:42 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 1 Oct 2013 11:41:13 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Apr 2012 16:42:46 BDT
Absolutely yes. Stop those sad , odious, dirty raincoat clad tossers sabotaging honest work.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Apr 2012 21:07:11 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Apr 2012 21:08:56 BDT
OEJ says:
13 excellent points but I would question the second one: "For every method of abusing the NO button, there is an equal but opposite method of abusing the YES button"

Specifically, the word 'equal' . It's impossible to prove one way or the other, but my belief is that the NO button is the more widely abused. Conceptually it may appear to be equal, but in quantitive terms it is not.

You also said, in No.10, that "The algorithm they use to do this is contentious, and certainly has plenty of room for improvement, but the basic idea is sound". This is true but very much an understatement. I get the impression that the benefits of 6 helpful votes can be wiped out my the receipt of 1 negative. I don't know this for a fact of course, but one thing I am absolutely sure of is that 1 positive does not equal 1 negative in the algorithm, and it's a relatively simple thing that Amazon could change. We all know that negs are much too 'influential', especially given the abuse they attract.

Not that I care. Much.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2012 10:17:16 BDT
"I get the impression that the benefits of 6 helpful votes can be wiped out my the receipt of 1 negative."

It's more complicated than that. Where vote totals on a given review are small, 6:1 would be overstating it. Where vote totals are big enough, 6:1 could be understating it. The more the negs on a review, the more vicious they become.

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 15:31:03 BDT
Given what you say Peter, I wonder if writing reviews is a total waste of time as a well thought out review can be sabotaged by a thoughtless neg. It is time Amazon reacted to our concerns.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2012 16:57:34 BDT
Damaskcat says:
For me writing reviews - whatever the reaction - is never a waste of time because I enjoy writing them.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2012 18:24:37 BDT
I do too, but I do not wish to be the target for sad losers who can not be constructive so take the too too easy option of negativity

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 01:40:51 BDT
My thoughts exactly - what better argument for the abolition of the negative vote? I've yet to see an argument in favour of it that holds water (or anything else).

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 08:18:53 BDT
Damaskcat says:
That doesn't worry me - people can express their opinion in that way if they wish to. I can complain to Amazon if I suddenly get a flood of negative votes on my reviews and they may or may not be removed. They may be removed even if I don't complain. I could also lose positive votes because they are regarded as campaign voting too. It's just the way things are - not everyone appreciates my efforts - but the comments and votes from those who do appreciate my reviews make up for those who don't appreciate them.

The arguments in favour of abolishing the negative vote to me sf part and parcel of the idea that no one can fail anything these days - it would be dumbing down the whole thing. I was brought up to know that I can't always succeed however hard you try and that not everyone will like me or my work. It's just part of life. Hard work and effort does not always received a reward.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 10:16:16 BDT
92% of your votes are helpful, so I don't think you have anything to worry about. The saddos can sabotage an individual review, but the days when they could sabotage a reviewer's work are long gone due to the anti-campaign abuse detection software.
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