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Differing feedback on positive and negative reviews.

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Initial post: 5 Jul 2010 01:40:31 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jul 2010 04:44:13 BDT
I've noticed that my positive reviews receive generally better feedback than my negative reviews. And on most products I look at all the "most helpful" reviews tend to be 4 or 5 star opinions.

I suppose this makes sense as most people will be looking at things they have either seen/read/used and like, or want to see/read/use and want to like, as such they probably disagree with the negative reviews (or at least want to disagree with the negative reviews). And I imagine that it is by now widely accepted that a lot of people are reading the "Did you find this review helpful?" question as "Do you agree with this opinion?".

Does anyone else find that their positive reviews are amongst their most successful? And would high rated reviewers recommend sticking to writing more positive reviews and declining to bother with things you don't really like? Or is it generally believed that an honest opinion is the most important thing, whether pos or neg, and to hell with the feedback?

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 08:16:17 BDT
Damaskcat says:
To me honest opinion is more important. I do vote negative reviews helpful myself - just as I vote 4* or 5* reviews helpful. I don't vote against a review because I don't agree with the opinion of the reviewer - though I think many people do. I have written some 1* and 2* reviews and some critical 3* reviews which have attracted quite a few positive votes. I express my opinion when I write a review without bothering about what sort of votes that review will receive.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 09:27:36 BDT
JJG says:
My 'most helpful' review is a 2 star review.

Like Damaskcat says, real opinions and valuable information on a product is what counts for me. As much as I like reading other people's opinions on items, most of the time as a customer I want to know something about the item that will help me use it (even if that is to be used in a negative review) like for example the level of copy protection on a PC game etc.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 11:30:58 BDT
Yeah, Hollie, I agree. Negative reviews on popular products are going to get lots of negative votes, irrespective of the content of the review. Just write a negative review of a recently-released film and you'll see. On more niche products it's different and a well-written negative review probably won't attract many negatives.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 12:20:43 BDT
OEJ says:
Honesty is a moot value in the reviewing world. While I don't want anyone to sex-up (or down) a product, or just lie, I'm a little cynical about many people's credibility as reviewers even if their comments are bursting with heartfelt sincerity and honesty as pure as the driven snow. It's when you separate fact from potential fiction that you can isolate reviews that are genuinely helpful. For example, the other day SWMBO asked me to find a portable stereo with iPod connectivity. After getting little help from retail sites like Currys and Comet, I tried Amazon, and more specifically personal reviews. It took longer than it should to find a review that addressed the question of HOW an iPod was connected (trust me, this differs from product to product) but eventually I found a review that gave specific mention of the issue, and it was as a result very helpful. I wanted to give the reviewer 10 helpful votes because it had taken me so long to find this 'useful' information. Their opinion of the device overall was of minimal value to me, but information is always precious provided that it is accurate.

It's true that people react positively to positive reviews and negatively to negative, but that only serves to underline my feeling that opinions are like arseholes - everyone's got one. And just because someone has an opinion about something, why should that be helpful to me, especially if their knowledge or experience of alternative products is limited?

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2010 14:40:48 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jul 2010 14:41:32 BDT
L. Hennessy says:
You've only got to look at the high proportion of 5 star reviews in the top 10 reviewers to see that what you're saying is true, Holly - they get more positive votes.

Some people have even suggested that the top reviewers write mostly 5 star reviews for this very reason.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2010 15:07:21 BDT
Damaskcat says:
L Hennessy - I think the reason why the majority of my reviews are 4 or 5 * is because if I can't get on with a book and give it up after I've read about 50 pages then I don't usually bother to review it because I don't feel like wasting any more time on it. That's with books I've bought anyway. With Vine books I have to persevere and finish them and write a review so my Vine choices end up with a disproportionate number of 1 and 2 * reviews.

That said I've had a quick flick through a few pages of my reviews and I've also given critical reviews where favourite authors have produced - in my opinion - less than their best work. Naturally in those cases my reviews may attract more than a normal number of negative votes - but so what? I've given critical reviews to such authors as Katie Fforde, Annie Sanders, Erica James - all of whom have a large number of fans who probably vote against my review. But that doesn't make me change my opinion - or my review.

I don't think we have enough evidence to suggest that the top 10 reviewers write 5 * reviews so that they can keep their place in the rankings or to enhance their ranking. We don't know what their thinking is - unless they tell us.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 15:28:30 BDT
OEJ says:
My average rating is 3.9

I don't often hand out fivers. Or fifers, to use cricket lingo. To get 5 stars from me, the product must be special.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2010 15:32:54 BDT
Damaskcat says:
I think I must be getting less generous with my star ratings recently - there are more 3s and 4s than there were. But I haven't worked out my average for ages.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 15:36:51 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jul 2010 16:06:27 BDT
L. Hennessy says:
You're right DC - there's no point writing a review on something if you're not giving your honest opinion. I like your reviews :)

As you say, we don't know what the top reviewers' motivations are unless they tell us, so I haven't formed a concrete opinion on it. I wrote that there are those who believe that they write 5 star reviews in order to avoid negatives or get positives, to give Hollie a broader perspective of the overall argument.

But it's hardly a matter of life and death :)

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2010 15:51:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jul 2010 15:52:22 BDT
Damaskcat says:
L Hennessy - thank you for the compliment :-)

I thought I knew why you were making the comment and it seems from most of the posts here that people think opinions are more important than the negative votes the review might or might not attract. No it isn't a matter of life and death - I agree

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 17:14:54 BDT
OEJ says:
It's not a matter of life and death, true. It's much more important than that.

(To quote Bill Shankley)

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 17:49:17 BDT
Damaskcat says:

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2010 18:45:00 BDT
"Honesty is a moot value in the reviewing world." Speak for yourself, but others may disagree.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 20:23:30 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jul 2010 20:24:06 BDT
OEJ says:
A useful review is one posted by someone who not only knows that product inside out, but possesses in-depth knowledge of its competitors/alternatives too. Example: fictional novels, in a given genre. Often a book comes out and someone new to that author and new to the whole genre posts an enthusiastic and 'honest' review, but it's usually not useful at all. Remember, the fundamental purpose of reviews is to help consumers make a buying decision. It's not about intellectual purity, it's not even about honesty - truthfulness may be necessary, but it's several places down the priority list for usefulness value.

My given genre is crime fiction, I know it well because I have read hundreds of novels within that peer group, and I am able to detail differences between one book and another by the same author, a competing book by a different author, and assess its quality in terms of how it meets its claimed objectives (e.g does a thriller actually thrill) and rate its standard for imagery, characterisation, credibility, passion, excitement and all manner of other criteria. The fact that it's honest is almost irrelevant, because if I just posted a one-line comment such as 'this book is great, I couldn't put it down' (not a rare sight in the book review world) what value is that to anybody, even if were true? That would be honesty earning a neg for being utterly useless. imho.

Studying for English Literature at A level, I remember my teacher telling us to review a piece of literature (Shakespeare, Austen, Chaucer etc) by expressing in writing what we thought of it, and then (most importantly) explaining why we thought what we did. It's much the same today, posting reviews on Amazon. What do you think? And could you explain in detail why you think that? How does it compare? etc etc.

I've gone off topic slightly, but I'm trying to explain the benign value of honesty as an individual quality in written reviews. Knowledge, experience and objectivity (despite the inevitable subjectivity of it all) all matter more, to me anyway. Besides, what on earth is the point of buying something and posting a dishonest review?

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 21:14:29 BDT
Danny says:
A useful review is written by somebody who has bought, seen, heard or been given the product and writes about how they liked or disliked it.

If you want more depth, subscribe to Which.

Besides, familiarity with a given genre can also lead to over-familiarity, and contempt.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 21:19:26 BDT
Fair points, Pundit. But as to what is the point of posting a dishonest review, that is the point at issue: do some reviewers only write positively on products to avoid negative votes? Probably not consciously, but there are reviewers whose default setting is rapturous enthusiasm and you'd wonder is it possible to be that enthusiastic about almost everything.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 21:22:26 BDT
OEJ says:
Which? don't do book, film or music reviews.

Over-familiarity is always preferable to ignorance.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 21:27:26 BDT
Danny says:
Oh I don't know. I think I would prefer the opinion of somebody fresh to a particular scene over a jaded old hack who has been around the block once too often.

Posted on 5 Jul 2010 21:32:49 BDT
Danny says:
Incidently, how did you know you had an average of 3.9? Is there an app out there that gives you info like that? I am mildly curious as to what my average is.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2010 21:59:34 BDT
OEJ says:
PDH gave me the details a few months back, it's an Excel programme detailing every single review I have ever done. PM me for his contact details, he'll show you how to get the same info for your own portfolio

I admit, I'm jaded. Old too. But I can still perform...

Posted on 6 Jul 2010 08:23:15 BDT
Danny says:
Oh I wasn't calling you a jaded old hack. But I am sure you have come across the type.

The excel program seems like hard work. I was hoping for an Amazon scraper that would automatically pull the data off Amazon for you. I suppose if I were that bothered I would write one myself, but its just sooooo hot.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jul 2010 19:28:10 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jul 2010 19:30:53 BDT
Misfit says:
Ask and ye shall receive. I used a search for Amazon US's very own shill Harriet Klausner. Switched the URL from .com to and voila here you go,

To sort your own, go to the first page of your reviews (not your profile but reviews). Find that identifying # and replace it with the one in the Amazon search field. The drag down box will give you several options, low to high, etc.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jul 2010 20:40:48 BDT
Interesting, thanks.
I'm puzzled by one of the options - 'Relevance'
The others are obvious but what is the context they are using for 'Relevance'? It seems to make no sense when I sort them that way. If it was in voted order, eg helpfulness, I could understand it.

Posted on 7 Jul 2010 09:27:45 BDT
Danny says:
thanks for that link Misfit.

I can't make head nor tail of relevence.

I was able to calculate some stats based on the above link though, and by substituting different 14 character Amazon ids.

My average is 3.89

The top 3 Amazon reviewers have averages as follows (I was going to do top 10 but got bored):

1. Peter Duncan Harris.

Total Reviews: 3089
1 Star: 1
2 Star: 3
3 Star: 7
4 Star: 21
5 Star: 3057

Average: 4.98

2. Chunky Wilberforce

Total Reviews: 523

1 Star: 16
2 Star: 22
3 Star: 58
4 Star: 75
5 Star: 314

Average: 4.34

3. Keith Joseph

1 Star: 2
2 Star: 3
3 Star: 34
4 Star: 108
5 Star: 155

Average: 4.36

You also have to bear in mind one other factor: people who review stuff they have actually bought. These reviews should in theory be more positive. I guess this doesn't apply to books and music so much. But if you are buying, say, a TV or a laptop, you will in all likelihood do some research first. Consequently, your review is more likely to be positive.

I have to say though, that 3089 reviews and one 1 star is definately a bit of an eye opener!

If anybody can be bothered to do any more of the top 10's averages, it would be quite interesting.
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Initial post:  5 Jul 2010
Latest post:  14 Jul 2010

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