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Systematic down voting of Vine Reviews?

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Showing 1-21 of 21 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on 17 May 2015, 18:23:27 BST
We shall have to agree to disagree. It's precisely because the remarks are obviously not intended to be a reflection on human nature in general, but on a specific group of identifiable people, that they become potentially actionable; the more especially since the supposed bias was attributed to the receipt of favours. Courts are not generally disposed to accept philosophical excuses for making actionable statements. You may also like to consider the possibility that some reviewers might well be biased AGAINST a product; I might have to confess to that bias if pressed... I would also have to take issue with the notion that every single person on the planet is guilty of bias in every set of circumstances.

Steven's comments were simply ill-chosen, and certainly not thought through. Don't you feel that there's too much of that about on the internet ?

Posted on 17 May 2015, 15:50:30 BST
Shantimar says:
@Jeff Walmsley There is an important factor you are disregarding.
He is saying that "despite best efforts", human nature is such that it's impossible to be unbiased. This does not mean that the person trying his/her best is not an honest person, that they are "corrupt" and have been bought by the companies.

There is a great difference between someone who chooses to be dishonest for profit (yes, that would be a serious allegation) and someone who, because of human nature, has a tendency to be less angry at a mediocre product because he didn't lose any money in buying it, so he's more light hearted and forgiving about it. Let's not talk extremes here, not all things are either wonderful or horrid, most things have some positives and negatives, so let's say that in this case one may tend to overlook the negatives and only focus on the positives, which is not strictly lying, but a form of being lenient. This, however, focus on the positives, is not doing any services to the prospective buyers, who need to read all the pluses and minuses to make an informed decision before buying.

So I insist it's not a libel against you or the other Vine reviewers. If anything, it's a philosophical/psychological opinion on human nature in general, which you may find too deterministic or pessimistic, if you wish, but certainly not offensive to you personally.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 May 2015, 10:16:34 BST
I most certainly did take the remarks you quote into account - in fact, they were the whole point of my response ! Because, if you read the remarks carefully, with proper understanding, you will see that Steven is in fact clearly saying that we CAN'T be honest or objective under any circumstances if we've had a free product, DESPITE our best efforts - in other words, all Vine reviewers can't help being biased and/or dishonest. That is a serious, generalised allegation, which, if only because of differences in human nature, is bound to be untrue in some, perhaps many, perhaps most, cases.

So who's lacking perception now ?

That said, I have to tell you that the Vine programme is now being abused by manufacturers and sellers - wholly from abroad in my experience so far - who are emailing Vine reviewers offering money for favourable reviews, mostly of electronic equipment, gadgets and accessories. Needless to say, some will accept, and others will refuse, as I have done; I've also reported these approaches to Amazon, but I don't know how much they can do about them, except ban offenders from selling - but they can only ban offenders who are reported...

In reply to an earlier post on 17 May 2015, 09:34:29 BST
Last edited by the author on 17 May 2015, 09:38:28 BST
Shantimar says:
@Jeff Walmsley
I think you are being extremely unfair to Stephen's point. You seem to have read only the part of his comment that you could twist into meaning the bad thing that you were prepared to find in it.
In the part that you quote
"If you haven't paid money out of your own pocket for the product you're reviewing, you can't possibly judge it from the perspective of someone who has (however objective you try to be)"
you chose not to consider these words in parenthesis: "however objective you try to be". This means he takes into account someone who tries his/her best to be honest.

You completely ignored this part:
"Part of how we judge a product is based on our feeling of whether it represents value for our money. If the price is £0, our judgement is much more likely to be favourable (again, even if you consciously try to override this)."
Here it is obvious that he considers the Vine reviewer honest, not open to bribery, because he explains it is a psychological tendency to be more lenient if you haven't had to pay for it. This could also apply to a person who is not a Vine reviewer, but has gotten the item as a gift from a friend, for example.

So your "libel" assumption is completely off the mark! Your post didn't make you seem an intelligent reader of others' meanings, and I know I'll be wary of your book reviews - not because I think they won't be honest, but because you lack perception.

Posted on 22 Apr 2015, 17:14:09 BST
Last edited by the author on 26 Apr 2015, 05:21:59 BST
ljssbl says:
Although I see the occasional 'VINE' heading it never occurred to me that these were privileged customers. But does it really make one jot of difference whether they are 'professional' reviewers or not? Companies all over the world do this all the time, it isn't just limited to Amazon. Anyone marking down a vine review as unhelpful for reasons of jealousy or otherwise, is just showing themself up as small-minded and petty. What does it matter that someone got an item for free if they write a good review - I'd rather that than try to decide whether to part with good money for something that has no review at all.

I know that the Amazon legend asks 'Was this review helpful to you?' but unless it is actually unhelpful I never believe the reviewer deserves a black mark from the 'no' button. So I hate it when I see a review that is obviously intended to be helpful, critical or otherwise, marked as unhelpful and always then make a point of pressing 'yes' and upping its helpful score whether I find it so or not.

Though having said that I sometimes wonder if reviews have earnt unhelpful votes because of the way that the display algorithm manages to call up totally inappropriate reviews at times. I can't call an specific example to mind at the moment but a for instance might be that I'm looking up a box of chocolate wheels and get a review that is describing tyre size and tread depth - most obviously not related to the product I am viewing. I confess that I gave a number of these a no vote in the old days before coming to realise that they probably hadn't been written by a chocolate fireguard after all.

Personally I believe that a reviewer should be able to give a star rating, 3 or above, without leaving a comment (thus doing away with most if not all of the 1 liners) but negative rating or 'not helpful' voters should be required to comment - in x number of words to do away with the 'because's. That way a reviewer, vine or otherwise, would be able to identify any errant behaviour patterns if they are being hounded and report it to Amazon - who of course would then do nothing about it, maybe. Of course, it might actually put a stop to the errant behaviour before it got so far if the nameless realised they would actually be named.

Posted on 12 Dec 2012, 09:31:04 GMT
Well said J.W.I do believe you have sent our short legged muscular quadrupedal marsupial with rodent like front teeth to battlefields far away. Long may he survive. I have to cease now cos i cannot stop laughing.

Posted on 11 Dec 2012, 23:40:27 GMT
@JW: I have nothing further to add to the exchange but thought it rude not to acknowledge your contribution and to wish you well. CW.

Posted on 11 Dec 2012, 22:07:24 GMT
Well, Combat Wombat (don't you have a decent proper name ?! I deplore having to talk to faceless folk !), I once set about suing a magazine and its contributor for inferential libel; sadly, illness interrupted the rather lengthy proceedings, and once I'd suffered a stroke it didn't seem cost-effective to get worked up about such things any more... It cost me a little money, of course, but it cost the magazine a lot more and the MD and editor were subsequently fired - I was pleased about that, at least.

So, a litle experience then, and the main legal point throughout was that if you infer that someone is, shall we say, corrupt, or otherwise cast aspersions on their character and honesty, and it is possible to identify that person from the information you give, even though you don't name them, then you're lumbered, mate. Run-of-the-mill libels are tried by Judges, not juries, who require to see substantive, admissible legal evidence as clear proof of the allegations, ie, opinions not allowed; prove it beyond doubt or pay up...(In fact, though, I've just remembered it wouldn't be libel in this case because the High Court has recently ruled that defamation published in a forum is slander !!)

So it would most certainly be libelous/slanderous, even if you had ineluctable evidence that one VR was clearly corrupt, to declare publicly that all other VRs were equally so - unless you had equally hard evidence for every single one of them... (Think of the press as an analogy.) But it's all academic because I doubt if anybody is ever going to take this to trial, of course, least of all me. I was just trying to underline to Robbie that he's taking a big risk by publishing unprovable allegations of dishonesty about people who can be identified...

On the other hand, whilst I see relatively few VRs because of my limited interests, I'm still very ready to believe you when you say that the output of certain individual VRs leaves much to be desired, and appears to bring the programme into disrepute.

Unfortunately, the laissez-faire way Amazon manages the programme invites bad practices, and even facilitates them. The acquisition of the costliest samples by VRs is a first-come-first-served, free-for-all, and there's usually only one up for grabs. This is a positive encouragement to those with a competitive acquisitive streak to set things up to make sure that their bid is in within seconds of the Vine circular popping up on Amazon's Vine page (ie, long before us lazy ones have even received our e-mailed lists, let alone bothered to read them).

It surely makes sense that the more valuable a free sample, the more important it becomes to cherry pick an obviously suitably-qualified reviewer, rather than leave it to chance and risk it falling into the hands of someone motivated solely by material considerations who may lack the knowledge required for a credible review.

It would also help with transparency and credibility if a VR's review of a free product was identified automatically as such by Amazon's software when posted, instead of our being politely asked to confess it in the course of the review. Some do, some don't, and I've forgotten myself on occasion.

Amazon is not a democratic institution, and is a law unto itself (Press analogy again), appearing to ignore all complaints, as well as what are clearly thoughtful opinions voiced in fora. But, there you go. (And what would we do without it, warts and all ?)

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012, 16:45:57 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Dec 2012, 16:46:18 GMT
@JW: "This certainly constitutes a libel." Actually, no. It may. A jury of *my* peers could conclude that all Vine reviewers were corrupted by the program and damned for eternity for their blinkered vision. A jury of *your* peers may think Vine reviewers were angels helping poor Amazon shoppers spend their money wisely.

Seeing Vine reviewers giving useful and obviously time exhaustive reviews for products that are worth pennies is encouraging (if mildly "who cares about 37 pence?" ).
Seeing Vine reviewers with over £1,000 worth of "free samples" who give the same tired review for every product they receive makes the program a joke. Especially when complained about and they still remain on the Vine program.

I do tend to agree with you that participating in a review (with a positive or negative vote) should be transparent and lead to more open and honest reviewing and voting.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012, 16:14:56 GMT
I sympathise, Roy; reviewers, too, suffer from your scrotes, of course, and every time I post a negative review, I can be pretty sure that they will emerge in numbers from whatever slime they lurk beneath, in defence of their adored ones. However, pace the authors, from the reviewers' point of view, IF USED CORRECTLY, both the "Yes" and "No" votes are helpful in letting them know whether their reviews are appreciated or in need of improvement - and I fear that many are.

If you took away the "Yes" vote, we'd never know whether anyone was reading our reviews or have the slightest clue whether we were doing anything useful, which could be a mite discouraging. (50 "Yes" votes, on the other hand, is a very rewarding experience !) But removing the "NO" vote altogether would certainly be preferable to keeping it in its present form - although for me, at least, it would be a second best to forcing "No" voters to explain their negative marking, which would restore Amazon's intention, whilst eliminating the scope for abuse.

All that said, I believe that most people can probably easily detect abusive scrote activity when they see it - especially when a book gets nothing but 5* ratings, yet loads of "unhelpful" votes ! Although that doesn't mean it shouldn't be stopped. Not sure how to get Amazon's serious attention, though...

Posted on 11 Dec 2012, 14:31:00 GMT
I recently (and happily) had a run in with Amazon UK trolls, or scrotes as I like to call them in deference to trolls. This resulted in bloc down votes as unhelpful on all three of my books. These people had no intention of buying but merely used the review as a method of punishing a writer for responding to their stupidity. it would be better for writers if the yes or no aspect was done away with altogether.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Dec 2012, 18:54:17 GMT
I came across this oldish thread by accident whilst browsing. There are some serious misconceptions here which need to be addressed.

Firstly, when one is limited to 4 products per month - from hundreds - one is naturally going to choose items one would like to have in preference to stuff one doesn't want or simply knows nothing about. In books in particular, you choose subjects of interest, preferably from authors you know and like - so your choices are going to be automatically skewed heavily towards good reviews simply by virtue of selectivity, rather than having anything to do with the fact that it's free.

Secondly, if you give good reviews to (free) rubbish, some very angry person who's paid good money for a product you recommended is going to come along pretty soon and expose you for a daft twit. Nobody likes it when another reviewer makes one look a fool.

Thirdly, getting a piece of rubbish for nothing is something I, and I'm sure other Vine reviewers, try to avoid - my house is cluttered enough already. And if I did, I would possibly be even MORE cross, and therefore more determined to make sure no-one else fell into the same trap by giving it a panning, than if I'd paid for it; in fact, if I'd been stupid enough to pay for a piece of rubbish, I might well be too embarassed to admit it...

Fourthly, the Vine reviewers appear to have been selected by invitation only - I certainly was, out of the blue, and much to my surprise. One has to assume that some diligent Amazon employee had been monitoring reviews and cherry picking those who appeared to be the most honest, diligent and helpful in reviewing products they'd paid good money for.

Finally, let's consider the following statement in your post:

"If you haven't paid money out of your own pocket for the product you're reviewing, you can't possibly judge it from the perspective of someone who has (however objective you try to be)"

This certainly constitutes a libel. You are suggesting that, because I'm a Vine Reviewer and do not have to pay for the review copies or production samples I am sent, I must ipso facto be corrupt. Without any evidence (and the law requires you to prove that your statement is true) you call into into question my integrity and honesty, and my ability to be objective - none of which, I can assure you, is in any doubt at all - and specifically suggest that I am in effect open to bribery. You may wish to reconsider this statement.

If you buy an unsatisfactory product as a result of a Vine review, you are, of course, entitled to return it for a full refund, and submit your own review explaining in detail just why the Vine reviewer fell down on the job. It would be reasonable to assume that a sufficient number of such gaffes could see the reviewer's Vine privileges withdrawn.

So you see, Stephen, the "free" element you disparage is in fact likely to result in more honest and objective reviews, and I can assure you that all my reviews can be relied upon to be 100% honest. although I naturally do not expect everyone to share my views on excusively subjective matters, aesthetic taste, for example.

Which brings me to the matter of "marking" reviews; I share the view of those who feel that the "unhelpful" marking does not, well, help... I suspect that too few people respect the question, which is "Was this review helpful to you ?" and, instead, answer a totally different question, "Do you agree with this review ?" Rather than omit this marking, I think one should only be alowed to click "No" after posting an explanation of why the review didn't help. As well as being more honest and transparent, it might in the longer term lead to even better reviews.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Oct 2012, 12:44:29 BST
you should obviously be in the Vine programme already, with a name like that

Posted on 25 Oct 2012, 12:43:45 BST
I didn't realise 'Vine' reviewers were given products for free.....now that I know, I will ignore all 'Vine' reviews from now on (or at least, take them with a grain of salt). That might sound churlish to 'Vine' reviewers, but it has nothing to do with 'envy' as someone suggested here, but is due to the fact that if you haven't paid money out of your own pocket for the product you're reviewing, you can't possibly judge it from the perspective of someone who has (however objective you try to be). Part of how we judge a product is based on our feeling of whether it represents value for our money. If the price is £0, our judgement is much more likely to be favourable (again, even if you consciously try to override this). I think companies that participate in the 'Vine' programme are probably very aware of this - let's face it, they wouldn't participate otherwise, and they're handing out free stuff with the objective of generating positive reviews to drive sales on Amazon from paying customers. Nothing wrong or immoral about that - but you can hardly blame people for regarding those reviews are a little less objective, when they understand what's behind them (as I do now).

Also, though - why does it bother you so much when your review is down-voted? Is it because your membership of the 'Vine' free gifts programme is dependent on getting positive scores for your reviews? (OK, I just Googled it, and it seems that is part of the issue). That's quite ironic.....you're invited to join this programme on the basis of writing useful reviews, but your reviews are then seen as less useful because you're part of the programme.....and round and round it presumably goes.

Posted on 25 Oct 2012, 10:24:51 BST
Mona Vine says:
Where do I sign up for free products for reviews? They may not like me though because I mainly review stuff that has annoyed me in some way!

Posted on 21 Sep 2012, 08:50:51 BST
G. M. Dobb says:
Yeah I see your point. Personally I find the whole Vine programme a waste of time. Nearly 90% of the offered products are books, which don't really interest me.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Sep 2012, 22:07:43 BST
@Jen: Take a glance at Myspa by Homedics Aroma Pebble Foot Spa with Polished Beach Pebbles

A perfectly fine bit of kit - probably. However, in a matter of days it has gone from zero reviews to 12 - mostly 4 and 5 star. All of them Vine Voices.
Now, think how the "ordinary consumer" might see this. A product has been given to Vine members and they have given positive reviews. See this in the light of all the Sock Puppet debates over ebooks. See how ordinary customers could wonder what is the difference between buying a review for cash and buying it with free gifts.

This does not reflect on individual vine reviewers or reviews - but possibly suggests that the whole Vine programme and the buying reviews through product gifting is flawed, corrupt and unacceptable. But that is just my own personal view.

For the record, I ignore any Vine Voice review on the basis that it has been purchased by the donating company. Regards, CW.

Posted on 8 Sep 2012, 22:59:21 BST
G. M. Dobb says:
What I have noticed is that reviews seem to get more 'no' votes if they are not in favour of the item, whereas a review that says something like "This is a great album, go buy it" may get many "yes" votes. There are many people on here who wouldn't know a helpful review if it hit them in the face. I've given up trying...

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Aug 2012, 11:27:52 BST
Jen says:
Thanks for your comment TJ. :)

Posted on 28 Aug 2012, 11:23:05 BST
T.J.Byford says:

I wouldn't let it get to you.

Before posting, I thought it fair to check out some of your reviews and I didn't find any of a controversial nature. Indeed, they seemed quite balanced and informative. Personally, I put it down to jealousy by those who are not in the Vine programme, but the same can happen to any reviewer. I'm not a Vine reviewer, by the way.

Initial post: 27 Aug 2012, 14:53:12 BST
Jen says:
I don't know if its just me, but sometimes I get the feeling that people are voting that Vine reviews are not helpful to them just because they are Vine reviews... I've had a few 'no' votes on reviews which surprised me, and when I've checked out the product page it looks like ALL Vine reviews got at least one or two no votes.

I could understand if my review was particularly controversial or lacking in detail, but I don't think that they have been either.
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