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Could Amazon Reviews Be Corrupt?

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the say-it-aint-so dept.

The Almighty Buck 201

adeelarshad82 writes "In the first academic study of its kind, Trevor Pinch, Cornell University professor of sociology and of science and technology studies, independently surveyed 166 of Amazon's top 1,000 reviewers, examining everything from demographics to motives. What he discovered was 85 percent of those surveyed had been approached with free merchandise from authors, agents or publishers. Amazon is encouraging reviewers to receive free products through Amazon Vine, an invitation-only program in which the top 1,000 reviewers are offered a catalog of free products to review. John Dvorak puts up an argument which hints that some of these Amazon reviews may be corrupt."

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I trust this guy's comment (5, Funny)

A5un (586681) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617264)

I trust this guy's review. It's absolutely true [amazon.com]

Re:I trust this guy's comment (2)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617282)

Dude, I bought that shirt and now I'm a millionaire with 30 slave whores. What are you talking about?

Re:I trust this guy's comment (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617382)

FTFR:

After checking to ensure that the shirt would properly cover my girth, I walked from my trailer to Wal-mart with the shirt on and was immediately approached by women.

I'm guessing that it took all three wolves to help cart his girth all the way to Wal-mart? Those women were just animal lovers hoping to ease the suffering of those poor, poor wolves who never intended on becoming the porters of his fat ass' palanquin.

Re:I trust this guy's comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617562)

Whoosh

Re:I trust this guy's comment (1)

RussR42 (779993) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617572)

I've seen the women at wal-mart. They likely considered him thin and their interest in the wolves was only to eat them.

Re:I trust this guy's comment (2)

hahn (101816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617898)

I have found these [amzn.com] reviews to be accurate too. As well as these [amzn.com] . And this [amzn.com] .

Re:I trust this guy's comment (1)

x1r8a3k (1170111) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618190)

You're missing the best one by far [amzn.com]

this should have been obvoius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617268)

Does anyone actually believe the reviews they read on Amazon, anyways? It's pretty easy to tell when someone's fronting a product.

I do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617374)

For any online reviews I:
Check the distribution.
Ignore the "top reviewers" completely.
Sort ascending.
Read the worst reviews, up to the middle reviews.

Re:I do (5, Insightful)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617664)

There's no doubt there. I recently purchased a book that was reviewed fondly here on ./ and noticed that all the reviewers on Amazon were RAVING about it; every review had 9 out of 9 "this review was helpful" ratings. Then I read the book and found it to be utter garbage, so I wrote a review detailing why it was not living up to the reviews or promises. Within a couple of days there were 9 people saying my review wasn't helpful...but there weren't 9 MORE people saying the other reviews were helpful(they remained at 9 out of 10)...just that mine was unhelpful.. I'm 100% certain the reviews were rigged. I don't dare reveal the book for fear the author has mod points...

Re:this should have been obvoius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617426)

Does anyone actually believe the reviews they read on Amazon, anyways?

Why restrict it to Amazon?

Half the posts in Slashdot are sly endorsements of Microsoft or Apple products.

Re:this should have been obvoius (-1, Troll)

Elbereth (58257) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617914)

A few probably are, but many people simply get called trolls or shills because they dare to cross the groupthink. Try it some day. You'll see. It seems to be a bit of a Slashdot stereotype that one's most well-intentioned, tactful posts get modded as troll, while the actual troll posts get modded insightful. It's a bit of a mindfuck the first time it happens to you.

MOD PARENT TROLL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617996)

We all need a good mindfuck every now and then.

There are a lot of fake negative reviews too ... (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618154)

Does anyone actually believe the reviews they read on Amazon, anyways? It's pretty easy to tell when someone's fronting a product.

I've noticed that there are a lot of fake negative reviews too. If the book touches on a political or social issue then the opponents of the book's perspective seem to organize a negative review campaign. I've seen books with equal numbers of positive and negative reviews overall, but if you only look at reviewers who are also identified as purchasers of the book then the reviews massively shift to the positive, sometimes 5:1 or 10:1 in favor. The content of the more negative reviews also suggest that they have not read the book, reciting talking points that are in direct contradiction to what the author actually wrote.

...and this is news how? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617274)

Just because it's on the Internet?

It's nothing more than the digital version of Payola [wikipedia.org] , but instead of air-time, the content producers get flattering reviews.

Should it be made just as illegal (or at least against Amazon policy)? Wouldn't do much good... radio stations long ago found ways around the anti-Payloa laws, and I suspect that Amazon (and its reviewers) will too.

Re:...and this is news how? (2)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617370)

The analogy with payola is flawed. On Amazon, no matter how many glowing astroturf reviews there are, anybody can write a negative review that gives solid reasons why they didn't like it, and negate all the positive reviews if you're convinced those drawbacks are a dealbreaker for you. Yes, all online reviews (especially positive ones) should be taken with a grain of salt, but overall I've had good results from using the Amazon reviews to guide my purchases. (In fact I consult them even if I know I'll be buying elsewhere).

Re:...and this is news how? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617416)

On Amazon, no matter how many glowing astroturf reviews there are, anybody can write a negative review that gives solid reasons why they didn't like it, and negate all the positive reviews if you're convinced those drawbacks are a dealbreaker for you.

You can write it, but there's no guarantee they'll post it.

Reality (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617504)

You can write it, but there's no guarantee they'll post it.

The reality is they mostly get posted, as long as you write factually and not too emotionally with a wide range of curse words.

I have never had a negative review not posted on Amazon. Remember, it's not Amazon getting the free things, it's just some of the reviewers...

Re:...and this is news how? (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617632)

I have written some quite negative reviews on products for Amazon and they have all been posted. Including the one blasting the Kindle because of its DRM.

What I normally find though is that there are rebuttals through the comment system when my negative review is controversial.

The Vine stuff though - I have definitely seen some reviews that are influenced and have written them off. Now that I know that the top 1000 reviewers are getting free product I will certainly discount their opinions.

Re:...and this is news how? (4, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618288)

Really? Do you think they're biased because they got a free $2 pack of erasers to review? You understand that they have absolutely no obligation to write a positive view, right? In fact, writing an inaccurate review would negatively impact them, because people would rate the person's review as "not helpful" and it wouldn't be long before they are no longer in the top 1,000 reviewers (and remember, you only reach the top 1,000 reviewer spots because other consumers have found your reviews to be helpful in the first place). Also, it's not like it's a secret if someone is part of the Vine program. It says "VINE REVIEWER" right by their name on the review and points out that the product being reviewed by that person was provided them through the VINE program. Pretty transparent.

Personally, I participate in the Vine program for kicks. I let them send me stuff that I otherwise would never care about or want or buy and am only accepting, for the sake of giving a review on something unusual. I've written positive reviews. I've written extremely critical reviews. They've all been posted. They've never been altered or removed.

Re:...and this is news how? (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618260)

Of course they'll post it, as long as it's relevant to the item being reviewed.

I've posted around a hundred reviews on Amazon in the ten years or so that I've been a customer and I've never had a single one declined, no matter how critical they've been. Amazon knows that their money is made by satisfying their customers so they keep coming back. It's not in satisfying a company selling a shitty product that is upset because of a bad review.

Hell, go back and read the reviews for Spore from a couple years ago and you'll see that they absolutely don't have an itchy trigger finger whatsoever.

Amazon reviews are fake? (1)

cheeks5965 (1682996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617506)

Amazon reviews are not genuine? Bull shite! Now where's my three wolf moon shirt [amazon.com] .

Re:...and this is news how? (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618242)

What does the Vine program have to do with payola? I'm an Amazon customer and I've participated in the Vine program. They send me a free product and I review it. There is no reason to review it any other way than how I like. If it's a good product, I review it as such. If it sucks, I review it as sucking. Yes, the very top reviews on Amazon are completely fucked, but it has nothing to do with Vine. It has to do with people who very clearly make a living reviewing products where they are directly payed for providing solid reviews. You can spot these people easily. They're the ones who have given 4 and 5 star reviews to an average of ten novels every single day for ten straight years. You click their name and in about give seconds of looking at their profile, it becomes obvious what's going on.

The Vine program actually seems like a good idea, because rather than waiting until people pay good money for items to find out they suck and then leave a review so further customers don't make the mistake, people who otherwise may not even consider buying something can give it a once over, review it, and give future buyers an idea of whether it's worth spending cash on or not, before anyone actually blows money on something that sucks.

Plus, seriously, are you going to suggest that giving someone three pads of multi-colored post-it-notes to review post-it-notes is "payola"? Maybe if they live in a trailer park, I guess . . . ?

Is Dvorak corrupt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617278)

Why is this guy still around? Seriously, is this "news"?

Re:Is Dvorak corrupt? (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618348)

Of course he's still around. He does a twice-weekly podcast with Adam Curry where they talk about all sorts of conspiracy theories and spend about 30 minutes talking about how they are commercial-free, so they aren't obligated to be beholden to any corporate entity and can report things freely of any influence. They get people sending in hundreds of dollars of donations at a time per person. They have an entire class of people called "No-Agenda Knights" which are people who have donated $1,000 or more to the show -- and some people are knights several times over.

Anyway, I think he's correct that a lot of the top reviewers receive payola. However, that is NOT the Vine program. The top reviewers who get payola are the ones who have written thousands or tens of thousands of reviews on items (often in the same genre or category) and given everything a 4 or 5 star and are clearly receiving a paycheck by some company to write these bullshit reviews. These people have nothing to do with the Vine program, however, which are people who the community has declared as the "most helpful reviewers" by voting their reviews up. Then those people are offered a chance to participate in Vine. When you accept the offer, you occasionally get an email with a list of items you can offer to review. They send you the thing you selected (they're often things like a galley print of a book or a pack of pens or a can of baby formula), you test it out, you write a review, you click "submit", it gets posted. On the site, it has a big icon by your name that says "VINE VOICE" so people know you participate in that program. Then at the top of your review, it says that you obtained the item being reviewed through the Vine Voice program. I don't see how it can be more transparent than that. (By the way, 90% of the products in Vine are books. What's the difference between you getting a galley copy of a book to review before it's published and any other reviewer on earth who ALL receive galley copies of books to review before they're published?).

At any rate, I like Dvorak, on the whole. You have to remember that he's not a journalist. He's a pundit. A commentator. An opinionator. That's it.

"Dvorak hints" (5, Insightful)

keith_nt4 (612247) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617294)

I can't believe I read that entire summary only to be lead into a link to a Dvorak column. It's like the slashdot version of being rick rolled. And I fell for it. Bravo samzenpus, bravo.

Re:"Dvorak hints" (1, Offtopic)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617360)

I can't believe I read that entire summary only to be lead into a link to a Dvorak column. It's like the slashdot version of being rick rolled. And I fell for it. Bravo samzenpus, bravo.

A column that essentially complained about Amazon's 1,000 most helpful reviewers (as rated by the public) getting free things to review... which is absolutely no different from gaming critics getting free consoles, games, and previews, movie critics getting free pre-screen passes, and Slashdot editors getting free nerd poon.

Re:"Dvorak hints" (0)

BadPirate (1572721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617368)

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Re:"Dvorak hints" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617460)

+1 billion insightful

Re:"Dvorak hints" (0)

he-sk (103163) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617532)

Exactly. What I want to know is this: Who is adeelarshad82 and did he get some free shit from Dvorak?

If I find out... (4, Funny)

Chysn (898420) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617304)

...that I bought my Three Wolf Moon shirt on false promises, I will be quite put out.

Re:If I find out... (1)

cheeks5965 (1682996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617524)

Nuts to you! You made the three wolf moon joke before I had a chance. at least I posted my comment in response to an relief comment, so it appears above :)

Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting them (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617306)

I've written one or two Amazon reviews - normal reviews, quite positive, they were accepted.

Then I bought a DVD - a Nick Cave live in concert DVD - and I panned it. (There was a logo, "MC", on a black oval, BIG, and present ALL THE TIME through the whole video, in the top left - it ruined the DVD). I said - "don't buy it".

Amazon never posted that review.

I've thought for a long time that Amazon censors reviews - if it really pans the product, it doesn't get on the Amazon site. ALL the Amazon reviews are in that sense corrupt, because Amazon remove the really negative reviews. You only see the more positive reviews.

Re:Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting t (1)

kakyoin01 (2040114) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617336)

I've also had a review seemingly rejected (review was for an Asus Transformer screen protector that was just awful). I gave one thought as to why it never showed up, but until now I never looked back. Perhaps Amazon just removes reviews it thinks won't be 'useful' at all, and seem more like complaints that won't ever be 'useful' to others looking to read reviews.

Re:Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting t (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617372)

But, in contrast, I've read a lot of negative (and sometimes incredibly stupid) reviews that got published with no problem at all.

Like the story talks about, I've also been approached by a company to give a review on Amazon in exchange for a free duplicate of the product. On personal ethics grounds, I rejected their offer and never wrote a review. I never would have thought that the number of people approached was anywhere near as high as the article claims, though.

Re:Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting t (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617458)

There is a series I liked. Unfortunately, it has a bunch of differing continuities and movies of varying quality, and amazon has saw fit to lump reviews all of these varying products into all of the series' products.

The result is that one movie from this series, which should only be getting 2 stars out of 5 (by the 7 reviews that are directly about it) are instead inflated to 4.5 stars by the other 40 product reviews there that are actually refering to different products within that series. Since most people don't sit there and look the reviews one by one, it's extremely misleading.

The other shortfall of amazon's system is the inability to give 0 stars. Minimum is 1. This also inflates the rating. One revies give gives one star to a product, another 5-stars, the result would be 3 stars instead of 2.5. Two people giving 1-star ratings, and one 5-star, results in 2.33, or it would look like 2.5 on Amazon's filled out stars. (If 0-star ratings were enable, the result would be 1.66 stars). 3 out of 5 should indicate "good", not simply fair, which traditionally is 2.5 stars. Basically, it's way too easy to have a 4+ star product on Amazon even if more than half the reviewers thought it sucked to varying degrees.

Re:Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting t (1)

brainzach (2032950) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618222)

One star reviews are crap and zero stars would just make it worst

If someone can't say one nice thing about the product, chances are they are a poor reviewer. Two and three star negative reviews are much more trustworthy because the reviewers will actually weigh the pros and cons of the product.

Re:Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting t (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36618302)

Your social job as a reviewer is not to "say one nice thing about the product," There are a lot of shitty products out there. E.g. How do you say something nice about a product that was DOA?

Re:Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting t (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617492)

I've written one or two Amazon reviews - normal reviews, quite positive, they were accepted.

Then I bought a DVD - a Nick Cave live in concert DVD - and I panned it. (There was a logo, "MC", on a black oval, BIG, and present ALL THE TIME through the whole video, in the top left - it ruined the DVD). I said - "don't buy it".

Amazon never posted that review.

I've thought for a long time that Amazon censors reviews - if it really pans the product, it doesn't get on the Amazon site. ALL the Amazon reviews are in that sense corrupt, because Amazon remove the really negative reviews. You only see the more positive reviews.

I've written about 2 dozen reviews on Amazon, two of them had a 1-star rating, two of them had a 2 star rating, and they were all published. One of my 1-star reviews was quite scathing, yet it's still there. I've seen lots of 1 star reviews for products (even ones that were not relevant to the product like "I bought a somewhat similar item from a different manufacturer and it broke in 2 days, SO STAY AWAY FROM THIS SHODDY PRODUCT!!!"... so I assumed Amazon doesn't check the content reviews at all.

Re:Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting t (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617734)

It could very well be that creators of the items amazon sells hire people to say that negative reviews are "not helpful" and if a review receives too many not helpful it gets yanked..... not amazon directly manipulating the reviews, but it would show that their review system can be manipulated.

Nothing new here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617310)

I still have a box of Three Wolf Moon tees from four years ago, provided by the manufacturer!

You mean... (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617356)

... reviews on the Internet can be false? Holy Crap!

As a member of the Vine program... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617378)

I was invited to join the Amazon Vine program when I was somewhere in the 2,000-3,000 range in terms of reviewer rank, so it's definitely not the "top 1,000 reviewers". Every review that results from the Vine program has a green highlighted link on the review stating it's from the Vine Program with a "What's this?" link that people can use to find out what it's about. So it's made very clear when a reviewer got a free copy to play with.

Technically, all the "free" products are still owned by Amazon, so they could ask for them back at some point. Some large items like exercise equipment are loaned only for 30 days and then picked up. Certainly some Vine members probably eBay everything valuable they get, but this is clearly against the terms of the program.

Books are sometimes un-edited pre-release copies without final art or perhaps printed in black-and-white, as any book reviewer might get.

I've written five star and one star vine reviews, and Amazon accepts all of them.

It's fun to actually get some benefit from posting about stuff you like. Free stuff to review on Amazon, free add-free Slashdot for having really good karma, etc.

Re:As a member of the Vine program... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617482)

So, what do you do if you don't want to store the stuff anymore? Does Amazon have to take them back?

Re:As a member of the Vine program... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617536)

You are allowed to trash it after 6 months or so I believe. Many of us have asked around the Vine community and no one has ever had Amazon ask for the items back. I heard one anecdotal story of a member who was caught ebaying a Nautilus type machine worth a couple thousand dollars and that person was just removed from the program *supposedly*.

You are just not "supposed" to give the items to anyone else, but once again there has never been any sort of accounting to my knowledge where people were asked to show proof they still had the stuff.

Such a game (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617386)

It's a system with anonymity (or at least semi-anonymity) and the ability to disguise stacking the deck, either for or against a given product. Of COURSE people are going to try to game it.

What was your first clue, turd for brains???? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617420)

Do you mean someone might actually have done something anonymous to gain financially??? Wow! Do you want to buy a bridge?

-/Technoracle
(or I could be faking this clever comment to drive blog traffic?)

Could Dvorak articles be Obvious? (3, Insightful)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617442)

Yes, reviews can be shills, emails can be spam, phonecalls can be telemarketers, pages in magazines can be advertisements, etc.. But if you have any kind of a hard time identifying them as such, you've been living in a CAVE for the last generation or so. There's a lot of yahoos out there and you need to take everything with a grain of salt. You needed Dvorak to tell you THAT?

As a Vine member... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617462)

let me clarify the program details. You basically get a list once a month of about 20 items that you can pick 1 or 2 things from. This is supposedly targeted (Amazon has never explained how) based on your buying history but there are many times people who are single get offered diapers, or middle aged men being offered teen book series, etc. You have to review at LEAST 75% of what you get, which allows you to not review some things that you never get around to using or just don't feel like reviewing for whatever reason. The week after the monthly targeted newsletter the pile all the items onto one list and offer it to all the vine members, sort of like a left-overs pot-luck meal. Once again you can pick 2 items and the same 75% rule applies. You get to keep the merchandise whether you review it or not.

What is on the lists? Books mainly, with food and household items second, software third and then you will rarely get offered very nice things like digital cameras, etc to review. The nicer items are almost always quantity limited and the lists are first come, first serve so when they get sent out once a month there is often a race by some members to see what they can get. Most of us don't even look at the list until the next day when a reminder email gets sent out because we are busy people with better things to do than sit around hitting F5 waiting for the list to post.

All that being said one detail that seems to be missing is that all the reviews you submit for items received from the Vine program are tagged with a bright green sentence that says it was a "vine" program item that hyperlinks to explain what that means. So I don't quite get the shill type tone of the article. Amazon isn't forthcoming about the hows and whys of the choices of items or participants in the program but they are very honest about he reviews being solicited. FYI, I only had maybe 25 posted reviews and was in maybe the top 10,000 reviewers when I got invited so it is hardly limited to the top 1000.

For the curious, the nicest things I've gotten to review was an ipod docking stereo and a copy of Microsoft Office Pro 2010. Besides that it has been lots of interesting books from Warhammer 40k / Fantasy titles to some on Engineering that I found very handy for my bookshelf at work.

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617466)

As a site increases in traffic, the review quality plummets sharply. What, really, is the difference between useless reviews and paid ones? I already have to sort through 300 worthless reviews to find a single comment with useful information and a fair assessment, what does it matter if some or even most of them are advertisements?

My experience (5, Informative)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617472)

I wrote a few Amazon reviews, then noticed a review that had absolutely no bearing on the item being reviewed. I reported it and Amazon stated that they found no reason to remove the review. I replied with full detail outlining how unrepresentative the review was and how misleading it was to consumers. I received a reply stating that it didn't violate their review policies, and that they wouldn't hear any more complaints about the issue. I forwarded the specific details out of their own publicly posted review policy that were violated, and received a "We'll take a look at this", which was obviously a brush off. Months later, no response and the fraudulent review remains.

I've henceforth removed all of my reviews, and I forward my clients to Newegg instead. Newegg's customer service has been better anyway.

While this may not be directly related to the story presented in TFA, it does speak to the lack of integrity in the Amazon review process when obviously false or misplaced reviews are allowed to remain, even when pointed out and explained to a human being (as opposed to a automatic responder).

Re:My experience (1)

lanner (107308) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617756)

I just don't leave reviews on websites that sell goods. The review MUST be completely independent. There is no possibility that your own words will not be twisted and manipulated in any way the website or even the product manufacture sees fit.

I had Newegg remove my truthful and reasonable negative reviews on multiple occasions, so I don't bother doing reviews on Newegg any more at all.

Same goes with ebay. As a seller, I can't leave negative feedback for buyers, so I figure I can't really leave positive feedback either since it's positive or nothing. Their feedback system is now fundamentally broken and any use of it is just furthering their fraudulent assertion of usefulness.

I have to admit that I left a review on Amazon just a couple of days ago... one of the few I've ever done there. I'll have to consider going back to remove it.

Re:My experience (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618398)

What do you mean by "independent"? I've written about a hundred reviews on Amazon in the decade that I've been a customer. They've never edited or altered a single word and I've been free to update or even delete my reviews after the fact, as I see fit. I've left positive reviews and scathing reviews. I've even left two on products I received via Vine (one four star review and a one star review) which were unaltered.

Amazon is actually one of the places I check when researching a product that I might want to buy. Though it's kind of impossible to weed out all the fakes, they do a pretty good job and it's extremely easy to spot the few people here and there who have reviewed thousands (or tens of thousands) of items, given them all glowing reviews, and are clearly being paid as some sort of a shill by another company (almost certainly not related at all to Amazon -- because Amazon benefits from you being a happy customer; not from you being scammed into buying something and deciding never to buy from them again).

They could do a better job at cutting off the people who are clearly on-contract with some publisher to glowingly review every single book they put out (and probably making a living at it), but other than that, I don't have too much to complain about. It's obviously been a good enough experience to keep me coming back for over a decade, I guess.

Re:My experience (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617840)

Because newegg reviews are more pertinent? Maybe your complaint was particularly valid, but investigating reviews and removing them would in general consume resources and alienate customers. Staying mostly hands-off and making reviews voted unhelpful less visible isn't a bad policy.

Re:My experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617974)

Are you fucking kidding me? Newegg allows absolute bullshit reviews, and actively blocks negative reviews.

Re:My experience (1)

brainzach (2032950) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618056)

Probably because Amazon isn't going to take down a review because one person complains. This could be considered a good thing about the review process. How do they know that you don't have an agenda?

If you think a review is bad, you can mark it as unhelpful and write a a better review. Amazon expects that their are going to be bad reviews so it provides a mechanism to regulate it.

Re:My experience (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618402)

Not only can you mark it as "unhelpful" or write a better review, but you can directly respond to the review itself, by leaving a comment on it.

Amazon reviews are the best (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617478)

Anyone complaining about Amazon reviews has too much time on their hands. Yes, you can see the comments of the professional reviewers. They are identified and mostly are middle of the road summaries. They don't pump it up and they don't warn you away. I skip over the usually lengthy professional reviews, they are worthless.

People provide great reviews, pro and con, on Amazon. I count on it to get the real scoop. I have rarely been mislead by it. It's the best out there, as I google for info and Amazon usually has the best reviews on it.

Re:Amazon reviews are the best (1)

OopsIDied (1764436) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618050)

This ^. Professional reviews on sites like CNet and Amazon remind me of the sponsored ads on Google.

Re:Amazon reviews are the best (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618412)

I occasionally find so many reviews that are so glowing on a product that it seems obvious it might be the right choice for me - but more often, I find a product that I've seen reviewed well elsewhere (say, Consumer Reports, etc) with dozens or hundreds of very negative reviews that warn me away from one. I'm pretty grateful on the occasions where I might have otherwise been lead down a bad path, but for the sake of other consumers who already took the bullet for me and took a minute to warn others off.

Amazon Vine - paid good reviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617510)

They pay people to give good reviews. It's called "Amazon Vine". You can safely ignore any Amazon Vine review you ever see - unfortunately you cannot filter them out.

Re:Amazon Vine - paid good reviews (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618444)

You don't have a clue what you're talking about. They don't pay people for reviews. They give people review copies of things and they are free to review them however they feel is appropriate. Guess what? Book reviewers get advanced copies of books. Movie reviewers get advanced screenings. TV reviewers get advanced copies of seasons. Game reviewers get advanced copies of games and hardware. Tech reviewers get advanced copies of software and hardware. The only difference is that Amazon facilitates an opportunity where people who the community have voted up as the most helpful reviewers over all have the same chance to review something as, say, someone who is paid a salary by the Chicago Sun or IGN or CBS to review the same things. And if the reviews are bullshit and lead people to make a bad purchase, they're going to come back and downvote that reviewer, which will drop them in the rankings at Amazon an that reviewer will no longer be a trusted source and will no longer be part of that Vine program. The whole point of the Vine program is obviously to take people who are already trusted by the community and have them review products (because they have proven they are reliable and fair by the community) and have them review things that they might not otherwise bother to buy and review.

In other words, it's a smart way of saying "we have all these really great reviewers out there, but how can we get these people to review other stuff?". If the reviewer can't be trusted and is a shill or just writes poor reviews or misleads readers, then the entire program falls apart.

I'm in Vine. Doing badly at corruption. (3, Informative)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617522)

I'm in Vine. I occasionally get a free book or food item, and then review it (that's the deal). My reviews are clearly (and automatically) tagged as 'Reviewed as part of Amazon Vine program'.

Looking back at my reviews I don't see where I've been any more charitable to Vine products than products I bought myself. In fact, I seem much less likely to rate them five stars - the barrier to entry is lower so I'll order a free product when I might not have paid for it. Though it's still self-selecting in that I won't order anything I don't think I'll like in the first place, so most of the reviews are four or five (but definitely not all).

And before you get too jealous, remember that reading the book and writing a decent review is a significant amount of work. /Having/ to do a review of something you're supposed to be enjoying can turn it into work. Wah wah wah, but it's not all roses and unicorns.

Re:I'm in Vine. Doing badly at corruption. (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617680)

I am glad Amazon labels these particular reviews. However while your reviews may be honest, I definitely have seen some Vine reviews that appear to have been written with rose colored glasses on.

As such I no longer consider Vine reviews when making a buying decision.

Now that I know the top 1000 are involved in this I am going to disregard all their reviews as well.

Re:I'm in Vine. Doing badly at corruption. (1)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618174)

That's fair enough, but I should reiterate that you can't trust five star non-Vine reviews either. I end up going through the top bunch of reviews and tossing out any that look like obvious shills, making sure there's at least one or two non-fives, then going through the lowest couple reviews and tossing any that look like pure haters or idiots. After a while you get pretty good at it.

So if you want to toss all five star Vine ratings as being just too easy, good enough, but a non five or one star rating has a much higher percentage of usefulness. And that's across the board.

Re:I'm in Vine. Doing badly at corruption. (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618456)

Those reviewers got into the vine program by repeatedly writing fair quality reviews, in the first place. The ones I have read (and maybe you and I browse a different category of products) have been quite fair and realistic in their reviews. I don't think that people who have enough of a history of writing useful reviews for things are going to suddenly have their opinion bought and paid for because they got a free *galley* copy of a shitty book to review or a free can of baby formula to review. For one thing, their continuation in the program relies on their continuing to write useful reviews of things. If you're dishonest or too glowing on an undeserving product, then people aren't going to find you useful and you won't remain in that program for long. It's set up so that you are "rewarded" not by giving products great reviews, but by giving products *fair* reviews, whether they are positive or negative.

Could water be wet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617538)

Probably, yes.

Does John Dvorak comments matter? (1, Offtopic)

operand (15312) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617542)

I stopped reading after seeing it was from John Dvorak.

Re:Does John Dvorak comments matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617636)

But he makes such wonderful keyboards

Dianetics (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617544)

How else would Dianetics have more than 2 stars than if the whole process was corrupt?

Morons... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617566)

(1) If you rely only the reviews from the vendor or the manufacturer sites, there is something wrong with you.

(2) There is nothing keeping any reviewer at any time from being approached in or outside of the Vine system. Prior to Vine, there were obvious reviews pushed by manufacturer's, even some literally spewing the same lines from the product pages themselves on items that were just released. With Vine, you know more about the conditions of the review actually than some random person reviewing.

(3) How often do you really buy a product looking at reviews then deciding to buy them, as opposed to knowing what you want, and then running a froogle search? I usually know what I want to buy, Amazon doesn't help me. If I want a Spyderco knife, I'm not looking at the Amazon reviews, I'm looking at knife forums. If I'm looking for a LED flashlight, I'm looking at the flashlight forums. Home theater equipment, AVSforum or whatever. I don't look at motherboard reviews on Newegg, I look to see what people think of them on the PC sites, and even then, I know those posts may not be slanted.

Even more, I often come across an industry guy, like the agent for the company, who will point me elsewhere, several times to competitor's products, because they know that honesty (since I verify it with a buy and confirm the product's performance, easy to do with knives for example) will direct me to one of the products in their line later on.

(4) When have review systems ever been shown to be corrupt in the first place anyways? I remember when I was reading software reviews, I learned that most reviewers receive stacks of software for free to use surrounding the one product they often then end up reviewing. Years later, why would anyone even perceive such "insider" influence isn't happening? It's like buying a house where the real estate agent for the buyer and seller are supposed to be independent of the builder--if you believe that to be true, you're nuts.

Top 1000 reviewers slanted? Targetted? Getting free stuff? No shit. You honestly need a freaking study to tell you this, or is it merely that someone wasted time to do run the numbers to show the politics of buying/selling?

Is there anybody that didn't know this already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617600)

5 star review - check
"Top 500" reviewer - check
Gushing, glowing review - check
Reviewer has made hundreds of other 5 star reviews - check

Chance it's a corrupt review: 100.1%

Look at this prolific "reviewer" [amazon.com]

you Insensitive Vclod! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617614)

log on Then the Bu"t suffi3e it

Is this is bad as TFA makes it to be? (1)

eL-gring0 (1950736) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617620)

If a 5-star review initially gets people to make a shit purchase, I'm not seeing where the likelihood of a flood of negative reviews won't balance out any astroturfing or shilling. I can see it happening in a low volume item, where a few saps buy something crappy after reading a fake review, and then don't come back to warn away other shoppers, so the cycle continues. I wish they gave example items, or somehow polled customers who felt they fell prey to fake reviews.

Also, does the 85 percent statistic mean they've accepted some kind of gift or freebie, or just that they were offered them? TFA isn't clear.

moed Kdown (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617712)

parts of you are sho0T the loudest

That's impossible. (1)

Keen Anthony (762006) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617768)

I know for a fact that all those reviews for the Three-Wolf-Moon shirt are true. I felt the power of 3 wolfpower during last month's full moon. Nothing could quench my thirst but 1 gallon, 128 fl oz of Tuscan whole milk.

firsT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617790)

around return It like i should be

I'm one of those people in the study (4, Interesting)

Skynyrd (25155) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617798)

I'm an Amazon Vine member. I was told that I became a member by the number of "helpful" votes my comments got.
Most of my reviews for things I buy are positive - but I research before I buy things.

As for Amazon giving me things to review; it's true.
Each month or so, I get a list of things I can order (for free, with no shipping charges). As long as I review 75% of the items I receive, I can participate in the program.

I fully believe that the "top 1,000 reviewers" part is untrue. I can't see any way that I'm a top 1,000 reviewer.
I just checked, and I'm in the top 8,000. However, I have over 300 helpful (out of about 400) votes.

1) They place a "Vine Voice" tag in my profile, and by each review - even if I pay for the product
2) They place a "Customer review from the Amazon Vine Program" by each review I do for Vine (free product)

Mostly I get *review copies* of books. These are pre-press, and the same ones that go to reviewers (hmmm). They are printed on cheap paper, are not hardbound, and clearly marked as "not final copy". I occasionally get a small electronic device, but usually a $10 to $20 item. The most valuable item I received was a popular piece of office productivity software.

I have no moral issue with receiving these items. It's the same as sending review items to book reviewers, bloggers, journalists, etc.
The reviewed items are clearly marked that I didn't pay for them. I have given 5 star and 3 star reviews.

The process is pretty transparent.

Re:I'm one of those people in the study (2)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618150)

The most valuable item I received was a popular piece of office productivity software.

I have no moral issue with receiving these items. It's the same as sending review items to book reviewers, bloggers, journalists, etc.

I don't get it, you have no moral issue receiving items for free and reviewing them in a place where people are just One-Click(tm) from buying it, and yet you felt the need to self-censor the name of the "popular piece of office productivity software" here?

Re:I'm one of those people in the study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36618332)

It's absolutely not the same as sending review copies to bloggers, journalists, etc. Amazon isn't clear about the fact that Vine reviews have been written about free product and not something the reviewer chose to purchase.

In fact, despite spending hundreds of dollars per month on Amazon and reading reviews for every single purchase, in addition to using their selling and trade-in interfaces, I've never even heard of the Vine program, much less the fact that it amounts to semi-pro reviews of free product.

YOU FAIL it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617808)

YES! fP? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617824)

population as wel7 3ig deal. Death their hand...she

my experience with Amazon reviews (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617928)

I've written 11 reviews, all of which have been accepted (most on CDs I liked or mostly liked and why)
a 1-star, which I later revised to a 2-star. (so that's not a "wish i could give zero" case), a 3, 3 4-stars and 6 5-stars
22 out of 25 people found my reviews helpful.

My reviews are fairly detailed and on-topic; less-detailed but still on topic is fine by me.

I've seen well-done bad reviews and well-done good reviews.

sometimes I see stuff 1-starred for irrelevant reasons

Then again, this is for pretty common CD's; anything with a low volume of reviews is a problem.

Suggestion: a 10-star system: allows for more fine-grained reviews, and halving the can't-give-zero skew
(Sometimes I've wondered whether I want to mark that 7/10 as 3/5 or 4/5, for instance.)

you FAIL it?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36617932)

least of whi#ch is MemberS are

A glitch proved this in 2004 (4, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36617956)

Remember when amazon.ca displayed real names instead of logins for a day in 2004 due to a glitch?

The articles about it have a bad habit of disappearing, so I archived them here:

http://ciaran.compsoc.com/amazon-reviews-are-fake.html [compsoc.com]

I often look at Amazon reviews when deciding what books to get for language learning, but 80-90% of comments aren't credible. I still find it useful, but you have to know the limits of what you're looking at.

Lol, if only you knew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36618002)

"Tip of the iceberg" is all you'll get out of me...

you Fa.i7 It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36618030)

of businees and was reasons why anyone

Random Reviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36618090)

http://www.amazon.com/Million-Random-Digits-Normal-Deviates/product-reviews/0833030477

Why is it worse when amateurs do it? (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618096)

I was approached by McGraw-Hill indirectly, via an investment forum, and invited to receive a free copy of a book, "The House that Bogle Built" if I'd review it online. Since I'm a fan of John C. Bogle, champion of index mutual funds and founder of Vanguard, I said sure. I liked the book, and gave it a good review. At the end of my review, I noted "Disclosure: the publisher sent me a complimentary copy."

Was I corrupted by the free book? Almost certainly, yes. Not that I sold my soul for a retail value of $28, but certainly, there was a the warm fuzzy comfortable aura of Vanguard fans together helping each other out.

But professional reviewers get free review copies, too. Why is it worse for amateurs to get them? Do people really think professionals are any less corrupt? I very much resent Dvorak's implication that it is somehow fine for professional reviews to accept free review copies because, he says, everybody knows it. (Do they?)

Should amateur reviewers who receive free books disclose that fact. Yes. Do they? Not usually. Should professional reviewers who receive free books disclose that fact? Yes, they should, explicitly, in every review. Do they? I've never seen it, have you?

Amazon Reader Reviews at least tell you whether or not the reviewer personally purchased a copy of the book from Amazon or not. If you want to screen out corrupted reader reviews, only read the reviews that say "Amazon Verified Purchase."

Want to screen out reviews from professional reviewers who haven't personally plunked down their own money for the book they're reviewing? Don't read any professional reviews at all.

I think Dvorak just doesn't like competition from amateurs.

At least I didn't sell my review copy, as professional reviewers often do.

Re:Why is it worse when amateurs do it? (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618178)

I think Dvorak just doesn't like competition from other amateurs.

FTFY.

So Dvorak writes for the love of writing? (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618328)

Funny, I thought he was in it for the money. Getting paid to do it is the very definition of a professional.

mod do38 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36618184)

provide sodas, visions going Same worthless would be a bad teeth into when Out of business go 7ind something Started work on as the premiere

simple solution: ignore 1-star or 5-star reviews (1)

optimism (2183618) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618214)

When I buy stuff on amazon, I always look at the 2, 3, and 4 star reviews for the best advice.

1-star and 5-star reviews are mostly crap. Sure, some are posted by shills and anti-shills. But plenty of them are posted by real customers who are simply clueless. They post a 5-star review because it's the first product of type X that they've ever bought, or they are deep in the throes of post-purchase rationalization. They post a 1-star review because they bought the wrong thing. Etc.

Just ignore the 1-star and 5-star reviews, and you'll find good info. 3-star reviews have the best information.

Problem solved.

moD Up (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36618236)

and easy - onely [goat.cx]

I am a Vine Reviewer (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 3 years ago | (#36618324)

I am a Vine Reviewer, so of course you'll take this post with a grain of salt.

Just because the product is free, doesn't mean the system is rigged. In fact, I think one could easily argue that reviews from "professional" journalists/reviewers are far more prone to being rigged. After all, if they don't write positive reviews, the manufacturer can simply choose to not give them a product for review.

With Amazon Vine, I'm a "normal person" who doesn't write reviews for a living. The manufacturer does not get to choose who reviews their product. They do get to request demographics (for example age, technical affluency, interests, etc), so that someone who is familiar with PhotoShop might get to review a competing product -- rather than Grandma Gayle who can barely turn on her computer.

The Vine contract specifies that neither Amazon nor the manufacturer will remove the review unless it contains profanity, no matter if it is positive or negative. And, manufacturers cannot request their product be reviewed only by people with positive reviews. They're taking a chance.

I've reviewed about 50 items for Vine, ranging from soft drinks to luggage to a $400 unlocked Nokia smartphone. I'd say most of my reviews got a 3 or 4. (If you're curious, the $400 Smartphone got 2 stars.)

The only bias is that I didn't pay for the product I am reviewing. So, if one paid $400 for a crappy cell phone, one might give it a lower rating than if they got it for free. I don't think that's the case with most reviews, however. I know that when I review an item, I consider it's retail price against its value.

Let's also remember that every Vine review is clearly labeled as such. If one wanted to ignore them, they could.

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