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Amazon: Authors Can't Review Books

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the what-would-they-know-about-writing dept.

Books 248

In an effort to step up its fight against astroturfers, Amazon has barred authors from reviewing books. It's not simply that authors can't review their own books — they can't review any book in a similar genre to something they've published. "This means that thriller writers are prevented from commenting on works by other authors who write similar books. Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels." British author Joanne Harris had a simpler solution in mind: "To be honest I would just rather Amazon delete all their reviews as it... has caused so much trouble. It is a pity. Originally it was a good idea but it is has become such an issue now. The star rating has become how people view if a book is a success and it has become inherently corrupt." How would you improve the online review system?

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Reverse Review of Poster of Review (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42397789)

Provide Data on the Poster rating based on the Star System and give an average and/or a list of all the Posters star reviews to provide a balance. This way you can see if a particular poster is always picking 1 star for anything or not.

Re:Reverse Review of Poster of Review (1)

Jace Harker (814866) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397871)

I'm pretty sure Amazon already does this...

I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (2, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397813)

There is absolutely no value in having random people review things. Criticism isn't a democratic principle.

Reviews are only valid from people that maintain that as their profession. There is a level of experience that comes with reviewing and editing that can't be achieved casually. Even many professional critics don't have this skills.

In each field, there are only a few peoples opinions that matter. The rest can be determined by demographic sampling.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (3, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397875)

You are obtuse.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (4, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397935)

Reviews are only valid from people that maintain that as their profession. There is a level of experience that comes with reviewing and editing that can't be achieved casually. Even many professional critics don't have this skills.

You are obtuse.

What are your qualifications in making that assessment?

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (5, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398107)

"Reviews are only valid from people that maintain that as their profession"

Reviews are only valid if the reviewer is professional? Obtuse. I don't generally value the opinions of people paid to have opinions, because I've found that they are generally (as a group) a prostitute in disguise. Please note: there are exceptions, though I can't think of any off the top of my head.

The best reviews* are done by average public, because they skip all the "nuanced" verbiage of opinion writers and say it like it is.

*50 Shades fans excluded, because they are a brain damaged lot.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1, Insightful)

Elbereth (58257) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398075)

You are obtuse.

Not obtuse. Just an elitist. Elitism isn't always a bad thing, in my opinion, but it does lead you to discount the usefulness of user-submitted content, even when that content is quite useful. The IMDB, Wikipedia, Newegg, and Amazon can be tremendously useful, as long as you keep in mind their limitations and drawbacks. Elitists can't see anything but the limitations and drawbacks, while populists refuse to admit there are any.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398283)

Maybe you don't know what obtuse means?

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398405)

Isnt that like one of those triangles with a large angle?

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (5, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397883)

Reviews are only valid from people that maintain that as their profession. There is a level of experience that comes with reviewing and editing that can't be achieved casually.

I assume you mean "things like books", because if I am buying a mouse, non-professional reviews are highly valid. Perhaps more so than professional ones.

Even for books (movies, etc), I am a tad suspicious of "professional" bullet by bullet reviews. I think there is a higher chance that the professional reviewer has been somehow bribed. Personally, If I were to hire astroturfers, I'd reach out to the professional reviewers first, even if it cost more.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (5, Insightful)

SkyLeach (188871) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397931)

This is idiotic at best, blatantly bigoted at worst. Collective reviews are changing the dynamic of consumer reporting. The only time that reviews wind up being skewed and unreliable is when something hasn't really been sampled and reviewed by many people.

Consider Google Maps reviews on restaurants. As a consumer I have found them highly valuable in avoiding restaurants that are poorly run and provide substandard food. The same is true for products that I should avoid on Amazon and other online retailers.

I do find that the higher the degree of intelligence and education required to understand and appreciate a product (examples: a book or technical item) the more it seems that the reviews are skewed by the individual competence of the reviewer,but that doesn't make the reviews worthless merely potentially misleading.

When I am reading consumer reviews of products, especially, movies, books and games/apps, I take this into consideration and look for telltale signs of ignorance in the review itself.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (2, Insightful)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397975)

You couldn't have picked a worse example than the restaurant industry for online reviews, the only people that write online reviews for those are the pissed off customer type, same deal as most bbb reviews. Good service is tipped for, bad service prompts a user review online typically. So you get all the people who didn't get good service writing reviews, even if it's .01%.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (2)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398195)

I am also quite wary of anecdotal reviews. If the review consists of more than just a short blurb then I can tell if the author is actually a person who's opinion I would value. Also I take into account that somebody might describe a bad day.
A review system still is far better than some single digit rating.
Take for instance one-star rating on Amazon for stuff arriving on the wrong day. In the wrong colour. With the wrong packaging. You get the gist. Sometimes I wished I could simply filter out that type of idiocy.
Also a single digit review system is flatout useless when there are no standards. Two persons experiencing the same thing should rate it equally. They don't. A person exepiencing the same thing at two separate occasions should rate it the same way. That also doesn't always happen. People should rate independently of the already accumulated score based on their own experiences. That also doesn't happen.
What you basically get is a popular vote based on no standards whatsoever. The narrative is much better way to base your decision on. Dunces are not that hard to spot.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398429)

Thats only partly true. Go on yelp, you will see oodles of people providing rave reviews for whatever category you want. You do have to keep in mind the "vocal minority" effect, but its not nearly as big an effect as you say.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398501)

Very true. I usually read the worst reviews first, but then i have to exercise some judgement. Do these people sound credible or more like whiners? Then I compare with the good reviews. Are the bad reviews consistent or does it seem more likely that there was one bad day or one screw up. I have found public reviews to be pretty reliable, as long as they are taken in aggregate.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398553)

I do about the same thing. I will not even consider buying a product online if I cannot find a nice chunk of user reviews somewhere and a nice technical list of features to give me an idea of what I am buying.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (2)

Plunky (929104) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397977)

Consider Google Maps reviews on restaurants. As a consumer I have found them highly valuable in avoiding restaurants that are poorly run and provide substandard food.

If you avoid them, based on bad reviews you found on the internet.. how do you know if the review is correct?

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

mozumder (178398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397989)

This is idiotic at best, blatantly bigoted at worst. Collective reviews are changing the dynamic of consumer reporting.

Any professional reviewer would be able to predict the public's opinion as well, since an experienced reviewer knows the audience well enough to predict their patterns.

This is for any field.

There is absolutely no need for non-professional reviewers.

At worst, amateur opinions lead to unrefined tastes.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (2)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398013)

One example might change your mind: video game reviews. Professional video game reviews are pretty much worthless. Any gamer knows this.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398225)

One example might change your mind: video game reviews. Professional video game reviews are pretty much worthless. Any gamer knows this.

Every gamer also knows that if a user review is glowing, then the reviewer is a fanboy, but if the review is unfavorable, then the reviewer is flat-out wrong and should have his head examined.

All video game reviews suck.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398449)

At worst, amateur opinions lead to unrefined tastes.

Quick! Prevent the layman from writing, lest the populace acquires unrefined tastes!

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42397961)

1. Professional reviewers are often more biased than unprofessional reviewers, due to being bought out. I don't know about the literary field, but it happens a lot in gaming. Every other new episode of unoriginal Call of Duty crap gets upwards of 90%. Even if you think it's a decent game, there's no way it deserves such a high score.
2. You want demographic sampling? An average score from many unqualified reviews is the best sampling you can get for free, funnily enough. So by your own standard, reviews by random people are useful.

There are always people on review sites who post more than everyone else. I've heard of people find a few amateur reviewers like that with whom they mostly agree with, and just look up their reviews whenever a new product comes up. Some of these reviewers make their home on Youtube rather than Amazon. You may not agree with the most popular ones, but I am sure there are some out there who share your views.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (0)

mozumder (178398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398033)

You want demographic sampling? An average score from many unqualified reviews is the best sampling you can get for free, funnily enough. So by your own standard, reviews by random people are useful.

A professional reviewer already knows the audience through interaction and sampling, and will include that in their opinion, and will explain why their tastes are terrible or agreeable.

Amateur opinions are generally completely worthless.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398325)

Amateur opinions are generally completely worthless.

I agree, your opinion is truly worthless, you should quit while you're ahead.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398247)

Professional reviewers are often more biased than unprofessional reviewers, due to being bought out. I don't know about the literary field, but it happens a lot in gaming.

Professional reviews are valuable to whoever is paying for them. If it is a setup like Consumer Reports, where the consumer of the information is paying for it, it is likely to be useful to the consumer. Typically in gaming, the people paying for the reviews are the publishers, and so the reviews are useful to the publishers. Unprofessional reviews are less likely to be useful to anyone. The same is generally true of professional anything.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

FrangoAssado (561740) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398005)

There is absolutely no value in having random people review things.

Any sufficiently articulate reviewer can give me very valuable insight that helps me decide whether I'll likely enjoy a science fiction book from an author I've never read, for example.

You might have a point for reviews that are meant to deeply analyze high literature works. For most books sold on Amazon, what you wrote doesn't apply at all.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398375)

Any sufficiently articulate reviewer can give me very valuable insight that helps me decide whether I'll likely enjoy a science fiction book from an author I've never read, for example.

There's no way I'll buy a book or anything else based on a review, period. If someone recommends a book, I'll check it out from the library. If I like it, only then will the author get any money from me, when I buy another of his books.

Only a fool buys a pig in a poke.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (3, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398147)

I wouldn't say that reviews from random people have no value. But their value is less than that of reviews that have been... reviewed. By someone known to have no reason to scam the system. That's the role that editors used to perform, back when reviewers were professionals who wrote for publications. The New York Times didn't just take open submissions, screen them for profanity and advertising, and print them all; they selected reviewers who demonstrated that they were knowledgeable, fair, and helpful, and only published those reviews. If you wanted to know which books were merely popular... that's what the "bestseller" list was for.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398349)

I'd say rather that the main criteria for becoming a published reviewer was being entertaining. Nobody wants to read a fair and balanced review, everyone wants fun, witty and interesting reviews. Everything else could fall by the wayside as long as the reviewer wasn't blatantly lying.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (2)

tverbeek (457094) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398465)

Well, I didn't say "fair and balanced"; even before Faux News spoiled that phrase, it wasn't what you want in a review: you want them to tear something to shreds if it sucks, or praise it to high heaven if it's great.

But simply "fair" is something I look for in a reviewer: someone who'll give each new Will Ferrell film a chance, just in case he gets cast in another Stranger Than Fiction. Entertaining is another good trait, but I'll do without that on a web site, because I'm probably just there to (maybe) buy something in particular, not because I want a regular go-to critic.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398153)

Professional critics rely on the companies and authors they review to keep supporting the critic.
This is true for all but the few most accomplished critics who have budget to buy all the products themselves and whose readers don't mind reading the review only after the product is released on the market.
Not just for books, but for movies, games, music and other media as well.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398201)

Utter bullshit. Getting paid to do something doesn't make that something more valuable. Reviews are only good if the reviewer shares your tastes.

I used to watch Siskers and Ebert, and when they reccomended a movie, that was a movie I did NOT want to see. How did the reviewers rate The Terminator?

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398353)

So you're saying that you're not necessarily providing value for the amount of money you're getting paid to do your job?

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

aix tom (902140) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398559)

No, he's saying that a system where the the prosecutor is paying the judges salary, but only when the judge is following the prosecutors plead, is a bad system of justice.

Re:I wouldn't trust non-professional reviewers (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398319)

really?

the hobbit was a so so movie with some really crappy parts that Peter Jackson and company put in to make it 3 hours long. the book was so so as well.

critics gave it fair reviews based on the quality of the film. the herd loved it because of all the action

Could be this applies to fiction authors only (1)

badger.foo (447981) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397819)

There's a slight hope that they either did not include tech authors in the ban or just didn't get around to us techies just yet. When I checked just now my review of Michael W. Lucas' SSH Mastery was still available.

Who cares (2)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397823)

It's not like authors have special accounts or that other Amazon users are not allowed to review books.

I think online reviews are only worth anything when you have dozens or, better yet, hundreds. A few reviews are usually worthless.

Re:Who cares (5, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397955)

I like Newegg's system of Pros/Cons/Other Thoughts. For items with just a few reviews, the words are more important than the egg/star system. For items with hundreds of reviews, I usually lump all of the 4 and 5 egg/star reviews together to compare products but I still like to read the Pros/Cons... especially the cons given by the 4/5 star reviewers and the pros given by the 1/2 star reviewers. There have been a number of poorly rated products that I bought anyway because I found the main con people mentioned was something that I didn't care about (IE: a power supply with excessive fan noise has knocked many a decent PSU down to 3 eggs or less. I'm half deaf, so even the loudest fans are barely audible unless there's something actually wrong).

Other decent rating systems I've seen given four or five criteria, such as value, quality, support, etc, and the reviewer rates it on each category. If an item is rated on value, quality and support and it's a great item with crappy support then it only gets a 67%. If you are a a techie and prefer to support yourself, you won't care about that rating and will just look for items with high marks in the other categories.

There's no perfect rating system, especially when you're dealing with a marketplace selling thousands of different things. The star system works for weeding out the crappiest and the reviews usually give you an idea of why people rated an item like they did so you can tell if it is crap or if poor reviews are the result of a quality that doesn't matter to you.

Re:Who cares (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398261)

Nice, well though out post, with good ideas for keeping reviews helpful, but I have to say might be on the wrong line of thought.

It's not any given review system per se that's the problem it's the corruption of the review system by persons with conflicts of interest. Most significantly fake positive reviews by publishers, manufacturers, sellers, etc, and just as bad with less media attention, negative reviews from competitors.

This is terrible enough with books and gadgets, and it get's worse with local map based reviews and star ratings, but have you looked at college professors or medical doctors lately? The state of online reviews is atrocious - and instead of trying to address it or downplay it, these ratings from corrupt places like yelp or blatantly faked reviews like so much of google places now factor into search rankings and SEO.

Very sad state of affairs with no solution in sight.

Re:Who cares (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398507)

pros: expedient replacement service

cons: broke when i opened the package with a sledgehammer

other thoughts: the packing peanuts taste great.

Karma Whoring. (5, Informative)

tempest69 (572798) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397835)

You have a system that reviews the reviewers, allowing for weighted values of reviews. Not that slashdot users would have heard of mod points or metamoderating.

Re:Karma Whoring. (4, Funny)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398205)

Slashdot is the perfect example of how metamoderation and up/down moderation doesn't work. Perfectly good threads never make it to the top, many posts are modded for difference of opinion instead of quality, vendettas are fairly common, posts are arbitrarily punished for anonymity, the moderation selection is so anemic you really can't credit the post for what you would like to, metamoderation suffers most of this, except, well, at a meta level.

Slashdot is what it is because the posters are of much higher quality, overall, then are easily found elsewhere on the net. It certainly isn't because of the moderation system. I have all that crap turned off, and my Slashdot reading enjoyment is considerably higher because of that.

Everyone should be able to moderate all the time, and moderation shouldn't be single dimensional. Agree/disagree should be available just as much as good/bad should be, funny/unfunny, etc. I'm interested in the opinions of my fellow readers, but I'm not particularly convinced that they represent some kind of distilled wisdom. And having read many book reviews on Amazon, I *know* that place doesn't represent anyone's distilled wisdom, lol.

I do review stuff on Amazon. I feel like it's a way I can contribute a bit. I also think the reviews can be useful. But you have to read them with a bit of a jaundiced eye. Sometimes it's clear that the reviewer is really trying to convey their experience; sometimes it's clear (as on slashdot) that they're just pushing an agenda and just about every word they put down is utterly worthless.

Like most things, caveat emptor.

Re:Karma Whoring. (4, Insightful)

dargaud (518470) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398299)

You are mistaken as to the purpose on those limits on when you can moderate. It turns the ability to moderate into a prized capability, to be used with care. Otherwise you'd have people (and bots) moderating every single message in a thread. Here I guess the goal is to have an average of ONE moderation per post. Some highly noticeable posts will get more but anything above 5 is normally useless (unless they are contradictory). Makes sense to me and indeed the result is a lot cleaner than all the forums who allow unlimited moderation.

Now if only /. would fix their metamoderation which's been broken for the last few years...

Re:Karma Whoring. (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398417)

Regardless of intent, the thing is: it doesn't work. Absolutely useless. If your goal is to read good threads (as mine is), using a system that hides good threads, no matter by design, intent, or outright incompetence, is a bad idea. So I don't; and my experience here is much improved.

See, the thing is, justification has to follow function to be worthy of consideration. When it follows dysfunction, it's just noise.

Re:Karma Whoring. (1)

dargaud (518470) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398251)

Yup, the button [Was the above review useful to you] on amazon/imdb provides this in a nutshell. And there are several times where I clicked [No] on long reviewed movies only to come back a day later and see that the top review has changed. So it _is_ useful.

Re:Karma Whoring. (2)

ThePhilips (752041) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398297)

Does not help. And Amazon already has some sort of system in place with the "Was the review helpful? Yes/No" stats. You can also add a comment to a review.

Facts:

1. Authors (esp. writing in the same genres, living in the same area) are very often know each other and often are buddies. That might adds positive bias to their reviews. Occasionally they are also competitors - making the bias negative. (The buddying I have seen with my own eyes, where authors were recommending books of their buddy-authors without even reading them first.)

2. Authors have fans. Fans would react disproportionally to a review written by their author. They would also react disproportionally on the negative comments to the review. (I have already seen comment section of a book review with ~120 comments.)

What that means in the end, that book reviews could easily become battleground for the fans and stop being helpful to the consumers.

Decision is probably way too far reaching - but I think Amazon simply does not want to deal with the mess. Especially since they allow ebook self-publishing via "Kindle Direct Publishing," I guess they want to make sure that it runs smoothly on its own.

Re:Karma Whoring. (1)

Rhywden (1940872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398565)

This here is probably a very good example for what you're talking about:

http://www.amazon.com/Annihilation-Love-Conquers-Series-ebook/product-reviews/B004Q3RT74/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending#R6BB3TX29C5N5 [amazon.com]

And, for the love of god, don't buy this book.

Limit reviews to purchasers of the product (5, Interesting)

Jace Harker (814866) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397861)

One blindingly obvious way to cut down on fake and artificial reviews: only allow reviews from people who have actually purchased the product.

Amazon already highlights reviews by people who have purchased the product, so the functionality already exists. Why not take the next step and only allow those people to write reviews in the first place?

Alternately, Amazon could allow anyone to write a review, but would only calculate the star rating based on purchasers' reviews.

Re:Limit reviews to purchasers of the product (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398151)

My beef with that idea is that Amazon has become the default place to read reviews of products - few if any other places have critical mass. So, yes, I have read reviews on Amazon for purchases I ended up making elsewhere, and (more to the point) left reviews for things I purchased elsewhere. If I left my gripe (I mean, review) elsewhere, nobody would have read it, whereas I really hoped the company would feel some pressure to fix the problems and release a software update if they saw they were losing stars on Amazon.

For popular products there are enough reviewers that it doesn't matter, but it's for less popular products where it can be harder to find reviews that having them collected at a single site is really useful.

Re:Limit reviews to purchasers of the product (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398213)

Exactly. Go to Amazon to see the reviews, but then buy it whereever it is cheapest. Then leave the review at Amazon, since no one will see your review anywhere else.

Re:Limit reviews to purchasers of the product (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398171)

but would only calculate the star rating based on purchasers' reviews.

Why not "similar purchasers" reviews? If you've spent as much money on sci fi as I have, I'd probably value your opinion about some random book. On the other hand, if you have not spent much money in that particular genre, indicating a likely lack of knowledge in the field, I'm probably not very interested. Its just one small step beyond the existing personal recommendations system. If I post a review about surface mount soldering stations, you'd best sit up straight and pay close attention, but if I post about lord of the rings you may as well not read it, or at least start laughing now (so, why didn't the eagles just drop the ring in the volcano? (don't answer just trolling)).

Re:Limit reviews to purchasers of the product (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398207)

I like the idea of only allowing purchasers to review the product. It would cut down dramatically on spam reviews that shills are paid to write.

Re:Limit reviews to purchasers of the product (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398395)

Now that I have -alas!- finished this rather lengthy book I can take it upon myself to give you a complete account of my experiences rooted in fact.
The battle scenes contain factual errors, the order of events has been changed for no discernable purposes, characters were omitted, characters were added and character characteristics were changed.
It remains a mystery why the author deviated from the excellently documented historical facts. Each and every bit of the entire occurrence had been documented on publicly available film. Clearly the author hadn't done his proper research.
Even worse, the character of Tom Bombadil has no basis in the historic film documents. Did the author want to include his own personal J Jar Binks in what is a well know narrative? And for what reason? If you are truly interested in that part of our shared history you should wath the excellent documentary edited by Peter Jackson.

One Star.
23rd of Duncember, RE Salvatore.

Total score 3.0 Stars.

Re:Limit reviews to purchasers of the product (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398447)

"One blindingly obvious way to cut down on fake and artificial reviews: only allow reviews from people who have actually purchased the product."

Big companies can easily game this, big ad company buys X many products dumps a load of positive reviews. There is no system you can't game when you have a lot of money. The best I think is going to websites with authors you trust that have forums where you can hash out errors/details/etc.

This is what I love about sights like Anandtech.com. While anandtech is not perfect it's more often then not the place to go to understand the flaws with any new technology. This was especially apparent when SSD's were just being released. Anand had a huge breakdown on how they work and what to look for and what to avoid. Which for many of us caused us to delay our adoption of SSD's until capacity/price/maturity becomes good enough for us to plunk down the money.

What's next? (5, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397867)

Slashdot commenters not being able to moderate other's comments in stories they commented in?

Oh wait....

Re:What's next? (3, Informative)

obarel (670863) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398129)

It's not the same. When someone reviews a book, you can assume that they've actually read a few pages (or at least the summary at the back). That would be a very dangerous assumption on Slashdot.

Usually the sequence is:
1. Quick keyword search on the title
2. Find a comment near the top that is somewhat related to the anger you feel about the keywords you found in the title
3. Post your rant as a response to the comment
4. Check if there are any links to interesting videos in the summary
5. Defend your opinion, starting with "I haven't actually RTFA, but..."
6. Feel smug

On Amazon it's slightly different (but maybe not by much).

Re:What's next? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398327)

You can still post as A.C. in a story you've moderated. (o;

In fact, you can moderate users who respond to your A.C. posts. I use this tactic to goad others on a regular basis.

Teach the meaning of Stars! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42397877)

Obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com]

independently peer-reviews as in science (1)

swschrad (312009) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397887)

for all that good that has done us in fields such as "cold fusion" and zillions of miracle medical cures that all "need more study" because the group is small, and the signal is only found with electron microscopes on further review with stacks of cash being scurried about.

Re:independently peer-reviews as in science (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398475)

I think you will find that you confuse the scientific method with popular vote.

Peer reviews look for faulty reasoning, wrong premises and falsified results. Peer reviews based solely on opinion get the benefit of not being published by scientific press and are relegated to the popular press.
What we are talking about here has even lower standards and makes the Daily Fail shine like a beacon of enlightenment.

They should go back to the old Digg system (1)

BMOC (2478408) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397891)

That worked so well.

Hey, hey, it's the monkeys! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42397899)

First of all this is a dupe. Editors? Does Slashdot employ any?

Second of all, I would like to draw your attention to my gigantic penis.

Folks, itâ(TM)s huge.

Star ratings are problematic (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397905)

http://xkcd.com/937/ [xkcd.com]

This has often reflected my experience an any online store (and for anything, not just books). People don't seem to employ much perspective when assigning an overall rank. I recently saw a one star rank given to an app where the review stated the app did exactly what it was supposed to do... but he wasn't happy a particular feature wasn't present.

Mark author accounts? (2)

mu51c10rd (187182) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397907)

Perhaps they should mark the author and publisher accounts differently than the average population (similar to /. subscribers)? The viewer of the reviews could then see the bias (if there is one). Seems simple enough, as I do like having the Amazon review system in place.

Obligatory XKCD Reference(s) (3, Interesting)

CyberKnet (184349) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397939)

I'm reminded somewhat of two pertinent XKCD comics:

TornadoGuard/937 [xkcd.com]

Star Ratings/1098 [xkcd.com]

Interesting how they're kind of at odds with each other, but both true.

Re:Obligatory XKCD Reference(s) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398021)

I know all you neck beards think XKCD is somehow funny, but that's only because in 20 years, you've never been out of mom's basement. And what's with wearing her panties when you web-cam? Disgusting.

Re:Obligatory XKCD Reference(s) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398087)

Never look for logic or meaning in a troll post... Yikes.

can only review it if you've bought it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42397953)

Very simple way to improve Amazon, or any retail site, reviews is to only allow people to post reviews on things they have pursued from the site. Apart from the obvious elimination of bogus reviews it also prevents idiocy such as people posting reviews like 'will this work with my Xbox?'

review web (1)

kwerle (39371) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397973)

Ratings of books should reflect what other readers *with similar taste to mine* feel is appropriate.

Like netflix movie reviews.

How hard is that? I mean - yeah, it's hard. But how hard is it to know that is the solution?

Ban people who give 1 star for wrong reasons (3, Insightful)

cod3r_ (2031620) | about a year and a half ago | (#42397983)

Like ban them from Amazon reviews forever. So the next time someone posts a 1 star review because the editor didn't catch a comma or the kindle version is not formatted perfectly for the very first kindle device ever made.. I think it would clean it up some.

Re:Ban people who give 1 star for wrong reasons (4, Insightful)

obarel (670863) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398167)

Usually 1 stars are "Didn't receive the item. Contacted seller but got no response (it's been more than 24 hours since I ordered the product). Very disappointed."

Re:Ban people who give 1 star for wrong reasons (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398289)

This is not the proper solution to the problem you state. There should be separate content reviews and material/presentation reviews. Authors and publishers need to know that consumers do not like poorly formatted books. I rarely see complaints about "a comma;" I see complaints on the myriad format issues that come from taking the print pdf file and dropping it into Calibre or something similar with complete disregard for the final product. Random dashes, probably where line breaks occurred in the print version, excessive spacing, lack of table of contents, etc., can disrupt the user experience, and I would not like a complete banning of feedback for this.

I recently went through the trouble of creating an ebook and I have sympathy for those involved in the process, but the problems I encounter in most ebooks are related to laziness, not excessive device formats. In fact, although far from perfect, my ebook was better formatted than many ebooks I've purchased and I tested it on every version of Kindle, including the first one, and it worked just fine (worked well in Android, too).

Label them (1)

venicebeach (702856) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398015)

Label the reviews which are written by authors in similar genres, and let the readers incorporate that information into their perception of the review.

force actual reading (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398025)

No system is unhackable, but just make it more frustrating. Either provide a random quiz or make it so you have to turn every page on the Kindle. This approach definitely has cons and can be hacked, so maybe also have 4 different ratings at the top. One from all users; one from authors; one from certified Amazon reviewers; and one from users that have passed the Book Reading Turing test.

What we need is A.I. that can review it. We also need A.I. that can parse the text into an Artificial Neural Network so that "similar" books can be found. If you like book X, you'll more than likely like book Y. The whole point of the reviews is to see if you'll like the book, right? Then use a Genetic Algorithm based on the star reviews to learn if they actually do match or not and add/deduct bonus points appropriately. I'll get right on this. See you in 50 years!

Re:force actual reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398343)

Why bother with all that when you can just write a system that takes your genome, life history, and browsing habits, and an ISBN as input, then simulates you reading the book and, in the end, tells you if you enjoyed it or now? I can do that right now, and it won't even take 50 years. More like half an hour, and most of that will be the UI.

Editors/Publishers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398049)

I would imagine authors being much less partial as reviewers of other authors than book editors and publishers. Where's the system that moderates their comments?

Case in point: (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398057)

George Orwell was a literary critic by trade.

Oh, well. (2)

berchca (414155) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398109)

As an (newbie-ish) author, I resisted the urge to review my own book, but I had spent a bunch of time reviewing other books thinking that it would be a nice way to find people of like mind and thereby interest them in my own writing. All my work deleted, so it seems.

I have to stop making the mistake of using websites owned by big businesses.

Re: stop making the mistake of... owned by big biz (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398451)

re: I have to stop making the mistake of using websites owned by big businesses.
.
Yep. I agree wholeheartedly [and wholespleenedly, though my kidneys are of two minds, right kidney says "meh", left kidney agrees with you ;>) ]
.
You, your writings, and your reviews are all just tools to be used by Amazon to make more money. You attempted to use the system for good and Amazon said "no, we're changing the rules". Other examples, see Facebook for their almost weekly change in privacy settings, Google for this monthly droppage of sites still in beta that they've decided not to keep in beta and not to update anymore, Microsoft for their latest version of Zune/WindowsPhone/crappy-music-system/PlaysForEva/PlaysForSure(forsureitdoes), and apple as they keep changing their app-store policies.

Stross's blog said it all (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398111)

Stross's blog said it all a couple days ago. For those living under a rock, he's a pretty good modern sci-fi / horror type author. Disclaimer, probably biased toward him for having similar religious beliefs.

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2012/12/understanding-reviewers.html [antipope.org]

TLDR poorly done summary interpretation:

Dumb people don't like feeling dumb, so most 1 star reviews are illiterate trailer trash... and the writing quality clearly reflects it. Ignore.

Hard core fans will rate everything you do as 5 stars. Meaningless. Ignore. So he doesn't like my reviews. Whatever.

A U shaped curve indicates nothing about quality and everything about high impact, also the opposite n shaped curve indicates apathy and low impact.

So.... applied to the article, first, analyze the shape of the "star" curve. Next, toss out any reviews that appear to be written in crayon by illiterates. Toss out any review where everything the author has ever written gets 5 stars. Analyze the remaining reviews by content... "apathy words" in the 3-star column of the histogram are bad news, etc.

Re:Stross's blog said it all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398401)

This. Don't have any MOD points. All the information is there for you to figure out yourself. You look at a sampling of each star group. It is pretty easy to tell what issues people have had, and what people really like about the product. It is also fairly trivial to find the fan boys and trolls. Figure out if you can live with the possibility of having those issues (a lot I have seen were common manufacturing issues, find out if support was good at that point). Are people just too lazy to read and extrapolate data themselves?

TL;DR: Read the reviews and figure it out yourself.

How to fix reviews: (4, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398121)

Simple: Reputation of the reviewer.

First, don't let anyone review until they've had an Amazon account for at least six months and made at least three purchases (on different days) in that time.
Second, post the reviewer's name (their real name, not a handle). Don't like that? Don't review anything.
Third, don't allow people to review products they haven't bought through Amazon.
Fourth, if someone has more than ten percent of their reviews deleted as spam or abusive, block that account from any more reviews.
Fourth-and-a-half, if a product has a large percent of its reviews deleted, "lock" it to only allow reviews by much more reputable users.

I would relax those a little for simply giving a star rating rather than writing a review, but not by much. I would also use a weighted rating system, based on the user's average rating. Not only would this get around the "No-star Nancy"s, it would work to avoid the useless inverse-exponential ratings we see on 99% of products, thus moving the "real" average rating to a three - So a five-star product would really mean a five-star product.

Re:How to fix reviews: (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398381)

Third, don't allow people to review products they haven't bought through Amazon.

This by itself should fix most of the problems with reviews.

Re:How to fix reviews: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398423)

In a way, your reply to this article is a 'review' of it.
1. when was the last time you purchased content?
2. what is your real name, not your handle
3. since you didn't pay for this article, you are not allowed to review it
4. & 4.5.: ok, I've got nothing there...

Scholarly books? (1)

pruss (246395) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398137)

I wonder if they're going to enforce this no-financial-interest-in-competing-product rule with regard to academic books. In disciplines where book writing is expected of scholars (most of the humanities, but much less so in the sciences), most of the best qualified reviewers will themselves be scholars who have a book on a related topic or be working towards having a book on a related topic.

erroneus (253617) FatASS needs PIZZA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398159)

"Oh... to eat pizza again..." by erroneus (253617) on Saturday December 22, @05:20PM (#42371769) from http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3335159&cid=42371769 [slashdot.org] since that disgusting fatbody pig's an obese swine with no dick!

Not sure about books (4, Interesting)

jimmyswimmy (749153) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398161)

But reviews online are certainly corrupt. I don't use the star ratings for anything, unless an item only has a few reviews and all bad, and rely almost entirely on the BAD reviews for everything I purchase. If the bad reviews follow a common theme, it's a believable problem, and if I care about that problem vs. the price of the item, then I look for another item. Honestly I put less faith in the good reviews than the bad ones, especially when they're all glurge - no book, no product is perfect.

Re:Not sure about books (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398277)

Honestly I put less faith in the good reviews

They're not all that bad. I've had excellent results with linux compatible hardware. If someone posts "works fine under debian squeeze linux just apt-get install firmware-nonfree first" it inevitably works. Or at least I've not been burned yet.

Another example, those strange TV tuner USB dongles that people use with SDR software using the rtl-whatever-it-is driver and software... if there's 100 reviews explaining exactly how they configured it and the tuning range of the device, invariably they're correct and it did just work.

Bad tech reviews are invariably short and honest (doesn't work under linux) or long strangely public displays of general inability like a discussion of how they couldn't figure out how to burn a Ubuntu .iso file therefore this network card is useless (wtf?)

TLDR : for simple facts, my experience is good reviews are almost always correct.

Opinions Are Like Assholes... (1)

ajcoon (964283) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398163)

...everyone has one, and everyone thinks that everyone else's stinks.

Just an idea.. (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398173)

How about just allowing reviews of people you know or trust to be seen? Not that everyone and the kitchen sink cant review something.. but lets say you have a few friends and maybe you see a few people online who review things that you agree with a lot.. why not limit the reviews you see or maybe just have an option to see only those.. maybe even allow for a few levels of those people's friends.. instead of this everyone and their corporate brother laundry list of crap reviews which has basically rendered reviews imho to crap.


Just a thought..

Stars are nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398243)

I pay little attention to the star ratings. I look at the highest reviews, the lowest of reviews, the middle reviews and make my judgment from the comments about the actual product and how it performed compared to people's expectations. It's easy to mess with the ratings, but I look at the *reasons*. Anyone who bases their decision solely on a single number -- good or bad -- isn't a particularly discriminating purchaser anyway.

Oh, I agree entirely (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398245)

Why would anyone care what a random stranger thinks of a book?

There are probably six people in the world whose opinion I respect when it comes to a book that I'd purchase. And there may be 100 people who could earn that respect from me. None of those would write a review on amazon.

I think that somewhere along the line, people got "transitioned" from expert reviews to public commentary as though they are the same thing. They aren't. I coludn't care less what you think of a book. It doesn't guide my purchasing behaviour, and it certainly isn't a prediction of my preference of the same book. Why would it be?

The problem isn't the review system (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398265)

The problem is they want a cheap and/or free review system they don't have to pay for.

They might be able to have a volunteer group of book reviewers but someone will have to manage those reviewers and inevitably, it will cost Amazon even to maintain a crew of volunteers.

The short is they need to hire people to do the reviews. That's right. Employees! What a novel idea right? Okay, I know I didn't think of it first. But the reality is in everyone's face. Sourcing opinions from online sources results in a lot of what we see .... here, there, everywhere. If they want good reviews and opinions, they will have to pay for them. But who would volunteer for that? Not me... well maybe I would if the pay was good. But there are a lot of people who would do this as a part-time job to be sure.

erroneus (253617) FatASS needs PIZZA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398323)

"Oh... to eat pizza again..." by erroneus (253617) on Saturday December 22, @05:20PM (#42371769) from http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3335159&cid=42371769 [slashdot.org] since you're a disgusting fatbody obese swine with no dick!

Critics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398321)

Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels.

That's pretty daft criticism, the point isn't that *all* authors won't be impartial, just that some are likely not to be.

It's very simple (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398363)

I want to see the review rating in a relative way. I want to see what people who reviewed similar items as me have reviewed what I'm looking at. And in the absent of data, I want amazon to make some approximations or just give up. I don't want amazon and sites like it to show people product ratings until they reviewed some things themselves either.

A the review of sci-fi space opera junkie is going to be significantly more influential in my buy decision for some trashy space opera than some negative reviews by some hard SF readers or fantasy reader that "just started reading scifi".

The whole reviewers must be professional angle has some merit. But I think it has more to do with our ability to judge the appropriateness of individual reviews and scale them relative to our own tastes. When it is a wild west of anonymous reviewers with no smarts in the review information, it makes it difficult to interpret the ratings.

Besides, people wrongly interpret those ratings as absolute quantities. So I would argue that the ratings on amazon aren't generally worthwhile, or at least pretend to have too high of precision. (scale of 1-5 stars should maybe just be 0-1 dislike/like)

Limit Reviews to People who Purchased the Book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42398487)

Amazon should limit online book reviews to people for whom Amazon has a record of that specific book being purchased ...

Seen it in action, and it's cost us some goo books (1)

DCFusor (1763438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398547)

There was this guy who wrote some books about PIC uP's. Everyone else who wrote a book so much as mentioning a PIC he panned, deliberately and untruthfully. And his own books tend to sort of suck, eschewing quite a bit of what you can do with PIC's, and only using free tools. Yeah, I'm into free software, but as a pro embedded developer, is a couple hundred at most for a real compilers, which also contains working drivers for everything from TCP/IP to USB really a bad deal?

.
As such, I discussed writing a PIC book with my editor...we decided it just wasn't worth it with this prick around panning everything that "competed" with him, when it was actually better than his best work. I don't know how we fix that - the slashdot system, or at least making those jerks buy one - but we need to fix it.

.
PICs could have become as popular as the Arduino - at a fraction of the total cost. But they never did, and you can lay it at the door of one dishonest prick.

.
Maybe it doesn't matter. The book I DID write sold lots - but I never got a dime after the advance, the various publishers who have owned it have sometimes even claimed *negative* sales, which I have trouble believing, since I got all those emails from my email in the code (they sanitized the book thinking they could keep sales secret from me, but were too lazy to read the code and check for my email there...).

As someone whose book got a one-star review... (1)

thepainguy (1436453) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398567)

...as a result of someone taking out a personal vendetta against me, I can say that the system obviously has flaws.

The Amazon Verified Purchase system is a decent idea and perhaps something that should be taken farther. Maybe not lock the system down to just AVPs, but perhaps change the weighting system.

I agree with this change (2)

HangingChad (677530) | about a year and a half ago | (#42398573)

Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels

I had problems with other authors of similar books writing bad reviews of my book on Amazon. It was pretty obvious who was doing it because every time I'd get a good review, a bad one would pop up a couple days later from someone who obviously hadn't read the book.

I'm not vain enough to think everyone who reads my book should like it but the neg reviews were sometimes disagreements about topics not even covered in the book.

It was very frustrating and I complained to Amazon. They didn't respond directly but a short time later the behavior stopped.

I pay attention to what readers like and don't like and make refinements based on their feedback, so I appreciate thoughtful feedback even if it's not positive.

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