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Are Amazon Vine Reviews of Technical Books a Joke?

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the you-should-try-the-craiglist-personals dept.

Books 126

First time accepted submitter jasax writes "As an Amazon frequent buyer, I rely quite a lot on reviews of the books I want. However, some caution is in order: the (bad) quality of Amazon's reviews and reviewers under the Amazon Vine program has already been news in Slashdot. Today I was shocked by a practical result of that program. This second edition (published in 2012) of a very specialized system identification book has 12 reviews: the oldest (dated 2007) certainly targets the first edition. The remaining 11 reviews are all from 'Vine Reviewers' (VRs). All seem to be ignorant of what 'System Identification in the Frequency Domain' really is. None of the reviews is tagged with a 'Verified Amazon Purchase'; most (if not all) are 'small talk reviews' peppered with technical phrases cloning the publisher's book description, and some of the reviews are ridiculous, to say the least. If this sample of reviewing by VRs really is the norm, then the bottom line is that the Vine program is totally irrelevant and unreliable — at least for technical books."

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126 comments

They're just useless (4, Funny)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 9 months ago | (#44267997)

how the heck are you going to fit a review of a technical manual in a 6 second video? That's ridiculous.

Oh, _Amazon_ Vine.... Well, carry on then...

Re:They're just useless (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268015)

Why have I nicknamed my nutsack "dippysack," you ask? Because I dippy-dippy-dippy-dippy-do it into your wide open anus!

Re:They're just useless (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268891)

Why have I nicknamed my nutsack "dippysack," you ask? Because I dippy-dippy-dippy-dippy-do it into your wide open anus!

Da fuck?

Re:They're just useless (4, Interesting)

red crab (1044734) | about 9 months ago | (#44268181)

I'd say ditto for food reviews, movie reviews etc generally published on magazines and newspapers. They are written by youngsters with just a good command over language who don't actually understand the subject. Or worse the reviewers get sometimes paid to write favorable reviews. In Amazon Vine's case, reviews are sponsored by the seller of the product, you can hardly expect them to be honest in any way.

Re:They're just useless (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 9 months ago | (#44268517)

how the heck are you going to fit a review of a technical manual in a 6 second video?

You either put on an extremely happy face and oink with delight, or you put on a really scared face and squeal in horror. The viewers will sort it out.

Re:They're just useless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268671)

Am I the only damn person who realizes these reviews, and almost all top reviews on Amazon & co, are FAKE FAKETY FUCKIN' FAKE?

I've worked with companies, who spend 15 times the amount of R&D budget on marketing alone. And companies who spent more of that on viral marketing (posing like "just another user" who is "not affiliated" and just happens to love to casually mention certain products, services and brands) than on all other forms of marketing combined. Because it's so effective.

Oh, and: Reddit is a very popular viral advertising platform. Most such sites are, including meme / funny sites.
I'd say in some subreddits, almost all posts are fake. In many it's about half.

Or did you think those Avengers, Nutella and Nokia memes were all grassroots natural?

Yeah. Fuck.

Re:They're just useless (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 9 months ago | (#44268763)

Oh, and: Reddit is a very popular viral advertising platform. Most such sites are, including meme / funny sites.
I'd say in some subreddits, almost all posts are fake. In many it's about half.

Start with this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_word [wikipedia.org]

For additional course credit move to this:
http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Conservapedia:Schlafly_Statistics [rationalwiki.org]

Now re-read your post, and discuss.

Re:They're just useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268845)

Wow, you are completely useless aren't you? Your whole post was weasel worded.

Re:They're just useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268941)

Your error in logic is that you think I'm not well aware of this.
Which is excusable, assuming you usually have to deal with morons who are actually using this without being aware of it.
(I might make the same error, for the same reason, btw.)

Yes, it's an emotional assessment, based on gut feeling, based on much vague and a little hard experiences.
But after all, that is the mother of all rational logic. The pattern detection buildup phase.

So take it or leave it. You are right in that it is too vague for a "hard fact" (the worst weasel word btw). I assumed the reader would assume that was implicitly understood. But you are also wrong in completely dismissing it, in a thoughtless black-and-white knee-jerk reaction to the detection of one of your own (questionable?) patterns. It is in fact exactly somewhere in between. Like pretty much all our, mine and your life experiences on which our whole behavior and thinking is based.
I make no further claims than that. That's it. :)

Re:They're just useless (2)

inflex (123318) | about 9 months ago | (#44268911)

Marketing... that's the crux. My wife is a writer, we've got about 10 books out there ( different pen names ), and honestly, unless you're either really lucky, or you pump the market constantly with a lot of effort you invariably won't float to the top, regardless of the contents of your books ( or products ). Even when you have a good run and make it in to the top-100 rankings on Amazon for a week or two, once you fall out of that it's a fast and long fall back down to irrelevance. We see a lot of other writers pouring money in to other pockets for reviews, promotions, blogs and social-name-dropping, it doesn't always pay off, but if you don't do it you really don't stand much of a realistic chance.

Re:They're just useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268953)

Well, the other chance is real natural growth from real word-of-mouth instead of the fake one we call "viral marketing". The latter is just making the fire burn hotter and faster. But naturally, it may take a loong time, meeting a lot of other new stuff in that time. So... bl(a|e)h...

Re:They're just useless (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 9 months ago | (#44268957)

My wife is a writer, we've got about 10 books out there ( different pen names )

Interesting. I hope you're not her ( editor ).

Re:They're just useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269137)

Why different pen names? Surely if she is any good she'd just use one pen name so she could build her reputation and bring in sales from people who have read one of her works and would be interested in reading more.

Why yes, Cardinal, I did glance at you (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 9 months ago | (#44269467)

When one is called "100 Best Christian Cake Recipes" and another is "Butt-plugs and trap-ons: the definitive guide" you mostly want to keep your markets separate.

Note that I said mostly.

Re:Why yes, Cardinal, I did glance at you (1)

j-beda (85386) | about 9 months ago | (#44269705)

When one is called "100 Best Christian Cake Recipes" and another is "Butt-plugs and trap-ons: the definitive guide" you mostly want to keep your markets separate.

Note that I said mostly.

A very good point!

For other authors, keeping them all under one name makes it easier for readers to find your other stuff. If they buy one book, they are more likely to purchase other things in your "catalog".

Re:They're just useless (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 9 months ago | (#44269883)

My wife is a writer, we've got about 10 books out there ( different pen names )

Y'know, the single best way to punch through is to *build a brand*. Once I know I like a writer, I'll likely look for her stuff again. You, on the other hand, are making sure that those who like book A by her will never see book B.

Binding, hardcover, etc. (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about 9 months ago | (#44268031)

I guess it is indeed a warning sign when a reviewer spends more time talking about the physical attributes of a book than the contents of the book itself.

Re:Binding, hardcover, etc. (5, Interesting)

MatheoDJ (1088103) | about 9 months ago | (#44268241)

Perhaps there are Vine reviewers farming out their writing and receiving free products in exchange. I've been experimenting with Amazon's Mechanical Turk, and a fair number of the assignments seem to be fake reviews of some sort, with improved SEO as the endgame. I've been offered HIT's (Amazon's shorthand for the small tasks often worth as little as $0.01) that require a person to write small articles or reviews, 150-500 words, using incredibly specific technical jargon or product lingo. Sometimes it's Ph.D. level stuff. I can't imagine anyone having the technical prowess and educational background necessary to write intelligently about such subjects being interested in making $0.75 to do so, but maybe that's enough money to inspire someone in Bangladesh to write meaningless positive reviews peppered with jargon, and small enough change to inspire someone in America to outsource a large number of reviews in order to increase their Vine ratings.

Re:Binding, hardcover, etc. (2)

emt377 (610337) | about 9 months ago | (#44268827)

I can't imagine anyone having the technical prowess and educational background necessary to write intelligently about such subjects being interested in making $0.75 to do so, but maybe that's enough money to inspire someone in Bangladesh to write meaningless positive reviews peppered with jargon, and small enough change to inspire someone in America to outsource a large number of reviews in order to increase their Vine ratings.

Perhaps someone out there has a review generator, and they've found a means to automate the site interaction. That could well be worthwhile, or an interesting experiment at least.

Re:Binding, hardcover, etc. (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 9 months ago | (#44268447)

I guess it is indeed a warning sign when a reviewer spends more time talking about the physical attributes of a book than the contents of the book itself.

I don't know, someone once told me that a book said "never judge a book by its contents", and it had a really nice cover.

Re:Binding, hardcover, etc. (5, Funny)

StikyPad (445176) | about 9 months ago | (#44268481)

I liked how your post was concisely packed into a single sentence. It took up just the right amount of room on my screen, and I could scroll it up or down using my mouse wheel.

Re:Binding, hardcover, etc. (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 9 months ago | (#44268543)

This kind of crap is why I don't trust Vine reviews. Instead I try to find an ordinary Joe, they are usually easy enough to spot, not the fanciest writers, not all flowery in their prose, but you get an honest review from somebody that bought the thing because they wanted/needed it and are just giving their opinion.

Likewise when i buy stuff there I try to give as straight forward a review as possible and point out any limitations because i have often found that a thing might work really fantastic in one particular role but be just terrible in another. For an example of what I mean one Amazon seller had a load of OEM PCIe graphics cards for dirt cheap. After picking up a couple and slapping them in some boxes in the shop i wrote a nice glowing review that pointed out these cards were GREAT if you had an older system you want to upgrade from XP to Win 7 and needed a graphics card, or if you were building an HTPC that was strictly gonna be a media box? Wonderful for that role, but anybody that thought these cards would be good for gaming anything newer than Portal 1 was gonna be disappointed because these cards just weren't made for that.

So are Amazon Vines reviews bullshit? I personally think so, for me they are useless because too often they come off like a paid ad or as in TFA written by somebody that doesn't truly understand the product, give me just a normal guy that bought the thing to do a job and is just giving his thoughts on it any day of the week. may not be the most flowery of prose but it gives me a much better idea of the pros and cons than the Vines reviews.

Re:Binding, hardcover, etc. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 9 months ago | (#44268981)

This kind of crap is why I don't trust Vine reviews. Instead I try to find an ordinary Joe

I'm shaking my head in wonder here. I was probably a teenager when I stopped taking any review of anything seriously, especially reviews of movies, music, and fiction books. Of course, that was a long, long time ago. There was no internet back then, you had to either physically visit a store or buy via mail order. In a physical store you could sample the wares; page through books or listen to records before buying.

There's no way I'd buy a book or record from an author or band I wasn't familiar with. Sadly, physical book and music stores are almost dead. Luckily, we have the Pirate Bay. If it's good I'll buy it, if it sucks I'll delete it.

I got burned by reviews at a young age.

Re:Binding, hardcover, etc. (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 9 months ago | (#44269995)

A paperback costs what, 8 bucks? Seriously, you're that fucking cheap that you won't take a stab at a book? It's not like you need to buy a $30 hardcover, or a $60 video game here. There's also used bookstores where you can buy them for less than half that.

Re:Binding, hardcover, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269011)

So how come you always review Microsoft products positively?

Slashdot book reviews still suck more (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268051)

Rehashing the table of contents is not a review, no matter how many times they do it.

The bigger issue, reviews of niche products... (4, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 9 months ago | (#44268059)

I think the bigger issue here is the usefulness of niche products, no matter if they are Amazon Vine or whatever. The size of target audience for this book is MAYBE in the 10s of thousands, and there are probably what, only 1 or 2 other books that would really even be considered "competitors" to this book. With those parameters, are any Amazon reviews going to be all that useful?
You are almost certain to get a review from someone not in the target audience or who got over-ambitious and ended up not understanding the source material, a review from the author's brother in law just so it looks like people are buying etc. Any sort of useful review is going to probably come in the form of a long blog post/magazine article, and thus isn't likely to be present on Amazon....So what you are left with is someone commenting on how flexible the book's spine is.

Re:The bigger issue, reviews of niche products... (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 9 months ago | (#44268237)

You are almost certain to get a review from someone not in the target audience or who got over-ambitious and ended up not understanding the source material, a review from the author's brother in law just so it looks like people are buying etc.

This is true in many cases. That said, I only tend to write reviews of niche items, often books or things that I have some expertise on, but not officially "my field" (so I wouldn't tend to write a review elsewhere on these things).

Why would I bother writing another review to add to a chorus of thousands about a particular product? If I feel strongly about something I bought, I check to see if there are reviews. If not, or (more likely) I disagree with the few that are there, I write a detailed review, trying to be fair about positives even when I hate the thing (which is generally my reason for writing). Even though I've only written a couple dozen reviews over the past 4 years or so, I somehow ended up in the top few thousand reviewers... probably because I actually try to write useful reviews on things I know something about and which don't tend to have decent reviews already.

I know I'm in the minority (and would never be recruited for Amazon Vine because I tend to write detailed "most helpful" negative reviews that make it harder for Amazon to sell products). But instead of complaining, why not contribute? If you have some technical expertise, you really liked or hated a book or something, why not write about it and help either point your fellow humans to something of good quality or steer them away from a dud?

Re:The bigger issue, reviews of niche products... (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 9 months ago | (#44268785)

Reviews of niche items are still useful. If anything what makes them less useful is when Amazon pays non-experts to add noisy reviews to the mix, which seems rather stupid. Amazon is spending money to make their reviews less useful...

I'll often search reviews for keywords to find ones by experts when there is a product that is dual-use.

Re:The bigger issue, reviews of niche products... (1)

jasax (1728312) | about 9 months ago | (#44269491)

Even if there are no "competitors" for this book, honest reviews can eventually help you in deciding to spend $127 or not. So, niche products deserve fair reviews despite not being best sellers.

yeah it's a joke (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268063)

Reviews need ratings so they can be flagged as spam.

Re:yeah it's a joke (3, Informative)

faffod (905810) | about 9 months ago | (#44268159)

Amazon has a rating system for reviews. Sure you can't flag something as spam, but that would be abused by the tolls so it's a balance they have to strike. Also, Amazon allows for comments to be added for reviews. With so few reviews on this book, it should be quick enough to make the reviews as not helpful and add in some cases add a comment on the egregious ones. In other words, the review system is only as good as the average of the reviewers - get some good reviewers to balance out the bad ones and it works well enough.

Re:yeah it's a joke (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 9 months ago | (#44269939)

Honestly, I have answered "Yes, this is helpful" to joke reviews in a few cases, just because I thought they were hilarious. Amazon reviewing is Just Another place to go Fuck Around On The Internet, and so some people use it for that. Creative outlet. And no, I don't do it, but I should. And I already admitted I've upvoted some, so .. fine, blame me.

Re:yeah it's a joke (1)

faffod (905810) | about 9 months ago | (#44270097)

I know most of the classics: "Ping", Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 vibrating broom (sadly taken down), the collection of "Mr Small", "Mr Uppity", and "Mr Messy". And yes they are funny, and yes I don't get upset at people up-voting an obviously funny review (even if some parents without a strong command line background were getting upset at the review of "Ping"). the system can be gamed, which is why a "ban this" option is a bad idea and why people should take time to learn how to interpret reviews. Sadly, that means you have to read more than one or two - no rushing to get reliable information on the internet. In this case the reviews are just dumb and won't get a cult following of up-votes, so the system should work fairly well.

and if you haven't read *the* review of "Ping" you owe it to yourself to do so now. http://www.amazon.com/review/R2VDKZ4X1F992Q/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0448421658&nodeID=283155&store=books [amazon.com]

Amazon needs their head read. (4, Interesting)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about 9 months ago | (#44268069)

Their books reviews on Amazon proper could be a great resource for anyone deciding whether to get a book, but they're full of crap reviews like "FAST SHIPPING! RECOMMEND THIS SELLER! A+++++" or "COVER DAMAGED AND ARRIVE 2 LATE 4 CLASSES. ME MAD!" They have a system where you can vote down these reviews, but why not just tell lamers "This isn't eBay" Problems been pointed out to them by many but they have twiddled their thumbs while their database has filled up with crap.

So they should fix what they already have before launching new programs like Vine. Giving favored reviewers free crap is hardly going to inspire independent reviews anyway.

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268093)

Wait a second. What's wrong with a review containing information about the seller (especially if the item isn't being shipped by amazon itself)? If they deliver your product and it is damaged, don't you think it would be important for other people to know that?

For some items, like groceries, that could be important information.

Why shouldn't a review contain information about the state of the product when it is delivered? Also, I've noticed that some sellers have "shipping estimates" that they don't always adhere to.

I mean, it's cool to read a review of how awesome the movie 'Dredd' is, but if 42 out of 43 people received a Blu Ray that didn't work in their players (I think something of that nature actually was a problem), and it arrived late, I think it would be appropriate to mention something about that in the review.

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (2)

lxs (131946) | about 9 months ago | (#44268135)

Also, I've noticed that some sellers have "shipping estimates" that they don't always adhere to.

Do you know what an estimate is? hint: It doesn't mean "guarantee" or "goal".

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (5, Informative)

GryMor (88799) | about 9 months ago | (#44268165)

If I'm looking at a book, the reviews had better be about the book rather than one of the 100+ sellers of the book. If you want to review that particular seller, there is a separate spot for that, and low enough service ratings will tank their visibility across all of their products. "Cover damaged, terrible service" on a review of Excession is useless spam. The same review on the seller itself is helpful.

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about 9 months ago | (#44268793)

They really need to fix the GUI for submitting reviews so that you're prompted for both at the same time, and it is made clear which pertains to the product vs the seller with more specific questions to answer.

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (1)

NighthawkFoo (16928) | about 9 months ago | (#44268973)

Because that's not how Amazon works. Just because someone had a bad experience with a particular seller doesn't mean that you'll even get it from the same merchant. You're supposed to review the product. If you want to review the seller, then you do so after you finish the transaction with them. Amazon doesn't make this clear enough, in my opinion,

Re: Amazon needs their head read. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268989)

Have you ever used Amazon? There is one product page with an option to pick from multiple sellers. Typically, they show the default seller as the one with the lowest price. But when that seller runs out if product, the new default seller changes. So a review like 'ships slow' is useless, unless the review contains the sellers name which I have yet to see. Plus, there is a different review system for sellers.

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 9 months ago | (#44269755)

Because, you idiot AC, it's a product review. You're reviewing books, or other merchandise, in isolation from whatever the vedor or the post office has done. When you look at reviews of a book, you don't care if a library somewhere has a copy covered in tomato sauce, and those dumbfucker-written reviews are exactly that: telling you stuff that's absolutely irrelevant to the product in general. Again, this is not eBay, mmkay?

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (1)

grumbel (592662) | about 9 months ago | (#44270087)

There is a separate space on Amazon where you can rate the seller. The problem is when it's done in the normal reviews it's mostly useless as it's not attached to any specific seller, so you don't know which seller to avoid.

That said, the way seller ratings are handled by Amazon is quit terrible, it's a tiny squished box in the sidebar that can't hold much text and is a pain to navigate. There no longer is a full page list of all the seller reviews and there is no way to sort them. Seller reviews are also just about the seller, so you don't know what product people actually bought, which is often the very information you are looking for.

Furthermore when Amazon itself is the problem then there is no way to review them outside the regular reviews.

I think the best solution would be to just give the user to boxes for the review, one for the product itself and the other for the shipping and then present both of these to the user via the normal review interface and not have them spread out on completely different pages.

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268119)

meths [amazon.co.uk]

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (1)

Omestes (471991) | about 9 months ago | (#44268423)

Or:

* * * * *
Awesome product, except 50% of its features are broken, it came 2 months late, and seller refused a return. I loved it!

My rule is to ignore the 5 star reviews (very few things are perfect), and ignore the one star reviews, unless there are a ton of them. 4-3 star reviews are more likely to be honest.

As for vendor reviews, they are completely worthless 90% of the time, unless they are wholly negative.

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 9 months ago | (#44268735)

In a 5-star system, such as NewEgg uses, I compare the number of 4 stars to the number of 3, 2, and 1 stars. I discount the 5-star ratings entirely, but I do not ignore the 1-star which is often along the lines of "it was dead on arrival" which is a signal that indicates (to me) that in that case they are re-shipping returned products without testing them.

This was almost certainly the case the one and only time I was unhappy with a NewEgg purchase. I was trying to get one of the small 75GB 15000 RPM Raptor drives before the days of SSD's. It arrived with one of the platters apparently completely fubar (low level format went for over 24 hours and still wasnt done), did an RMA and got a call from them the day they received the drive back and they "confirmed" that the drive was broken but that they did not have any other Raptors that they could replace it with.. instant refund. The last one they have is coincidentally broken? Nah, I don't buy it.

I still use NewEgg because they even refunded my RMA shipping costs. Using a second customer to verify that an item really doesnt work is just something they do.

Re:Amazon needs their head read. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269869)

low level format...HDD

What?

Read the "bad" reviews (5, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | about 9 months ago | (#44268097)

Read the three- and two-star reviews. They give you both good and bad. Large part of five- and one-star reviews are crap.

Re: Read the "bad" reviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269797)

Average the bad information? +5 Insightful

A++ (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268101)

Excellent article. Would read again.

Re:A++ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269737)

3 out of 5

The author of this article has obviously not read the book "1001 Ways Statistics Are Misunderstood", or he would have realized that his sample size of 12 was not large enough for the broad, sweeping generalizations given. To say the least, an 8.333% result for unrelated reviews of the prequel seems like it could rise to a more significant showing were more VRs solicited, possibly as high as 15.38% or even a possible peak of 21.43%. In addition, the 91.667% result for uninformed opinions seems too high for the pool to be taken seriously. These results would leave one to believe that the reviews given were of a purchased nature, and not rigorously tested for true random sampling. However, before simply writing off this article, I will wait to see the results of the peer reviews that are surely coming. Therefore, I can only give an unbiased 3 out of 5 rating for now.

Gaming the system (1, Insightful)

Lefty2446 (232351) | about 9 months ago | (#44268147)

Homestly I have never shopped at Amazon.com but I fail to see the point in gaming the system by posting veviews about products that these 'customers' have never used.

Put simply is this a case of those that review the most crap win?

Never? (3, Interesting)

dbc (135354) | about 9 months ago | (#44268253)

Never shopped at Amazon? I find that more astounding than finding a honest man in congress. I'm just curious as to why... Is it a political statement? You live where shipping would be outrageous? You spend too much time on Slashdot to have any time to shop?

I remember when I made my first Amazon purcahse. It was some O'Reilly Nutshell book, I can't remember which. I had to install a web browser on my workstation at work to do it. I got the latest and greatest web browser available -- Mosaic -- which I downloaded as a tarball from UI and did ./confgure;make all. Amazon has been around for a while... finding someone who has never bought anything from them is both amusing and amazing.

Re:Never? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268321)

FYI, Netscape 2 was already available by the time amazon.com went online.

BTW, I've been online at least as long as you claim to have been, and I've never bought anything from Amazon, either.

Re:Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268683)

A quick check on Wikipedia shows Netscape Navigator 2 was released in 1996 and Amazon.com went online in 1995, so no it wasn't.

Re:Never? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268635)

Re: Never shopped at Amazon.

You can add me to that list also. I don't care for Amazon's business model. I think in the long term it's destructive.

Re:Never? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 9 months ago | (#44268743)

I've never purchased a physical good from Amazon.. I have "rented" a few movies from them, tho.

I've been a long time customer of NewEgg tho...

Re:Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268843)

What's wrong with that? I have shopped there, but I try to minimize it if I can because, well, I just don't like the company. I was going to order some cell phone supplies and protein powder when I noticed that they still change the price depending on whether you're logged in or not. So I decided to take my business somewhere else.

Re:Never? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268867)

I'm about to make my first purchase on amazon. (And yes, I am 27 years old). Buying things on the internet has always been a pain where I'm from since our (Dutch) bank cards don't tie into the credit card system, and getting a credit card there meant proving you have a steady income (at least at my bank). It's only now that I moved to Finland and I'll be getting what the rest of the world would consider a "proper" bank card that making online purchases isn't a pain in the ass.

Re:Never? (0)

Kidbro (80868) | about 9 months ago | (#44268879)

One click shopping :)

Well, that's how it started. These days it's mostly old habit, plus receiving mail orders here is more hassle than simply going to a store and buying whatever I need.

Re:Never? (1)

readingaccount (2909349) | about 9 months ago | (#44269051)

I don't buy often from Amazon because, well, there's no Australian version of the site - the times I've used Amazon has been through the US or UK sites. We've got our own online companies with stock that you'd get far quicker than Amazon. They also promised for YEARS to be opening a DRM-free music purchase section for us Aussies like they do in the US, but completely failed to eventuate. Because making money is not in their interest I guess.

Having said that, I've bought a couple of biographical books from Amazon that were cheaper than those found in Aus (including postage), so there's that.

Re:Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44270303)

By the time Amazon started, the Netscape Navigator browser was already available and supplanted Mosaic.

Re:Gaming the system (2)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about 9 months ago | (#44268327)

Shenanigans! Posting on an internet forum but never shopped at Amazon. [cough]bullshit![/cough]

Re:Gaming the system (1)

dltaylor (7510) | about 9 months ago | (#44268967)

I've never done it, either.

Don't like the entire idea of on-line sellers for anything for which I'm buying the first instance (yet another instance of the same thing, then, yeah, price matters, but still not from Amazon).

I just don't trust them, at all.

Best thing about Amazon, AFAICT, is the reviews for the $500 Denon link cable:

http://www.amazon.com/Denon-AKDL1-Dedicated-Link-Cable/product-reviews/B000I1X6PM [amazon.com]

Re:Gaming the system (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 9 months ago | (#44269539)

Don't trust them to what? Keep your info safe, deliver the product, not pee in your pool?

Re:Gaming the system (3, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 9 months ago | (#44268815)

These are Vine reviewers. They all DID use the product, in the sense that they were mailed a free copy of the book to review. The problem is that they're just random people - it isn't like Amazon has a Vine review program for PhDs in electrical engineering.

This is like asking a chemist to review a dynamometer or asking an auto mechanic to review a mass spectrometer. No useful information is likely to come out. If you're interested in reviews of such products you'd prefer them to come from experts in the field who can either spec to the details of their performance or at least how well they work in daily use.

Re:Gaming the system (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44270119)

Vine reviewers are not matched with products randomly. As a vine reviewer you get a list of products each month and you choose up to two that you would like to review.

So it is likely that the people reviewing this book may have a background in EE and were at least interested enough in the topic to choose this book. The problem is that if you don't submit your Vine review within one month then you will not be eligible to receive any more free products the next month. This is not a problem for items other than books which can usually be given a fair review after having used them for a week or two.. but for a technical book which may take months to digest the Vine model is not good, as it leads to people creating BS reviews to avoid missing out on next months items.

FWIW I am an electrical engineer and a Vine reviewer, and for the reason stated above I do not review books on Vine, only household goods, electronics and other products.

Downvote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268173)

When you see posts like this click the "Was this review helpful to you? No" button. If it especially atrocious leave a comment telling the reviewer to kindly go review their own ass, because maybe they'd have more knowledge about that.

Re:Downvote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269761)

I enjoy doing ass reviews.

Physician, heal thyself (2)

gsiarny (1831256) | about 9 months ago | (#44268187)

Is this really a meta-review which indicts an entire system based on 12 reviews of one book?

If only the summary had reported that the reviews relied too much on anecdotal evidence...

Easy Shill Detection (2)

ReallyEvilCanine (991886) | about 9 months ago | (#44268189)

I expect someone will come up with a collection/extraction script to list all the names of these shill and paid "Vine Reviewers".

Re:Easy Shill Detection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269447)

This must be the info Snowden still has that he wants to leak.

People post reviews on Amazon for laughs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268233)

Film at 11.

Vine rules require reviewing all products (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268267)

As I had no idea what the "vine reviewers" was about, I read the amazon definition. And it says that: "Once they are invited into the program, to maintain their status as a Vine Voice, they must review *all* of the selected products within 30 days of receipt...".

So once in the program you get a nice flow of interesting free books related to your topics of interest. But apparently you *must* enter a review for each book that Amazon sends you, or the flow of books stops. The outcome is obvious - particularly for technical books that not every reader will understand. But even for normal books, people can sometimes just be busy - resulting in rushed/content-free reviews.

So not the reviewers' fault really, just stupid rules from Amazon. Requiring reviewers to review *half* of the books sent would probably produce a better outcome..

You got me! (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 9 months ago | (#44268339)

Had a look inside the book and it seems it explains well the various complex concepts. While it is pretty expensive at $127, I may get one. Next time I write a book, I'll have to make an article in /. too!

Take a look at the printer reviews (1)

loki_racer (2982361) | about 9 months ago | (#44268463)

Vine Reviewers seem to be able to make a 10 paragraph review of a printer in under 1 month. It's very common to see them reviewing a different printer each month. When I asked a couple of them about it in the comments, I was quickly attacked by a group of people that are working to become Vine Reviewers. Amazon needs to only allow verified purchasers to review products, or at the very least allow users to hide anything other than a verified review.

Bogus Reviews (1)

PacRim Jim (812876) | about 9 months ago | (#44268643)

I've noticed authors with competing books will use "reviews" to bad-mouth a book and promote their own book. I've also noticed that when a conservative publishes an excellent book with, say, 35 5-star reviews, there will be a few 1-star reviews that claim the book is terrible, presumably posted by left-wing operatives trying to kill sales of the book.

Re:Bogus Reviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268915)

Well, first you have to find a conservative who can write an excellent book.

Re:It's not just techinical books... (1)

LarryWest42 (220323) | about 9 months ago | (#44269023)

With respect to your last one, check out the other reviews by "Guadalupe" [amazon.com]

Several made me laugh. I think it's an art form.

Re:It's not just techinical books... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269643)

My favorite so far...

"That aside, I love Pepsi because it makes me want to dress up in women's clothes and shave off all my body hair"

Re:It's not just techinical books... (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 9 months ago | (#44269783)

Recreational endoscopy is all the rage. And for peering into the body cavities and GI tracts of others, the Vividia Waterproof Mini 7 mm can't be beat. Nothing brings people together or creates a shared sense of intimacy like comparing vital organs, intestinal tissues and polypscapes. Plus with the optional digital camera adaptor, you can even "scrapbook" your treasured images at websites like Pinterest! All this technological prowess for about the price of a carton of cigarettes!!! Three cheers for dirt-cheap wages and Chinese factory workers!

I mean, come on, I might just buy one and post something on Pinterest, after all :)

Negative reviews (1)

tsa (15680) | about 9 months ago | (#44268813)

I always read the negative reviews, with one or two stars, first. It will learn you much more about the product than all those fake 4 or 5-star reviews.

What you should know about Vine reviewers (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44268873)

by a Vine reviewer (posted anonymously due to my Vine NDA terms).

I was invited into Vine several years ago. Since then, I have received about $10000 worth of merchandise for review. The items I've received have ranged from Post It notes and gel pens to a high-end DSLR and some decent hardware (NAS, external and internal hard drives, mice, keyboards, routers and printers)

(1) Each month, Vine reviewers are offered two chances to select items to review. The first list is a short one (10 to 20 items) that Amazon descrives as "targeted" to members. The amount of tampons, diapers and hair care products that have been offered to me (a middle-aged bald male) suggests the targeting is *very* general. Targeted items are offered to multiple members (but not universally), and the high end items are gone in seconds.

(2) A week later, all of the non-selected items remaining from the targeted list are offered to the entire Vine community. Same rapid response to high end items takes place. You have to navigate hundreds of choices instead of dozens.

(3) The demographics of who were selected are all over the place.
--Some had long histories of purchasing from Amazon before being invited into Vine with both many and few (or no) previous reviews.
--Some had short histories of purchases with amazon.
-At the time I was selected, I had reviewed about 40 products (all most exclusively computer hardware or related literature) over a seven-year period
--Attempts by the Vine community to determine the total population of Vine reviewers (both on amazon-hosted Vine forums and in informal groups away from the amazon mothership) suggest the Vine reviewer population can be counted in hundreds (probably the low hundreds)
--I have some informal relationship with Vine members away from the mothership. While the sample size is WAY small to be meaningful, geographically we seem to be distributed consistent with the US population distribution in general. Generationally we seem to be mostly Boomers, but there are clearly a few Gen Y and millenials sprinkled in. Some of us clearly have high incomes, and some of us clearly do not.

(4) Originally Amazon required that we submit reviews on 80% of all items we selected.

(5) This year, Amazon changed the requirement. We must now review 100% of the items we select within 30 days of receipt. We can request a 10 day extension (and can do so 10 times per year).

(6) We know vendors pay Amazon to have items made available to Vine reviewers. We *think* this costs them around $5000, but this is based on a single data point from a Vine member who worked for a company that took a pass on paying that amount to be included in the Vine selections.

(7) For Vine reviews, the "Customer Review from the VIne Program" is essentially equivalent to an "Amazon Verified Purchase". Except that the reviewer received it at no cost...and is now obligated to review it within 30 days.

I can't speak for others, but I value my credibility as a reviewer, my % of helpful votes and my amazon reviewer ranking. Because of this, I never select books about technology issues (or technology items) that I do not already know something about (or am in the process of developing knowledge of). Similarly, I don't select or review genre fiction, since I don't read this for pleasure.

Yeah, some Vine reviews suck. So do some non-Vine reviews. As with ANY online resource, you always have to apply your own filters to help gauge the credibility.

And yes, I have happily awarded 1 and 2 star ratings to Vine products that sucked (and 4 and 5 star reviews to products that kicked ass).

Re:What you should know about Vine reviewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269697)

Forget to mention:
From each of the two monthly lists, reviewers can select two items.
There is a third left of otherwise non-selected items that reviewers can select from without limit.
For ANYTHING selected, the 100% review of items in 30 days applies.

Amazon is not alone in this kind of program. newegg.com uses a very similar model for its "Newegg EggXpert Review Program"
http://help.newegg.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/400/~/what-is-the-newegg-eggxpert-review-program%3F

Re:What you should know about Vine reviewers (0)

j-beda (85386) | about 9 months ago | (#44269767)

by a Vine reviewer (posted anonymously due to my Vine NDA terms).

I was invited into Vine several years ago. Since then, I have received about $10000 worth of merchandise for review. The items I've received have ranged from Post It notes and gel pens to a high-end DSLR and some decent hardware (NAS, external and internal hard drives, mice, keyboards, routers and printers)

(1) Each month, Vine reviewers are offered two chances to select items to review. The first list is a short one (10 to 20 items) that Amazon descrives as "targeted" to members. The amount of tampons, diapers and hair care products that have been offered to me (a middle-aged bald male) suggests the targeting is *very* general. Targeted items are offered to multiple members (but not universally), and the high end items are gone in seconds.

(2) A week later, all of the non-selected items remaining from the targeted list are offered to the entire Vine community. Same rapid response to high end items takes place. You have to navigate hundreds of choices instead of dozens.

(3) The demographics of who were selected are all over the place.
--Some had long histories of purchasing from Amazon before being invited into Vine with both many and few (or no) previous reviews.
--Some had short histories of purchases with amazon.
-At the time I was selected, I had reviewed about 40 products (all most exclusively computer hardware or related literature) over a seven-year period
--Attempts by the Vine community to determine the total population of Vine reviewers (both on amazon-hosted Vine forums and in informal groups away from the amazon mothership) suggest the Vine reviewer population can be counted in hundreds (probably the low hundreds)
--I have some informal relationship with Vine members away from the mothership. While the sample size is WAY small to be meaningful, geographically we seem to be distributed consistent with the US population distribution in general. Generationally we seem to be mostly Boomers, but there are clearly a few Gen Y and millenials sprinkled in. Some of us clearly have high incomes, and some of us clearly do not.

(4) Originally Amazon required that we submit reviews on 80% of all items we selected.

(5) This year, Amazon changed the requirement. We must now review 100% of the items we select within 30 days of receipt. We can request a 10 day extension (and can do so 10 times per year).

(6) We know vendors pay Amazon to have items made available to Vine reviewers. We *think* this costs them around $5000, but this is based on a single data point from a Vine member who worked for a company that took a pass on paying that amount to be included in the Vine selections.

(7) For Vine reviews, the "Customer Review from the VIne Program" is essentially equivalent to an "Amazon Verified Purchase". Except that the reviewer received it at no cost...and is now obligated to review it within 30 days.

I can't speak for others, but I value my credibility as a reviewer, my % of helpful votes and my amazon reviewer ranking. Because of this, I never select books about technology issues (or technology items) that I do not already know something about (or am in the process of developing knowledge of). Similarly, I don't select or review genre fiction, since I don't read this for pleasure.

Yeah, some Vine reviews suck. So do some non-Vine reviews. As with ANY online resource, you always have to apply your own filters to help gauge the credibility.

And yes, I have happily awarded 1 and 2 star ratings to Vine products that sucked (and 4 and 5 star reviews to products that kicked ass).

Very informative! I've quoted the whole thing to move it up from the AC rating since I don't have any mod points to give it.

Re:What you should know about Vine reviewers (1)

Rakishi (759894) | about 9 months ago | (#44269969)

I can't speak for others, but I value my credibility as a reviewer, my % of helpful votes and my amazon reviewer ranking. Because of this, I never select books about technology issues (or technology items) that I do not already know something about (or am in the process of developing knowledge of). Similarly, I don't select or review genre fiction, since I don't read this for pleasure.

Clearly many don't. Your amazon reputation means very very little in any objective measure. For a professional reviewer their career depends on it. For a vine reviewer, their vine membership may depend on it but who knows how long the program will last anyway. So get as much expensive free stuff as possible and then sell as much of it as possible. Who cares about the reviews. Amazon wants 100% reviews? Churn out some pointless fluff so you stay in the program and get even more money.

Yeah, some Vine reviews suck.

Except as the linked product showed, it's a lot more than some.

I mean, do people actually find this behavior surprising given the incentive structure?

Please confess you are the author :-) (1)

Coeurderoy (717228) | about 9 months ago | (#44268875)

I looked at the book, immediately got that feeling I got from Computer Science books a couple of decades ago, it goes WTF are they talking about ? hum it seems that if I really read it and try to make the effort of reading it I might even understand it, huummm me wanting this book...
And now I'll be spending 127 $ + Shipping + IVA, darn ....

Well played ...

yes, yes they are.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44269231)

next question, please....

I'm a Vine reviewer - there's a flaw in the system (2)

Skynyrd (25155) | about 9 months ago | (#44269707)

If the subject is complex enough, the reviewer may not understand the book, and be forced to give it a superficial review.

Amazon is making the problem worse. When I first started writing reviews for Vine, I had to review 75% of the items I received in order to be able to receive additional items. Seems fair. Then it was raised to 80%, and was recently raised to 100%.

If I don't review it in 30 days, I am barred from ordering another item until I review it.
So, if somebody orders a book, and finds it way over their head, they still have to review it. Now we have a problem.

Why does anyone still use Amazon? (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 9 months ago | (#44269971)

I get every single thing I need online from ebay at a lower price or newegg. In fact, I'm one of Newegg's Egg Expert reviewers. Unlike Amazon's bullshit system, Newegg ships us reviewers the product itself that we can keep for free and then we write a review about it. Now THAT is a group of expert reviewers. Vine is a joke. Amazon's web layout and search function are awful and I still can't tell if a product is coming from Amazon or some random guy somewhere. Shipping times? Who the hell knows. They just make something up. Why does anyone actually still use that old dinosaur Amazon and their 1990's website layout?
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