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Amazon: Authors Can't Review Books 248

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-would-they-know-about-writing dept.
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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Amazon: Authors Can't Review Books

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • 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.

    • by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:54PM (#42397875) Journal
      You are obtuse.
      • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:58PM (#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?

        • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:12PM (#42398107) Journal

          "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.

          • by Immerman (2627577) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @05:08PM (#42398599)

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

            I have to disagree - the average public are barely qualified to review anything beyond saying that it's garbage/adequate. Even then there's plenty of people who are apparently incapable of reading the product description before purchase and then give horrible reviews because their new pizza slicer makes a lousy HDTV antenna. Or down-rate a product because the particular supplier they purchased from took six weeks to deliver it, or the UPS guy decided to play street hockey with the box, etc.

            Ideally you'd pick out the reviews by people that actually have something worthwhile to say and give them a higher weight - which will typically be those from people with some expertise in the product domain (but not too much). Tech reviews from IT folk will probably give you the best idea of how well a device's functionality and reliability stacks up against the competition, but probably won't tell you much about whether the Average Joe will be able to do anything with it. Amazon currently does something like that with the "most helpful" reviews, but it's not hard to find examples of "helpful" reviews written by people who obviously have no idea what they're talking about, and I don't think it has any effect on the star rating.

            Allowing meta-reviews of reviewers by which to weight their comments might help, but most such mechanisms seem to favor the loudest voices, whereas the best voices to listen to are often the ones that only speak up only rarely, when they have something particularly significant to say. I'd think an automated system to recognize and highlight those voices would be quite challenging to develop, but worthwhile in many venues (perhaps it could be profitably applied to political discourse? Seems like the ideological blowhards are the only ones who currently get much of an audience)

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Rincewind42 (973462)

              Aren't Amazon's "most helpful" reviews simply reviews of reviews and thus suffer the exact same issue as you complain about?

          • If Amazon has enough spare computing power and resources I'd suggest that they allow and even encourage everyone[0] with an account to review and rate stuff.

            Then what they do is crunch through all the numbers and figure out groups that have similar preferences (how coarse or fine is up to them). These are now your "ViewGroups" (viewpoints, but "points" can be confusing and you can't trademark viewpoints as easily ;) ).

            Then OPTIONALLY have someone clever name the top[0] X largest of these ViewGroups appropri
            • by TheLink (130905)
              Oops forgot another feature- you can then allow users to put themselves up as a "Public Reviewer/Critic" (if they have rated enough stuff). Then others can choose to see the Amazon world through their eyes.

              If they are popular enough (result in lots of purchases and _satisfied_[1] purchases) you might even give them $$$.

              [1] Amazon can track that by the subsequent reviews- they know who used the viewpoint and who bought what.
          • by FreeUser (11483)

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

            Absolutely true! Not just the 50 shades reference, which is spot on, but the overall sentiment. The best reviews are done by the average public, though I would argue that said public should include authors of the Genre (perhaps marked with an icon as such). SciFi authors tend to be SciFi fans--I certainly am, and once my book comes out (shameless plug: Autonomy [autonomyseries.com]) next month, I won't be able to rate any of the hundreds of books I've read and en

        • Perhaps he understands that the plural form of this is these, and that peoples (in that context) requires an apostrophe?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Elbereth (58257)

        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.

    • 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.

    • by SkyLeach (188871) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:58PM (#42397931) Homepage

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Synerg1y (2169962)
        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%.
        • by bfandreas (603438)
          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 o
        • 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.

        • 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.
          • by Githaron (2462596)
            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.
      • by Plunky (929104)

        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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

      • 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. Unprofes

    • 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.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        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.

    • by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:17PM (#42398147) Homepage

      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.

      • 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.

        • by tverbeek (457094)

          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) b

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          I would say both are important - an immensely entertaining reviewer who often recommends crap is of very limited value, people actually looking for a useful *review* will quickly go elsewhere. If they often pan quality goods on the other hand it's still bad but can go unnoticed for much longer, since those who listen to them will never now what they have missed.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        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.

        In my opinion, they serve very different purposes.

        A professional review is likely to be a great starting point if I want to hear an overall review of how well something works. They give a broad, overall opinion. The problem is that they rarely contain enough detail to fully describe the product, because different users care about different details.

        On the flip side, individu

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      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.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      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?

    • by alen (225700)

      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

    • by HairyNevus (992803) <hairynevus@gmail . c om> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @05:29PM (#42398775)
      It depends; what people are looking for in a review is relative. For example, this Netflix review [huffpost.com] has basically nothing in terms of analysis and criticism, but a 100% helpfulness rating. And I defy anyone who is looking at possibly watching Nat'l Lampoon's Barely Legal to say that review didn't hit the nail on the head in terms of what they wanted to know. But, no professional reviewer/critic would ever in their right mind write such a thing.
    • Actually, it's something the Slashdot system does VERY well. Come up with similar criteria as "Informative", "interesting", "troll" for reviewing books. Then add the meta mods to flag the ratings that are way off.

      I think the problem is the age-old "disagree" mod... I see a lot of product reviews that are commentary, not review. Where someone just wants to make noise but they didn't read the manual, didn't call support, or didn't even BUY the product in question.

      As somebody used to Slashdot, you learn there

    • by Aqua OS X (458522)

      The problem isn't "non professional" reviewers, it's the fact that anyone with an account can review, regardless if they've purchased or not.

      I've had this argument a lot where I work. Our customers can only review a product if they've purchased the product. Moreover, they have to wait several weeks until they're invited to review. This cuts out A LOT of the noise.

      Unfortunately, it also severely limits the feedback you get (which is why Amazon allows anyone to "review" something).

      It's not a perfect solution,

  • 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.
  • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@gmail.LAPLACEcom minus math_god> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:50PM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:00PM (#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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        pros: expedient replacement service

        cons: broke when i opened the package with a sledgehammer

        other thoughts: the packing peanuts taste great.

  • Karma Whoring. (Score:5, Informative)

    by tempest69 (572798) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:51PM (#42397835) Journal
    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.
    • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:25PM (#42398205) Homepage Journal

      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. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:35PM (#42398299) Homepage
        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...

        • by fyngyrz (762201)

          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.

          • by dargaud (518470)
            "In theory, practice and theory are the same. In practice they aren't". And it applies to the best thought out moderating schemes on the internet as well: they get routed around by abusers, spammers, trolls, etc... while the /. system may seem dysfunctional to you, it does filter out the garbage pretty well. Sure a lot of interesting but late-coming comments fall through.
          • by Sancho (17056)

            The system is fairly customizable. The only thing you can't change is the type of moderation that people use--but you can certainly adjust the values of that moderation. For example, I penalize 'funny' posts, because usually they aren't.

    • by dargaud (518470)
      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.
    • 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 wit

  • by Jace Harker (814866) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:53PM (#42397861) Homepage

    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.

    • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:17PM (#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.

    • by vlm (69642)

      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 po

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      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 pu
    • "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

    • by cpm99352 (939350)
      Another problem is Amazon's unwillingness to address "fraudulent" reviews that attempt to grant 5-star reviews to books. A good example is Jean Auel's disaster [amazon.com]. Lots of reviews from "Amazon Verified Purchased" for which this was their first-ever (and only) review with zero mention of plot points or characters, just glowing short reviews.

      Hmm, it appears Amazon finally cleaned that up - a couple of months that book had an astonishing number of 5-star reviews, given it may qualify as the worst book ever p
    • by bcrowell (177657)

      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?

      I frequently review books on amazon that I bought and read 30 years ago, or that I checked out of the library. If I buy a book on amazon as a Christmas present for someone, should that person not be able to review the book?

      Authors are a tiny percentage of the population, and they have an extremely strong incentive to write fraudulent reviews (good ones of their own books, bad ones of other people's books). Locking them out of reviewing therefore has at least one very big advantage, and no very big disadvant

  • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:53PM (#42397867) Homepage Journal

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

    Oh wait....

    • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Informative)

      by obarel (670863) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:14PM (#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).

      • FWIW I've found it's easy to get moderated up (not by replying quickly, but) by reading the article, finding an interesting paragraph, and summarizing it (or quoting it directly!) in the comments.

        People think you know something when you do that. Reading the article makes you the genius/one-eyed king.

        Unrelated, I saw The Hobbit tonight and do believe the Pale Orc is related to Jar Jar.
  • 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.

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      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.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:56PM (#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.

  • by mu51c10rd (187182) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:56PM (#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.

  • by CyberKnet (184349) <(slashdot) (at) (cyberknet.net)> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:59PM (#42397939) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • 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?

  • by cod3r_ (2031620) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:02PM (#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.
    • by obarel (670863) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:20PM (#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."

    • 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 ver

      • I rarely see complaints about "a comma;"

        *OOOO Semicolon should be outside of quotes. Utter rubbish.

  • Label the reviews which are written by authors in similar genres, and let the readers incorporate that information into their perception of the review.
  • George Orwell was a literary critic by trade.
  • 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: 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
  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:12PM (#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.

  • How to fix reviews: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:13PM (#42398121) Journal
    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.
    • 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.

  • 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.

  • Not sure about books (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jimmyswimmy (749153) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:19PM (#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.

    • by vlm (69642)

      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

  • 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 r
  • 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 purc

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • ...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.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @05:05PM (#42398573) Homepage

    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.

  • If it's about Drupal, automatically give it 8/10.

  • Simply set their reviews aside and mark them as such. So if the author of Cooking Carrots reviews Cooking Lots of Carrots you can get a better understanding. If they give an otherwise 5 star book a crap review you think "sour grapes" but if they give it a 5 star review then you think, "Hmmmm an expert and competitor giving 5 stars is pretty damn good."

    I read one Amazon thing where the author does a video about their books. The author trashes one of their own books. Basically the author said the publishing
  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @05:36PM (#42398845)

    It seems to be the rage these days to knock any online review site. Restauranteurs hate yelp, authors hate amazon, etc. Guess what - nothing's perfect, but they're pretty good. Are the Amazon ratings perfect? No, especially for situations with few reviews. But who the hell doesn't already know that and take it into account?

    I like amazon's ratings system a lot. You can tell a lot from the distribution of scores. You have the actual reviews you can actually read. They flag the most useful favorable/unfavorable review, and in my experience, they really are useful. They also aggregate commonly mentioned topics, so you can identify common themes with respect to a product - like a common defect.

    Same thing with yelp. Sure, the scores can be skewed by hipsters, yuppies, or assholes who make it their life's mission to review things and be clever. But more often than not, I've found the reviews to be fair. And I've also found that reading a handful of positive reviews and negative reviews gives you a very good impression of a place - same with amazon.

    So no, these review systems aren't perfect. But they're really good, and as a result I'm much more likely to actually like the stuff I buy than back in the bad old days when you waited until someone you know bought something you want, or bite the bullet yourself. It's much better now, and just because there's room for improvement doesn't mean we should throw it all away.

  • This is good. I don't want to read reviews by experts e.g., authors. I want to read reviews by other readers. I find the reviews on Amazon very helpful. They must be taken with a teaspoon of salt - actually read the reviews rather than just looking at the star ratings. Often there are garbage reviews both 5 star and 1 star. Sift out the chaff and there is good actual user reviews.

  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @07:31PM (#42399877)
    > The star rating has become how people view if a book is a success and it has become inherently corrupt.

    The star rating system is riddled with rubbish like "The book arrived on time and was in good condition. Would definitely recommend this seller. 10/10" and often worse "This book was late and the damaged. 0/10".

    That is, the Amazon rating system is a rating of the SELLER, and seldom the book! The uselessness of this has been pointed out to Amazon but instead of telling customers to review the book and not the seller (the easy way), they've added a stupid "Is this review useful?" button which doesn't fix the erroneous star ratings. Amazon have an awesome resource, a user-based rating of nearly every book on the planet, and they squandered it out of sheer laziness by their IT staff and management. Crazy they are cracking down on author reviews without fixing this.
  • by craznar (710808) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:20PM (#42400237) Homepage

    You can automatically judge reviewers of large numbers of book by determining how well their reviews fall into a normal distribution.

    That is - from a individual's subjective opinion, after reading 1000 books - should form a roughly normal distribution (the worst, the best etc).

    So you weight a person's contribution to the overall score by their fit to the normal distribution on their own reviews and the number of reviews they have made.

    A rough approximation for the purposes of a 5 star score is 1: 5%, 2: 15%, 3:60%, 4: 15%, 5: 5%. Of course these numbers could be adjusted to allow for equal numbers in each group if they wanted.

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