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Are Amazon Vine Reviews of Technical Books a Joke? 126

Posted by timothy
from the you-should-try-the-craiglist-personals dept.
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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Are Amazon Vine Reviews of Technical Books a Joke?

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  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @01:38AM (#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...
    • by red crab (1044734) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:46AM (#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.
    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @05:06AM (#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.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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

      • 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.

      • by inflex (123318)

        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

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

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

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

        • 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.

          • by inflex (123318)

            There's two pen names, 10 books collectively spread between them and reasons for doing so.

  • by Dan East (318230) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @01:52AM (#44268031) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by MatheoDJ (1088103) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:07AM (#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.
      • by emt377 (610337)

        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.

      • by chipschap (1444407) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:41PM (#44270789)

        I have been a Vine reviewer for several years, and I take great care with my reviews. I do sometimes review a technical book, but I make sure it is in an area in which I have sufficient expertise. While I'll review a book about audio engineering, I won't review one about, for instance, organic chemistry.

        My reviews are not fake. I make every effort to give a fair evaluation. I write positive reviews and negative reviews (even though it's well known that a reviewer's ranking on Amazon goes down with negative reviews, as they are generally not well received by readers).

        I don't know if I'm typical of Vine reviewers; the ones I've interacted with on the Vine forums seem about the same as me. Of course, there are bound to be bad apples in the group. In addition, Amazon has been making review requirements for Vine members ever more strict, and this undoubtedly has lead to decreased quality. But I do sincerely hope things are not quite as bad as portrayed here, or the program should indeed be discontinued.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      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.

    • by StikyPad (445176) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @04:52AM (#44268481) Homepage

      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.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      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 par

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        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.

        Ther

        • by AuMatar (183847)

          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.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            I'm not Bill Gates, eight bucks will buy a chicken dinner at Suzie Q's. I'll gladly pay eight bucks for a good paperback or even thirty for a hardcover, but I refuse to reward mediocre hackwork.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm a Vine reviewer myself. Twice a month, Amazon gives reviewers a list of items available for review and we are able to select up to 2 items from each of those lists. In other words, we know what we're getting. It's not like a surprise technical manual shows up on the doorstep and we're forced to review something we don't understand. For most of the time the Vine program has been around, Amazon has required reviewers to review about 75-80% of the items received and we did not have time limits on those re
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @01:59AM (#44268059) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • 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,

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      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.

    • by jasax (1728312)
      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 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Reviews need ratings so they can be flagged as spam.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by faffod (905810)
      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 w
      • by Sloppy (14984)

        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.

        • by faffod (905810)
          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
  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:03AM (#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.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      meths [amazon.co.uk]

    • by Omestes (471991)

      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.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        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 Rapto
  • by oldhack (1037484) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:16AM (#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.
  • A++ (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:19AM (#44268101)

    Excellent article. Would read again.

  • Gaming the system (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Lefty2446 (232351)

    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? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dbc (135354) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:10AM (#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.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        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.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        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...
      • by Anonymous Coward

        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.

      • by Kidbro (80868)

        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.

      • 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 A

      • by trawg (308495)

        Fwiw I know heaps of people here in Australia that have never bought from Amazon; as you speculate the shipping costs remove a lot of the benefits for the casual item. Because of often hyperinflated costs here though it's still sometimes cheaper to pay the huge shipping costs, but most people I know don't bother or end up shopping an an alternative store.

        I buy all my books from Book Depository (which iirc is now owned by Amazon, so that may count :) because they she from the UK and somehow have no shipping

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

    • by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @06:53AM (#44268815) Homepage

      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.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        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

      • by jasax (1728312)
        I spent a few minutes seeing the "portfolio" of some of the "Vine reviewers" of the book, and one of them (a male, if he's not faking) even had a review of a pack of tampons (yes!!! 4 stars, I think), although he really had the decency to warn that he was doing the review on behalf of a lady in his family (daughter, niece?).

        "Hey Jane, are those Vine tampons I offered you comfortable? I need to write a review..." :-)
  • absolutely no cred...

  • 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...

  • by ReallyEvilCanine (991886) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:48AM (#44268189) Homepage
    I expect someone will come up with a collection/extraction script to list all the names of these shill and paid "Vine Reviewers".
  • well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ryanrule (1657199) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:51AM (#44268199)

    Amazon is walmart. Proceed with that information.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:20AM (#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..

  • 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!
  • 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.
    • 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.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        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 :)

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 13, 2013 @07:17AM (#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).

    • by j-beda (85386)

      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.

    • by Rakishi (759894)

      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 pro

    • I too am a Vine reviewer (IT guy mostly) who takes the Vine review process very seriously. For hyperspecialized books that are costly, and that have limited audience size, this is an opportunity for the producer/writer to gain some exposure. Whether the review is of high quality, or well-informed, or helpful all depends. It's crowd-curated, like forums elsewhere. I actively rate other reviews for that reason - mainly the well-written, thoughtful ones -- positive or negative. I am dubious about the claims m
  • 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 ...

    • by jasax (1728312)
      No I'm not. I'm just trying that one of the Vine reviewers which uses the sample copy of the book as a monitor stand offers to sell me the thing by 20 bucks, at most :-)
  • 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.

  • 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
    • by Dahan (130247)

      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.

      In what way is that unlike Amazon's system?

  • Guilty as charged (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wezelboy (521844) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @01:12PM (#44270319)
    I've totally written crappy vine reviews. Quite a few in fact. I'm sorry.

    The bottom line is when I get my Vine newsletter, most of the time all of the stuff that I might consider buying/reading is already gone. I don't know if Vine has 'favorites' program where certain people get access to items before others, but most of the time Vine is a bust for me. I'm left with the items/books that are leftover- which often means technical books. I'll get these things if I have an interest in the topic, but I just don't have the time to delve into the finer points of signal processing. It will sit on my shelf and gather dust until I find something I want on Vine that is actually available, then I have to write a review to be able to get that thing.

    I've pretty much given up on Vine. It's a waste of time, and not worth the guilt of writing a crappy review. Even if you write a heartfelt review, people will mark it as unhelpful anyway. Call me jaded.
  • Subtract the 90% shit which the internet offers about everything and the 10% rest may be at least related to the topic

Truly simple systems... require infinite testing. -- Norman Augustine

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