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Negative reviews on amazon rated not useful
Old 06-19-2008, 12:19 PM   #1
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Negative reviews on amazon rated not useful

I've noticed what I think is a strange phenomenom: Negative reviews on amazon almost always have a low number of people who say they find them useful. Personally, the whole reason I look at review sites is to find out what the potential problems are before I buy, so I find negative reviews much more useful than positive reviews, and rate them so.

Some of the most useful reviews to me are when it simply says "Support couldn't figure out why it wouldn't work". For some reason people seem to hate these reviews... they almost always get zero recommends.

So I seem to be in the minority. I'm wondering if most people really don't like negative reviews, or if this is a sign of someone gaming the system.

My conspiracy theory is that the product makers are having their minstrels rate any negative reviews down so they will appear further down the list.

My non-conspiracy theory is that the people who vote on amazon reviews are people who did lots of research on their purchases and they are looking for validation that they made the right choice. When someone posts a negative review they feel insecure and vote it down so they don't have to face the possibility that the product isn't perfect.


My other pet peeve is that people seem to think any product that works correctly deserves 5 stars. In my perfect universe, the average product would get three stars out of five. Better products more, worse products less. But there seems to be a tradition that rating anything lower than 5 stars requires a serious justification for why the product is so flawed. Argh.
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:25 PM   #2
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Confirmation bias, isn't that what they call it?
I agree, I like to know the negatives early in the process, but once I make the buy, I don't want to hear anything bad.

In boat people, you find this--the boat they own is the "best" one. Nonwithstanding that most folks actual experience is only with one or maybe two brands over a lifetime of owning boats.

I do like the reviews on more techie sort of sites, like CNET, but still read the Amazon ones. I've never noticed the rate the review thing before you pointed out this phenom.
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:29 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by free4now View Post
So I seem to be in the minority. I'm wondering if most people really don't like negative reviews, or if this is a sign of someone gaming the system.

My conspiracy theory is that the product makers are having their minstrels rate any negative reviews down so they will appear further down the list.
I've actually long suspected that the few reviews my books received on Amazon were from people connected to the publisher. In spite of the parent company folding just after the book reached distribution, it did sell some copies, and maybe I'm just being overly cynical of my work, but those reviews popped up rather quick... and neither of the names were on the list of technical reviewers so it's not like they were commenting based on advanced copies.

I've seen it enough in other venues that I'm guessing it wouldn't be hard to pay a PR firm for "good press" and they'll farm out the work however... get you quoted in some articles, get favorable reviews of your material (especially important if you try and self-publish, I'd imagine) or product (if you're a cottage manufacturer). You get to sleep at night... you just paid for PR... and the rest of us get duped.

That said, it's hard to censor the Internet and I've been lucky to find a good dollop of fair and balanced reviews of things I'm interested in buying smattered between one sentence raves and rants.
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:44 PM   #4
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i really appreciate all the reviews on amazon, it's one of the more consistant places to find information on stuff before i buy (even if i buy elsewhere!).

I don't pay that much attention to the stars - if you read the content, even the positive ones will tell you good information about possible snafus/drawbacks to the product...

I wouldn't be surprised if paid operatives were trying to drag up or down some ratings...
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:47 PM   #5
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i really appreciate all the reviews on amazon, it's one of the more consistant places to find information on stuff before i buy (even if i buy elsewhere!).
Just a note, I've also had very good luck with epinions. (Reviews from Epinions)
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
My conspiracy theory is that the product makers are having their minstrels rate any negative reviews down so they will appear further down the list.
When you look at reviews you can sort them; I like to sort by lowest reviews first.
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:55 PM   #7
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I personally read the negative reviews (all of them versus a few good positive reviews) when I am researching a product. I also do other research but its a part of it. I personally look at trends (a specific defect or lots of people being unable to figure something out) because I do know there are people who are convinced that everything is bad so individual reviews mean nothing (especially if they don't tell you anything more than one line).

The good comprehensive reviews are usually more useful though on an individual basis. They actually touch on the positive and negative.

Personally, I have to admit I don't rate any of them, I just read them. But I suspect the reasons for the rating are partly what I mentioned and partly what other people have mentioned.
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Old 06-19-2008, 01:49 PM   #8
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Oh, what I do think they should get rid of are people who give ratings without having read the book or purchased the product! That is just obnoxious - I've seen a few where people "oppose the concept" of the book or product and chime in!
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Old 06-19-2008, 01:52 PM   #9
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Wow, you guys are even more conspiracy-minded than me!

I think people who are inclined to check out a particular book or item are more inclined to be positive about it, so they may in turn rate positive reviews more highly.

But I'd think you'd also have to examine what people mean and understand colloquially by "unhelpful", because there is a difference (when reviewing a review) in taking sides on whether a review is well-thought-out and objectively relatively accurate, versus just utilizing the review-review system to take sides against the book/item itself. "Helpful" for a review does not have to mean "agrees with me". I find too many review-reviewers ignore this distinction.

Certain kinds of negative reviews are more "helpful" than others, but often negative reviews take issue with the book/author/item's mere existence or worse, complain about ordering and delivery problems. Even so, I almost always go straight to viewing reviews in order from worst to best. I find that I can better assess the negatives as being valid vs. crackpots or 'plants', and that they're often a better indicator than the positive love-fest.
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Old 06-19-2008, 01:56 PM   #10
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Interesting--I do exactly what you're describing. If I read a negative review of a product I might buy, I don't even think of rating the review, I just go to an alternative product. Even if the review is the sole reason I don't buy the product.

I promise to do better.
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Old 06-19-2008, 01:58 PM   #11
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It seems that people have trouble believing that anyone else could have a different experience than themselves. People think that if they had a good experience then everyone else who didn't have a good experience is wrong.

Like the boat owners that all believe they found the perfect boat... until second happiest day of their life, when they sell.

Now I intentionally "thumbs up" any negative review that doesn't show bias.
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Old 06-19-2008, 02:06 PM   #12
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There is a lot of chat about this over at the Amazon.com discussion forums. People are being "flogged" for writing negative reviews about a product they have neither bought nor seen!
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Old 06-19-2008, 04:47 PM   #13
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Old 06-19-2008, 06:10 PM   #14
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There is a lot of chat about this over at the Amazon.com discussion forums. People are being "flogged" for writing negative reviews about a product they have neither bought nor seen!
good! it's the oddest thing - they should be removed right away!
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Old 06-19-2008, 08:00 PM   #15
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Personally, when I go to review sites I want to hear actual user experiences. Just observing the ratio of positive to negative posts is useful. I should be happy that most people write positive reviews, because there are so many positive reviews they drown out the shill reviews.

I can hardly believe there was a world before the internet when people had to rely on biased advertising-driven magazine reviews. I still shudder when thinking about how much of my life I wasted reading my dad's stack of Stereophile back issues, reading about how certain amplifiers sound different ways. Despite being a science-oriented engineer, it wasn't until the internet age that I discovered the truth, that most amplifiers sound the same.
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Old 06-20-2008, 01:04 AM   #16
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I read the reviews....good and bad......and I sometimes rate them, but usually not. I will give a 'low usefulness' rating to negative reviews that are vague, like "This thing is junk, and I'd never buy another one." OK....so if you 'think this thing is junk' and you'd 'never buy another one'.....TELL US WHY, you Moron! Don't just give us a one sentence negative review.....explain your response.....PLEASE! Is it poorly made? Does it explode and burn your house to the ground? Does it give you fleas....or the sh*ts? Why don't you like it? Tell us the details....or don't bother reviewing the darn thing!!!

Of course I feel exactly the same about one sentence positive reviews as well. And like others have stated.....if they haven't bought it, used it, read it, or whatever, they should be allowed to post a review of it! In fact (IMHO) if they review something, and they don't have any personal 'hands-on' experience with it, they need to have their fingers smashed with a hammer and have their keyboard stuck up their........well, you get the picture! ........
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Old 06-20-2008, 01:42 AM   #17
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I don't see a way that Amazon can restrict reviews to people who've read the book, but they could at least restrict reviews to people who've bought the book from Amazon. That doesn't tell you if the person's actually read it, but it does at least show that they have a copy.

I'm usually in the market for books on creationism and evolution, and it's obvious that a lot of the evolution books are being rated negatively simply because they support evolution. Some people even say proudly that they haven't read the book, would never read the book, but anything written by this godless atheist must be bad. I've seen posts on creationist message boards urging as many people as possible to go over to Amazon and give a book a bad review simply so it has a lower star rating and people will be less likely to buy it. It's obvious that these reviewers haven't read the book and don't intend to; it's just a campaign to trash a book in the hope of putting off prospective buyers. Since it's probably successful at least to a point, I'm surprised Amazon isn't being more proactive about removing this sort of review.

I complained about a negative review of a book a while ago (not a creationism-evolution one), where an author of a similar book had given another author's book the lowest possible rating and had then written a second review and done likewise, and one of the two reviews was removed. So they do respond to complaints at least sometimes.
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