The 4.5 star review caused us to get some walkup traffic, at which point we thought it was too real and canceled the experiment, although the page is still live if you link to it through our review history.
The best was a group of young 20 somethings who showed up and were really good-natured about the joke, so we invited them up for a beer and they dropped us a 5-star review.
If TripAdvisor can't catch out a restaurant which is entirely a farce how can they pretend they're catching out real businesses who might be nudging their results up a bit?
Thinking along the lines of something I read on HN recently, using Benford's Law to catch fraud in accounting data - the essential principle is that fraudsters are constrained by some unmassagable numbers, like the monthy total or some important transactions, so the figures they do change end up altering the overall distribution in some unrealistic way. But if you can generate your own dataset (and make sure it follows Bendford's), that fraud marker disappears.
TripAdvisor might be able to detect when your restaurant is behaving very different to how it's expected to, based on some past or present data - but there's less indication something has gone wrong if you just create a new restaurant out of thin air that behaves totally consistently.
Not really, the expectation of any sort of honesty in public communications, be it from the government, corporations, or individuals, is a thing of the past.
No, governments, corporations, and people lied just as much in the past. It's just more transparent to see these days.
It's really hard to establish what people in either the present or the past value above all other things, but certainly the idea that political science might be primarily self-interested actors and that those devoted above all to the public interest were notable exceptions is ancient rather than novel.
For other funny things with reviews, I have some experience with Polish eBay/Amazon equivalent, Allegro. The following things are regular occurrences there:
- Employees of a seller creating fake accounts (and/or asking their friends and family to do this) and "buying" things with payment on delivery in order to leave 5-star reviews and positive comments. The things obviously never get sent, so it costs only as much as Allegro bills the seller per item sold.
- Clueless people leaving negative reviews because they're clueless. Like e.g. a seller I know just got a 1-star review on quality and delivery time with a comment that said basically "I got the merchandise and it's fine, but I've been asking you for the invoice for two weeks and didn't get it". The guy bought the product only a week ago, and had the invoice sent twice already.
- Sellers fucking up, getting negative reviews, then calling each of the reviewers asking them to delete the negative review, and usually bribing them with discounts or free items.
Reviews on Allegro are very high-stakes thing for sellers; just a few negative ones can mean you lose a promoted spot or get your account suspended immediately. Such situations can literally make or break a small business seller. This leads to them reviews gamed to such absurd levels that you basically can't trust them at all, if the seller is a company.
Now these are anecdotes for one site only, but given my experience on-line, I'm pretty confident they generalize to anything popular with a review system.
This tells me two things:
1) the whole review site business is a huge scam
2) even if we assume some of these reviews are legitimate, they don't mean anything since you can just pay to have them removed
Yes, businesses creating (or paying others to create) negative reviews of competitors on online sites is a thing.
Sure as one of the other comments points out, it could be created by the competition - but usually looking at the like-to-dislike ratio can tell you how much you should weight the opinion of the unhappy reviews anyway. (If 100 people review positive and 1 reviews badly, chances are you can dismiss that one bad vote).
But yeah, even if it's true what they say, they still also need to prevent fake restaurants from going up the rankings. Otherwise people will do what the author did, push their fake restaurant to the top and then open it up one day. The initial publicity boost will be enough to stay in the spotlight for a long time, especially with people falling for group think and perceiving things there to be a lot better than they actually are, just because other people supposedly thought so.
For example he was selling a "rasberry lemonade" in a beautiful glass jug with fresh rasberry and lemon slices floating at the top. It looked delicious. The only problem was the lemonade had been diluted by about 100:1 so it was effectively over-priced water.
The fake "meat" was so terrible, he might as well should've just sold the ingredients he made the meal with.
After loosing $14 on this meal I could only conclude this man just travels around with his fake vegetarian restaurant scamming people.
What they should worry about is detecting fake positive and negative reviews of real restaurants, which can cause businesses and diners a lot of pain and diminish the value of TripAdvisor.
Kudos to the author for "hacking" the ranking system in an unexpected way!
I wonder if they caught any fake negative reviews of the shed, jealous of its #1 spot...
To defend against amateurs, hobbyists, and insane people working without an understandable motivation is often MORE difficult, not less.
Besides being part comedy sketch, it's also part sociological experiment and part performance art.
It wasn't about gaming a system for financial gain in the least.
I mentioned this simply as contrast, that although the system was indeed gamed, it was done so with humor and without harming anybody in the process.
> So I contact friends and acquaintances, and put them to work.
I think that's all there is to it.
It gets a little lost in the article but this and the above quote is all they did for the reviews
(edited to update the image and review count)
Wait so the whole article is fake?
All the social review sites have become review-farming contests, which makes them unreliable on the consumer side and frustrating on the producer side, and I don't know if that can be fixed. Yelp seems to do the best (at the cost of discouraging a lot of legitimate users by making their reviews disappear), but even so is not particularly good.
I think a curated review program, perhaps with a taste-matching algorithm like Netflix, could work much better... if the economics can be worked out.
Even if you can solve it, these types of things still have a very subjective nature to them.