Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Have Online Reviews Lost All Value? (wsj.com)
235 points by ytNumbers 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 202 comments




No, but I find myself gravitating much more towards the negative reviews. Not only are they more likely to be legitimate reviews, they tell me the reasons someone didn't like a product, which I find more valuable. Often because a failure for one person might not be an issue I care about: For example, if a reviewer for a book says, "Author spent too much time on the individual people and not enough time moving the plot forward" then I might view that as a positive if I like deep character building. It's a legitimate complaint, but from my perspective it's a feature, not a bug. Or I just might not care: "Item arrived broken" is not something I care much about when it's something that's easy to return/exchange, unless many people are also saying even when it arrived intact, It breaks too easily on use.


nowadays, the sweet spot of maximum information density seems to be the two-star reviews. They are written by genuinely concerned, but not furious, people about the legitimate shortcomings of the product. If a product has mostly five-star reviews, and the two-star reviews describe a reasonable tradeoff, then it is probably a good product.


...at least until review factories start producing two-star reviews describing tradeoffs that would seem reasonable to most people.


When it comes to online marketplaces, this is an often repeated idea, but absolutely nonsensical for two reasons:

1. The number of people who read reviews are a small, small, fraction of total buyers. Most people look at review count and the star rating (not the number, the image).

But more importantly,

2. Ranking in search results is the #1 factor in driving sales. Everything else is a distant #3. Search engines will reduce rankings of products with negative reviews.

(This my anecdotal experience after 2+ years of being an Amazon 3P seller)


It's not so simple, because the machines that rank products and serve search results are evaluating the reviews too.

As those machines look for signals of "authenticity," review factories learn to manufacture reviews that fake those signals. If adding a small mix of two-star reviews helps with search rankings, the review factories will start doing it in a heartbeat.


Considering that most ranking algorithms don't a priori give more weight to lower ratings, this is probably fine.


    describing tradeoffs that would seem reasonable to most people
Sounds like "Mission Accomplished" to me!

https://xkcd.com/810/

(Transcript...)

Cueball: Spammers are breaking traditional Captchas with AI, so I've built a new system. It asks users to rate a slate of comments as "Constructive" or "Not constructive."

Cueball: Then it has them reply with comments of their own, which are later rated by other users.

Megan: But what will you do when spammers train their bots to make automated constructive and helpful comments?

Cueball: Mission. Fucking. Accomplished.

(from https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/810:_Constructive)


I increasingly see that as one of the most misguided xkcd strips ever.

Unfortunately, the endgame for bot spam indistinguishable from humans isn't some benign silicon intelligence, but an epistemic war for attention, spending, manipulation, and/or fraud, benefitting deep pockets and highly motivated parties.

It ends poorly.


Yes! Similarly, I find 4-star positive reviews to be much better quality that 5 stars.


Didn't Netflix and a few others famously decide that star ratings + user reviews were strictly inferior to a thumbs-up/down system?


they are certainly inferior from the point of view of Netflix and the few others, because they are not obviously fakeable like the thumbs counts. For users, it is probably the opposite.


Definitely. Go look at new music video releases on youtube, so many of them are buying views to boost their numbers. The real trick there is to see how many up/downvotes there are in relation to the views, which seem to be the only way these days to gauge their true success from a consumer point of view.


I think you are right.


I'm observing (I may be wrong) that more and more photos are getting posted as part of the reviews, which I assume it's caused by buyers reacting to this problem.

That's no foolproof solution, but of course, it increases the cost of fake reviews.

Also, language is not taken into account. It's probably more expensive to buy fake reviews in, say, Norwegian, rather than in the standard English, so non-English speaking countries have an advantage.


Photos also help against a trick where sellers replace the product name, description and pictures to basically transfer the positive reviews to other products they want to sell and know are garbage. Customer photos make it more obvious at a glance.

And at least for German I can say that fake reviews are probably not more expensive...they seem to just have lower quality and range between barely understandable auto-translation to almost passable if it weren't written like an advertisement.


Sometimes, photos can be paid reviews as well mostly they do it for free products.


Yes, but a picture is worth a thousand words. If the products packaging is highly misleading (making a kiddy pool seem far larger than it is, for example), a picture outside of a photo studio will show this fact quite readily and obviates the need to examine the product in further detail.


I still find photos helpful because they show what the product looks like in real life. How bright is that laptop screen really? An few indoor photos from different people is helpful here.


You have no idea what the exposure settings were on the camera or the amount of available light. It isn't possible to judge screen brightness from uncalibrated imagery.


Photos increase friction for real users but are not a material cost increase to paid/fake reviews.


>I find myself gravitating much more towards the negative reviews

Whenever I buy anything on Amazon I look at the negative reviews and most of them are people saying they straight up got the wrong product or whatever they got came broken/scratched up right out of the box. I see these complaints often enough that I assume people aren't just lying outright, but I personally have never had any of this happen to me despite all of the junk I've bought on Amazon. It's made the negative reviews almost as worthless as the positive reviews that are possibly just paid off.

Like another person said, the 2-3 star people are often what I find most helpful. I find they tend to be people who are honest but just way pickier than the average buyer, so the stuff they complain about usually doesn't matter to me, but its still informative.


> I see these complaints often enough that I assume people aren't just lying outright, but I personally have never had any of this happen to me despite all of the junk I've bought on Amazon.

I think this is a symptom of co-mingling inventories. You can 'buy it from Amazon' or buy it from 'Joe's super legit online shop' for $0.30 less. I suspect many reviews of wrong or broken products are coming from some kind of drop-shipping operation and the buyers aren't aware they're buying from a 3rd party seller.


Negative reviews can also be compromised. I was reading through Borderlands 3 metacritic user reviews when I noticed at least 3 reviewers made identical complaints of boring, "repeative" gameplay... My best guess is it's attracted a culture war brigade for some reason. But it was a good a reminder to keep my guard up even on negative reviews- the same sockpuppets companies use to pump up their own products could be easily redeployed to undermine a competitor's.


The Borderlands franchise has been criticised for its repetitive grind since the first release.

There's a hashtag dedicated to this complaint (#BOREDerlands) that goes back some years, and it appeared in a yachtzee review.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sRY3dKpRskE


No, some people just feel Borderlands is excessively grindy, and not the fun kind. I hold that same opinion, and I don’t think I’m part of any culture war or brigade. Some people may not like what you like for exactly the same reasons that you consider positive. Doesn’t make them shills or brigadists or whatever. It just means they have different preferences.


It definitely indicates a brigade when multiple reviews have the same improbable misspelling though...


This absolutely happens. I assume crooked reviewers are a lot more savvy and coordinated now...back in the day, a competitor's employees panned our app using their own names!


Borderlands 3 did attract a lot of attention because it is an Epic game store exclusive. People are upset about it because they want all of their games to be on Steam.


Popular media is a unique market though, as they can attract highly tribalist reviewers pushing a certain angle that has nothing to do with the product itself.

People usually don't get all up in arms like that if a random Bluetooth speaker they bought doesn't sync as well with their Android TV as it does with their iPhone.


This is what I've been doing. I immediately filter to only see the negative reviews and then see if anything anyone is talking about is something that I would be concerned with or if it is a deal breaker.

I do the same thing for movies, restaurants and video games.


> No, but I find myself gravitating much more towards the negative reviews.

I try to be careful here as well. I feel a lot of the negative reviews are paid for by competitors. Of course they tend to be easy to filter out because they're low effort reviews.


I agree as I do the same. But the approach needs to be critical, because there is another side to this.

https://medium.com/imperium42-game-studio/online-indie-games...

reddit thread on the article:

https://www.reddit.com/r/gamedev/comments/dad48z/online_indi...


He or she didn't mention asking for reviews, encouraging reviews, rewarding reviews, and doing anything at all to inform players about how reviews help the game.

Like, you have a garden where you don't plant any flowers but are pissed at having to deal with the weeds.

Need more reviews? Ask! Inform! Let your fans know!


I agree, it's also pretty easy to weed out the comments that are obviously just angry people trying to 'get back' at the company over something minor.


There is a thing called "negativity bias", where negative experiences have a greater effect than positive ones. So reading negative reviews is actually the natural thing to do.

Should I want to game the system. I would definitely post negative reviews on my competitor's products. Safety-related issues, like some component catching fire would be ideal but even a seemingly well thought out disappointed review could be effective. With that in mind, I am also suspicious of negative reviews.

I don't know if that happens in real life. It's risky, and attacking all your competitors is a lot more work than paying for glowing reviews for your own products, but it is not like discrediting your competitors is a new thing.


My favourite Steam review: "Did not load on my machine. Please help."


I understand what you're going for, but this is a legitimate complaint for console-to-PC ports and ports/remasters of older games. There are some ports that I have bought that never ran after multiple troubleshooting sessions.

I don't expect developers to test every combination of hardware in a given market. That's silly. I do think it helps buyers understand the risk in buying ported titles though.


Totally agree. Additionally, those same customers will update their reviews throughout the lifetime of their experience with the product/company/etc. which proves invaluable.


True, what I have observed is that quantitative metrics help in empowering better decisions. That, and product putting in effort to collect feedback about things that matter in that context.


most negative reviews have nothing to do with the actual product - its usually complaints about the poor packaging or late delivery time


That part of what you're paying for though. If you want something Asap, and a number of reviews say it arrived promptly, or took ages, that's useful info. Poor packaging can lead to breakages so again useful info.


agreed but it should be separate from the product reviews itself


The Anna Karenina principle [0] of reviews. "All 5-star reviews are alike; each 1-star review is unhappy in its own way." I love it.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Karenina_principle


But a business can just as easily pay for fake negative reviews of competitors.


But that could only ever be worthwhile in markets with very few competitors. But when there is only a low number of competitors, customers usually have better ways to form an opinion than internet reviews.

The only exceptions are cases where customers are faced with a wide range of vendors, but only tiny, well-delineated subsets are in actual competition. Restaurants serving travelers in a small town would be an example.


While this is true, being so specific about something negative that someone calls them out is much more risky than the useless 1 star rating with comment "product did not work as expected". Low quality comments are almost never considered valid by those that pour over the comments.


I worked for Luma when they were having a review war with Eero. Since Luma is defunct I don't mind straight up telling you.. we were paying a lot of money for positive reviews in order to make our rating match up with Eero's. We had an inferior product with a lot of problems, so it was a losing battle in the end.

Probably the most interesting part is that Amazon was one of our lead investors. We came to them for help, and they told us in a wink wink nudge nudge sort of way that our only option was to just keep buying positive reviews.


> Since Luma is defunct I don't mind straight up telling you.. we were paying a lot of money for positive reviews in order to make our rating match up with Eero's.

I can't help but feel that in addition to being unethical, this might also be illegal. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/03/los-a...


I have been disappointed to find that many startup founders — even those who work in "impact" or "education" — do not care about the ethics or legality of paid reviews. I had a discussion with one founder a few years back, and at first I thought he was simply unaware of the then-new FTC guidelines. But it became clear that he did not care if what he was doing was illegal since "it's just the way business gets done", in his words. Caveat emptor!


There are also no consequences, so there’s no reason for a company to act morally/legally in our current economic system. I’ve never heard of a company paying fines for buying positive reviews.


This is actually a pretty damning indictment. The most charitable thing you could say about Amazon vis-à-vis fake reviews is that they would like to get rid of them but are just overwhelmed by the difficulty of the problem. But this seems to indicate a tacit endorsement on their part. I guess we can’t expect any serious action on this problem anytime soon.


If I were in the market for some fraudulent reviews I think my first stop would be mechanical turk. I say that as someone with zero knowledge review fraud or mechanical turk but is it possible Amazon stand to gain more than they lose on paid reviews?


I'm curious, did Luma pay to put negative reviews out for Eero as well? I feel like a lot of the negative reviews I read these days are bought for.


Doctors in my area pay firms to pad their bad online reviews with glowing ones.


Wow, to know that a company bought fake reviews is one thing, but to know that Amazon themselves recommended to them to do so is another thing.


Lately I’ve been looking at the distribution of reviews. TripAdvisor and Amazon both have bar graphs of rating distributions. In general, I see these distributions:

Great products: Generally a very good product will have between 80 and 90 percent 5-star reviews and then the remaining percentages will tail down with the lowest percent of 1 star reviews. This was how I picked where to go on my honeymoon on TripAdvisor.

Fake Products: All 5-star reviews with zero reviews of any other rating.

So so products: Similar to great products in that the number of reviews decreases as the rating goes down, but the percentage of 4 star reviews is significant and there are less than 70% 5 star reviews

Bad products: Less 5 star reviews than 4 or 3 star reviews. These are surprisingly uncommon and feel quaint when I see them.

Mixed supply chain (Fakes) or serious quality issues: What I refer to as the “1 star bump” where a product has more 1-star reviews than 2, 3, or 4 star review. Similar to “so so products” except you see the 1 star bar sticking out noticeably in the graph. The 1-star bump is my most reliable signal not to buy something. Unfortunately it’s very common on Amazon.


I feel like I see only the "1 star bump" distribution for nearly everything. Most people happily rate something as a 5 with little thought, and a few write a very long screed to accompany a 1; almost nobody cares to do anything in between.


This is also my strategy 100%, I agree with everything you've said for Amazon. The histogram is the most important thing.

Interestingly, I find restaurants on Yelp follow an entirely different pattern -- a hump at 3 stars, or at 4 stars, most often. There are usually a few 5-star reviews for every place, but when there are more 5-star reviews than 4-stars, the restuaurants have always been exceptional. I don't feel like I've ever been steered wrong once.


I bought a controller last week that displayed the 'one star bump'(tm)

They were 1 stars for the wireless version I wasn't buying, so you still have to drill down to see what the 1 star reviews actually say.


I think reviews have lost most value, but mainly due to Amazon’s co-mingling of inventory, merging similar product listings, and overall massive counterfeit problems. Even if you have a high quality review from a trusted source (Wirecutter? Friends and family?) you have no way to know if what you receive will be equivalent to the thing they endorsed.

This happened to me recently with an exercise bike which was an absolute piece of trash compared to what my sister bought and recommended. It makes me want to completely avoid Amazon.


It makes me want to completely avoid Amazon.

Then why don't you?

I seriously don't want to be glib, but I read so many complaints about Amazon, their intermingling of stock from various, partially shady sources, fakes, dodgy reviews, which they do shit-all about, etc, etc.

Personally I don't buy at Amazon since when they pulled a bait and switch on their privacy pledge, which was pretty much in the beginning.

Their predatory behavior, their treatment of employees, their not giving a fuck if you get sent fakes, their systemic viloation of privacy, their dodgy support of law enforcement and their overall creepy behaviour all just reinforce me in this and frankly: I can live quite well without buying anything at Amazon.

So I'm genuinly curious: Why do so many people still buy despite an avalanche of complaints?


>> Then why don't you?

Free shipping! For me this is what keeps me coming back. Just two days ago I needed to get hair color for my wife. Went to the Target site. A nickel a box cheaper. I couldn't get the order up to their minimum for free shipping so I ended up back at Amazon and clicked the buy button. Again.

I watch my pennies pretty carefully because my household isn't very wealthy. I purchase where the price is best. When I factor in shipping "best" is still mostly Amazon.


eBay sellers offer free shipping for most items I buy, and I don't have to spend some minimum amount or buy some ridiculous "prime" subscription.


Good luck enforcing your consumer rights onto a seller on eBay, when you buy something there, you either rely on manufacturer's warranty either you're dead in the water if anything goes wrong with it, if the item comes from less than stellar maker. And that's the main reason a lot of people avoid eBay and the likes.


I have a few reason why I almost exclusively shop online at Amazon. I try to trust as few companies as possible with my credit card details. Amazon having nearly anything I need makes this easier and convenient.

I prefer the convenience of a brick and mortar store (the convenience being able to browse the products in real life and take it home with me immediately) but it's not always possible to find what I'm looking for locally.

Lastly, for every person complaining here on Hacker News about their one anecdotal issue with Amazon there's thousands of products being shipped every minute that have no issue. Amazon mostly works, though I wouldn't trust it for very large fragile things.


Not the OP, but I avoid Amazon when I can, but not completely. I'll give you an example, both of the convenience of Amazon combined with my consumerist, instant-gratification attitude. After a ton of remodeling, our garage now not only can store a car, it can be used as a yoga or meditation space. But fall is here, and it needs a little heat. Fifty years ago I remember my Dad used this cheap-looking infrared heater; rolled sheet metal, some carbon or metal strips, run some alternating current through it, you have heat. Inexpensive, quiet (don't want a fan blowing during meditation time), I'll get couple of those, crawl in the ceiling to mount electrical boxes, it'll be awesome.

Except no one has them locally. Even Amazon can't get them to me in a reasonable amount of time (within the next week). Oh, well, too bad; what can I find that puts out heat without a blower? Home Depot has nothing, regional hardware store doesn't have anything. Amazon has eighteen different models to choose from, a half dozen of which they'll drop on my doorstep the same day.

I could have fished around the internet, found the heaters I originally wanted, wait a week or so. And then crawl in the attic to do a bunch of work that I'm in the mood to do today, not next week. Or I could just click the "buy" button for heater that will not be exactly what I wanted, but let's be real, it'll more than do the job. And I can be done with it and go on with my day. So that's what I did.

And that pretty much describes the thought process with any of my Amazon purchases these days. "I could spend more time on this and find an alternative. But today I have decided that my time is better spent doing something else, so imma click the Amazon 'buy' button." Yes, I have much room for personal growth there. But Amazon also makes it pretty damned convenient.

(As an addendum, I'll also note that not too long ago when I went with the alternative, the next day my credit card was compromised. So there's that to consider.)


I have significantly reduced but not eliminated my purchases. When I buy, it’s usually due to convenience and habit built up over nearly 20 years of being an Amazon customer. Also, in my latest job they sometimes give out spot bonuses in the form of $500 amazon gift cards, which brings me back to the site. It’s taking me longer and longer to spend those.

It’s getting to where I only want to buy books on the site because even a counterfeit book (yes, I’ve received one of those too which was a scanned pdf of the original manufactured with print-on-demand tech) more or less gets the job done.


I’ve used Amazon for years, probably spend between $5k to $8k a year and have never encountered any of the problems you describe. The primary value of Amazon is that they have a superb return process - if you’re a legit customer who does a lot of business on their platform you never have to sweat the return process, they just make it right for you. I think their customer service is why I keep going back to them - it’s way above most other vendors. If I have a problem with something, I just want it fixed - and Amazon has no problem with that, so I keep using them.


"I’ve used Amazon for years, probably spend between $5k to $8k a year and have never encountered any of the problems you describe. "

That sounds hard to believe. I encounter co-mingling of reviews all the time. And to be clear, I'm a huge fan of Amazon and buy almost everything except groceries through them, but the review quality is pretty inconsistent on many items. Co-mingling is the biggest and most obvious issue I have faced, but I'm sure fake or fraudulent reviews are another big issue that's not immediately obvious to reviewers.


> So I'm genuinly curious: Why do so many people still buy despite an avalanche of complaints?

Because, despite their many problems, their customer service is still better than most (maybe all) of their direct competitors.


> their customer service is still better than most (maybe all) of their direct competitors.

I've only needed customer support from Amazon twice, but both times my experience was really bad.


I've only needed them a handful of times in the past 20 years and they've been nothing but phenomenal. Refunds or replacements have been really easy and they've made the process as seamless as it could be.


> So I'm genuinly curious: Why do so many people still buy despite an avalanche of complaints?

Personally, I do try to avoid them. Originally it was because I didn't want them to grow in market power; now its' because the results are a lot worse.

But it's not always possible. Probably 80-90% of the time I'm able to find what I'm looking for somewhere else. But sometimes what I'm looking for I can only really find on Amazon.

That, and people still buy me Amazon gift cards.


> That, and people still buy me Amazon gift cards.

When people give me gift cards of any sort, I just sell them to someone else outright.


politely return the cards, with reasons, and thanks, suggesting an alternative outlet for gift cards they can buy you?


Do you happen to have a general purpose e-commerce site to recommend? I've been trying to use Amazon less and less but there are still quite a few miscellaneous items that I can't find on Jet or Walmart. I'd rather not have account and credit card info saved at dozens of merchants if I can help it; that's the one thing still keeping me at Amazon.


I ignore Amazon reviews, but I do use Amazon. They aren't my first stop, though. I have a hierarchy.

If I can't find what I need at a local store, then I search the web.

If I can't find a website that has what I need and is at least in my country, I hit up Amazon.

If I can't find what I need on Amazon, then I stop by eBay.


I have the same system, except I prefer EBay over Amazon, and thus end up never having to resort to Amazon. IMO, even though EBay itself isn’t a German company, their business model isn’t nearly as monopolistic/anticompetitive as Amazon's, which makes them the lesser evil.


I have to admit that I've been drifting this direction as well, but for different reasons.

Amazon has been getting to be more of a pain in the butt over the past couple of years, as so many sketchy third-party sellers have been cropping up. If I don't pay very close attention, I can end up placing an order from a seller that isn't what I thought, and turns out to be someone that I would have wanted to avoid.

Essentially, it's the same amount of caution that has always been necessary with eBay, and thus removes most of the advantages Amazon had over eBay. Given that, I may as well just go directly to eBay.


I agree. Do you have a good set of alternative sources that you know aren't as dodgy? I used to use (and still do sometimes) ones like newegg, but I have no idea whether they're much better


Not really. I still try to mostly buy at brick and mortar stores. Especially when it comes to books.

While Amazon may be cheaper I moan for independent book sellers going bust, because they just can't match the prices, let alone the cost structure of the behemoth. And I think they provide a valuable cultural service, which Amazon couldn't care less about.


I think about it in a more general sense. If you look at metacritic, you'll either see the knee-jerk reaction reviews from fan/foe players with 0 information or the "professional" reviews that mostly read as disguised ads.

Long gone are the times of good, researched reviews. Which in my opinion is another face of the deprecation of content value (ie people not paying for high quality researched content).

Same as why news channels now have people panels instead of investigative journalism.

Also the fact that most companies forbid benchmarks... they are incredibly useful tools for comparing products.


This is far from an Amazon-specific problem. Glassdoor allows you to pay to remove bad reviews. So does Yelp. I bet G and others do too.

Of course, even easier than paying to remove bad ones is paying to add fake good reviews. Another issue is apps and such annoying you until you submit a review. Leave a bad one? Then they annoy you with more follow up, so you're pressured to leave a good review so they stop bothering you.


The vast majority of hidden yelp reviews I've seen are filtered out due to account age/connectedness (8 out of every 10 hidden reviewers I've seen on some restaurants had only one review or 0 friends on their account) or very low effort content. I wouldn't be surprised if there's also a date-based filter involved in the algorithm to detect brigades or coordinated efforts to attack a place. I'd like to see hard evidence of claims that Yelp actually provides review inflation.

It would also be very hard for organizations as big as Yelp or Google to provide this service while covering up evidence of its existence.


As the trope goes, if the author asks a question in the title of their article, the answer is "no, not really."

I'd counter that online reviews still have pretty much the same value they ever have had, and that we're more aware of what the limits of that value is.

Lot's of real-person reviews exist on many platforms, and reading through a few often gives you a decent idea of what you're getting yourself into.

Paid-for reviews are certainly a scourge, and one business getting loyalists to down-vote a competitor is also a problem. But that's been a thing since the beginning of recommendation features, and we should celebrate a little bit that we're more hip and conscious today to these operations.


The real question is: What is the alternative?

There are some useful review sites like Wirecutter that arguably cut through the clutter in a lot of cases. But the amount of "stuff" and experiences (e.g. restaurants) out there is pretty overwhelming for what's left of professional reviewers outside of some fairly narrow domains.

I do a lot of travel. Are Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews of restaurants great? Not really. Are they generally better--given some critical mass--than picking a restaurant at random or because it has a cool name? Almost certainly. (Of course, online menus and the like can be somewhat useful as well.)


Thats exactly the answer though, more authoritative reviews. It's the same reason Rotten Tomatoes differentiates between a score and a top critics score. You can have a consumer reports score, and an amazon verified buyer score. Professional reviewers and aggregate buyer reviews.

Theres actually lots of wirecutter type sites for different things, however there are just as many sites that seem to praise EVERY product they list, and sometimes there can be hundreds of sites all saying the same thing. https://electricbikereview.com/ is one where I have trouble telling which ones he likes more than others, because he is so positive about every features. Mattress and credit card / financial review sites have spun up like the plague.

This is also one of the few places where I think the government could step in, where it currently isnt, and the Attorney General should run their own version of https://www.slant.co , wirecutter, consumer reports, yelp, better business bureau, https://thesweetsetup.com/picks/ etc. Some combination of government reliability and safety ratings, mixed with verified purchase reviews. It's a perfect place for the government to help cut through the paradox of choice and misleading or loud advertising, and help consumers find good products from the rough.

As far as restaurants go, even just a nice aggregation app would be nice that could pull together and normalize scores from yelp, facebook, google, trip adviser, foursquare, zomato, opentable, zagat. It would be really nice to be able to see which restaurants end up popular on which sites, how scores compare across sites, An additional benefit of aggregation would be, if the app can find "like reviewers" that you should follow, people who vote similarly to you.


> It's the same reason Rotten Tomatoes differentiates between a score and a top critics score. You can have a consumer reports score, and an amazon verified buyer score.

With sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, I almost always completely ignore the "top critics" reviews and go with user reviews. In almost 100% of cases where the scores for TV shows significantly diverge, I find the user score to be spot on.

I think the user scores on these sites aren't horribly out of whack with reality because there's not much to be gained by gaming them. I'm sure only a small minority of consumers go on such sites to pick what to watch next.


Im not even bringing in the user reviews. Im not saying the top critics are better. All I am saying is that rotten tomatoes differentiates between casual movie bloggers, and long standing paid journalists whos day job it is to review movies.

Lion king has 388 critics reviewing the movie, and only 46 are considered "top."

It's nice to be able to contextualize scores. For me the presence of users reviews doesnt negate the benefit of critical reviews. I enjoy being able to see discrepancy between groups.


I think it matters a lot more to know the reviewer than to understand what portion of critics like/dislike a thing, and I find that aggregators are accurate only when signaling the same scores that the majority already expects before they check the aggregator.

Every reviewer has a consistent voice and set of tastes, and it matters if a reviewer you generally agree with falls into the positive 40/300 on one movie or the negative 260/300 on another.

Maybe your favorite media reviewer Bob Obert can't stand historical drama movies or mockumentary series, or the Meater blog you read is consistently biased toward giving BBQ joints high scores. When you see Obert give a The Office episode a 4/5 that is mediocre by Generic Yahoo Contributor standards, or Meater feature a seitan food truck in Portland while being critical of an artisan brisket restaurant, you're going to value those reviews much more over the majority of others.


If we are talking more about product reviews, a certain percentage of my opinion will be based on build quality and glitches, which PARTIALLY can only be determined by a large portion of users. It is helpful to compare expert reviews (like rtings) with a crowd sourced aggregate to look for manufacturing, design, or supply chain issues that might not pop up in a single review.


I don't know about electricbikereview.com, but the reason all of those sites love everything they list is because all they care about is getting that sweet affiliate cash when you buy something. In my experience, the VAST majority of "specialized review sites" are really nothing more than spam trying to drive sales in affiliate programs. This is a different but related problem.


I used that as an example of a somewhat middle ground. Its obvious hes being somewhat nice so the bike companies keep inviting him to try products, but he does give pros and cons, and the reviews appear generally unbiased. Like other people, I think I use the negatives more than the positives to make consumer decisions, and his site is so positive its saccharineness gives it the scent of pay to play, even if its not (in fact he charges every company he reviews a fee to be reviewed, so its equally pay to play. He mentions it at the beginning of every video and review.)


> This is also one of the few places where I think the government could step in

If we could prevent regulatory capture and flat-out bribery, sure. Not sure that’s possible though.


Qualitative reviews, not quantitative. This is only crappy as a scalable business.

> Are they generally better...than picking a restaurant at random?

Depends on what you’re looking for, but I’ve had much better success off yelp than on it. I highly recommend going to literally random places.

I certainly couldn’t find the restaurants I do eat at on yelp had I had to look again: they’re all in the middle of the pack ratings wise due to people conflating food rating, service rating, and setting rating. Whatever I like about these places yelp does not expose.


>I highly recommend going to literally random places.

Certainly not my experience. Most restaurants are mediocre or worse. User review sites are of course highly imperfect and sometimes there just aren't very good options off the beaten track.

But I must say I have generally better experiences with doing at least a modicum of research (whether online, local recommendation, looking at menus, etc.) that just walking in somewhere at random.


> Most restaurants are mediocre or worse.

Without knowing you and what you look for in food, and in eating out, your expectations of service, your enjoyment of the aesthetic, your appreciation of arbitrary culture, it’s very hard to give this statement any weight. There are more restaurants on my block in SF than my home town, and of much higher quality. If you find the MAJORITY of restaurants to be mediocre or worse, that reveals a value system incompatible with mine. I’m just looking for a new place to eat, not the next Michelin star restaurant. Abundance of choice is my problem that random choice solves neatly.


SF is of course much better than the norm. But I don't look for Michelin dining experiences. I'm very happy with a good ethnic restaurant of some sort.

But yes--I do find if I walk into the random restaurant on a street I expect to be unimpressed, even in SF. And the fact that it's somewhere I haven't tried before isn't really a big plus in my book unless it's also good.

I am at least somewhat picky however.


> I do find if I walk into the random restaurant on a street I expect to be unimpressed, even in SF.

My sincere condolences.


Rtings.com for tech. They buy all of their units; they don't take 'review units'


Yes, I love rtings because they give consistent measurements.

I can look at their review for a pair of headphones I own and a pair of headphones I'm considering buying and come out with a pretty good idea of how the headphones will sound and feel.


Wirecutter and Consumer Reports for most purchases, Yelp and TripAdvisor for reccomendations while traveling. Works pretty well.


I've come to really distrust Wirecutter after doing additional review research and realizing that many of the products they recommend have real issues and are in fact not the best whatever you can purchase. Also, their affiliate system isn't the most reliable one so often when you click their Amazon affiliate product link, you're forwarded to a non-existing product page.


I guess experiences differ. Their recommendations have always seemed like pretty solid choices for me.

What's certainly is true (CR as well going back decades) is that if you have a fair bit of knowledge and very specific wants/don't wants in a product area, you may well not be happy with the recommendations from any of the generalist review sites. (I wouldn't use them for a higher-end camera for example.)


Even if their final recommendation isnt the best, its usually a good jumping off point to start looking up their recommendation, their upgrade, and the competition section. More often than not, if their main pick doesnt wow me, I can find something in the competition section that was dismissed for a silly reason, and Ill use that product to start my search.


I don't think wirecutter really even tries to identify the best, because they factor price into the equation too much for that. I do find it to be a good source of data about some of the options and tradeoffs, but when I'm looking for truly the best in class, it's rarely their pick.


> are in fact not the best whatever you can purchase.

Best is still subjective, no matter how objective a reviewer may try to be. If one finds their tastes don't line up with a particular review site, then they can find another.


I still use the wirecutter but feel my trust factor has diminished quite a bit recently


> are in fact not the best whatever you can purchase

I've never used Wirecutter and can't comment on them specifically, but I will note that what is "the best" is very subjective and context dependent. There is no absolute "best" anything.


I don't live in the US, but I've heard "pay to play" allegations against Wirecutter:

https://www.xdesk.com/wirecutter-standing-desk-review-pay-to...


Given that it's part of The New York Times, I'd be skeptical.


I believe the events from that article happened before the NYT acquisition. At that time the Wirecutter was still a startup.


Then why bring up five year old allegations that are almost certainly not relevant today (if they indeed were at the time)?


That's interesting though: what's the alternative?

Each vertical has different dimensions that matters to people, and some could be objectively measured, without reviewers.

In my case, I'm building a community for any type of classes around you (e.g. dancing, yoga, acting classes, French, etc.) at https://classalog.org and when I asked users 'how do you choose a class' almost no one tell me "I want to see reviews" as their first answers. Pictures, and knowing the experience of the instructor is more important. I'm not certain reviews with its downsides would do more good than bad, and I'm really hesitant to implement that feature at the moment.


> The real question is: What is the alternative?

While I tend to ignore reviews on the likes of Yelp, TripAdviser, Amazon, etc., I do have an alternative: I turn to blogs and YouTube.

There is a lot that is problematic there, too, but at least with those fora, I can look at other reviews from the same person (which gives me an idea of the bent of that particular reviewer), and those reviews tend to be more long-form, where the reviewer usually goes into some amount of detail explaining why they gave the thing the review they did.


> The real question is: What is the alternative?

Well, before the internet existed, we had word of mouth. Pretty sure word of mouth is and always has been the right way of doing things. Even asking a random stranger in person is probably more signal to noise than reading the garbage posted online, and random chance aint terrible either.

Authoritative reportage also still works in some cases.


I don't agree. Before the internet, people went to the safe/reliable/consistent chain restaurants much more than they do today, and I think it's because the internet made it easy to discover new places while also providing some predictability of whether those places would be enjoyable.

It used to be when we were on a road trip and hungry, going to the Applechilibees/Olivelobster brand we recognized on the side of the road was a no-brainer, now I pull up yelp or glance at Eater a few minutes before arrival.


> now I pull up yelp or glance at Eater a few minutes before arrival.

Those have egregiously misled me too many times for me to look at them anymore.


I've literally never, ever had an app recommend me any restaurant (my phone doesn't do internet), and I eat at a lot of restaurants, at home, on the road and abroad. Other than the occasional MickeyD's none of them have been "chain restaurants." How have I survived without the ding dongs at Yelp telling me what to do? Hell, how have I survived without using GPS? I must have superpowers!


We're building Bibimapp so you can get recommendations from your direct and extended network. Personal recommendations from people you trust.

https://bibimapp.com


Off-topic: is the name related to this delicious Korean dish? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibimbap


Sort of. Bibim means to beam (as in shine a light on) in Korean.


It has to be. This article has peaked my cynicism and I suspect your comment is just intended to seem like an organic response to legitimize that app plug. To keep it on topic, I suppose that's the result of the modern review-scape: I'm sceptical of any review or comment about a product.


Are you suggesting that we know each other? That is pretty funny in a topical sense. We don't know each other fyi but as a keen reader of /r/HailCorporate I can see where you are coming from. Inauthenticity has dirtied the water for everyone. In any case I think my small plug is fair game to post on a forum about startups especially as it answered the question pretty directly. This is the alternative I envision will become the norm once millenials are old news.


Nitpick: “piqued”, not “peaked” (though it’s a homonym)


Weird. I know this. Maybe I added it in to make my comment seem more legitimate and to trigger a response. ;) All swell that ends swell I guess.


Different execution, but friends-and-family referrals is exactly what the original Yelp product was for.


Affiliate, referral and influencer marketing will game your model.


It's why we're restricting follows. Influencers can go shite.


Please note that advertising is discouraged in this forum


Well, it's actually not. We even have a "Show HN" function for it that's very popular and gets a lot of engagement. And as a community of craftspeople, we are pretty lenient with others sharing their work.

Also, I don't agree with demonizing people for making "I made <this>" posts while "I use <this>" endorsement posts go completely under the radar. You're just forcing the first group to behave like the second group while I find the first group much more valuable since we can see the connection and even interact with the creator.

I see this all the time on r/gaming. The front page is 100% "advertising" but completely cool with gamers. The second an indie developer shares something they built, it's suddenly uncool. Simple fix: turn "I made this" into "I found this" and gamers are totally cool with it again because it couldn't possibly be advertising. It's a bit silly. "I made this" posts are much more interesting and become mini-AMAs on r/gaming instead of the same old meme-advertising of the same five AAA games.


I think more precisely, my comment was about talking up something without adding extra insight or analysis to the discussion, and GP just posted their app without any extra insight. I intended to have been more precise, but got distracted. thank you for the elaboration, I would agree with you in general.



One thing I've noticed is that negative reviews, even very specific ones, often just serve to delay my purchase. I was looking to buy an ab wheel recently, and almost every single option on Amazon had some negative reviews which seemed legitimate and did give me pause. "Handle snapped off after just one week, causing me to smash into the floor and loose a tooth", for example. Of course I don't want that to happen, so now I end up spending over an hour looking through products, all which are under $40, none of which are free from some sort of specific complaint - "Handle is too narrow, this is not good for your lats. Can't believe the manufacturer would cheap out on this, I ended up with back pain after less than two weeks of use.", "The additional wheel makes this too stable. I've had many in the past, I clearly do not get as good a workout from this one. Will be returning it." etc.

These all have 4-5 star reviews, and otherwise seem perfectly fine. If I saw them in a store I would have purchased them without a second thought.

Ultimately I just went back and bought the first one I saw. It seems perfectly fine, I can't see any issues with it.


I went through this with power tools. What I found was products would end up with three broad classes of negative reviews, segmented mainly by price:

* Expensive tools would have gripes about price or lack of inclusion of accessories. If I bought something in this category it would be problem-free, but so far in excess of what I need as a hobbyist/DIYer that it was comical, e.g. a circular saw that could happily saw my car in half when all I'm doing is building bookshelves.

* Cheap tools would have a consistent pattern of reviews mentioning one or more specific failures that occurred during normal use - e.g. belt sanders that swallow belts or drills where the chuck quickly comes loose. If I bought something in this range, I'd experience exactly the same failure myself.

* Finally, mid-price tools would have the same number of poor reviews as the cheap ones, but the scenarios described would be abusive or unrealistic expectations: people complaining that they couldn't use an orbital sander on concrete tiles or fit enormous router bits to something consumer-grade.

The realisation I wish I'd come to earlier is that stuff in the last category is fine, particularly when it comes to a tool I only use occasionally. Stuff here does exactly what I need, gives good results, and doesn't result in me paying for power I'm never going to use. I guess that's part of the problem with online reviews - needing to get to the level where you're analysing them in depth to differentiate between "it broke because it's badly made" and "it broke because I was doing something completely crazy with it".


I think I have the same approach to the items I consider inexpensive (I would define it as forgetting about loss of money in a month if the thing turned out to be a total loss). But I see this "delay purchase" after reading negative reviews as a feature: it encourages a quick second look which occasionally makes me switch plans.

For things that are more expensive and/or long-term, for example a car (which I buy as new and drive until it truly starts falling apart) I tend to pay much more attention to negative reviews, either digging in for statistics or thinking about whether a particular feature being dissed is important for me. My 2c.


I had a similar thing happen to me over the weekend where I was reviewing studio light kits to brighten up my videos.

It lead down a path of an entire evening researching a bunch of lights, but finding a number of "worked great for 2 weeks but then the bulb died" type of reviews on kits that had generally decent average ratings.

Then I started thinking more about the bulbs, which lead to reading white papers about how long term exposure to CFL bulbs could potentially cause irreversible retina damage and other eye problems and now, not only do I not have lights, I'm not sure I even want them. LEDs also had their own set of eye issues, especially in the 5500k range (which is what most flattering light is set to).


Same thing here too.

What I end up doing is ignoring any product where the name of it/the company is in all caps. Pretty good giveaway that it's just white-labeled junk.


I also tend to check the one-stars but sadly I’ve become so untrusting that I always think it might be a competitor trying to undermine the product.


Be careful using the ab wheel! I pulled my lower back so bad that I couldn't walk for a couple days. And I had been powerlifting for a couple of years at that point. Really have to use proper form


This seems confounded by the fact that many sellers seem to sell different, but similar items under the same listing - i.e. they sell one thing, but then switch supplier.


But have you made it past the one-week mark yet?


I think shopping sites should simply show the percent returns for each item. Maybe break it down by return reason.


At first thought, this might be useful information. It might be less helpful for very inexpensive products where returning the defective item isn't worth the effort. I suspect sellers wouldn't want to encourage returns as a way to show dissatisfaction, since they are so expensive.


Yes, but.

I don’t Amazon anymore, but the reviews were and I assume still are completely unreliable for many segments. Too many players running to the bottom.

For other things, you need to know the market. Restaurants and hotel reviews are full of bad info (fakes, ultra-picky people, etc) but it’s easy to extract useful information. Usually the fakes have details that only workers would care about or are just pure praise without specifics. People on a vacation tell stories and business travelers usually complain about things that cost them time.

You also need to consider how you use a review. The stars are there to sell the product. I look for corroborated information about things I don’t like, and mostly ignore the positive. That doesn’t work on Amazon because the fakes are more common and brazen than real reviews, and Amazon facilitates the fakery as more reviews drive transactions.


I've found ReviewMeta (https://reviewmeta.com/) useful for Amazon reviews, though it still doesn't solve the issue of co-mingling products. So generally for buying items I use Amazon or a niche subreddit's recommendation, then buy the product off eBay, the manufacturer's website, or a physical store.

As far as "place" reviews, Google reviews in my area haven't let me down yet. Yelp has been hit-or-miss; I dislike their "not currently recommended" review system. TripAdvisor isn't too useful in my local area as there's not nearly as many reviews as on Google/Yelp.


ReviewMeta founder here - this is called "Review Hijacking" and we have a warning in place for when it's detected: https://reviewmeta.com/blog/amazon-review-hijacking/


I don't get the feeling ReviewMeta is very sophisticated. FakeSpot and ReviewMeta often contradict each other. I often spend time on both sites and then realise that either all the candidate products are not great, or I've wasted time gaining little confidence and should just pick one.


Fakespot CTO here. That's a good observation. Our engines utilize NLP heavily conjoined with proprietary ML models to detect influenced reviews that basic statistical analysis will never (or with low levels of success) be able to infer from review data sets, unless there are very basic signals such as 100 5-star reviews posted in an hour.

Fake review authors and providers are increasingly becoming sophisticated to bypass various filters in place on Amazon and other websites so you need to be able to leverage SOTA analysis to detect them. We also don't reveal how we detect certain fake reviews due to the fact that they will use that information to their advantage to further exploit our system, which allows us to be a couple steps ahead.

Anyone interested to know more about this topic feel free to email me at saoud@fakespot.com.


It would be awesome if you could support amazon.de


We'd love to add support for German. We'd need a lot of retraining of our models to support the language however, it is in our road map!


ReviewMeta supports all Amazon sites including Amazon.de


+1


Keep in mind that both sites are estimates - there's absolutely no way to determine which reviews are "fake" with 100% accuracy. The difference with ReviewMeta is that you can actually see the numbers behind our calculation and even open the hood and turn the knobs yourself.


For me, once I became aware of the fact that it is now a commonplace activity to pay for falsified reviews, and there are technology platforms that scan reviews to determine if they are fake or not... almost any review I read on a mainstream shopping platform is suspect to me now. Which is unfortunate, because that's where most of the convenience and value as a consumer is to me.

If I now want to make a purchase based heavily on user reviews, I do like many of the other posters here have said: I look at the reviews and low and high middle of the spectrum, have to read each review for obvious, glaring generalizations and seek out language that implies real-world usage vs. hyperbole, and use other features at my disposal, including a verified reviewer stamp (if on Amazon), tools like FakeSpot or ReviewMeta, and reading reviews from competing shopping platforms for the same item if possible (if shopping on Amazon for a widget, look for reviews on eBay or the website of the widget manufacturer). If it's a technology purchase, I'll also look up a bunch of reviews from at least 3-4 technology review platforms, placing a greater weight on those who have included screenshots of their actual usage of the product, which tend to imply a greater deal of rigor to go through for a fake review (but this doesn't mean it's completely trustworthy either).

These additional forms of verification, on one hand, could be likened to how we used to shop before internet shopping was a thing (we'd ask a bunch of people for reviews in real life, visit a bunch of stores and window shop, and perhaps read about it in a newspaper or try it ourselves in a real-life demo in the store), but at the end of the day, I choose to shop online for the convenience vs. brick and mortar stores, and this is the unfortunate evolution of that technology.


I now look first at 3 star reviews. These are less likely to be biased and more likely to represent a middle ground between the good and bad aspects of the product. It's sad that we had to get there but the trust is gone with 4-5 star reviews for me.


Something strange I’ve seen on more than one occasion and on multiple platforms is 1-star glowing reviews and 5-star bashing reviews.

Also, when looking at overall reviews for a given thing there is usually a pattern for fraudulent ones, kind of like students having to summarise from the same text.


I've noticed this is particularly common on the Google Play store. Apparently the reason is reviews which go against what most people are reviewing are given a higher priority and more likely to be shown to potential users.

E.g. if an app is getting mostly 5 stars and you give it a 1 star, your rating will be more prominently shown in Google Play.


This kind of bi-modal distribution usually means one of three things. Most often it means the product is crap (Sturgeon's Law: 99% of everything is crap) and the vendor has been buying or posting fake five-star reviews. Occasionally it means the product is really good and a competitor has been buying or posting fake one-star reviews. Even more rarely, it means that the vendor and a competitor are both participating in a fake-review war. You could try looking at both sets of reviews to determine which scenario it is, but the odds are heavily stacked against it being the one that suggests a buy. As galling as it might be to let the miscreants win if that's the case, and to miss out on what's actually a good product, the safe bet is just to move on.


I was looking for something on Amazon the other day, my searches revealed dozens of odd-sounding brands that I had never heard of before, all of which had lots of 5-star reviews, all of which seemed to be for a different product than the one listed.


You're looking at a confluence of two problems. One is that drop-shipping directly from Chinese manufacturers has become so cheap and easy (because of an international-postal-rule exemption that has been discussed here before) that everyone's doing it. Including the manufacturers themselves, some of whom I'm pretty sure make up the brand names literally at random. It costs them nothing at all to make up a few dozen brands, each presenting the product in a slightly different way, in hopes that one of those presentations will catch a few more eyes. It's basically the same incentive structure that gave us junk mail and (even more so) spam email.

The other problem is "review washing". Some vendors do the "bait and switch" themselves, but there's also an actual market for Amazon listings with good reviews attached. All an unscrupulous vendor has to do is buy one of those and change literally everything that goes into it, from contact details to the actual product. It's like if you could buy the right to a best-seller book cover, replacing the content for books already in brick-and-mortar stores with whatever you want. That's why sites like ReviewMeta and FakeSpot are absolutely essential for anyone shopping on Amazon nowadays.


If you have some spare time and are going for an item that's hard to make wrong, this can serve you too. I bought an item that was using a brand name in the title on eBay, but what I got was a cheap knockoff. The box itself had the Chinese branding so it was very obvious.

I ended up getting a full refund and it works fine. I was annoyed at the deception more than anything - the item is fine, but they may have cost a sale to a legitimate supplier by abusing the trademark.


This is called Review Hijacking: https://reviewmeta.com/blog/amazon-review-hijacking/


Answer is no, as others have said. But I think it depends a lot on which reviews and what you're looking at.

I frequently use Google's reviews for finding food places. While it's not 100%, and is HEAVILY biased to the top end (you probably want to aim for 4.2 or higher), it's been very reliable across many locations and even countries for me. Something I like is that a hole in the wall banh mi place is just as likely to earn a high rating as a 3 star restaurant - the ratings reflect the execution of what is being attempted, so cheap eats can rate well and sometimes that's all we want.

For games and media, I actually like the aggregators a lot (Metacritic). It's not the final word, and idiots do review bomb some titles (but mostly AAA games that I would avoid), but the "wisdom of crowds" seems surprisingly accurate overall. Steam reviews with their "Overwhelmingly Positive" is similar.

For individual items on Amazon or hotel rooms though, as other posters have said the mid-range reviews with something to say beyond the rating are the most worthwhile. I can tell if they're like-minded or whether their concerns mean nothing to me. On this note one amusing thing is that US reviews often focus on "the service" (probably because they're expected to pay extra for it) while I don't really care much about that and don't see it mentioned in other countries unless it's egregious.


Something I've been thinking about recently is that there should be a site that only takes the "good" products from amazon and displays them for different categories - maybe only the top 20 or so. If i'm looking for an oven mitt / phone case / whatever the amount of junk is overwhelming. I envision it would essentially be a semi-curated list of amazon items. Anyone know of something like this? It's on my backlist of projects to build if I can't find any substitutes.


This is nice in theory, but Amazon have a big problem right now where merchants have figured out how to reuse Amazon listing to game the review rating. You'll often find you're looking at a product but the reviews are talking about something completely different.

Here's an example - third product in the search results on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Headphone-Connector-Converter-Acces...

It's supposed to be for Headphone adapters for iPhone, but you get reviews like:

"Super set of pocket friendly priced pencils!"

"I purchased this Hub back in April of 2013"

"On the first couple of uses, food did stick a bit and that is with seasoning the griddle"

So it's got to point now of having to first find a product with good ratings, then make sure the reviews are indeed for that product.


Isn't that kinda what https://thewirecutter.com/ is doing?


Thanks for the link - I'll probably just use this instead!


If I'm looking for reviews, I look at results from forums. There's internet communities out there for everything.

Forums are usually good for compiling lists of 'approved' items as well.


I have fully shifted away from doing my own research on what to buy to going to recommendation sites. I've always thought I had an astute ability to detect fake reviews (and I was probably right for the first wave of low effort paid reviews). What made me change was the following: 1) Companies and consumers cooperating in huge, fake review rings, 2) product search at places like Amazon becoming totally undifferentiatable, and 3) the lack of trust in tools to combat them (fakespot, etc).

I now just go to a recommendation site that earns income through affiliate kickbacks. I use Wirecutter [0], Rtings [1], plus a handful of smaller forum / community sites for categories those don't cover.

I actually think this is an enormous opportunity for several huge categories:

1) Tool reviews: especially with the rate of battery innovation, there is a huge opportunity to have thorough reviews and category recommendations of both consumer and professional tools.

2) Camera / DSLR / video - There's no lack of thorough reviews in this category, but making sense of it is near impossible unless you're a professional.

3) IoT gear - This isn't hugely important to me, but similar to cameras and tools there are a variety of systems that lock users in, and getting recommendations based on which system a user already has would be relatively simple.

I have found these categories to be lacking not only in trustable reviews, but mostly in updated recommendations. Even if reviews exist, it is up to the effort of the user to read them all and build up a knowledge base of similar options to select from. Each of these categories have a high enough volume and purchase price that affiliate fees could easily support a recommendation business.

[0] - https://thewirecutter.com

[1] - https://www.rtings.com


I don't follow why you distrust sites like Fakespot but trust something like Wirecutter which as you note is directly incented to shill review products that offer more affiliate revenue.


Fakespot CTO here. Care to elaborate on your lack of trust in Fakespot? Just curious.


They haven't lost all value, but you certainly can't take them at face value. I always make sure to read the negative reviews, as others have mentioned. I'll also frequently look at the review history of any review that resonates with me one way or another to see if they appear to be a normal person or a paid shill. Amazon could probably solve this problem if it wanted since it has access to purchase histories, shipping addresses, and review histories for all accounts on its site. I assume that the problem of fake reviews isn't solved because Amazon doesn't care enough about it to take the necessary action and fix it. It may also help Amazon's bottom line to have a bunch of highly-rated products for sale, even if those ratings are fake.


I first and sometimes only read the one star reviews, and look at their percentage. If one-five have a distribution with a big slope discontinuity…

If it passes this test, I might read some of the other reviews looking for problems that I might agree with the viewer on.


Considering that anyone can go on Fiverr and pay for hundreds of 5 star glowing (or 1 star negative) reviews for nearly anything that can be reviewed on the web, I would say online reviews are largely BS.


They have not. They've just graduated to a place where you can't lie: Reddit. On Reddit, everyone is sceptical of the guy who doesn't have a long history of comments. People who've only just joined a subreddit will be viewed sceptically.

You'll get pretty good reviews if you do "XYZ reddit".

The problem for the guy trying to game the reviews is that a real user reviews things too sparsely. There'll be one review in maybe a hundred comments and five submissions.


I do exactly this. It has worked for me so far.


TrustPilot is just completely ridiculous. For a company who's entire USP revolves around 'real' reviews, the vast, vast majority are so obviously fake.


A very easy way to stack the deck on such providers is to just send review requests to customers that you know are happy. This is even easier if you have a two-tier system (use your internal reviews on-platform to find the happy customers).


Same media illiteracy problem as Fake News. Most people are unable to discern ulterior motives. So, "trust".

btw; The solution is not improving one's ability to discern (because that is an arm's race the people with power motives (political, financial) are gonna out spend you and vast majority of humans are incapable of beating that) Rather it is by default not to trust and have high bar for earning your trust.


I was getting a screen protector and apparently they're so cheap / specialized that they have no reviews at all. I ended up looking at reviews for other products by the same company.

It could also be that they're all dropshippers and change their brand frequently to avoid negative reviews, but the stock graphics were at least slightly tweaked compared to Alibaba's.


I don't trust reviews at all unless I know the "reviewer" in real life, that is if someone I know tells me it's good.

Good thing you have 14 day "no questions asked money back" guarantee on anything physical bought online in Europe. I've used that option quite a few times when the product is trash.


It wouldn't solve everything, but I think that the problem could be significantly helped with the following changes:

Only allow reviews from people who actually purchased the product.

Make it fraud to pay spammers to review your product.

Show the country where a seller is located.

Make Amazon (and similar marketplaces) liable and on the hook for returns if a seller disappears.


The star-ratings are nearly worthless, and to the extent there is any value, it is in 2-to-4 star reviews (less likely to be fake).

However, the explanation, because harder for a bot to churn out believably, is still often worth something, not least because things that bother other people might be a plus for me.


Failed due to Homogeneity, Centralization, Division, Imitation and Emotionality as per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wisdom_of_Crowds#Failures_...


the reviews are hosted by amazon. they exist to facilitate profitmaking by selling stuff. the company never even pretends to have goals at odds with that. some part of that requires barely pretending to not encourage this behavior... but this is inevitable.


I look for practical information in reviews such as 'works well but the plastic grommet holder snapped off after a week of use, look out for the weak electric dimmer switch' etc etc. The subjective reviews are mostly a waste of time


For popular things? Yes, not enough of the information is reliable. Unpopular and niche things still benefit from reviews. It's almost as if the quality and usefulness goes up as the review count stays low.


When it comes to entertainment, largely a high level of positive reviews no longer tells me anything because the internet has saturated the planet. Average people are upvoting everything.


A big percentage of reviews on Yelp are fake.

Sure you can buy fake yelp reviews on http://freepage.io and other sites.


I prefer to read the 1-star reviews. Often, there's nuggets of information written if it's not entirely someone's complaint about a product/thing.


Nope. They just require the same critical thinking and situational awareness that is required to spot phishing, obviously malicious links, dark patterns, etc.


From my point of view, online reviews are not quite entirely without value, but their value is extremely low. I rarely bother reading them anymore.


In the enterprise side of things, I find G2Crowd and TrustRadius reviews useless in that they are too skewed towards the positive end of things.


An AI-based platform that identifies legitimate reviews can easily find a product/market fit. Is anybody here interested?


View reviews by nth degree friends.


Goodhart's law in action.


I post frequently here with an anti-advertising stance. Briefly: advertising is often just unambiguously lying, and when it's not, it's still a one-sided collection of facts. Advertising breaks one of the core ideas of capitalism: that the best products or best prices will win, because a better-advertised product can beat a cheaper, higher-quality product. If one company spends money on advertising, all their competitors have to start spending money on advertising, which means that the entire market has to take money away from researching and manufacturing quality, or pass that cost on to the consumer.

A common response I get is, "But how will we find out about products?" My stance is that professional review sites supported by users (examples: Consumer Reports, OutdoorGearLab, LabDoor) are the solution.

So why not consumer reviews?

1. The obvious thing is that it doesn't solve the problem with advertising. Advertisers can pose as consumers and post reviews. Sophisticated methods of detecting this (i.e. ignore all 1- and 5-star reviews) just fall prey to more sophisticated advertisers (i.e. computer generate 30 5-star ratings to keep your star rating up, and then post one carefully-crafted 4-star rating written by a human).

2. Even if you do manage to filter advertisers, you still tend to hear from the extremes. Irrational positivity isn't better than irrational negativity: a person who posts all 5-star reviews because they want to be nice isn't better than the furious customer with a grudge.

3. Consumer reviews encourage what I'll call second-level advertising: if you can't advertise directly, then you try to get your consumers to advertise for you. For example: spamming your users with "If you like our product please leave a review on iTunes/GooglePlay/Amazon" or the YouTube classic, "Don't forget to Like and Subscribe!"

4. Consumers generally aren't experts, which means that consumer reviews are more susceptible to Parkinson's Law of Triviality[1]. A good example of this are the reviews on products that say things like "The parts feel cheap and flimsy." Well, did they break? Probably not, or you would have said that. Titanium parts are thinner and lighter than steel, which sometimes gives them the impression of being cheap and flimsy, when they are in fact more expensive and stronger. But in a more general sense, consumer reviews tend to focus on the look or price of something rather than harder-to-understand things like performance and durability.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_triviality


Betteridge's law thwarted at long last?


No not really. They didn’t have much value to begin with. Nothing fundamentally changed.


1/5 Stars - Would not review again.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: