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A warning about Glassdoor (reddit.com)
1262 points by nosmokewhereiam 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 329 comments

My eyes opened to this after leaving my last company. They announced layoffs shortly after I quit and Glassdoor was inundated with a flood of long, detailed reviews expressing concern and unhappiness around all the issues that had caused me to leave voluntarily. The company's star rating dropped from 3.5ish to 3 and was trending down.

Then, mysteriously, within the space of a week, almost all of the negative reviews vanished from Glassdoor, and a lot of bland 4 star "well there's good and bad, some mistakes were made, but despite the past few months, overall it's good" appeared, pushing the handful of negative reviews that remained off the front page. I know from former colleagues that management had "suggested" staff write these sorts of reviews.

Now the company rating is higher than it was before the layoffs and I am completely disillusioned with not only that company, and Glassdoor, but the fakeness of the industry as a whole. It's so disappointing that a site that originally felt like a useful resource for workers has become just yet another PR/branding tool.

Online review systems are dead. Surely some must still be valid, but the well is poisoned, and nothing can be trusted.

We've come full circle. Word of mouth is all you can trust. The Internet as a great "disintermediation" medium is over.

From this I get you mean "word of mouth" in a very physical way? As in "my cousin Jane says..."?

Because "Word of mouth" over the internet would imply that The Internet still has a big role to play in disintermediation.

Would "reviews" from your network, any network, physical, or digital, of people you know, be valuable? I believe that a "review" is only useful if you know the reviewer well enough. Regardless of the medium.

For example, when "angry uncle Joe" rants about some libtard-foreigner-restaurant-scum which is ruining the neighborhood with their horrible foreign food, I know how to take that 'review' of the restaurant. Same when aunt Carol explains how she heard from the new boyfriend of the cousin of Foo that her brother said that she heard from.. and so on. But when a friend who knows a lot about fintech explains that SomeBank is really doing a lot of interesting tech and hiring, I also know how to take that.

If you know who the "review" comes from, you can trust it. Otherwise you cannot. I assume this comes down to "word of mouth", though.

I think "word of mouth" just means opinions about products that are communicated to you via a network of acquaintances, acquaintances of acquaintances, etc. that is very unlikely to have any underlying commercial incentives. That communication can obviously still happen over the internet.

The point is that when you're looking for a toaster oven and your friend says that his coworker's spouse just got a ToasterGenius Model Z and they're happy with it, you can be fairly confident they're not shilling for ToasterGenius. They may not know anything about toaster ovens, and they may not have the same toasting needs as you, but at least you can probably trust that their opinion is genuine. Of course, I suppose it could turn out that ToasterGenius is running an MLM and your friend's coworker's spouse hosts ToasterGenius home parties to sell ToasterGenius products!

Not only you can trust the opinion is genuine, you can also gauge it.

You probably know your friend well enough to tell if they know anything about toasters or evaluating consumer products in general, and whether their views and needs corresponds to yours. So you rate the recommendation for ToasterGenius Model Z somewhere on the scale from "my friend is a bona fide toaster expert / fanatic", through "my friend toasts as much as I do and is attentive", all the way to "my friend doesn't know first thing about toasters, and also doesn't understand the concept of communicating uncertainty about one's beliefs".

This kind of ability is what makes word-of-mouth within your social network super useful. On top of that, if your friend ends up purposefully shilling for a MLM, they're doing that at the risk of immediately burning your friendship.

(Tangential: MLMs are social cancer that prey on relationships between friends and family members; they should be excised from this planet.)

I don't think it needs to be physical but if I google a company and a big rant about them on reddit comes up coupled with a bunch of positive feedback on linkedin and glassdoor then I'm going to trust the reddit poster more. It might be someone grumping without fair grounds about unfair treatment but that's the only testimonial you can really trust these days.

And if the reddit post is a competitor paid smear, timed with some event, how could you possibly know? In that case, the glassdoor, linkedin, and reddit testimonial have the same weighted value of 0, as neither the quantity nor quality of reviews online can be trusted anymore.

If nothing else, looking at the history of the account (be it HN, Reddit, or something else) can give you a sense of legitimacy. Of course, even that could be faked or purchased, but if you have someone who seems to have a variety of other interests besides slagging companies, at least right now you can trust that it's a genuine review from a personal perspective.

Other folks might reply differently but my honest response is - I'm not going to do that. When I've switch jobs I've never had a shortage of offers so if I saw that post it'd raise a flag for me and I'd be less inclined to follow up with that company - other really positive factors might swing it back or not. This means I might end up missing a great opportunity but job searches are never exhaustive and we all just try to do the best we can to evaluate different positions with our limited resources.

I wouldn't - glassdoor and other moderated discussion boards allow for these smear campaigns to be weeded out but if their usage declines significantly then smear campaigns are going to get a lot more effective again.

I'm not saying the point I outlined above is the best outcome for the world, it's just the outcome for me and it's pretty regrettable that we're sliding back into it.

To me the in-person-ness of the word of mouth doesn't matter, what's important is that word of mouth is coming from people you know in real life, not internet-only friends, gaming buddies, Twitter followers, etc. So that real friend could text you the word of mouth recommendation instead of telling you at work, over dinner, or at a party, but the reason it's more valuable is because ostensibly that real life friend wouldn't recommend something that was garbage to you since there is meatspace social capital involved.

> If you know who the "review" comes from, you can trust it. Otherwise you cannot. I assume this comes down to "word of mouth", though.

Yes, in the context of a relationship. A "review" from someone one has some kind of relationship is more meaningful. Possibly a weak one, like a fellow HackerNews poster. Which brings back the Internet--helps one form new kinds of relationship.

It’s always the same issue; trust doesn’t scale. You need to trust whoever is providing the review, there is no easy way to magically make a bunch of random reviews trustworthy.

Physical. Otherwise tech companies might selectively show you reviews: Your friend Alice's (quite sincere) glowing review, but not your friend Bob's also sincere scathing one.

When I wrote "word of mouth" I meant a mouth that I can see move from someone I know. I should have made that clear, sorry.

No problem, and no need to excuse yourself! I was merely curious and started thinking about the implications.

Real people on the internet can still be trusted. Just not companies that try to monetise your opinion.

Yup, the arbitrage (of utility & free exploration vs. corporate monetization) that the internet provided is receeding. Another example is Youtube. It used to to be free to watch videos; now there are multiple ads being shown. It's only a matter of time before it becomes exactly like cable tv, where you have ~3-5 minute ad breaks per 15 minutes AND a monthly payment. We're in the middle step, where you can pay Youtube Red OR watch multiple short/skippable ads. I'll give it 10 years before the internet becomes exactly like cable in the early 2000s.

I take a different stance: the scientific method is all you can trust. Word of mouth is also inherently biased (e.g. someone that works somewhere may paint a rosier picture at a moderate enough company due to in-group dynamics or even mild forms of stockholm syndrome, just as a ex-employee might be overly negative, and it's up to us to identify potential sources of biases in these anecdotes and take them with the appropriate amount of salt)

Same goes for online reviews. Even if a scummy company deletes 1 star reviews, there might still be 2 star ones, or 3 star ones that are (in my experience, anyways) more grounded than the more impulsive 1 and 5 star counterparts. A keen applicant of the scientific method would question a unnatural distribution of high reviews with low information density, not because of prior accusations of foul play, but simply because one wants to come up with a reasoned theory of how the dynamics of review systems play out in general. You may not necessarily have hard evidence that intentional shenanigans are occurring in any given review system, but you can still make up your mind in terms of what are likely factors for why reviews are the way they are and how much weight you're comfortable putting in them.

Not clear how you will apply a scientific method to a site that can hide, convince, bribe, censor, etc users so the information you gather is incomplete to have a good analysis. More when people have a short focus span and a scientific method is complex.

This is just my personal interpretation, but the way I approach is I create a trustworthiness score for the set of reviews. For example, too many 5 stars without comments and without low stars might earn a low trustworthiness score because the distribution looks unnatural compared to the distribution in similar competitors. Or a set of 6 reviews, no matter their distribution will also receive a low trustworthiness score simply because there's not much to go on. Reviews of a restaurant complaining about a particularly egregious experience earn a low trustworthiness score since it looks like an outlier and there's emotions running wild. Review sets with a decent number of 3 star reviews containing several well-articulated paragraphs tend to earn a high trustworthiness score. Etc.

So, rather than the score being a dimensionless good-or-bad scale, it's a meta analysis of the reviews, judged on multiple dimensions. This means that some companies/restaurants/products simply don't provide enough information for me to form a conclusion despite having a number of reviews that lean towards either "good" or "bad". And that's ok, because the very fact that I've considered so many different dimensions also tells me that there isn't necessarily a single absolute best option.

This, in my mind, seems like a more accurate depiction of reality than blindly ranking by number of 5 star reviews.

The problem I see with that approach is that modern transformer based NLP like GPT3 make generating this sort of "review" text almost free. The value you place in those reviews is the perceived effort put into them. When that effort goes to zero... it's just more automated spam reviews with a "believable" statistical spectrum.

Honestly, I don't see how to trust reviews if the reviewers have no skin in the game (either their reputation or money). If identities and reputations can be faked/generated at low cost, then we're back to just money. Honestly, one theory of advertising (like McD and bigC) is that they throw money at pretty ads to convince you that lots of people have given them money so they must be good... it's pay to play, but it's not completely wrong. Limiting reviews to those who have actually bought the item also helps, if you time limit/delay it and weight by the cost of shipping/stocking.

GPT3 is certainly a valid thing to consider, but I think it has some weaknesses (e.g. there's an uncanny valley to them in terms of balance between relevance, novelty and coherence) and even the most sophisticated GPT3 cannot, by itself, mess with every marker (e.g. volume, distribution of content quality, conflict of interest between having generated low reviews and the ability to doctor review numbers, nuances associated with weasel words in real text vs in training set, variance in emotions/tone/interjections, reviewer consistency, aggregator reputation, etc)

Makes me want to build an ML system to rate ratings. Of course that could escalate into an arms race.

> We've come full circle. Word of mouth is all you can trust.

5 years ago on HN someone would have said this is an industry ripe to be 'disrupted'. It can't be hard to create a new review site? Easy VC money, an exit within 5 years by acquisition from Yelp or Glassdoor or LinkedIn/MS.

If the fundamental problem is trust, are you really suggesting that "it can't be hard to create" that trust?

A distributed trust network is a really interesting hard problem but does seem solvable in some ways (as seen by blockchains, though they have their own issues).

I've wondered if a somewhat simplistic graph based solution could work, inspired by organizations like medieval guilds and the mafia, where you generally need to be invited to the trust network and promoted to be more trusted within the network as others vouch for your trustworthiness. Suspicious users are highly punished (in the real life examples, often violently) and quickly removed from the network.

Obviously can be gamed like any other system, but would be much harder to do so and you can leverage the vouch/invite graph to detect trusted users that are highly connected to suspicious ones.

Surely there's something like this out there, though? Or is this just not a valuable business problem to solve?

It sounds like you're describing a product review site implemented as a distributed trust network, and the plan to establish the trustworthiness of contributors is to bolt on a contributor review site implemented as a distributed trust network.

maybe this works if you have to 1) be invited and 2) also pay to get in?

Isn't this how recommendations in social networks work?

How many people in a "friends" list are people you actually know?

I want a review site where I can only see reviews from people I have vetted (could be pseudonymous).


Proving that reviews haven't been removed might actually make this a real application for a blockchain.

Of course, there's no reason whatsoever to use a blockchain for this. The review website could simply offer dumps of their data signed with their private key.

Problem is, you will be forced by courts to remove some reviews for the usual reasons, making you instantly untrustworthy

You can publish data dumps and the internet will do the rest. I'm sure there are more than enough people out there who might either not care about the law or are located outside of that jurisdiction who would be more than happy to call out a scummy company when their existing bad reviews suddenly disappear from the latest data dumps.

Blockchain can't be "forced" to remove a review. Not how that works.

You can force a public facing site to stop displaying it, but if it's decentralized it is still there.

The disadvantage being of course there is no way to remove fake/scam reviews.

You usually build a chain of hashes of messages, not of the messages themselves. Meaning that you can delete the message, leaving evidence of the deletion in the form of a lonely hash in the chain.

Yes, but if uncensorability is a feature you want, there's nothing stopping you (other than the enormous cost[1]) from using the messages themselves.

[1]: Not necessarily a deal-breaker. For perspective, consider that a 10-word transatlantic telegram in 1860 cost the equivalent of $2600 in 2013 USD.

Another solution is to store a URL and a integer score (so you can rank companies). The longest URL I was able to get through CloudFlare recently was about two thousand characters but most will be much smaller. If someone wants the review taken down they can talk to whomever is hosting the content. Tweets, Medium articles, Facebook posts etc could hold the review content itself. Want to take down 5 unfavorable reviews, then write 5 letters to 5 different companies.

As another user noted, you can encode the message into the chain though.

The Reddit discussion contains a few suggestions:


It seems like this is a space where a non-profit might be more successful. Any profit-based company is going to have incentives to game reviews. Consumer Reports is published by a non-profit. They have a decent reputation. Reputation exists on the internet. HN has a good reputation too.

Consumer Reports these days looks like nothing but a marketing catalog with unclear monetization plan. We regularly get some sort of a "teaser flyer" addressed to a previous resident, and it's filled with clickbait titles and short scandalous blurbs telling the reader to pay for the full article. It looks like a cross between a tabloid and a product catalog. They might still do some valuable testing, but they've definitely been taken over by marketing MBAs, and are "optimizing their content".

Taken over by the humbugs of always that now are computer savvy... It was a matter of time.

Eternal September 2.0

Word of mouth also actually can't be trusted if it doesn't have full view of reality. I revealed some secrets to a friend about a company and it turns out it was just my department that had the problem

> Word of mouth is all you can trust.

Yes, and only if the words come from the mouths of trusted friends. Everything else is probably tainted by monetary incentives and should be taken with several grains of salt.

Word of mouth has moved into platforms such as next door and moms groups on Facebook. Literally closed circles and small communities with vested trust. I agree with your point to a certain extent.

Every single type of review site is plagued with coordinated shenanigans and gaming the system.

Antivaxxers brigading doctors on Yelp & Google. Diehard fandoms brigading Rotten Tomatoes. Sketchy Chinese sellers buying fake Amazon product reviews in FB groups.

Platforms know this by now, so consumers should too. The internet is basically a series of factions competing for amplification from algorithms at this point. Pump up your guy, downrank theirs. Coordinate for an algorithmic boost or trend where possible.

It's just marketing by way of manufactured consensus, not a review.

True, but why isn't web of trust a thing on Glassdoor? Why is reputation so broken?

My wife and I used to use Yelp at our go-to, day to day review platform. After some of my wife's customers directly experienced some serious WTF behaviour on Yelp's part, our trust in it was, as you said, completely broken.

I'm not at all surprised that Glassdoor is playing similar games.

The following isn't necessarily meant to disagree with you.

A common thread is that Yelp and Glassdoor directly make money based on their reviews. That's their core product. Other comments about how trust should be a core product are relevant, but that doesn't seem to be what's happening.

My wife and I started using Google reviews. To be clear: we are by no means starry-eyed Google fans. We're quite aware of many their problems and WTFisms.

In this case, though, unless I'm mistaken, Google reviews are at most very indirectly a product for them.

This is important, because in my mind, that makes it far less likely for them to meaningfully/substantively fuck around with the results.

It would be easy (and perhaps fun!) for me and anyone else reading this to inject doubt into this assertion.

I'm happily open to additional illumination here, particularly as far as a practical daily use review system.

A counter argument is that if Google doesn’t care enough to manipulate its reviews because the stakes are too low, then they might also turn a blind eye to restaurants, businesses, and other listings manipulating the system themselves (again assuming it’s too small time for Google to care).

But I don’t have a better solution either, my wife and I have followed almost your exact same pattern of relying on Yelp until it became untrustworthy and then Google Reviews (which is what I still use now).

I've personally seen my (and others') negative google reviews removed. I reposted mine since I'd saved it; we'll see how long it stays up.

My previous employer would just sent requests to delete negative reviews on Google Maps because the reviewer didn't use their real name, and poof, it was gone. Easy as pie.

Google reviews are gamed by companies that have thousands of accounts to throw positive reviews at their clients pages.

I think the core issue isn’t paid reviews etc. I think the problem is trying to come up with an arbitrary standard that this restaurant/GPU/shoe stands relative to all others. The simple truth is I want to know two different things, is it functional and would I like it. Star rankings and even short text reviews don’t really answer those questions.

A 1 star review because it was DOA says nothing about failure rates. People also have different preferences on things like cost, spicy food, or what looks tacky making a 3 vs 4 star review mostly meaningless.

This is why independent reviews like consumer reports are so useful. Look at a comparison between similar devices and consider tradeoffs. Or find a movie reviewer with similar tastes and you can generally just follow their suggestions.

Net result reviewers and rating systems just don’t have great incentives which devolves into companies just gaming the algorithm.

I agree that star reviews are not very helpful, but text reviews absolutely can be. It's true that there might be some fake reviews in there, and that some people are posting in the heat of the moment and will give a biased perspective, but read enough of them and you can get a feeling for common themes that impact certain types of people.

Steam is a great example. If you click through to the person who made the review, you can also look at other games they own or other things they reviewed to get a sense the kind of person they are. If they're like you, then their review is probably going to be more helpful to you. If they're very much NOT like you, then that's a useful data point too.

I think one of the special challenges with Glassdoor is that reviewers are anonymous, in order to protect them from career-related backlash. This makes it harder to understand if a particular reviewer's experience is something that will also affect you. But if you think about it, that is a real indictment of the state of workplace relations - workers are at such a structural disadvantage that they are terrified of sharing candid views about current or even former employers in a way that could come back to bite them.

I know i've gone out of my way to try to avoid putting identifying information into Glassdoor, and even toned down some criticism as insurance just in case the employer did figure out who i was. That's not a good thing - it only serves to make my review less helpful! This is all the more reason why it's so disappointing to me that Glassdoor has openly shifted to be a service focused on corporate branding - employers already had all the power to start with.

I agree Glassdoor is in an unusually difficult niche, but rating systems are all over the place.

Steam reviews are interesting because I have started watching someone’s YouTube lets play instead. Even bad ones are mildly interesting and they quickly tell you a lot more about the game than what I get from random reviews.

The best online review system for me is Rotten Tomatoes which shows both what the general public thinks and what the critics do. Looking at say https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_the_rise_of_skywa... I appreciate many of the viewers liked it, but it’s the critics that I find actually agree with. Yep, worse than the prequels, but not quite walk out of the movie theater bad. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_episode_i_the_pha..., https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_episode_ii_attack..., or https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_episode_iii_reven...

I don't even think star-based reviews are a problem--they're useful for sorting out the people that aren't happy. You can then look at why they weren't happy and see if it's a real issue or not, and if it's an issue relevant to you. (For example, a doesn't-play-nice-with-X downvote doesn't matter if you don't plan to play with X.)

What is a problem is just presenting an average of the ratings, though.

Seems like most web based anything sees rapid steps back due to ease of gaming the system.

I think the issue is the question of moderation - it's really trivial to throw up a discussion board on the web, but moderating that discussion board is where things get hairy since everyone wants to keep out the trolls but it can be hard to tell a legitimately fraudulent review from one a company claims is fraudulent - and there are extremely strong incentives to always believe the company since they've got the money.

I think the heart of the issue is that something like glassdoor gets corrupted like this then a bunch of tech folks say "Forums, forums are easy and CHEAP!" go out and roll their own - maybe a few make it big and start having to police traffic once the trolls discover them... at that point they discover that the message board portion of their product is trivial and cheap but what actually costs is the moderation of that... then the costs begin to pile up and they make some deals with some of the better actors among companies to let them subsidize policiing their own reviews and it gets normalized and then the system collapses.

Moderating things is hard.

I don't that's the issue (or I misread you then)

It's the whole web thinking pattern. Make everything accessible, fast and free. Nobody makes money like this, and thus the system produced has no added value. It will devolve into whatever low hanging fruit can live on the inertia of branding and trends. Until someone makes an article like the one above, then someone else will try.

If I want to rant, I'd say 10 years later someone will make a real system to grade things, and it will require serious work and serious money (think about banking grades) then the system will be kept in place (to an extent.. think about banking grades).

The main problem is that review systems of today are funded by investors who want profits, not honesty. That will always translate into unscrupulous companies paying to manipulate reviews, which will generate more cash than honest reviews.

A good review system can exist but it shouldn't be a venture-backed startup expecting unicorn returns.

I would also throw Yelp in there now that they're instituting a form of a social credit system by allowing a user to accuse a business of being racist which then flags the account with a message that says:

‘Business Accused of Racist Behavior’

The end result of this is too obvious to require elaboration.

Hopefully we can extend this helpful system to every day life, maybe with some sort of reddish lettering system whereby we attach a symbol to the clothes of those who have committed an -ism or a -phobic.

Hear me out, what about an armband?

TrustPilot has gone the same way.

If you look in the clickbait at the bottom of lots of articles, you'll see one advertising a trick that every Android user should know. It takes you to a website at SecuritySaversOnline.com which has an Advertorial for TotalAV anti-virus, that implies it is free, which it isn't. I posted a negative review of this site and then called TotalAV to inform them of this site that was perhaps a fake affiliates site, but during the chat, they said it was their site - TotalAV were using a site with fake offers to advertise them. So, I posted a negative review of them too on TrustPilot - it's one of the 1* reviews here: https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/totalav.com?languages=en&st... (search for cyberspy)

TotalAV disputed my claims, but I demonstrated to TrustPilot that it was a genuine review, even though I wasn't a customer and the review remains.

Why is TrustPilot broken?

TotalAV have over 31K reviews, 87% 5, average 4.8 - but most of them one liners from people who have no review history. Compare with other AV providers - Sophos have 11 reviews, average 2.1, AVG have 2534, average 1.9, McAfee 358 average 1.4, Norton 347, average 1.5 Basically, people don't review their AV unless thay have a bad experience - or the supplier asks them to. I pointed out to TrustPilot that TotalAV's review profile looked fake but, while they let my review stay they have done nothing to rectify the entirely disproportionate review profile of TotalAV

Trust is valuable, build your business , give it away for free, build trust, then sell out.

Glassdoor was acquired by Indeed, who is moving all paid job postings ($$$) over to Indeed. That leaves Glassdoor without a business model, hence this internal pivot.

Source: https://www.chadcheese.com/episodes (scroll down to see the Glassdoor/Indeed episodes)

If only they would be willing to leave the extra money they get for manipulating public opinion on the table, right?

But it’s so easy! And so profitable!

Joking aside, the reviewing-anything niche is getting very difficult in the age of sock puppet accounts. Any platform sooner or later becomes a space for dispute, manipulation and outright war between entities with competing agendas and no ethics.

It’s a very difficult space to provide a good service - there are enough players ready to say anything and poison the well.

We live in the era of everyone getting a dip in distorting reality :(

I wonder how new a phenomenon this really is. It's certainly been possible to get reviews taken down for many years.

Some time ago I worked for a company where I did a stint as a technical recruiter before moving into an interim head of IT role to tide them over whilst we hired someone permanent. One of the people I'd been instrumental in hiring whilst I was technical recruiter went on to join the company during my tenure IT.

It turned out that this person was not my - nor the company's - greatest ever hire. They were demanding, complaining, entitled and, above all, lazy. We bought this person a bunch of special equipment, including a ludicrously expensive keyboard supposed to help with RSI. Still, they continued to be obnoxious and lazy, literally doing nothing productive, until they were asked to leave during their probation period because they were basically insufferable.

Said person then went on to post a slanderously inaccurate review on Glassdoor about the company, their manager, and the people they'd been working with in that team. At this time I wasn't particularly happy at the company, for various reasons, but even so, I could see the review was completely unfair and, substantially, a work of embittered fiction.

I was pretty annoyed and felt somewhat responsible given that I'd been part of the team who'd brought them in to the company. So, with little hope of recourse, I contacted Glassdoor explaining the situation and detailing the inaccuracies in the review in a lot more depth - and a lot more specifically - than i've done here.

Now, whilst what I said in my email was accurate, and I had little motivation to lie or paint the company in a particularly positive light, Glassdoor really had no way of verifying that what I'd told them was true. Moreover I wasn't in a role related to hiring. Nevertheless, within a couple of days the extremely negative review had been taken down, and I was grateful to them for taking it down.

With that said, it sounds like what may have started out as a sane policy to handle complaints on a case by case basis has perhaps evolved into something rather less noble.

> ...within a couple of days the extremely negative review had been taken down, and I was grateful to them for taking it down.

They literally just took your (in this case company's) side. To stay the very least way balanced, I would expect them to keep the rating/stars the user gave, while perhaps removing the detailed review that you were insisting had been inaccurate. After all the user indeed was a real former employee, thus that "rating" should still be counted no matter how "disgruntled".

Isn't Glassdoor and similar review sites are among other serve as safe outlets for mundane discontent?

Sure, most of readers in less emotional state of mind likely could properly discount those over-the-top devices of fiction...

> They literally just took your (in this case company's) side.

Yes, this the point I was making. This has always been the case: it's just that now it's become much more pathological and widespread on the platform. Partly it sounds like that's due to changes in policy/strategy on the part of Glassdoor, but I think it's also because companies have realised that you can just ask Glassdoor to remove reviews and they will.

Do I feel bad about that specific review being taken down? Not at all, because it was absolutely slanderous to others this person had worked with. But the fact that it happened without any further process does point to an underlying problem.

It's a long time since I've used the site but I believe companies might have the right to post public responses to reviews. Beyond this maybe some sort of dispute resolution process would be the way to go.

Still, I can't really figure out how to make it work: if it's cheap and easy for reviewers to post reviews, and cheap and easy for companies to get them taken down or otherwise manipulate them, you're always going to end up with a review service that's essentially worthless and can't be trusted.

Yeah, it's kinda weird how large institutional actors have more power than a motley crew of disorganized workers.

If only there were some other way.

Had a similar experience somewhere. It seemed that any time a negative review was added on the company's Glassdoor, within weeks there would be new 4-5 star reviews. I watched that happen a few times.

I researched this a lot because I noticed companies I had intimate knowledge of had any sub-4 star review disappear. I detailed the practices in another comment further down;


But don't we do the same? When looking for a new job we remove contacts from references who might cause more harm than good. It's all about image

We don't claim our resumes are unbiased platforms of user (employer) generated content. So it's a terrible analogy.

It's not the same at all. A better analogy would be that you call around the influential business partners of your references that you are concerned about, and offering those business partners some money to completely disregard what those references reported about you.

> but the fakeness of the industry as a whole

It seems to me from reading the news that this charge can be increasingly levelled at larger portions of overall Western Civilization every day. It seems like a lot of wealthy and powerful people are simultaneously forgetting the simple lessons their parents taught them (I presume) when they were growing up.

I can't think of very few famous people or organizations nowadays that I'd nominate as being trustworthy and of "high moral character", it seems like rationalizing away behavior that would previously have been considered highly unethical is like the hip new craze...and why not I guess, it yields tremendous benefits, and has no costs (to the individual or company doing it) that I can see.

The real shame of a lot of these problems with reputation in the digital age is that there really are people making sacrifices to live up to their ethics and yet it's hard to make that known.

Since our perspectives have become so broad, it's hard to pay careful attention to acts of virtue, which is often practiced by many small acts over the course of years.

And also, the structure of our "democracy" is such that there is nothing that citizens can do about this, or most any other obvious major problem at this point. The aligned interests of corporations, the government, and the media seem to have put the citizens of the country into a kind of inescapable checkmate position.

What we're seeing is the inevitable consequence of the granting and concentration of power. An idea I've seen proved true more times than I'd like to count is that "if you don't want power abused, don't create it in the first place." Any power granted WILL be misused and usually almost immediately and because the incentive is always to make it not LOOK like it's being abused, people get hilariously creative in how they do it, just making it look even more comic book evil.

I've been around long enough to have a fairly strong sense now that the only way to win is to deny it battle - never concentrate power in the first place. But I think that genie has already escaped and isn't going back in the bottle without a huge amount of suffering and death.

The problem is you're operating under the fallacy that only concentrated power is a problem. Regulation (concentrated power) is the only thing that keeps distributed power from steamrolling over people just as much.

Agreed. My complaint isn't even so much about the abuse itself, it's the accompanying song and dance about the superiority of democracy, the trustworthiness of the press, the claims to the systemic & cultural superiority of the US over "authoritarian", "speech-restricting" countries like China, etc etc etc. It stops being funny after a while. At least China's leaders are honest about what they are: communist authoritarians. They also seem to be doing a much, much better job at governing on almost all points (obvious issues like the Uyghurs situation excepted of course).

If interested, there was a long piece that talked about Glassdoor [0], and commenters also raised points about the validity of the information on that platform [1].

[0]: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/improving-work...

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16232898

Is there a way to scrape reviews and build an accurate database of all reviews over time that is verifiable by some blockchain type of encoding so you know if they were modified or deleted and can do a check against the current site.

This would yield far more insight than taking their word on their proprietary algorithm flagging reviews. This would also be awesome to use against Yelp that I have first hand experience trying to be extorted by their sales teams affecting a family small business I host a website for and yelp page.

I wonder if a secondary system which showed the trend line of reviews and any spikes in ratings would be valuable?

Trends are already exposed on the Reviews page, behind a click.

It's because they use an antipattern for monetizing... Start with it free and then make it simultaneously crappier and not free. Improve quality and charge a humble amount for it. That's all this idea in this form is worth imo

This happened to a friend of mine with yelp.

He had hired a lawyer who did a terrible awful incompetent job.

He left an objective review on yelp which in a short time just disappeared.

(Personally I was wondering if the lawyer contacted yelp or yelp contacted the lawyer)

I doubt it’s anything mysterious. A once in a century pandemic is not a good representation of a broader time horizon.

The whole “pivot” sounds like uninformed heresay.

I had a similar situation. My negative review was removed about a month after I left it, which was after the period allowed to go back and edit it.

I can easily see a scenario where a lot of people are happy at a company and there are also people who are unhappy.

I suspect it was a bait&switch scheme all along.

Glassdoor is extortion-as-a-service. They routinely called up two previous places I worked and offered to remove bad reviews if we paid them, which we declined. One of the bad reviews eventually became prominently featured. To be honest it wouldn't surprise me if they wrote the review themselves, that's how scummy I feel this company is.

Totally garbage business model, and if anyone reading this works there I hope you re-evaluate your life's purpose - you only get so many years and using them to help Glassdoor seems really terrible. What an ethically bankrupt piece of worthless trash that place is.

I don't know, I mean, their rating is pretty good as an employer... https://www.glassdoor.com/glassdoor

4.2 in SF location. So this is very good info. That's the baseline. Below 4.2 => DO NOT CONSIDER.

I know on ebay and amazon I do not buy from sellers under 99.6%, as an absolute minimum.

It's ok for the system to be gamed, as long as one can understand the rules.

A bit of a tangent, but I feel like I have also created an artificial scale on a rating system myself. I use Untappd to score beers. But it turns out there is a pretty wide variety of beer that I like so most of them end up as 4 +/- 0.5 our of 5.

But I'm not the only one. The overall rating system most beers end up in the 3.5 to 4.5 range. Where 4.5 becomes "oh my god, these brewers are doing incredible things with this beer" and 3.5 becomes "ugh, this tastes worse than bud light"

Ah not far off from the scale used by video game critic site IGN:

“This game is trash” - 8/10

The eBay ratings - despite being numerically the most egregious - are probably the most helpful. 99.6% ostensibly says that there's a 0.4% chance of you having a bad experience. Star ratings don't really convey any meaning.

I'd definitely adjust my baseline "acceptable percentage" based on what I'm buying. If I'm getting a pack of USB cables for $0.05 each, I'm not going to be too fussy about the rating. I'll take a 2% chance per cable of them not working, that's what I'm paying for. If I'm buying a new GPU, I'm going to be a lot pickier about it.

The formula for interpreting a rating out of 10 on an Uber service is (rating - 4) * 10.

It has to be very bad to dip below 4, so that 4.x is the only thing you really can look at.

I'm not that strict when it comes to things. I sell a few things here and there on eBay, even a 4 star review would easily pull me below 99.6%.

They are becoming Yelp.

I could write a similar story to one about Glassdoor on Yelp -- they banned me from leaving a review because I had professional experience in the same field. Even though I wasn't actively in the field and offered to prove through a number of pieces of documentation, they considered it to be "attacking competitors".

Per this, that means they only allow non-professional reviews on their platform. So if one professional sees flaws/someone getting duped, they're helpless to point it out.

I heard that Yelp lets you pay to have bad reviews sorted towards the bottom. I recently listened to a podcast episode [0], where the CEO claimed that is not true. Would be interested in evidence on either side.

[0] - https://www.npr.org/2020/09/30/918845338/how-i-built-resilie...

Lous Rossmann goes over this


Rossman exploded on Reddit with an Apple device repair rant several years ago, and then leaned super hard into that to keep his views up.

Much like Glassdoor, I find it hard to trust him since it’s clear he has a moneymaker. He’s incentivized to accuse the Big Corps of wrongdoing and he never has to back it up.

He owns a apple repair shop and complains about apple all the time. He just happened to go viral on reddit once (actually a few times). He makes most of his money from his repair business, his sitting-in-a-chair videos (that aren't about apple), and his bike videos are just him talking. I don't really agree with a lot of what he says (esp. about NYC) but I don't think he's being biased in this video.

It's even worse than that, Yelp has been accused and proven that they write or have written bad reviews themselves.

This issue is complicated by the fact that there's a thriving ecosystem of marketers and scammers who operate around Yelp, and will call and tell you they work for Yelp and can have negative reviews removed and other things. So people really are getting these calls, it's just that it's a scam.

Isn't this just extortion and racketeering with extra steps.

"Hey I have this magic problem I created for you, now you have to pay me to fix it or your business will dry up."

I think you missed that it's third parties offering to perform these services. They target Yelp because it's one of the more prominent review sites, but I've gotten calls from people claiming to be able to manipulate Google reviews as well.

Yelp has class action lawsuits filed against them. Scumbags!

So basically it has become a 'protection' scam.

The jobs industry is incredibly scummy. Everyone comes in thinking, 'Wow, I'm going to help people get into a job they'll love!'.

You leave because you get tired of pushing Uber jobs on everyone because they have unlimited budget to spend to attract job seekers.

It seems to me that the bad reviews were published on the site regardless of their offer. So I can't see how is this extortion.

Extortion would be along the lines of "we publish some made up bad reviews unless you pay".

> extort - (transitive) To take or seize off an unwilling person by physical force, menace, duress, torture, or any undue or illegal exercise of power or ingenuity.

This is taking money from an unwilling person by duress, using an undue exercise of power (ie control of bad reviews on their platform).


Duress? LOL. What duress? If they pay, the situation gets better. If they don't pay the situation remains the same. Your claim is ridiculous. In any case the situation never gets worse so there is no duress.

Extortion is a weird crime if you think about it.

You ask people for money to not do something that's in itself legal.

It's a topic ripe for tortured moral philosophy :)

People here for some reason think that throwing around legal terms based on gut feelings is somehow the start of civil discussion. And I tend to correct those people. That's all. Extortion is a legal term and it's pretty well defined compared to other crimes. And this is not extortion. I can recommend all commenters who downvoted to go and denounce the offence of extortion and see for themselves what happens. I for one would love to see it to have a good laugh :D

> Extortion is a legal term

It also has a definition that 99% of the people you are communicating with, who are not lawyers, are more familiar with:

the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.

You're sperging out about the wrong thing to the wrong people.



That's obviously untrue, so I'm not sure why you'd write it, but well done with the capitalization. "Pay me or I will continue to publish this blurb which is damaging to you" is as clear a threat as can be.

That's not a threat. You basically say that every negative comment written by people who has no connection whatsoever with Glassdoir is a purposeful threat by Glassdoor. How does that make any sense to you?

> offered to remove bad reviews if we paid them

Yes. You are right. That is not extortion.

In my opinion, the important takeaway is that their actions completely undermine the integrity of the service they are claiming to provide.

Whatever you'd like to call it, it's scummy behavior and they deserve to lose any market share they've gained by misleading users about their service.

Calling something extortion which is a legal term and punishable by federal law is different from accusing them undermining integrity of the service. And yeah, it's scummy.

It's still extortion.


Well I don't want to suggest this is the whole answer, but game theory in economics and evolution tend to say that signalling has to be expensive in order to be honest.

So peacock's feathers and money-back guarantees are the type of thing that people often quote as signalling fitness.

The point of Glassdoor or any other review site it to make signalling cheap and reliable, so it's trying to square a circle.

Word-of-mouth still has the your-rep-on-the-line quality if the person is somewhat close to you, and the decision is something important. Your buddy will say bad things about you if you recommend a crappy employee to them. A random stranger might not hear from you again, and knows that when you tell them this person is the best thing since sliced bread.

In general, "How expensive is it for them to say this?" is a useful heuristic that you should pay attention to. It can give interesting results in several life situations:

- School counselling. Once you're out the door of your school, the career counsellor is not gonna hear much from you. They say they care, and it sounds like they do (genuinely, I had one who was like the school mom), but at the end of the day they both don't know anything about careers other than "teacher" and they aren't affected by you not being able to find a job with your degree of choice. It does affect them that you get into a top uni, everyone wants credit for the Ivy League kids.

- Every internet review but non-famous people. See the other comments.

- Salespeople can be divided into relationship and transactional. If they guy is on the phone with you every day, his advice needs to not be crap. This can make it pretty defensive and useless. OTOH if he vanished once the sale is done, that's useless another way.

- If someone says something that harms their own interests, that's honest. Of course be sure you understand their interest.

- Life advice. Often if there's a great psychological cost, there's a story worth listening to. Painful things like why someone got divorced, especially if they paint themselves in a negative light, can often be trusted, or are at least worthwhile to listen to. Coming of age stories where something crappy happened because the narrator did something stupid, similar. Lottery winning stories of various sorts are often not, you can tell when the inevitable "I fought the odds" part arrives that it falls flat.

It's too bad that giving critical feedback in your own name (to show skin in the game) is going to burn you in other jobs. Few want an employee that can bite the feeding hand.

Interestingly, I tend to trust more some anonymous answer on Quora because the person won't get any upvotes to display on their profile so (hopefully) their only incentive was sharing their story.

That's why you shouldn't show skin in the game unless you actually have skin in the game. That is, you should have upside.

I wish the people downvoting you would say why. I think you make a good point and if there are good counter-arguments then I'd like to hear them.

Nassim Taleb wrote a whole book (Skin in the Game) under a similar premise: “Never trust anyone who doesn’t have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them.”

Sounds like an interesting book. I will check it out. I am wondering if in it, he addresses voting rights? Please don't mistake my retelling of history for bias when I say that before 150 years ago, voting in the United States was limited to white male property owners. The race and sex restrictions are not relevant to my point, but restricting voting to property owners was a prime example of ensuring "skin in the game".

Well, those who live under a modern government have skin in the game in the sense of paying taxes and relying on infrastructure, services, and regulation that make day to day civilization a thing.

True, but property owners pay property tax, which is a big part of where city revenue comes from. Allowing renters to vote on how the money is spent creates the same issue described in the grandparent post.

Money is fungible. Renters have skin in the game, because they paid tax (and because they live in the general society that those tax dollars are being used on). That they paid no property tax is not relevant, because it ceases to become "property tax" as soon as it's paid, and just enters a larger general pool.

People may have differing levels of skin in the game, but it's no more sensible to say that property tax should only be spent on things property owners want than it is to say that property tax paid by people named Dave should only be spent on things that The Council of The Daves want it to be spent on.

It's relevant for the same reason that it's relevant who pays a hospital bill. The person actually making the payment will be sensitive in ways that a pure beneficiary will not be.

They pay it, just not directly. The percent borne by them vs the landlord will depend on how elastic the supply of housing is in that market.


You had a reasonable point, till you veered off into fantasy land that renters aren't just as much in the game if not more so. If anything landowners are generally the problem and renters are the majority population.

You're defining skin in the game as everyone "in the game", making the term rather unnecessary.

Skin in the game means a risk of losing some investment you brought to the table, not just losing the ongoing benefits and downsides the game itself provides.

That was well put. Nasseem Talib wrote a whole book about skin in the game and how it is essential for believability.

Some amazing advice I have to say.

But I’m not sure it passes its own rules for advice worth listening to, which does create a bit of a paradox

There's a distinction between experiential or reputational advice, and theoretical advice, even where both are empirically based, largely having to do with verification costs.

For an experience, where direct validation is expensive, it's necessary to replicate the experience in order to achieve direct validation. An alternative is to collect multiple assessments --- to check references, or sample public opinions. Reading additional reviews on a given online site (Glassdoor, Amazon, Yelp, RottenTomatoes, etc.) is appealing for ease of access, but is subject to various problems, whether unreliable reviews, curation (negative or positive), rater kickbacks or extortion, etc.

Essentially these are examples of the censorship, propaganda, surveillance, and monopoly dynamic I highlighted recently:

https://joindiaspora.com/posts/7bfcf170eefc013863fa002590d8e... (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24771470)

A preferred mode is to bypass any intermediary and directly sample those with relevant experience. Where such experiences are thin, this is difficult. For broader experiences, forms of statistical sampling are powerfully useful, and, contrary to widespread popular opinion given random sampling "large number" estimates can be achieved with sample sizes of as low as 30, and reliable small-sample estimates well below this. Sample bias matters far more than sample size.

For advice on theory, validation can be performed through experiment or by checking with trusted authorities. Note that 'trusted authorities" != "appeal to authority". That is, trust is based on both expertise and reliability, rather than position or office.

That's easiest when specific references are given,[1] but even here, @lordnacho has provided both keywords and reasonably cogent arguments supporting their views.

Their comment is a great example of why the vetting problem is so hard and enduring, though.[2]



1. There are reasons I frequently cite or footnote my own contributions on numerous sites.

2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vetting

1) It's his personal opinion 2) He doesn't have anything to gain from it

This is why I often append "reddit" to google searches. I find that opinions/help on Reddit is often far more useful because it's not motivated by personal gain.

I'll admit that I was bit by Glassdoor astroturfing. The company had an almost 4-star average review and the first three pages were glowing 4 and 5 star reviews.

My first week at the company was nothing like the great workplace describe on Glassdoor. I'll spare the details, but suffice to say it was the most abusive workplace I've ever seen.

Later, I realized that all of the 4 and 5 star Glassdoor reviews started after a specific date and arrived in a short burst. If I went back far enough, the reviews were consistently 1 or 2 stars.

I tried to leave a fair 2-star review using the most dry and basic facts without any exaggeration or hyperbole. It stayed up for a month before disappearing without explanation.

Glassdoor is not a place to find honest company reviews.

I empathize, and I feel like I watched this happen a few times to new hires at my old job. A glowing Glassdoor profile is as much a reflection of engagement with Glassdoor as it is the quality of company and work environment. An "engaged employer" badge on a company's profile almost certainly means the numbers are juiced upward.

My previous company of 7 years had 4.9 stars on Glassdoor. They cared a lot about maintaining their profile.

My current company of 2 years has 3.5 stars on Glassdoor. They don't care much at all about maintaining their profile.

Even accounting for the jadedness that comes with tenure, my current company is a much better place to work in many ways. Old company was fine, good even, but lol at 4.9/5. I won't be going back anytime soon, despite the standing invitation.

> Glassdoor is not a place to find honest company reviews.

... which genuinely raises the question, what is a place to find honest company reviews except actually personally knowing someone working there?

Yup my experience isn't too far off.

Every organization that accepts reviews from "users" about goods/services/employment provided by organizations eventually seems to run into a conflict of interest between their stated purpose and their finances. This is true of Yelp, BBB, and now, I guess, Glassdoor.

This is why organizations like this are not a replacement for government enforced labor and consumer rights. Once an organization establishes a strong brand as a consumer review aggregator, the temptation to accept money for better ratings is extremely strong. When talking about a for-profit review aggregator, you might even say that accepting money for ratings is part of their responsibility to the shareholders because it can be so much more lucrative than serving accurate ratings to individuals.

Ahh, I remember the good old days of Zomato extorting our restaurant. Zomato's rep offered to give us a 5 star rating if we gave him free takeaway food, or a 3 star rating otherwise, during the initial listing. We obviously gave him the free food, but I thought I would be a wise-ass and decided to record him. Posted it online, but turns out, Zomato's doing that with every restaurant, so it didn't become much news at the end of the day.

P1: What's your company's business model? P2: Oh, it's extortion based. P1: Wow, sounds great!

Government regulation has its own obvious failure modes (various kinds of corruption, industry capture, or underfunding), so you can't say one is always better than the other. It all depends. There is no guaranteed solution. Hopefully some better Glassdoor competitor will come along.

The best defense against corruption is good pay for rank and file employees. Government can afford to pay employees decently despite opposition from the public and business because taxation is not voluntary. It's not an ideal situation obviously, but government is in the best position to buck financial incentives for corruption because it already has tax revenue to cover costs. Private companies don't have that luxury and are more liable to be corrupted.

This is somewhat naive, but even if we grant the premise, it must be balanced against the built-in job security and predictable promotion schedule which is typical of government bureaucracies.

Less motive to take bribes? Yes, somewhat, although there's no amount of money where someone might not want some more. But a system where doing a good job is strictly supererogatory doesn't tend to lead to satisfactory outcomes either.

There's middle-ground between for-profit corporations and government. There are social purpose corporations, benefit corporations, non-profits, cooperatives, etc.

The reason that Consumer Reports is considered the gold standard for reviews is because it is a non-profit that does not accept money from anyone but its subscribers.

Too bad people are so used to getting things for "free" on the web these days, or it could do a much better job.

I finally started subscribing to consumer reports. Every time something breaks now in my house I replace it with the top rated product from Consumer Reports. So far it’s going great.

Exactly. There's one other business model that might let the organization stay honest: Accept advertising, but only from unconflicted sources, such as online schools or resume polishers. But this feels like a shoestring business.

Yes, they should be considered too, but they have their own failure modes.

I guess what I’m saying is that an organization’s form of government isn’t a reliable indicator of its trustworthiness and you have to consider other signals as well.

It is not only reviews companies it is any company in which revenue is not aligned with the company's product objective, you find the same things with dating apps for example.

One way to solve that, is to stop offering free service and make users pay to access the service. If you have Glassdoor but it is not the companies who pay but the users then the issue is solved

Is it not possible to design a for-profit, open source, transparent architecture that could allow for a trusted review mechanism? If its clear that there are no code paths or questionable "algorithms" which would permit sale-to-a-higher-bidder, then it might be possible to give a lot more trust in the site as a user.

One would think that some sort of production deployment using completely open source/transparent technologies might be possible. I guess the drawback to this would be that you basically couldn't have system admins, and competitors could easily just git clone and copy your whole stack?

How does Angie's List perform in this regard? The user (i.e. review writer/reader) pays, not the business being reviewed. In theory, that forces the incentives to align correctly.

No, they take money from service providers: https://www.angieslist.com/faq/how-does-angies-list-make-mon...

It's freemium now

Freemium is OK as long as you have to pay to review and perform any other action that would affect the rating of a review, etc.

This is one reason why nearly all social media (if you take reviews to be a form of that) sites should know their customers' identities and be able to use that information to screen for astroturfing. Even a small payment and requiring a method of payment would reduce astroturfing, and put review sites on a revenue model that would reduce the temptation to become extortion-as-a-service.

Ideally, one entity should know the user's identity, and the user can choose what information that entity can make public. Most sites don't need to know a user's legal name, though they may need to know that the user doesn't have a duplicate account and, perhaps, some detail, such as, in the case of Glassdoor, their emloyer.

Unfortunately that still chills legitimate negative reviews. If I know my real identity is tied, somehow, to the gripes I posted about my employer, there's a risk of subpoenas unmasking me when that employer decides I've libeled them.

I don't know how to solve this dilemma. Or if it can be solved. Sometimes anonymity is required to get the unvarnished truth, but it also clearly enables sock puppets and astroturfing.

  Unfortunately that still chills legitimate negative reviews. 
That is true, but it is a question of degree.

If my legal name is attached to a review, I, personally, will not post ever.

If I know the only way someone can find my legal name is to subpoena some midwestern chain of brick&mortar notaries, I will post sometimes.

Like you, I don't think there is a perfect solution: as a sender, one wants privacy, but as a receiver, one wants transparency. We need some sort of compromise that one can accept for either role.

Do you think Quora also does it or might do in future? I would trust Quora more looking at the founding team.

I would guess that Quora's algorithm could be gamed pretty easily by having an employee leave a positively-biased answer to a question and then having a bunch of other employees upvote the answer.

The company could even have an employee seed the question, then have other employees answer and upvote in order to bury other questions that have negative responses.

Basically, Quora appears to tolerate quite a bit of spam, which would make it hard for them to be an authoritative source on anything other than "how do I game Quora's algorithm?" (since obviously whoever's answer is highest-rated has won ipso facto).

I used to frequent Quora and stopped specifically due to this. Leave a few answers on popular topics, especially about apps, and your inbox is flooded with requests to answer questions like "Is it true that X company is the most amazing and affordable software development outsourcing service?" and "Why is Some_Random_App much better than Popular_App_That_Our_App_Copies?". Sometimes they were brazen enough to post questions about X app with names like XMary or XJohn.

Quora has already gone downhill. They are just a few steps from Yahoo answers. The answers just happen to be more polished and checked for grammatical mistakes.

Except that if you accept money for better ratings the quality of your suggestions goes down and people stop using your service.

This is why many such review sites explicitly do not allow you to pay to alter reviews. Their entire revenue engine would crumble.

Some will allow you to solicit reviews (Glassdoor), while others even prohibit that (Yelp, Apple App Store) due to it generally being some way of influencing scores.

> people stop using your service.

Well the only competitor they have is Indeed, and Indeed belongs to the Recruit Holdings Group, like Glassdoor ;)

Except that the part where your company makes extra money and you get a fat bonus happens now, while the part where consumers eventually lose faith in your ratings takes years. And you can spend 10% of the extra revenue on a bunch of ads talking about how honest and trustworthy your company is, making it take even longer.

Today I was thinking about this kind of thing, for example Epic not allowing reviews at all, Valve "off topic" review hiding, metacritic changes to their system, or Netflix removing their review system...

I concluded that review systems often are on the losing side when their income comes from what they are reviewing, reviews you can trust are those that are unrelated.

For example a famous bastion of review is the Michelin Guide, although controversies happened to it, and often restaurant owners get mad at it for not "supporting the restaurant industry" when the guide doesn't do what they want, I realized the probable reason the guide works, is because it wants to sell car tyres, not food.

Michelin Guide purpose is make people drive to places and use their tyres (there was even a controversy caused by confused restauranteurs that thought it was "unfair" restaurant you can't drive to, aren't in the guide), thus the only bad incentive they might have is to choose restaurants that might cause bigger tyre usage than normal.

But Netflix for example can't piss off the movie companies or they risk losing their catalog. Metacritic depends on ads, can't let users piss off the advertisers, and so on.

Consumer's Reports is the canonical example of a review site where the incentives line up correctly. The only way they make money is by selling memberships, so the consumer and the customer are the same people.

It's a bit of a different model though since Consumer Reports are often producing the reviews themselves (which may or may not include some survey data from users) and have first-hand experience to editorialize.

With things like Yelp [1] and particularly with Glassdoor this is a difficult model to emulate. You generally expect users themselves to contribute quality reviews which you then publish directly (plus maybe do a bit of curation to gather sentiment). It's difficult to both ask users to pay you for the service and also contribute the very content you charge them for.

I think the only way to make a user review site work are:

  (a) Be a non-profit and have a donation based model. Would people actually donate though? I'm not sure... but at least you don't seem like a greedy middleman.

  (b) Charge a membership fee, but grant free durations of membership for quality reviews. The downside here is that you're likely severely limiting the already small pool of people willing to leave a review.
[1]: The nearest comparison to CR<->Yelp would be Zagat (well, pre-Google Zagat) and Michelin. However, they both only cover a narrow slice.

Excellent point. A glassdoor competitor cannot use the Consumer Reports model since you can't review the working conditions of a company without being inside it.

It shouldn't take much money to set up and run a review site so monetization should be a soluble problem. On a 6 figure budget you won't be as slick as competitors but if you're competing on trustworthiness...

The biggest problem is going to be combating gamification, that'll be very hard on a 6 figure budget.

And even your non-profit suggestion is a problem because what if a company donates $1M with strings attached?

I really think the only solution is that all money has to come from consumers. Job hunting is important enough that people would be willing to shell out for it, but only once you have a sufficient pool of reviews. So a real chicken and egg problem here.

Ah, to clarify my donation-based suggestion was for users to donate, not companies. Regardless, yes, if the majority of the money comes from a minority of the userbase (whether it be users and/or companies), you're going to have a bad incentive. However, making it a non-profit removes the burden of increasing revenue YoY.

I think it's going to be very difficult to make it a viable business, particularly for the job market. It's a usually a fairly fixed size, and when it's growing it's usually not when people shell out for extra subscriptions. Could it work? Sure. But it's a business that while it might be profitable, it won't be growable. That'll make getting investments difficult, and the whole chicken and egg problem that much more difficult to overcome.

What about Angie's List?

They're just a clone of Home Advisor now. IAC bought them a few years back. They no longer charge their users.

Manufacturers either on purpose, or by accident, have made Consumer Reports reviews not super useful, at least from my experience.

The ability to match a product reviewed by Consumer Reports to something I can actual purchase has become pretty difficult over the years. This would be less a problem if brands followed some kind of trend in overall reliability, but it seems like individual models vary widely in quality even within a specific brand.

So when it comes down to trying to find the specific model of something being reviewed, it seems like that model was discontinued, replaced, or not available at the retailers I use.

> This would be less a problem if brands followed some kind of trend in overall reliability, but it seems like individual models vary widely in quality even within a specific brand.

This is, frustratingly, incredibly true. Even otherwise good products will tend to have some single component with a significantly lower lifespan than the rest of the device. This is compounded by the fact that everything is now manufactured to such exact specifications that it becomes effectively impossible to replace that piece with a higher quality one they should have used in the first place.

Then you have the insane number of SKUs a single base device can generate, and it becomes difficult to tell whether the thing you're holding in your hand has the shitty version of that component, or the better one. Sometimes it's even the same SKU and there's a range of bad serial numbers (typically because the manufacturer got a bad batch of something from one of their suppliers).

My guess is that the sheer number of parts in many modern products has drastically increased the chance that a device fails. My office has a water cooler with a purifier, and a spout for hot water. It broke and a guy came in to fix it. There are 2, 2 circuit boards in that thing! For a water cooler. How many parts are there that could fail and brick it? How many would a more primitive water cooler have? I just can't believe the simplest water cooler we could invent has 2 separate circuit boards in it

Different retailers get different model numbers, especially for white goods and other large purchases. The big retailers ask for this so that you can't use their fake "price match guarantees" because the model number is different between stores.

For example, the TV I bought at Fry's was the same as a model at Wal-Mart, but with one fewer HDMI input. Another TV I bought (again at Fry's) was the same as a model from another store, but with the built-in DVR disabled.

That leaves the burden on you to figure out which model was in Consumer Reports by matching up the features. It's annoying, but possible.

> But Netflix for example can't piss off the movie companies or they risk losing their catalog

More than that, Netflix needs your eyes on their service, as opposed to the (dozen?) other competing, equally shoddy services. What you watch makes no difference to their bottom line... the only thing that matters is that you don't see a bad review on Netflix and switch to another streaming service (because if you do that too often, you might decide to remove Netflix from your list of $10/month services).

Reviews for entertainment are of very little value, and always have been. The only time this isn't true is if you get to know the reviewer and understand that your tastes and theirs line up. I suppose if something is universally panned that could be useful information, but that isn't very common.

For whatever reason the disc rental side of Netflix still has user reviews and the 5 star system

In 2016, I wrote a scathing, negative Glassdoor review about a company that truly was a developer sweatshop. It had only 1 review at the time. The review got close to 50 upvotes and was one of the top Google search results for the company name. A second negative review came up not too long after that. Within weeks, the company had at least 20 5 star reviews added to this. The entirety of the company was no more than 30 employees, leading me to conclude that someone was directing employees to write positive reviews.

This seemed to violate Glassdoor's rules on "incentivized reviews", but when contacting Glassdoor, the response I got was that they investigated the situation and determined that there was no violation of the rules. I stopped taking the site seriously after that.

This is true of most companies reviews. If they are reasonably small enough (say under 500 to 1000 employees), they all have the same pattern (chronologically): Sparse to no reviews for a while. One or two negative reviews. A few days to weeks later... a huge influx of positive reviews for a few days. Then back to nothing.

I've seen this happen at a previous place I worked at too. One extremely on-point and constructive review with low stars and tons of likes that was then followed by a flood of junk 5 star reviews that obviously the CEO or his lieutenants wrote. There doesn't seem to be any way to combat those fake reviews now.

At job before last, we were offered a large bar of Cadbury's chocolate (a 200g Dairy Milk if I remember correctly) as a sweetener (hoho) for writing a Glassdoor review. Which would be written and emailed to the person who came up with the wheeze and...

anyway, afaik all those chocolate bars are still in a cupboard somewhere at the offices

I've seen the exact same thing as a small-mediumish (100-200 now) start-up I used to work for, there'd be an email sent around to encourage employees to leave a good review, seeing as you can't change your review after it's a scary way to waste your shot.

But I guess that shots wasted anyways if the system is rigged to begin with.

I generally don't bad-mouth previous employers, as it risks limiting your career. However, the only review I ever left on Glassdoor was of the most toxic software job I ever had. The company basically had nothing but dozens of 1 and 2 star reviews. A few months later I checked again and there were about 10 brand new vague 5-star reviews that were all submitted within a day of each other. One of them even said right in the review something like "boss told us all to write 5 star reviews, so here's mine: This place is horrible."

Just checked the company again, and my review has since been removed (but some other 1 star reviews are still there).

I worked at a mid sized company that was going through a very rough patch (right before the inevitable bankruptcy.) During this time I got a call from a Glassdoor rep who /explicitly/ offered to remove bad reviews in exchange for us moving to a high paid tier and putting up X amount of job listings.

Glassdoor is just corporate Yelp.

> Glassdoor is just corporate Yelp.

I think this is the inevitable fate of all for-profit review sites which become popular.

The incentives just don't align.

Some of the ways Glasdoor can make money by being ethical

* Ask users to sign up for their job seeker plan to see the complete company interview questions/experiences.

* Create an API and charge websites for giving access to their reviews score, salary data etc.

* Charge money for job postings from companies who have decent reviews and want to post on Glassdoor.

* Provide a paid dasbhoard for companies that will give them insights on how to pay employees.

I see a lot of potential legal liability for posters and/or companies here. They're not bad ideas, per se, but why even try that hard when you can just take money to remove bad reviews or inflate ratings?

Again, misaligned incentives between one group of users (people) and the other group of users (businesses), while trying to act as a middle-man. The key is that one group of users has the upper hand in terms of 'investment' into the platform.

... until one group (people) grows increasingly disillusioned and skeptical and the other group (businesses) sense an opportunity to start up another iteration and the balance skews towards the other group (people)... until...

So it goes.

My small SF-based employer got a (positive!) review from our Mumbai office. That was a problem for us because 1) we've never had a Mumbai office, and 2) we'd told potential customers that their data would never leave the United States and that all engineering was local. The last thing I wanted to deal with at that moment was having to explain to those same customers that it was all a big mistake and that we weren't lying to them.

It took a rather undignified on my part Twitter rant to finally get someone from Glassdoor to look at the review and remove it -- not because it was bad, which it wasn't, but because it was factually impossible in a way that could cause real issues for us. Since then I've taken all of their reviews with a grain of salt.

In response to people in this thread claiming Glassdoor will remove reviews if you pay them:

Maybe our company was just unlucky with the sales rep assigned to our profile, but altering reviews was something they made clear would not happen regardless of if we paid or not.

At the time our company was getting negative reviews meant for a different company in a different country with a similar name. It was a major hassle to convince Glassdoor the bad reviews weren’t legitimate. Eventually they were removed but it required a lot of persistence emailing / calling them every week and providing evidence the reviewers never worked for our company. Meanwhile we were stringing their sales person along hoping that would make it easier, but I don’t think our sales rep had any sway.

I dislike Glassdoor especially for small companies where 1 unhappy person on a team of 15 can ruin their employers reputation from the perspective of future hires. IMO they shouldn’t allow reviews on public company profiles until there is a critical mass of reviews such that any 1 review won’t dramatically swing the star rating.

> IMO they shouldn’t allow reviews on public company profiles until there is a critical mass of reviews such that any 1 review won’t dramatically swing the star rating

Are you this accomodating towards potential employees? Such as, if a potential employee got a single very bad recommendation from one past employer, or one negative past online experience or reputation hit?

I don't know, you may well be, but I suspect most companies are not.

Most reasonable people will take the size of a company into consideration when looking at reviews on GlassDoor (at least in the last, looks like it's no longer worth looking at now). So a single bad review for a small company would not be a deal breaker for me. It's the patterns I look for.

Hopefully, you're doing the same when hiring.

> Are you this accomodating towards potential employees?


1) Reference checks are the very last stage of our hiring process. If you made it that far, we've already made the decision to hire you (assuming references come back in check).

2) If a reference reveals something negative that we didn't know previously, we would give the candidate an opportunity to address it.

But you're right, large companies may be less forgiving, especially if reference checks come early in the process.

> one negative past online experience or reputation hit?

Similarly, I dislike that it's not possible to dispute Google search results when someone searches your full name.

I researched this a lot because I noticed companies I had intimate knowledge of had any sub-4 star review disappear.

I believe you are correct that Glassdoor wont explicitly take “cash” to remove a bad review. However they do have internal costs if you threaten them legally, which can compel a removal.

I detailed more of the practices in another comment further down; https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24793383

I have worked for a large company that told employees to go write 5* positive reviews on GD. I suspect it is a common practice.

this just provides GD to turn into a Yelp of sorts that can do the 'reputation management' on the side.

Sigh, I have come to believe that its impossible for the profit motive companies to stay neutral in long term, esp if thats their main revenue source.

I wonder if there is a publicly funded entity that is also responsible for public good that can & should run something like this. but then if widely adopted that has a high probability of turning into china/black-mirror style reputation system.

Its ok for companies to ask their employees to leave reviews at glassdoor right?

No, it isn't. That's really scummy.

Well... Asking employees to leave reviews isn't scummy. On the oter hand, asking them to leave _only 5* reviews_ is scummy.

I don't know. If someone is still employed at that location, presumably a higher percentage can implicitly be expected to vote 5* compared to the average former employee. It's similar to the controversy over mailing ballots to specific neighborhoods based on demographics to try to swing the votes.

So they’re sacrificing why they exist and the reason they have anyone visit their website. To become a PR company that is based on the memory of a community/purpose.

It seems like a desperation move, potentially a last resort?

The premise of "let's get rid of the only reason anyone would ever visit our site for short term revenue" is just not where you would expect a company to do in normal circumstances.

I know that Glassdoor recently laid off 300 employees[0]. So my read is that this is a dying breath of sorts.

[0]: https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/glassdoor-lays-off-300...

Classic bait-and-switch. This essentially happens with every review site after they build up enough brand awareness to pull it off. I guess it happens because from the perspective of the company it makes total sense to try. Why earn pennies on the dollar from e.g. ad clicks when you can get huge lumpy (and possibly regular) payouts for much less work in much less time

> Why earn pennies on the dollar from e.g. ad clicks when you can get huge lumpy (and possibly regular) payouts for much less work in much less time

When things are working well, the answer is because honesty is a better policy in the long run. Impartiality, and a reputation for impartiality, is why Which? still exists, at the age of 63. [0][1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Which%3F

[1] https://www.which.co.uk/about-which/who-we-are

Comparably, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stiftung_Warentest has extremely high trust among the German public.

Yes, every tech nerd is mocking their PC tests, because they are just like a vaccuum cleaner test: unbox, set-up, do mainstream stuff, like writing mails and Word documents. No discussion of GDDR5 vs. GDDR4 or such nonsense.

It's a fantastic resource when you don't know what to look for (until today you never had any use for the tool you now consider buying) and it's not tech (then I tend to look to Wirecutter, for all its faults and controversies).

> every tech nerd is mocking their PC tests, because they are just like a vaccuum cleaner test: unbox, set-up, do mainstream stuff, like writing mails and Word documents

That still sounds like a useful test, if only to punish bundling of useless bloatware.

because honesty is a better policy in the long run

SV doesn't optimize for the long run. It only cares about the next quarter, or until the buyout comes. Everyone knows the phrase "exit strategy," but nobody knows the phrase "quality and service."

In my experience, 1%† of the people in the SV bubble are doing it to make a quality product. They're just there to make a quick buck.

(† Less than 1% in the Seattle bubble)

> To become a PR company that is based on the memory of a community/purpose.

This sounds like the angst-beat poetry of our current future.

I’ve witnessed this behaviour firsthand too. Several months after leaving MedShr I left what I still felt was a very honest review. 4 weeks after submission I got an email that they had taken it down (along with previous positive reviews about earlier employers). After prodding their support they told me it was because of some undisclosed behaviour on my part.

Since then the page has become littered with reviews that are somewhat obviously fake. Most of them are written in a vaguely shielded corporate tone and they simply don’t have enough former employees with a positive opinion of them to have this kind of sudden influx of responses.

Glassdoor has thoroughly outlived its usefulness and I can’t say that I will be basing any of my decisions on who to join on it in the future.

Honestly, this reminds me of the case of the rating agencies during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis[1] (with rating agencies rating CDOs of "junk" loans as now magically AAA)[2]. Practically speaking, these rating agencies were incentivized by the firms paying them for the ratings to rate -- and now a la Yelp and Glassdoor can be added to that list...

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

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_rating_agencies_and_the...

I had always suspected that Glassdoor would eventually succumb to this. Every metric is a gamed metric, after all. Why would Glassdoor be immune to this? Companies have very little to lose from bullying employees into leaving fake positive reviews. Yet they have much to lose from true negative reviews.

I have checked every workplace on Glassdoor prior to applying, taking things with a pinch of salt / applying some awareness of what reviews seem fake (like the famous split between loads of 1-star and loads of 5-star reviews, which tells you something is fishy, like loads of products on Amazon have).

I think I'll dial up the awareness for future purposes...shame.

> Companies have very little to lose from bullying employees into leaving fake positive reviews.

Glassdoor can always fix this problem by implementing a "ban hammer" system where if multiple employees provides credible evidence of a company forcing them to post fake reviews then the company permanently has a black mark on their Glassdoor page (and future reviews are disabled, so they can't even fight back with more fake reviews).

There's nothing like a network of people you actually know to find out whether something is shitty.

Be it a company, a product, or a service - ask people you know personally. As a fallback, most online communities do have an "unrelated stuff" subforums or chats. Asking there lowers a chance of getting an answer from a marketer. I do sometimes get (and provide) good advice from a local gaming community.

The key is to ask a community that is unrelated to what you are considering to buy, i.e. skip those groups which an unscrupulous company would swarm with fake advice.

The problem with all review-centric companies is two fold:

1)Fake reviews are an actual hard problem to solve. Good reviews can really make or break your company so the incentive to game the systems is quite high.

Positive reviews for your own company, negative reviews for your competitor, or cunningly, clearly fake positive reviews for competitors to get them in trouble with the review site.

2)Incentives lead these review-centric companies to some bad outcomes (or at least the lack of trust by consumers). Interestingly, companies with better revenue models outside of the reviews may end up building the most trust among consumers.

I would think Google is very well positioned here. Both because they don't need to get the $$ from scammy tactics and because their user data can help them find fake reviews much more easily. Did user XXX use Google Maps to get directions to the location? Did user XXX get an emailed receipt from that company?

Fake reviews are an actual hard problem to solve

No, free reviews are a hard problem to solve. But it's been done before.

The reason there are famous restaurant and movie reviewers is because they are professionals paid enough by their publications to keep them honest.

The problem is that SV wants content, but doesn't want to pay for it. Spending money doesn't "scale." So the bubble solicits reviews from random people with no vetting. Garbage in, garbage out. "Crowdsourced" is just another word for "amateur."

It's a shame they're being taken down because I find reading the negative reviews to be immensely satisfying and great theatre. Who doesn't love an epic quitting story?

I've thought it's always been easy to spot the fake reviews that are five stars and clearly only use up the minimum characters for the pros and cons. I just assumed they came from real employees compelled by HR to help pump up the overall rating, rather than review farms and wherever astroturfing comes from.

My 20 something person startup managed their glassdoor ratings like a hawk. Any low star ratings were immediately challenged (through official channels at glassdoor to remove them) and current employees were asked to write glowing reviews to counterbalance. Glassdoor ratings are a joke. Please don't get fooled.

I had an exactly the same experience with Trustpilot.

They took down my negative review of a business, asking me to change it despite it being factually correct (I was reporting fraudulent bait-and-switch tactics used by a German air travel site), while they left a bunch of clearly suspect 5-star reviews, thus skewing the overall score of what was clearly a fraud of a service.

The best part: the link that takes you from the vendor's Trustpilot page to their service is a referral link.

The whole 'independent' review service concept is inherently flawed for at least two reasons: a disproportionate number of bad reviews (people will more likely go to such a service to vent their frustration about, rather then to lavish praise on a vendor), and a dependency on advertisement revenue, often coming from the very subjects of the reviews that you are featuring.

Glassdoor explicitly denies that they allow employers to pay to remove negative reviews. See this FAQ on their website: https://help.glassdoor.com/article/Can-employers-pay-Glassdo...

I am not offering an opinion on this. I am just noting what Glassdoor itself has to say about this.

I think it's instructive to look at how Yelp does it. There is no pay-to-delete button. There are however ways to have non-factual, incorrect, offensive or a myriad of other types of posts removed. How a review is judged as violating policy is an internal decision. Which reviews are surfaced on the front page or how the "average" review is determined or slew of other details that affect how a restaurant or company looks are are also under the control of yelp/glassdoor.

There are enough ways to put the thumb on the scale that you can honestly say that you don't have a delete bad review button, yet money can still strongly influence how positive or negative an org looks on a review site.

This directly contradicts what the article says. The FAQ item is dated September 2019. The Reddit article is 9 hours old as I write in October 2020.

The followup here, strongly suggests other un-related people have been called, even cold-called, and offered by people puporting to be glassdoor, to wipe the problem.

I agree you aren't offering an opinion and I value that. I would also value some commentary to my note: What do people think, about what people said on reddit, and said here, regarding this, and what glassdoor said in September 2019?

I know what I think: I do not believe this policy is well enforced, and I believe the posters who say they were invited to pay to clear their record. You notice they do not have "report breach here" links on that FAQ item. They do disclaim it has legal force.

It may of course be unscrupulous non C* staff, or it may be intermediaries mis-representing their role, e.g. SEO leeches.

Luckily, it's pretty easy to spot fake reviews on Glassdoor. Unfortunately though, it kind of ruins the experience for most people.

The two big mobile app stores have been flooded with spam reviews for over 5 years now unchecked. For those that know how to spot fake reviews, it's easy to tell which apps are not legit. For most consumers though, they just believe what they see.

So... it's pretty easy to find reviews that you are confident are fake, and you're probably right about most of them.

But that only leaves us an uncorrupted signal if, given a review you have deemed authentic, it actually has a good chance of being so. Do you know that that's the case? How?

I'm not sure it's true in your case, but statements like this are often made when people don't realize they're (implicitly) marking their predictions against those same predictions.

Same with Amazon. The star system in the store is so beyond manipulated that it’s completely worthless

>Luckily, it's pretty easy to spot fake reviews on Glassdoor

Care to automate your insight and create a meta Glassdoor?

Then you would just stare at an almost empty list of reviews. I don't think you'll get around storing actual negative reviews on top of that.

> Luckily, it's pretty easy to spot fake reviews on Glassdoor.

Could you elaborate? How?

Not OP, but how many times have I seen, under Management Feedback, "keep doing what you're doing!"? No, I don't mean paraphrased, I mean word-for-word. That's was a few years back, back when I thought Glassdoor was worth paying attention to. I'm sure whatever HR conference they all communally go to has new guidance for gaming reviews, and the phrase has changed since.

The universal trick to understanding who's side somebody is on is to see who pays them.

Companies are made to make money and if you are not a paying customer, you're the merchandise. And since these days most consumers don't expect to pay for online services, it's no wonder these services are not serving the interests of consumers.

That said, based on the recent posts on HN and many other resources, more and more people are awaking to the fact that letting a bunch of monopolies decide who's voice should be heard is not a great idea. We might see a rise of some great decentralized alternatives in the near future.

I used to use Glass door extensively to vet potential employers. After starting at one company however I realized the problem with this.

Regularly in meetings the head of HR (which they called "People") would encourage us to go leave 5 star reviews on Glass door to help with recruiting efforts. It was really spun as a way to help the company.

The problem though is that this company had some problems, things I would normally expect to see on glassdoor. Because of the way they encouraged it, glassdoor was flooded with 5 star reviews that made it impossible to find any negative ones.

I no longer even check Glass door.

Correct on the internal promotion - in addition to Companies compelling Glassdoor to confirm the Reviewer actually worked at the company. Often reviewers don’t respond, resulting in a removed review.

I researched this a lot because I noticed companies I had intimate knowledge of had any sub-4 star review disappear. I detailed the practices in another comment elsewhere; https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24793383

I've been pondering this idea. STEAL IT! Build a service that only hosts comments that were deleted from popular sites. Then for any given youtube channel or company review you'd be able to check what kinds of comments are deleted over there.

Are there any legal issues to this?

Apart from copyright issues, probably if the comments were deletrf for hate speech etc, you might be in bigger trouble as well (singe technically your company posted it)

Hmm... crawl archive.org?

That would be best, but in an effort to save space they don't make frequent snapshots.

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