This is a good thing and I do not agree that it is negative for users.
Often I see reviews such as "love the app but it's crashing sometimes since I upgraded to ICS 2 days ago, so I gave it 1 star". Don't get me wrong, it happened to me too on my iPad when I upgraded to iOS 6, but I simply sent an email to the developers, asking them whether a fix is going to come in the next day or two and they replied back promptly that I should wait for a fix later that day. The result of this interaction was a 4-star review and a happy user.
The sentiment of self-entitlement in some users is absolutely amazing, especially for free apps. I also see lots of reviews such as - "the app sucks because it displays ads and to get rid of ads you must pay". Well, if you're a cheap bastard, there's nothing wrong with that (I'm a cheap bastard too), but have the decency to stand up to your beliefs.
A negative review can really damage the reputation of an app. It can be used by your competition to lower your rankings and it can be used by bored people that have nothing to do other than to piss on the work of other people.
Anonymity has its place but I don't think it has a place in the app store. Many developers don't have the marketing budget of bigger companies, so they can't generate enough good reviews to bury the bad ones. Fake reviews are also harder to generate. This can't be bad for users.
And contrary to what other people say, nothing is going to stop me from posting bad reviews. I can stand for my own beliefs and I don't really care if my employer or anybody else thinks otherwise. If your app sucks I'm going to tell you so. If your app is mallware I'm going to go to extreme lengths to get it blacklisted.
So many times I've found a buggy app and reported it to the developer before I left a review of the app. If the response is positive, I'm willing to help out with any more information necessary to get the bug fixed and rate the app based on the post-fix performance. If the response is negative and dismissive, I will rate the app based on the buggy state.
Recently I had a couple conversations with the developer of a Windows Phone app, Jack of Tools. There was a bug when I was using it on Windows Phone 8, and I reported it using the feedback. We emailed back and forth, he sent me a beta copy to test if it was fixed, and the next day that fix was pushed into the store and I gave it the 5-star rating the app deserved.
This isn't always possible — for small apps, sure. But for apps with millions of users (many of which have tiny / no support team), the nth user report isn't helpful and ends up taking time away from fixing the issue.
If it's a Microsoft app, I will rate it based on its performance at the time of the latest release. They should know better, and have more resources to catch these things before release. In the example I cited, I was willing to bet the author didn't have a WP8 device to test on, and I was using the app problem free on WP7. Microsoft or other giant publishers should have these resources, you are correct.
There is a chance, in fact, that since tech-savvy users are more likely to be worried about online privacy, that this could increase the proportion of review that are by people who don't know what they are doing, and don't care about posting stupid reviews under their real name.
I think he's basing that on recent history. There's been a fair amount of privacy issues that have gotten a lot of press and attention in the "tech" corners of the internet, but been either ignored or immediately forgotten by the population at large.
My guess at the reason behind this would be that, in general, "threats" to online privacy are not exactly overt; one needs a certain degree of knowledge about what is going on under the hood to even understand that one's privacy is being violated (understanding the implementation of cookies, flash cookies, referrer links, social plugins, etc etc etc is hardly trivial for someone not interested in the details of tech for other reasons).
You group people who don't want to pay and post negative reviews, which is abusive, with those who legitimately rate an app based on its current state. The paying customer is not your beta tester or QA-departnent. If they help you fix bugs: good for you. But you have to take responsibility for the product you release.
That was not my intention. I posted several negative ratings myself. The point is not to stop negative reviews - my point was that if you're being truthful in your review, then you rarely need anonymity because the truth is on your side.
Think about car drivers versus pedestrians - car drivers are more likely to yell and curse without reason, because for them the risk of doing so is lower.
If you're being a anonymous jackass, then in the context of an app store this can really hurt an otherwise good app and the developers that are trying to build a good business. Anonymity plays an important role here, because in the real world and on the Internet when you hear or read other people's opinions, you tend to take those opinions with a grain of salt. For example, whenever I post an article on my blog, the second most page for the day is the About page.
An "app store" is different from the Internet at large or from the real world, because an app store is not distributed and because those reviews are used in the search rankings within the app store in a totally dumb way. Problematic is that the reputation of a reviewer or the quality of a review, or the relationship you may have with the reviewer (acquaintance, similar user, etc...) aren't currently taken into account. A review such as "this app sucks" shouldn't have the same weight as a review which explains with a fine level of detail why the app sucks. A review from somebody I know or from somebody that's similar to me shouldn't have the same weight as somebody I don't know.
And yet, that's the status quo right now and both positive and negative reviews represent the truth, determining the success of apps, even though rating is mostly subjective and context dependent.
And I absolutely hate the lack of a feedback cycle. At the very least developers should be allowed to respond to negative reviews with messages such as ... "this was fixed in version XX", or "we are sorry, but the app cannot do that due to platform restrictions", or whatever. I also want to be contacted by the developers, because when posting a negative review I do so because of 2 reasons:
(1) I want to warn others about the dangers ahead, in which case I want to change/delete my review in case whatever I said was not true or was definitely fixed
(2) a negative review is actually better than total indifference and many times when I post the review I do so out of sadness that the app is close to being what I want, but the suckiness is so annoying that I cannot use it, so of course I want to know when that gets fixed
It's worth pointing out that the Internet at large does not suffer from these same problems. People complain that filtering out the noise on the Internet is problematic, but for all the problems associated with its distributed nature and black-SEO, the impression you get about a product when searching on Google tends to be a lot more fair.
if you're being truthful in your review, then you rarely need anonymity because the truth is on your side.
How does a third-party, reading your reviews, know that you are telling the truth or not? From the outside, you may sound like an hypercritical annoyance when, in fact, your reviews are completely justified and possibly even understated.
I think this is not significantly different from the dangers of sound bites in politics; too much context is lost when someone searches your name and finds all of these reviews.
An "app store" is different from the Internet at large or from the real world, because an app store is not distributed and because those reviews are used in the search rankings within the app store in a totally dumb way.
That is a valid concern, but I think the anonymity is a flawed solution. Meta-reviewing (Was this review helpful?) and other systems are more adequate and don't have the same drawbacks.
How is the overall "star" rating compiled? Is it simply an average of every rating?
I think a hybrid system using Amazon's "Was this review helpful" to add weight to each review. If it's obviously a garbage review, people would vote down the individual review, thus giving lower weight to how it effects the overall average.
Reading some of those reviews, it doesn't appear that people are complaining about the number of conversions, rather they don't understand why you included unit conversions that don't make sense in the context your app claims to target. Which actually seems like a legitimate criticism, IMO.
Not to mention that units get merrily mixed up. Quoting one review, "For example, if you have 1 honey, that's 1.44 grams per cubic centimeter, but if you have 10 honey, that's 14.4 grams per cubic centimeter (more dense than lead)." Err, wut?
But at least I learned that there are 2000 egg yolks in 80 PSI.
This is not a good thing because Google Plus ties way too much together that it will actually discourage users from leaving reviews especially those that were originally going to write honest and negative reviews, they may want to do so less given their identity is exposed.
Next thing you know Google is going to tie the Youtube commenting with Google Plus too.
Just another desperate attempt to increase page views for Google Plus.
I don't hesitate to give apps 1 star if they're not useful to me for whatever mundane reason. My primary use of the review system is to use it for my own later reference, and to get better personal recommendations on apps that I like.
Say I'm looking for a mapping application and one doesn't even have data for where I live, or some other attribute that would cause me not to consider it in 6 months when I look for mapping apps again.
I do the same for restaurant reviews, I might give one 1 star even though it serves palatable food, just not the kind I like.
By doing so the recommendation algorithms that harvest my feedback have access to both positive and negative feedback pertinent to me to give me better future results.
That's how those kinds of scoring systems work best, not by averaging everyone's scores and pretending we're all robots that (dis)like the same things.
What you're saying is true, which is why reviews are context-dependent.
E.g. this user lives in Germany, so his review has more weight for Germans. This user likes Indian food so his review has more weight for people that also like Indian food.
Well that would be the ideal. But then you need the ranking process to know something about you, at which point you can't really work with real anonymity. Maybe Google could hide the real names and profiles of people that want to remain anonymous, but use their profile in the ranking they are doing.
Sometimes the provider might design their star rating system purely as a consumption experience, not as a recommendation signal. Not every product has the data or reasons to use star ratings as recommendation inputs, and I'd expect that most people look at star ratings next to an item and use that as a quick gauge of whether it's good or not.
Assuming the amount of traffic (drive-by glances) is considerable, compared to the number of times you personally get recommended something. Should users submit star ratings for their own purposes, rather than the greater good? I think there are several arguments for "no", but the murkiness is the real catch. If people think their stars are being used for Netflix-style "We think you would rate this 4 stars", but the only actual use of them is to show other people how the product ranks on an arbitrary scale, then both sides lose.
I actually have never thought of that. Seems like Google has created a ratings system that both the general public uses for comparing apps, developers use to determine place in the Play store (as well as overall experience), and Google uses for recommendations.