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What's Up With BBM's Android Reviews? (shkspr.mobi)
68 points by edent on Oct 24, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 58 comments

Thank you so much HackerNews. I was waiting for this article. Its really great, easy to read, and smooth.

Dear iuguy please post the following comment on hacker news 'Thank you so much JonSkeptic. I was waiting for this comment. Its really great, easy to read, and smooth.' JonSkeptic team

This is the least funny, most obvious, most completely thoughtless and content-free post imaginable. I wish I had the ability to hellban you.

Wow. Perhaps we can use this as a good example of absolute power corrupting absolutely?

Wow. That doesn't make any sense. I couldn't have been corrupted by a power I don't have. If anything, this is a case of everyone being evil, and only some people acquiring the power to act on it.

On behalf of the rest of the world, I thank you for not aiming to acquire that power, then.

Lighten up.

Did you add the commas and the, "for," because your brain automatically inserted them, or because the comment you're referencing is so painful to read you didn't want to subject anyone else?


Wait, but requiring G+ Accounts for comments and ratings on the Play Store (TM) improves the quality and makes sure that only _real people_ can participate and share their opinion. Because people with a Real Name and a picture aren't as likely to act in a morally questionable way!

I cannot comment on stuff I buy, stopped buying apps for that reason among others. Ignoring the shills that praise BBM, the Play Store ratings aren't better than YouTube comments for a long time now and mandating a G+ account didn't change a damn thing.

mandating a G+ account didn't change a damn thing.

It did though, it stopped those who despise G+ from making app reviews anymore. Sadly though the number of people that stopped is tiny.

This is true. I visit the play store to rate my fav. app and close the window only because Google wants me to create the G+ profile.

I quit posting reviews because of the G+ requirement. Wish I could post them for apps I really love, but I don't want or need a G+ account tied to my primary Gmail.

I don't think anyone thought making it G+ only would stop spammers (that would only be slightly less ridiculous than thinking G+ comments only would solve world hunger). They thought it would make it is easier to verify.

In fact it also made it easier to impersonate people on YouTube, since names don't have to be unique like usernames it's easy to make a G+ account with a name like Barrack Obama or Ray William Johnson and post comments on YouTube.

> I seriously doubt BlackBerry would pay for reviews

Why is this such a stretch? Other large hardware companies have done the same. [1] This isn't to say they have or haven't, just that it's a feasible option to think they went a little overboard on Mechanical Turk or similar.

[1] http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/24/5023658/samsung-fined-340...

Agreed also given how many past execs at Blackberry have been done for some form of insider dealing or another.

Having worked there I will say they are a lieing bunch of untrustful people managment wise and can even stand up ion a court of law and justify all of that and more.

Random theory: BB might have contracted app promotions to a number of marketing agencies (or just one), and the account manager tasked with promoting the Android app figured out there's Mechanical Turk and Fiverr.

Now if I talk to couple of friends at digital marketing agencies, they would tell me this is pretty common. The client doesn't need to know or decide how it's done. It's just done.

I hope that they remain like this. The truly subversive marketing tactics are what I worry about. (i.e., there could be any number of astroturfers on HN that are good enough that they don't get noticed)

I would think established corporations would have strict guidelines on marketing tactics that are allowed.

Samsung have just received a large fine in South Korea for this sort of behaviour. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/t/story/taiwan-body-fines-s...

They hired a small army of commentators to trash HTC and talk up Samsung in blog comments etc.

I once worked with a digital marketing manager that spent most of her day running scripts to spam Digg and Reddit, and using her budget to "outsource" these kind of things (probably using Mechanical Turk or something similar). She'd worked at marketing agencies before, on a number of large client accounts (including notable names in tech and consumer electronics), and I'm willing to bet that she did the same kind of stuff.

They may have guidelines in place, but I bet they don't check up on what external agencies do, otherwise this woman would have been found out a long time ago.

Wasn't there an awful ad from Samsung or some big company recently, and they had to pull it and apologize for it, because it was very offensive, and they had no idea what the ad would be prior to being on TV? (or at least that's what they claimed).

Either way, I don't think it's that hard to imagine. These companies, especially mediocre companies who like to "outsource" stuff and not care as much about the result, pay millions of dollars at a time, and don't look into all the details of the advertising campaigns.

If only the app was actually worth it. I tried it out, and so far: There's a persistent notification that never goes away, even after you tell Android not to allow notifications from the app (no idea how they did that, never seen another app do that) I haven't gotten past the signup yet, even though I got the email. Seems that the signup process resets if you switch out of the app. Too bad if you want to use Lastpass to generate a password. After I gave up and wrote the password down, it decided that I hadn't gotten the approve email. No amount of clearing data or retrying would convince it otherwise.

> There's a persistent notification that never goes away, even after you tell Android not to allow notifications from the app (no idea how they did that, never seen another app do that)

This is actually a bug in Android 4.3 and nothing malicious on Blackberry's part. While fixing a bug that allowed apps to start foreground services without a notification icon, Android 4.3 inadvertently broke user disabling notifications for foreground services.

This is the exact same problem I had. I ultimately uninstalled the app because I didn't want to see the "BBM Connected" notification, particularly since I haven't even created an account yet.

I received a [spammy] message from one of my Whatsapp contacts with the content along the line of : In order to unlock the full features of the new BBM, forwad blah blah blah to 10 of your friends.

It could just be a spammy message that caught on really well and might not have nothing to do with Blackberry buying fake reviews IMHO

So could this be the next step in forcing people to leave you good reviews? Set the app up so if you leave a good review there's a 70% chance it will unlock some optional features. You get a ton of good reviews and plausible deniability: I mean, it's not like leaving a good review always unlocks the app. Obviously this isn't some brilliant scheme to jump to the front of appstore rankings.

Wow. That's incredibly lazy, even for a company that makes its living selling fake reviews. It would take literally ten minutes to whip up some spintax [1] that would generate thousands of unique-ish review iterations. Shoddy work, even for a blackhat.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_spinning

The linked page is entirely empty for me. It keeps being so when I reload.

Also, it's the first time that I see something on /r/funny that lands on the Hacker News front page a few hours later.

I'm the author. I've tried on FireFox, Chrome, Android, and it seems to work. Do you mind if I ask which browser you're using?

Also, if you'd followed me on Twitter, you would have seen this 19 hours ago ;-) https://twitter.com/edent/status/393050827570421760

It'll be because he has javascript disabled, I would imagine.

Blank for me too. View source shows the text.

I use NoScript and RequestPolicy. I'm thinking the page is another one of those that depends so much on javascript that it can't do anything without it. That's bad for the security of your readers because practically every known browser exploit in the last decade has had javascript as a necessary component - so over-use of javascript forces your users to choose between exposing themselves to increased risk or not reading your content.

Also, javascript performance on mobile is terrible, frequently 10x slower than desktop, so even if you don't care about the security of your users, the user experience of your websites is probably going to suffer on mobile.

That's a fair point. The site should run fine on low end mobile (tested on an ancient BlackBerry, ironically). I'll see if there's a way to stop reduce the amount of JavaScript and / or make CloudFlare work in a slightly more sensible manner.

Thanks for the info.

Where is the irony? Or are we eschewing Oxford and Webster's definition and using Alanis Morrisette's?

I'm talking trash about BB while using BB for testing.

Granted, it's not the most scintillating use of irony - but it fits the British definition quite adequately.

Of course, the ironic thing about Alanis Morrisette's song is that it contains no irony. Which makes it paradoxically ironic.

I never realized that the British definition of irony included acting in a manner contrary to one's stated preferences.

I have heard the "paradoxically ironic" bit from other people before and it never made any sense to me. A lack of irony is not the same thing as the opposite of irony. I have also never been able to understand the difference between "ironic" and "paradoxically ironic."

We are discussing the Queen's English and you refer to a silly slideshow on Buzzfeed? I think we should pretend this discussion never happened.

It's most likely a bug in that wordpress theme.

I have used the same theme in my personal blog, and I occasionally notice the main and posts page turning up blank when I myself visit it. Doesn't happen if I switch to another theme.

Most of the page is loaded dynamically from cloudfront.net - if this is blocked (e.g., you have disabled js for them), you won't see much.

I've altered the CSS so that the page displays even if you don't have JavaScript. Thanks for the bug report. You may need to clear your cache etc to pick up the new stylesheet.

Why not contact every one of the people making fake reviews and ask them if they know how you can earn money for posting reviews. Don't mention BBM, just about the general idea. Chances are you will either dig up someone who is running a single campaign for a single app (which may be a BBM clone) or you will dig up a PR business running lots of these campaigns. Do some investigative journalism.

Tried that and not one replied, also most appear to be new accoutns and of indian origin, so I'll presume this is being driven in india.

Either way it is such a scale and using such a copy/paste haord of rating trolls to 5* it that every one looks the same.

I hope google educates Blackberry and there underhand tasteless tactics in self masturcation PR.

Laughable thing sis everybody I knew who I could BBM no longer have a device and with that they missed the boat. Maybe in Asia but too little, too late and handled far from smoothly.

BBM on Android is pretty broken in terms of functionality and UI design. Which is embarassing at the very least. Installed for nostalgic reason and quickly uninstalled.

As a counter-point, I've got it installed and I like the UI and haven't had issues with functionality.

The only issue I've had is that adding a user by email address opens your email client and makes you send an email through it.

Has anyone considered that the fans are just trying to keep blackberry alive?

I saw dozen's of people on my facebook friends list post their BBM id and thanking them...

Sure, that's possible. But then you would expect the "reviews" to not be so similar. They almost universally say "Thank you so much blackberry team. I was waiting this app".

If anyone is after fake 5 star reviews, are they really so primitive as to use exactly the same wording for every fake review? Not even swapping out the odd adjective or tweaking the grammar? It seems to just make it totally trivial to remove, making the whole effort worthless. Of course, maybe they are changing the wording and just that particular case has come up more than usual for some reason...

What I found most hilarious is that the repeated text is gramatically incorrect.

"I was waiting this app"

you found it hilarious. I found it painful.

Best are those that cut and paste the template into the review and failed to change the default star rating from 1 star -- seen few of those amonst the 5* spam.

Had fun flagging many of those obvious 5* reviews as spam, I was bored and sadly no way I could obviously see to flag underhand marketing of an app or indeed flag an app in any way to google so they may give this the attention it needs.

Does an app having a lot of 5 star reviews help the application raise it's status in the store over the long run? Also in the Play Store, does Google cycle reviews on updates like Apple does?

Even on Apple's App Store historical 5 star reviews help a lot, since they are still added to our cumulative average (albeit at a lower weighting). Reviews for older versions aren't visible individually on the store, but most people only look at the average star rating, not individual reviews.

Just checked iOS - no funky reviews there, just a load of people saying how the app is broken.

Google does zero gate checks on apps before publishing them. As an egregious example, if you want to post an app called Garageband on the Google store, calling yourself "Apple Corporation", you can do that. There are no automatic red flags or name collision issues, and instead the system relies upon enough complaints that it gets taken down.

Any anticipated app sees dozens if not hundreds of scammer apps on the Play Store who try to take advantage of that namespace early to deploy ad proxies, etc.


There is some medium ground between fully curated and Wild West that needs to be found.

There have been countless fake BBM products on the Play store. They each have thousands of such reviews, official sounding publishers, making it incredibly difficult to blame the user when they install some of this junk.

Seems plausible, so much so that this is also what the article is saying.

They do run a sort of virus checker against applications, but those have never been effective against new, unique applications with undesirable behaviors.

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