Saturday, October 20, 2012

Yelp Takes A Stand Against Fake Reviews...

I find this link to the LA Times particularly interesting because of all that's been going on with regard to reviews in general in the book community. When I say in general, I mean there are many questionable things I see all the time about book reviews and they have nothing to do with bullying or a lot of what's been discussed this past year.

I'm talking more about this sort of thing right now. In this article, the LA Times talks about how Yelp is starting to fight back against businesses that post good reviews for themselves...or pay for good reviews for themselves. Notice I said good reviews, because that's not something new anywhere in the Internet with regard to all reviews in any industry. They also comment with sockpuppets and shills in order validate these reviews.

In an attempt to fight fake feedback, the popular review website has rolled out an alert system to warn users about businesses that it suspects has paid for positive critiques.

On Thursday, warning signs began popping up when users tried to access the pages of some businesses with five-star ratings. To read on, users must click a button that says, "Show me the reviews."

We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business," the red-bordered alert box says. "We weren't fooled, but wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the rules. Check out the evidence here."

The alert will be removed after three months, Yelp said, unless there's any indication the business continues to trawl for reviews. More alerts will be posted as the company continues its investigations.

Sounds fair to me. At least consumers are now being warned that five star ratings and reviews are not always necessarily honest. It's an interesting article and I recommend reading it in full for more than one reason.

In fact, something interesting happened to me recently while I was leaving a review on Goodreads. I noticed that one particular author had rated (not reviewed) 1,998 books within a small amount of time. Very ambitious, and I was curious about it. I know that's not impossible. Some people are avid readers. However when I clicked to check out the books she had rated, I found myself wondering WTF was going on. Every single book was in the same genre, every single book she'd rated had a five star review, and the majority of the ratings had been posted on the same day in January of 2011. Immediate red flag for me.

I'm not naming names. And in the grand scheme of my life this doesn't mean much to me. A few of my books were there with five stars and I guess I should be thankful for that. But on the other hand, is that what rating and reviewing is all about? Clicking five stars one after the other in order to promote a genre or an author? Not for me it isn't. I do have a lot of five star reviews up for books I've read, rated, and reviewed, but I've actually read all those books. I do sometimes rate and review on the same day, but never hundreds and hundreds, one after the other. The most I ever rated on the same day, one after the other, were a collection of older Anne Tyler novels I'd read years ago.

Then I saw this same author with 1,998 ratings had rated all of her own books as well, which is something else I'm not fond of all that much. I don't rate my books on Goodreads because I can't be objective about them. I wrote them, of course I want people to buy them. So I step back and let readers do this. And the reason I do this is because it makes sense. Sometimes it's just as plain and simple as that. It. Makes. Sense. We all know the basic difference between right and wrong, and for those who don't, e-mail me and I'll tell you (smile).

I think what Yelp is trying to do makes perfect sense, too, and at least they are doing something in order to warn consumers that some reviews can be questionable. This entire review/rating issue is an ongoing problem that's not going to disappear any time soon unless something's done about it, so I would suggest to anyone who has taken advantage of the honor system on goodreads, yelp, or anywhere else something is rated and reviewed they might want to rethink what they've been doing. We're all starting to catch on to what's been happening and we dont' like it. Most of us do leave honest reviews and we take it seriously. I prefer to remain quiet and not name names when I come across something questionable, but someone else might not be as nice as me.


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