Reading Consumer Reviews

I’ve taken to reading reviews more than ever lately, trusting the wisdom of crowds and all. I’ve had to buy more electronic stuff (had to? No, wait a minute, that’s got to, in my case, I love it) so I’ve done the standard treks through amazon.com, cnet.com, and the main computer stuff review sites.

I’ve been seeing two kinds of standard, identifiable, non-objective reviews that would seem to throw the standard tools (how many stars in amazon.com, for example) off. Watch for these red-flag reviews that skew the database: 

  • The vendor or the vendor’s best friend. Short reviews with very little detail and very high grades or stars are often submitted by company employees or friends. You can usually spot them. Look for repeated key phrases, tag lines, and marketing text. They obviously mean less than real consumer reviews. 
  • The revenge review. The company wouldn’t give a free upgrade to an old version, or the product didn’t work with a 10-year-old computer, or it was out of warranty, or somebody having a bad day argued with somebody. You can spot these too, because they’re usually about some incident, with lots of detail about the incident, and very little about the actual product that is supposed to be reviewed.

It seems like I’m having to read past the summary, and look at the specific reviews, reading details, to be able to reach some conclusions. Too bad, I think, because we should be able to throw out some of the obvious ones and then look at the star summary of the rest.

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