Sunday, August 26, 2012

Internet Reviews

Does anyone read five star reviews? I never do. I always go to the one star review first, truth often lies there. Especially if the one star review has many negative votes. It means that the review is both spot on and that there is some robo rating system trying to push it to oblivion.

Thus the NY Times has a piece on such reviews at the five star level, pushing a product. The Times makes two interesting statements:

The Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines stating that all online endorsements need to make clear when there is a financial relationship, but enforcement has been minimal and there has been a lot of confusion in the blogosphere over how this affects traditional book reviews. 

The tale of, which commissioned 4,531 reviews in its brief existence, is a story of a vast but hidden corner of the Internet, where Potemkin villages bursting with ardor arise overnight. At the same time, it shows how the book world is being transformed by the surging popularity of electronic self-publishing. 

 First the legality issue. I had been asked to review a couple of works and I wrote the fact in my review. Both got good grades. I typically give from 5 down to 1 stars, depending, and I also use my own name and allow contacts. Any review with a made up name is useless. If there is a 5 star review then I check out the reviewer, and still look at 1 star reviews.

Are reviews useful? Yes they often are, especially for some out of the way books, you get someone who may really know something and then lead you on to other sources.

So what of review services? Monetizing one's work can now be readily accomplished. I may even try it some day. My current approach is to post it free on my web sites and somehow people find it. I had a technical work on Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes up for a couple of years and there were over 10,000 downloads! How did these people even find it? I have had one on Melanoma Genomics up now for a month with 100 downloads. Even more so, how did they find it? With that one I have had the opportunity to discuss it with some who I never thought of with highly positive results. Are these self publishable, I doubt it, they are draft, works in progress, and subject to change and error corrections. But for many they represent a good first step.

But reviews are a double edged sword. As I had indicated, 1 star reviews always contain something, either about the product or the reviewer. The same for the 5 star review.