Saturday, January 01, 2005

Is this feature helpful?

Amazon.com, Netflix and now even IMDb have this feature. You, presumably, read one of the user reviews and click a button to report if you thought the review was helpful.

Is this feature of any use at all?

Ok, so assuming no one abuses this feature - which is a huge, huge leap - then what does it do? Is it assumed that if enough people say the review was not helpful that I will simply not read it? That seems unlikely. Most likely, it's inept and a complete waste of space, and yet, I will waste my time reading it out of a morbid sense of curiousity and then get all annoyed that it's there.

Who does that help? The troll who posted it?

Take, as an example, the review by "ikari" for the Krist Novoselic book, Of Grunge & Government: Let's Fix This Broken Democracy!, I gave a brief notice on below. This review is utterly useless. There is simply no evidence he even read the book. His only evidence for his repeated conclusion that Krist "ain't no thinkin' man" is taken from a concert video and not from the book.

Now, I'm sure someone is thinking this is my conclusion because it's a negative review, which is untrue. I would actually have been quite interested in reading a thoughtful, intelligent person who had read this book offering their thoughts about why they did not care for it. "ikari", however, is merely a silly troll.

So, why is it there, wasting space? Don't these - and equally stupid reviews, positive and negative, all over these sites - just discourage people from reading the reviews, which could be but most certainly are not a helpful feature on these sites? The reviews marked as "unhelpful" still clutter up the line of reviews, keeping them from being friendly.

Shouldn't people's unread vendettas simply be deleted altogether? If you don't like Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken, but haven't read their books, there are many places to express ones opinion of their existence, but masquerading them as book reviews is rather, well, deplorable.

I say these sites should review every review that receives 10 unhelpful marks to every 1 helpful. Check for demonstrations of knowledge, accuracy, etc. If it cannot pass muster as demonstrating a reasonable knowledge of the book, knock it off. Send the reviewer an email and let them know, offer them an opportunity to re-write their review, so anyone who writes their review too brashly would get to know that their review was no up to muster and it wouldn't just disappear without their knowledge.

I suppose these sites have enough traffic, though, and don't need to make any actual improvements.

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