Sunday, November 27, 2005

Spews (Review Spam): One Path to Honesty in Amazon Reviews

Review spam happens.

They're easily spotted and happen to most published authors.

They're easily spotted: all flame and trash-talk concentrating on blasting the author as much as the book, often more. They frequently go on for paragraph after paragraph, fixated on a typo or similar mistake. They often come in waves, reviews with similar words and syntax indicating their identical origins: an anonymous someone with a grudge and enough time and motive to register a lot of fake accounts.

A couple of years ago, when huge numbers of similarities were spotted between Da Vinci Code and my previous books, Da Vinci Legacy and Daughter of God, there was a blizzard of Amazon reviews trashing my books. It was determined that most of these came from a handful of people who were logging in with numerous fake accounts.

Amazon,to their credit, investigated and removed all of the reviews where they could determine that the reviewers were fake. Some suspect reviews remained, but they could not be conclusively determined to be fake. It was the best Amazon could do then, but they have better tools now.

This sort of situation (not just mine) is one of the key reasons that Amazon started the "Real Name" system.

With this existing system, Amazon could eliminate or curtail fake review flames by:

(a) Restricting reviews only to those with Real Name badges, or
(b) Allowing reviews by all, but only allowing ratings by Real Name reviewers to count toward the star ratings.

Obviously this is no guarantee against bad reviews, but it does help assure that the reviewers are real people and not robo-trashes and people with a grudge and no life.

Finally, is there a good word for spam reviews? I could think about "Spamazon" but that's too restrictive because the same spam reviews often get cut and pasted on blogs and forums.

We have "splog" for spam blog posts and "spim" for spam on AIM ... How about "spew" for "SPam reviEW?" It also has an appropriate connotation?

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