The awful truth about online reviews

May 9th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Anybody who is in the public eye on the internet … even someone
as minor as me … will invariably get his fair share of people who
feel compelled to bash him — often in a nasty and mean-spirited

Of course the conventional wisdom is to shrug it off. But I
sometimes find it difficult not to take personally.

For instance, MM writes:

“I have purchased several of Bob’s products on his websites and
found them to be a complete rip-off. He charges $50 for 80 pages
of useless, outdated content.”

It’s easy for me to prove that MM is by far a minority opinion;
take a look at some of the testimonials from my e-newsletter,
book, and e-book readers:

Also, most of my e-books are in the $29 to $39 range, not $50
(though a few are).

MM’s comment proves to me something I read in an article in a PC
magazine more than a decade ago:

“The best thing about the Internet is that anyone can post
anything to it.

“The worst thing about the Internet is that anyone can post
anything to it.”

Evidence of the latter statement is in an article on Quora
reporting a Harvard study concluding that one out of five reviews
on Yelp are fake.

And on one occasion, a reviewer gave my new book a one-star
review saying I hadn’t been polite to him when he asked me a
question online; he had not even read the book.

Amazon says reviews cannot be personal vendettas and have to be
based on the book itself.

And though I have notified them 3 times that this particular
review is based on a personal incident, Amazon has ignored my
repeated requests to have it removed on that basis.

Also, back in the day, book reviews were written by professional
book reviewers who often had a background and knowledge in the
topic of the book.

And their reviews were vetted by a newspaper or magazine editor
prior to publication.

Now online reviews on Amazon and elsewhere are written by any
Tom, Dick, and Harry with a computer and an internet connection.
They are not required to have a working knowledge of the topic of
the book … and no editor is there to make sure the reviews are
civil, literate, and accurate.

Which do you prefer — book reviews by professional reviewers, as
in the New York Times Book Review or the New York Review of Books
(the latter is my favorite periodical)?

Or the opinions of consumers, which range from honest and smart
to pure Bozo?


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