Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down


May 19, 2018 by Nicholas

There is a problem with leaving ratings on shopping sites. Actually, there are several problems, but the main one is that an objectively fair rating does disproportionate damage to the product and seller unless it is truly excellent.

There is a thing called social proof. Basically people look to other people to advise them if something is desirable / useful. When I buy electronics I tend to stick to a company I know I trust or find a site that seemingly offers impartial reviews. As a last resort I will go with the reviews on the site I’m buying from. But then I will click products that meet a minimum review criteria.

Minimum review criteria means that product reviews of 4 out of 5 are problematic and anything below that can be a disaster. Think about that for a second. 3 out of 5 should be average and represent a product that does what you expect but no more. I bought some hasps recently that were a little flimsy and didn’t sit absolutely flat. They were adequate for the purpose and cheap. If I leave that review I will harm the seller although I think it is a tempered recommendation.

If I see a film I want to see has a rating of seven out of ten with a reviewer I trust, or a positive recommendation with caveats, I will happily spend money to see it and will more than likely not be disappointed. If I see the equivalent rating on an item on amazon I will skip it and move to the next.

This has led to a while industry where sellers try to get positive reviews through various means. From basically giving the product away, to significant discounts, to outright paying reviewers. I know I am lenient when I’m being positive because I know how it can affect the sellers, and will tend to skip reviewing products I feel ambivalent about, saving what would be harmful reviews for products I think deserve them. Such as an ebook I bought on Nginx which actually set me back, such was the inaccuracy of the information within.

So, basically, reviews on sites from purchasers should generally be treated with skepticism and products with more reviews treated as having a higher proportion of genuine reviews. And the reviews shouldn’t be treated as absolutes, rather the relative deviation from the average review for that type of product should be considered when making a purchase. But try to find a review on an independent site instead.