Friday, August 27, 2010

Fake or Astroturfing Reviews on iTunes

Having read a lot of reviews and having written a few on my own, here and other places, you get a feel for when something is not quite right. 

I worked with someone once who wasn't quite right, well about a lot of things, but he had a good feel for marketing.  His comment was that if there is only one review, it is probably from the company that produced the product.  That tended to make a lot of sense, since the one lone review in a product forum tends to be very positive, if not overly so.  Positive and sweet as a bowl of sugar usually.   Reading that review will lead you to believe that you can cure cancer and poverty and famine merely by buying this little box of crap that was invariably made in China by prisoners.

I have always taken a similar view.  When I do shop for products online, I search for a link for reviews and only read a few of the positive reviews, preferring the negative ones.   They're usually a lot more entertaining and can give you a good idea of what can go wrong with a given product.  If that doesn't scare me off, then I may proceed onto looking at the positive reviews.

The process of having the company or one of its minions write favorable reviews is called Astroturfing.  I guess its from having something look like but not be grass in a field.  Too Perfect of a turf since it isn't real.  The US Federal Trade Commission just decided that Reverb Communications engaged in deceptive advertising by writing fake reviews on iTunes for people to buy their latest game.  This practice is wildly popular and I hadn't realized that it was illegal until reading an article pointing it out.  Certainly it is highly deceptive, but then again, isn't Advertising the practice of convincing someone to buy something that they don't need by deception and suggestion?

Advertising changed dried, spoiled, milk with bacteria and cows intestines enzymes, poisonous artificial colors and flavors, chemical preservatives, excess salt ... and so forth... into Cheese. 

Can you imagine if everything were quite THAT descriptive?

For the record, I'll probably have an omelet with cheese and some sort of either turkey bacon or thinly sliced sausage for lunch... we could have a field day with the "correct" description of those products.

We consume products that aren't exactly healthy for us every day.  If we were to market cigarettes completely truthfully as a product that will drastically increase your chances of cancer, emphysema, and other diseases there simply would not be a large market for the product. You'll have to decide for yourself whether a cowboy in the middle of the plains of the US West is appropriate to make a decision that will impact your health 10 or 20 years later.

Technology tends to be easier, the item will perform a task, there are quantifiable ways it will do so and it will do it with some very specific aspects.   Screen size, processor speed and type, disc drives and all of that gobbledy gook.  If the consumer chooses to be educated, purchasing technology can become a simple process.  There are brands you would want to stay away from in any "type" of technology, most do come from specific places in the world, some with better reputations for quality than others, and some are more open to being repaired than others.

Wait, do people still repair things?

I do, but I'm ... odd.  I'm currently listening to music on a laptop that I repaired a couple times that is over 12 years old.  It is quite comfortable for the task.  Even if the drawer to the network card is broke, the machine works incredibly well as a table radio and could easily be used for light gaming or surfing the web.

There is an advertisement that I remember hearing that said "An educated consumer is our best customer".  I am afraid that the best help I can give is that you'll just have to become educated.  Reviews can help but take them with a box of salt.  Don't forget your friends, they're most likely to have a good idea whether something is worthwhile or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment