Online user reviews are useless


General Culture

You’re not supposed to say this, but I think the value of the internet as a tool to gather meaningful information is vastly overrated. This is particularly true if you want to find a good review of a book or a CD or something else. You might be surprised to read this, so let me explain.

Of course, I am aware of, say, where for each product there are tons of reviews (disclaimer: I even wrote some, before I started this blog). The problem with those reviews is, though, that they are mostly useless. Typically, you get a pretty small variety of reviews - this following list might be incomplete.

1. There are the raving reviews (aka the vast majority of reviews). Needless to say, those are mostly useless, since by definition/logic not everything can be great. If everything is equally great, everything is just average. So why are do most reviewers give five or four stars when, in fact, the majority of products should only have three? You could argue that people only write reviews if they really like something. But then the review process is already useless since I, as a consumer, am interested in getting actual information and not in getting raving reviews from fans.

2. There are the “I expected something else” reviews. Needless to say, those aren’t reviews, and I don’t think I have to explain why they’re useless. Same goes for the “The object broke when I dropped it on concrete floor” reviews (of which you can find a surprising amount - what happened to common sense?).

3. And then there the “This sucks” reviews, which is really just the inverse of the raving reviews.

On, they allow you to “rate” the “reviews”, which, sadly enough, only adds another layer of nonsense to the whole procedure, since only raving reviews are consistently voted to be “useful”. This is what I refer to as the American-Idol effect: Don’t ever say anything “negative” lest you want to be ostracized. So when you go to the page of any given product, on top of the list of reviews you get to see those most popular raving reviews. How useful is that?