Remember in the “olden” days when products sold based on marketing, advertising and word-of-mouth? Well, those days have been long gone ever since the Internet. Now anyone can buy a product on Amazon.com or Sephora or a myriad of other consumer sites and post his or her review of the purchased product. As if other consumers are waiting with bated breath for their reviews.
Reviews have their place, of course. I’d much rather see what others thought of an expensive makeup item Sephora sells before doling out the dough, only to be disappointed. Sites like Steepster.com, in which testers log tasted tea, give participants a chance to review more than just one company’s product. And if you’re investing in a larger purchase – a computer, or a TV – reading reviews from fellow consumers can save you time, money and effort.
The problem is most reviews are on the honor system. You assume that the person reviewing the item has actually purchased/tried/used or in the case of booksellers, read the book. There are exemptions; eBay tracks feedback from actual buyers (although their system is flawed for other reasons), and Adagio Teas requires their customers to purchase the tea before they can actually review.
Take one person with a grudge against a product, company or even a person/author, and the entire review and rating structure is skewed.
This is happening on sites like Amazon.com and GoodReads. While Amazon.com does list your purchased products on an “order” page, there’s no stopping reviewers from posting a review about a product they haven’t actually consumed. (I did a test run on a product – but not a book – that I’ve tried in the past but never purchased from Amazon.com. The review is there.)
GoodReads seems like a good idea in theory. The site is comprised of reviewed books by readers of all level, experience, skill, attitude, temperament, and mental capacity. Readers can log books without having to prove they’ve actually read them. But like many theories the application doesn’t work for the human population, as people are selfishly motivated. And fickle.
GoodReads has a bully problem. Many “reviewers” (known as “trolls”) personally attack authors without actually reading their work, literally judge books by their covers, and harass authors for their politics, beliefs, and other factors that shouldn’t go into the review of fiction. This isn’t a situation of authors not liking negative reviews. The reviews have little to do with the books themselves, and many times the reviewers admit they only read a passage or two and passed judgment.
So GoodReads changed their moderation policy. Their new guidelines require book reviews to be about the book and not the author, among some other changes. This was brought about after many authors pulled their own books from the site and complained. Trolls were committing crimes against these authors – anything from harassment to cyberbullying campaigns and God knows what else.
Trolls responded in kind by leaving one-star ratings on the authors’ books involved (including anyone who spoke out in favor of the changes, siding with the content creators or authors). There was a mass exodus to other book review sites too. But luckily trolls’ criminal behavior has been so widespread on blogs, social media and online that the other book review sites say, “No thanks,” and don’t let these folks join.
Take the post by Stop GoodReads Bullies referencing book review site, booklikes. Clearly people have had enough with this psychodrama.
I’m working on an investigative piece about this kind of behavior, and I hope the trend of review sites ditching these trolls continues.
I say this proudly, even as I’ve received threats and nasty email responses myself. I will be including some of them in my post next week. I think I befuddle the Trolls because I’m not yet a published book author – and my professional work can’t be “reviewed” by them – yet I defend the bullied authors.
Also, added bonus: threats to a federal agent are punishable with jail time and fines. Item of note, Trolls. Yes, I’m her. Your worst nightmare.
We’re on to you, Trolls, and this time, we’ll be the only ones laughing.