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Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

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When is a review not a review?

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When it’s written without integrity!

Wow, this seems an odd-ball topic for Learning from Dogs.  But, as all you regular readers know, Learning from Dogs is about understanding the importance, the critical importance of integrity, and having dogs, who are integrous, act as an example and metaphor for humankind.

OK, to the point of the article.

Somewhere (probably Naked Capitalism but not sure) I came across a link to a piece in PC Mag entitled, Are Amazon Reviews Corrupt?  Here’s a flavour of the article written by John Dvorak.

It’s a known fact that PR agencies and corporations have been burrowing into the community of online, “public” reviewers and obscure bloggers and easily corrupting them with trinkets. It’s like a lost tribe being bribed with a pretty necklace of cheap polished rocks. Now there is some proof that there is a problem.

I received a press release titled, “Buyer beware: study reveals hidden motives behind Amazon reviews.” Here is the gist in a nutshell:

In the first academic study of its kind, Trevor Pinch, Cornell University professor of sociology and of science and technology studies, independently surveyed 166 of Amazon’s top 1,000 reviewers, examining everything from demographics to motives. What he discovered was 85 percent of those surveyed had been approached with free merchandise from authors, agents or publishers.

Pinch, who also found the median age range of the reviewers he surveyed was 51 to 60, a surprise said Pinch, because the image of the internet is more of a young person’s thing. Amazon is encouraging reviewers to receive free products through Amazon Vine, an invitation-only program in which the top 1,000 reviewers are offered a catalog of free products to review.

John later linked to the website set up by Trevor Pinch, called Freelunch, where the full details of what is going on are contained in a report, available for all to download and read.  The web page from where the report may be downloaded is here, and below is what you will read if you go to that weblink.

They tell us what to buy, but who are Amazon’s elite product reviewers and why do they do it?

They are the familiar faces of the world’s largest online retailer, the voices of reason we rely upon to make sense of everything from Shakespeare to sleeping bags.

But who are Amazon’s top reviewers, why do they invest the massive effort required to review tens of thousands of products, and how are changes at Amazon changing the way these reviewers help us decide what to buy?

In the first academic study of its kind, we examine the elite class of top-thousand Amazon reviewers by conducting a detailed survey with a subset of 166 of these top reviewers. The study, examines everything from age, gender and education (typically middle-aged, male and master’s degree), to the motives and concerns of this volunteer corps who’ve helped drive Amazon’s growth from quaint virtual bookstore to the planet’s most valuable retail brand.

The study was carried out just as Amazon introduced a new way of ranking its reviewers causing much consternation as some fell dramatically in the rankings. We ask why it is that Amazon has changed its ranking system at this time and we elicit the top reviewers responses to this change.

Our study holds an assumption and asks a question: the assumption is that there are no free lunches. So how come Amazon has managed to persuade so many people to give them the morsels from which they have built one of the biggest free lunches ever? That is the question.

Speaking as someone who probably spends a couple of hundred dollars a year with Amazon, particular on books, and who does get tipped into buying an unknown book by the reviews, this report is not without consequence.

Hyman Minsky

Indeed, as you read this there will be winging it’s way to me two books ordered last week.  The first was Hyman Minsky’s book, Stabilizing an Unstable Economy, cost $21.14 and a book that I had no doubts about wanting to read.

But the second, The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding, was bought a) to take me over $25 and provide me with free shipping and b) because it looked like a book I would enjoy and all six reviews were strong recommendations!

Well done PC Mag and all concerned.

H’mm, another lesson from the school of life!

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Written by Paul Handover

July 6, 2011 at 00:00

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