Thursday, January 24, 2008

Case in point: a bunch of small-time frauds

Someone mentioned 'misrareviews' recently here. While thumbing through the Slate-article-related thread on the Amazon "Discussion Board" a minute ago I noticed a post of hers (his?). This is a very good example of the crap that takes place on that 'Discussion Board' (the place is completely overrun by shills there, try to have a meaningful discussion and you'll see). Here goes:
It's puzzling that the article vaguely casts aspersions on [...] John Matlock, because there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with [him]. Matlock uses a staff of writers (from his own web site), so he can't be ranked. The article says that Matlock "took a holiday from Amazon", when he was actually harassed off of Amazon -to the detriment of customers. [...]
This post is a deliberate crude lie. It is a lie because John Matlock "Gunny" had operated as one of the Top Reviewers (No.6?) for years, as an individual, not a team. He was a classical example of an obnoxious fraud who posted multiple reviews daily, half a dozen, dozen, pick your number; all five stars, no exceptions. Go check his posting history and see for yourself.

Once his good works started to attract attention and people started posting comments under his reviews asking if it's possible that all of so many books are all five stars and whether a human can read that much to begin with, he tried to 'explain' (away) the mind-boggling size of his reviewing output by saying that, no, he doesn't read these books; he is a public face of a team of reviewers (17?) who post under his name. That happened only after he was pushed against the wall as it were and after years of posting as an individual and holding some high Top Reviewer status.

Whether one chooses to believe this 'explanation' or not is one's decision -- personally, I don't believe it (his thoroughly imbecile reviews were all written in a very consistent individual style and also, why would a bunch of people labour in obscurity and then post the results of their hard work under someone else's name?). But however you look at it, one thing is clear: he was engaged in fraud for years -- whether it's because he was 'fronting' a group of scribblers yet posed as a Top Reviewer (who, according to Amazon rules, must be individuals), or because he was working alone but kept reviewing books he didn't read -- couldn't have! too many --, doesn't really matter: either way it was wrong.

'misrareviews' was active on Amazon and the Board during all this time, including the time when Gunny finally got defrocked; lurid details of this wretched saga were discussed on the Board and elsewhere ad nauseam, and so 'misrareviews' knows what the real story is VERY DAMN WELL, and yet s/he spews lies in a desperate attempt to rearrange reality in a way that would make Gunny look like an innocent victim of a savage persecution. Corporate solidarity, no? What else could it be. These guys have no fucking shame; all they know is probably, today it's Gunny or HK, tomorrow who knows, maybe it'll be them, and so they close ranks no matter what.

As far as Gunny's being 'harrassed' off Amazon, well, I'd rather say chased away, but otherwise I agree with this. Except he should have been 'harrassed' off Amazon years earlier, and not by alert, suspicious customers, but by Amazon themselves. And of course, no one has literally the power to chase anyone away from Amazon, he simply appears to have stopped posting anything there -- though, as I would imagine, the commentary under his reviews and elsewhere (press articles and blogs) played its role in his decision. I think it was a wise decision on his part; one only wishes Harriet Klausner and some other similar 'reviewers' did the same.

As far as his departure's being to the detriment of customers, I think not: to the contrary: it was his shameless shilling that was to the detriment of customers -- he 'reviewed' thousands of pages' worth of printed matter daily; frequently scientific/technology books which would take even a trained, competent person months to read; in addition, his reviews were quite imbecile, which demonstrated that not only wasn't he reading these books: he coulnd't possibly understand them even if he tried to read them; and finally, again, all his reviews were five stars, all three and a half thousand of them. Detriment? A departure of a fraudulent asshole like that was a benefit to customers.


Cathy said...

Let us not forget his newbooksinprint bookseller alter ego where he sold virtually every book/cd he "reviewed" on Amazon as new. Looking at the dates of his last reviews I'd about calculate it with his dried up sources of free books for a "top reviewer" from the publishers.

Malleus said...

Oh yeah! How could I forget. Indeed, he sold his review copies, effectively getting paid for reviewing them. I wonder if the proceeds were shared amongst his mythical team of writers. Well, it was so terrible to 'harrass' this nice gentleman, gee, I feel awful.

Now, 'misrareviews' definitely doesn't review a stack of books daily. And his reviews are well written -- and not all five stars, there are some threes. But they read like promo blurbs, that is data sheets studded with gratuitous superlatives, significantly devoid of personal opinion, with a frequently unjustified rating attached. Does such stuff constitute a valid review? Are those perhaps 'sponsored' too? Who knows.

I have a hard time believing that a normal customer, a busy guy with a job and family and w/o links to manufacturers of the stuff he buys, would write a review like that: it's an information packet, a promo, not a review. But although this reviewer doesn't inspire a lot of trust in me, at least he's careful enough not to do something that obviously impossible, like reviewing three hundred books a month in the Klausner fashion. He may be suspicious, but he's not offending your intelligence.

I remember one guy was proposing that people should be able to review only the items they actually bought on Amazon. I thought this was too severe, but actually, maybe that's the way to do it. If that's the price of eliminating most egregious shilling, be it.

Of course, then they'll start actually buying their stuff to review and the publisher can quietly 'defer' their expenses, as it were. Or they can simply return their stuff after reviewing it. I don't know how this could be seriously cleaned up... but at least Amazon could stop guys like Gunny or Harriet, whose 'achievements' are simply impossible, humanly I mean.

Barbara Delaney said...

I wrote an answer to "mirasreviews" post. The responses to my posting which laid out the facts behind Gunny's decision are so ludicrous they do not warrant further discussion.

Several people said the act of asking John Matlock if he in fact read all of the books he reviewed constituted harrassment. Think about that for a moment, what absurdity! To ask a "top reviewer if he's truthful, if his reviews are reliable, is considered by these people a forbidden act?

Lying about what you have read, selling free books given to you by the publishers, these acts are permissible in the skewed judgment of these individuals. But asking for a truthful response is not allowed.

These people have no ethics or morals at all.

Malleus said...

Yeah, it's like if you saw someone breaking into a house and asked the guy what the hell he was doing or, god forbid, if you called the police, the Shill Protection Squad(TM) on Amazon would say you're harrassing the guy. Methinks that's 'cause they themselves aren't all that different.

Malleus said...

'defer' expenses: 'defray' rather. :-)