Monday, January 28, 2008

Robert Morris wipes his record clean (?)

Looks like our friend Top Reviewer Robert Morris got rid of all critical comments under his reviews. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I couldn't see a single one of those posts that questioned his all-five-star ratings or at-least-a-book-a-day reading habit. All I could see was some quantity of joyous and laudatory Quality Comments(TM). A major delete-and-repost campaign, or am I seeing things?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Now that's weird: double negatives?

I was perusing some reviews there and encountered this comment under one of them:
La Maniatica says:
Ok, I appreciate the review. What I dont understand is that when you give bad reviews, why do you always have to review it twice to give it extra bad ratings then what is should get. Giving the book 2 2star ratings is not helping this review. I have noticed you doing this on quite a lot of books. I am going to buy this book despite your reviews. Just leave it at one review.
Then I looked at the book's two-star-reviews' page, and what do you know, indeed Deborah MacGillivray posted two negative reviews for this book. What's that about? Negative shilling ? Why keep several reviews of the same item to begin with, regardless of the rating?

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.

Calomniez, calomniez... (The Secret's Out)

Our friend Bibulous Frenchman has finally learnt the truth1:
Mrs. Duh-laney is rumored to actually be Harriet Klausner,and she set up the whole "anti-Harriet" thing to attract extra attention and solidify her No. 1 standing.
Finally, the secret's out. But wait, more people claimed to be Harriet Klausner -- OK, I Admit It: I’m Harriet Klausner. Personally, I think it's L.E. Cantrell who is Harriet Klausner. Or maybe he's Elvis, I haven't decided yet...
1. Reviewer Taylor X deleted/reposted the review where the quoted comment was posted; the comments are gone now. Here is a link to the cached page though (click on 'show post anyway' if it's hidden).

Harriet reviews NONEXISTING book.

Check this out:
[...] I'm sure there are credible people out there sincerely writing some of the reviews seen on Amazon and the like, but how do you feel about it? Do you read them/write them/love them/hate them/ignore them/quote them? Is it a service to readers or a possible disservice to authors? Is there a line being crossed? And what about the Harriet Klausners who write 45 reviews a week? Is it even possible to read that many books and comprehend them? [...]

From one of the comments under this article, I gotta quote, it's hilarious:
[...] As an example, after I agreed to write Bayou Bad Boys a few years ago, one of the writers got ill and had to drop out. Unfortunately, the story description she'd sent in to Brava got on the back of the ARC under the replacement author's name. (Fortunately it was changed before the actual book was published!) But HK reviewed all three novellas described. Even one that didn't exist. [...]
(From the comment by Joann Ross.)

There are some cretinious entries too:
leeannewat commented: The only time I read a review on Amazon etc... Is if I am looking to find out what a book is about... And if I find that a person has given a Negative review I click the "No" U know where they ask u if this review has been Helpful or not... I'm not sure what this does but I hope it does some good for the Author... As I think everyone should be "Given a Fair Go"...

Deborah Macgillivray commented: [...] Yes, click NO helps! So keep clicking!! Also if you see a particularly bad review that is over the line, click REPORT THIS. [...] I am a top review there, as I am on the other versions,, and [...] This all so has nothing to do with reviewing. They are not posting reviews; they are posting their opinions. Big difference, though they don't seem to understand that [...]

Leah commented: [...] I do rely on reviews to tell me what's worth shelling out the dough. At Amazon, I look at the stars - not the actual reviews. If something has a number of reviews (say, more than 10) and they're all consistently 4 1/2 to 5 stars, I think that's meaningful [...]
Rivitting! We thought a review actually is the reviewer's opinion of the item reviewed, but then what do we know... maybe a review should be rewarmed liner notes: by looking at Amazon reviews one just can't tell.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We got email from Mark

Mark writes:
You know, I really wish you had open comments so I could post on your blog. Especially since you are discussing me. Twice. Yes, not only am I the blogger from, but I also am the Mark you quote in today's post.
Mark, the message at the top on the left of our front page says that if you'd like to join us, send us your email. We can't allow unregistered comments because the next day the place will be spammed out of existence by the same people we're talking about. We were open for a while at first, and this precise thing happened. But anyone can ask for an invite to join as a named poster. Our asking for registration is simply a way to keep this blog clean of malicious interference: a named poster who becomes disruptive can, and will be banned. I sent you an invite to the address you emailed from.
First let me state, I have read every word on your blog. Heck, I link to it from my blog. I visit it most days to see what you are saying. And, as I said in my post which you quote (but seem to ignor), I have no use for Harriet either.
We didn't ignore this, but your beef with Harriet is based on a wrong thing, and I'll restate why: your problem is with the quality of her reviews; we believe she's evil because she reviews the books she didn't read and she reviews them all positively. The quality of her reviews is a very secondary issue; it is really a side effect of her modus operandi. By your logic, if she managed to post good reviews (if, say, her reviews were produced by a team of competent copywriters), you'd have no problem with her. We still would: she's a shill, regardless of the quality of her reviews. So, as you can see (and could see earlier, simply by reading our previous post), we did not ignore what you said.
I am not defending her, nor would I want to. I do believe she at least skims the books she reviews since I have read things in her reviews that are major spoilers and not on the dust jacket. However, those instances are few and far between and certainly don't defend her at all.

And obviously, I do need to apologize. While I investigated the blog you linked to that started my own diatribe, I couldn't figure out how many reviews the person posts every day. I jumped to a conclusion that it appears wasn't warrented. And for jumping to conclusions I do apologize.
Apology gratefully accepted.
However, let's get one thing straight. I post negative reviews. Your recent comment on the post that links to my blog inplies I don't. In fact, the second half of the post you quoted talks about some of the blowback I have gotten from a couple of my negative reviews.

And I am unattached to the book publishing business. I haven't even written so much as a short story that has been published, much less a book of any kind. And if you look at my reviews, you'll see I give a variety of ratings, more then normal recently. Yes, I tend toward the higher ratings, but mainly because I am picking what I consume and review, and that means I lean toward what I enjoy. If I don't like an author, I don't go back to them, for example.

You may post this on your blog, but please include my name and a link to my blog so people can judge for themselves if you do.
If you post negative reviews along with the positives, then it's obvious that what we said does not relate to you. We did include a link to your blog in the previous post, here's another one (is it the right blog though? :-)

Yeah, I know! Exactly!

Revisiting a recently posted link here. That was about reviewers who post positive reviews exclusively, where "Author Kerry Allen" feigned a major fit over our suggestion that an all-positive reviews record tends to hurt a reviewer's credibility. The faked fit was barely over when one of the commenters on that post, "Mark", let the truth out, unintendedly perhaps -- I quote:
> Mark | January 16, 2008 @ 8:47 pm
> Not to mention the blowback you can get when you
> post negative reviews. Trust me, I know.
Exactly! So what does this do to your credibility, genius?
Here I bumped into an article we've been linking to for a long time, Dangerous reviews on Amazon: it's very well written and it deals with this very issue. Who is Grady Harp?

Check out this article in Slate.
[...] I had imagined Amazon's customer reviews as a refuge from the machinations of the publishing industry: "an intelligent and articulate conversation ... conducted by a group of disinterested, disembodied spirits," as James Marcus, a former editor at the company, wrote in his memoir [...] As I explored the murky understory of Amazon's reviewer rankings, however, I came to see [...] a tangle of hidden agendas-—one in which the disinterested amateur may be an endangered species.
From Who is Grady Harp?, by Garth Risk Hallberg.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More Feigned Misunderstanding

More of the same (I think).
There are many different angles to this hobby I call Internet reviewing. There are those of us who take it way too seriously and review everything we can get our hands on in order to have a greater opportunity to increase our rank. Then there are the people who just want to use it as a means of getting the word out on things they've enjoyed. I started out in that camp.

Among those who take things way too seriously are the Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society. Now I have no love of Amazon's #1 reviewer. Her "reviews" aren't helpful and are getting sloppier by the month. And a little mocking of her rather major mistakes is fun. The group is also on the lookout for other major cheats on the site. However, these people will take on anyone that doesn't live up to their standards. They also only allow comments from people who have been approved, so their site is nothing but an echo chamber of their own wisdom. And one of their biggest issues is people who only post positive reviews.

Yesterday, they had a post up linking to a blog of an Amazon reviewer who only posts positive reviews. His reasoning? He doesn't want to spend any more time thinking about something he didn't enjoy. Naturally, they were all over this, stating that he has just proved he's nothing but a shill who can be bought by publishers. How they can know him that well from some reviews and a blog post is beyond me. [...]
Is what we've said in the past really all that unreasonable? What am I missing?

My response to this guy: Of course if you've posted fifty reviews in ten years and they happen to be all positive, it's entirely OK -- you probably read many more books than you've reviewed, some of the books you've read turned out not so good but you didn't want to bother reviewing them: fine. At least it's not impossible! (Having said that, I think your credibility with the reading public -- as compared with the publishing community ;-) -- would only grow if in addition to praising the books you liked, you'd warn your readers about those you didn't. But let's set this aspect aside for now.) This is not the kind of reviewer we're talking about.

Our heroes are reviewers who review multiple books a day, every day, with an overall record of thousands of books, all of them five stars. In such cases we cannot reasonably assume that they've read many more books than those they've reviewed. In fact, it's impossible to believe that they've read what they've reviewed to begin with, but let's set this aside for a second and pretend we don't question their superhumanly massive reading program: let's just ask whether is it possible that one's total reading (of such size!) has been exclusevly on the four/five-star level? One wishes... This is a rhetorical question.
There's more fraud in the quoted post above. Let's take it apart piece by piece:
However, these people will take on anyone that doesn't live up to their standards
Where did this come from? Did we publish any standards? Any examples of someone we 'took on' w/o a clear easily observable reason? Who'd that be? Harriet? W.Boudville? Gunny?

Moving on (this one's a favourite with certain people ):
Now I have no love of Amazon's #1 reviewer. Her "reviews" aren't helpful and are getting sloppier by the month.
The quality of her reviews is irrelevant! Instead, it's the quantity and ratings, meaning: (a) no one can read that many books (several reviews a day on average, what was it, five or seven? That would imply she reads at least that much, and this alone is more than even she herself claims to be able to read -- and then why would anyone believe what she says ?) and (b) all reviews are five stars. Both (a) and (b) are impossible: the former by itself, and the latter in combination with the former.

Why worry about the quality of her reviews (though it's dismal -- although, contrary to the quoted commenter's words, it doesn't get worse: it's always been the same, i.e. preposterous crap, which fits the picture, but is immaterial in our discussion).

The point is, even if her reviews were fantastic she'd still be an obvious, in-your-face fraud. And all attempts to turn discussion away from the sheer impossibility of what she's doing to almost irrelevant issues like quality of her reviews, is a sign of either stupidity or disingenuousness. Any bona-fide reviewer is welcome to write, literarily speaking, as bad a review as he wants. Bona-fide, I said.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Old canard surfaces again:

" there’s nothing to be gained by talking about the books I don’t like. "

Unrelatedly: remember our old post "Yes, of course! I mean no"? It was about The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Here's someone else talking about the same issues.

Please revisit this familiar link (hilarious)

We've already linked to this article, but there's a new comment there, at the very bottom, a hilarious one. I'll quote a tiny bit:
[...] Over at my website, SF Reviews.Net, a pleasant little hobby, I have a Forum. One day about two years ago, I logged on to discover that, in the space of a half hour, Harriet Klausner had dropped by, sniffed around like a dog looking for a good place to mark, and flooded the Forum with no fewer than 50 of her “reviews.” Then she had evidently moved on. [...]
This is written by someone called Thomas M. Wagner. Enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2008

An Overzealous Top Reviewer?

Now here's an ambitious reviewer. I know this topic was brought up briefly under one of the HK review threads, that being whether to post the same review under multiple issues of a book. You will find with the out of print books there are multiple listings, I suspect as each issue has a different ISBN # or something that forces them to be listed separately. In those cases when I've been shopping for a used book, one of those items has the bulk of the reviews and that's where I go to post my review instead of perhaps the issue of the book that I purchased and there are no reviews. Make sense I hope?

Anyway, this reviewer takes it to a new level. For example, I've pulled up the book title of a couple of her recent reviews, the first being Anya Seton's Smouldering Fires, and get this result, and a similar result with Seton's Dragonwyck. In both cases you will see multiple listings of the same book, but only one has the bulk of the reviews, the others have one each and you will find that the same reviewer posted the same review over and over again. To what purpose? As this reviewer reads and reviews books in the same genre that I read I've looked at her reviews before looking for reading ideas and have noticed this pattern of hers is a long standing habit.

I've been on a recent foray into 19C British lit and with them you'll find the Penquin Classics, Barnes & Nobel, Norton Critical editions, etc. for the same book and I have on occasion posted the same review on more than one edition of the same book, and received helpful votes on both reviews, so I felt the effort was worthwhile. I have to wonder why this reviewer takes so much time and effort to post the same review over and over and over again, since my understanding that the total count of your reviews doesn't help your ranking.

So, I guess my question is why go to all this trouble? And why doesn't Amazon fix it so that whatever book edition you review, i.e. The B&N Edition of Great Expectations it posts to all editions of the same book. I know they can do it, I've seen it happen, and that way I wouldn't see my Amazon recommendations keep suggesting another version of the same darn book I've just reviewed.


PS, I am not knocking this reviewer in posting this comment. I'm actually glad to see a top reviewer reading books that aren't part of the mass market paperback world, it's nice to see someone reading and reviewing the out of print stuff. My only quibble with her reviews is she just tells WAY TOO MUCH of the story.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

W.Boudville transformed

Here's one of the recent W.Boudville reviews. Don't you think it's entirely out of style? Meaning his style, i.e., two paragraphs of fragment-infested drivel about nothing with a four-star rating. Check it out, the review is actually well written and extensive. What do you think of it?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Rewritten Reality on Harriet

Here's an article you may want to read:
[...] But take another look at the prolific HK and you'll find a couple of clouds to this silver lining. A quick perusal of her reviews indicates that all of her reviews–all of them–are either four or five star affairs. Apparently every book is good or great, which is a pretty good track record for an industry which has the reputation of producing some schlock on occasion (just scurrilous rumors, no doubt). Still, you would imagine that one or two authors wouldn't have gotten the "only great books accepted" memo and might, possibly, have written something a little below par. [...]