Sunday, June 28, 2009

Justice At Last?

Newspapers recently have reported that the FTC plans late this summer to begin requiring bloggers and websites to identify all entries which have been written for compensation - i.e. by covert shills.

A typical newspaper article pointing this out is the following:,0,1923444.story.

The proposed FTC guidelines may be viewed at

My worry is that, if such regs are enforced, stars such as Harriet Klausner and Grady Harp may lose their inspiration to keep on publishing endless streams of ill-written, meaningless reviews, thus depriving us all of unparalled sources of merriment.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Publishing giant Elsevier in hot water over hiring shills

From the BBC News Magazine:
... the recent actions of science publisher Elsevier caused a storm. The firm offered a $25 (£15) Amazon voucher to academics who contributed to the textbook Clinical Psychology if they would go on Amazon [...] and give it five stars.
The perils of five-star reviews by Finlo Rohrer. I hope Jeff "Customer Reviews" Bozos doesn't neglect to read this piece.

And of course:
"Amazon works hard to maintain the integrity of its customer reviews," a spokesman says. "We have very clear guidelines, and when a customer reports a review that they feel is inappropriate, we investigate, and may (or may not) take it down."
Yes we believe that, just look at Amazon No.1 Top Reviewer, Harriet Klausner, who has on average been posting, what, six-to-ten reviews every day since 1999? Does anyone believe that she actually reads six-to-ten books a day, and that these hastily thrown together by way of cribbing from the jacket "reviews" -- error-ridden, opinion-free, incoherent and ungrammatical but always positive -- can be anything other than a brazen shill's trying to hornswoggle the reading public into buying the stuff? Many people emailed Amazon about this without getting back as little as acknowledgment of receipt! Anything else Amazon responds to quickly and specifically, but shilling on their site appears to be an issue Amazon doesn't want to know about. But wait, there's more:
"One of the things Amazon have is a question did you find this review helpful - reviews are ranked," says Neill [Graeme Neill of industry magazine The Bookseller]. "I wouldn't underestimate the humble customer's ability to distinguish between what is a gushing press release and a genuine 'I felt this book was fantastic'."
Yeah, and I would also not underestimate the shills' ability to get in cahoots and use this helpful/not-helpful voting capability to vote for on another and against their detractors -- especially since one of those inexplicable operational nuances of Amazon site's software which, while never openly described, just seem always to empower the shill and disable the customer, is that ON AMAZON ANYONE [literally] CAN VOTE -- AND ANY NUMBER OF TIMES AT THAT. While a purchase is required in order to post reviews or comments, nothing is required in order to vote: type in any garbage into the account-creation-page fields and you're in business. This, most likely, is how shills self-vote and conduct their negging campaigns retaliating against their detractors. Notice that realistically, Mr Casual Visitor won't use this capability: he doesn't know it exists, he won't bother organising with others, he won't spend the time needed to manipulate the site, and so on. Somehow Amazon's software always works in a way that gives power to the shill. Amazon's never stipulating the actual rules of anything on their site works this way too (imo). So... let's be honest: Amazon sells stuff, shills push the selfsame stuff, so how many PhD's do you need to connect two and two together here? "Amazon works hard to maintain the integrity" my ass.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Worse and worse, or actually better and better, Harriet under the new system is now Reviewer # 589. To some degree, justice may be of this earth after all. :-)))

An Amazon Mystery

Does anyone have an explanation why the outrageous Grady Harp keeps on rising in Amazon rankings -currently he's risen to # 3 Old Style and to # 22 New Style - whereas the website's star Ungeheurer, Harriet Klausner, continues her decline - though still # 1 Old Style, she's descended to # 579 New. The question of the reason for these frankly baffling rankings has been raised on the Amazon comment threads, but to my knowledge nobody has yet attempted an answer.

Since phoney voting on his reviews by Harp and/or his minions has been largely blocked under the new system, and since Harriet continues to post many more "reviews" of contemporary stuff that might sell than does the Maestro, "reviews" which are generally not accorded an avalanche of neggies, why does he go up and she go down so markedly? The principal difference between the two these days seems to be that Harp emends his reviews after commentators point out his barbarisms, and only then does he vote not helpful on the comment. Harriet, on the other hand, makes no changes, no matter how ludicrously inaccurate or non-grammatical her reviews so often are. She just votes a quick not helpful on any comment pointing out her errors. Could it be that Amazon is rewarding Harp's "scrupulousness" but punishing Klausner's sangfroid? As always, inquiring minds want to know.