Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is what I'd like to see happen re: Amazon review system...

What would be nice is to see someone decide to file a lawsuit against Amazon with the FTC regarding their review system. If we as reviewers technically have to reveal any association with the product that might influence our review, then a case could be made that either 1) HK might be in violation of that rule, and/or 2) Amazon is fraudulently manipulating sales via their review system, referring back to the same FTC regulations.

In a perfect world, it would open up some of the inner workings of Amazon's system and why some reviewers are protected like HK, when her reviewing exploits are obviously on par with Santa Claus being able to visit every house in the world over a 24 hour period... :)

And for those of you reading... this is my first post to the board (thanks for the invite, Malleus). I don't know that I'll be all that active, as I tend to avoid "pissing matches" over how much someone can review. Yes, I'm an Amazon reviewer, and just recently dropped out of the top 100. And yes, I *do* read a lot and review all that I read, as I enjoy writing. But my numbers have dropped of late, as I finished writing a book last year with a co-author, and I'm working on another one right now...

Simon suffers a wipeout (Klausner Protection Squad™ strikes again)

Another day, another news. Well, a new victim rather, but nothing really new: Amazon wipes out yet another commenter who dared to talk about the fraud that Harriet Klausner is. Everyone knows Simon Davis (he's been around for quite some time). He's been intermittently active in the Klausner "trenches", and we all know that this means asking for trouble. Today is the day: he just got wiped out by Amazon. I learned about this shameful news from a comment by another poster (I'm adding both a link and a snapshot — just in case the original gets deleted and the link becomes useless):

And indeed, it appears that Amazon wiped out every single comment Simon has ever posted: here are just a few examples — here;

and here:

and more:

Amazon is exceptionally unsubtle about muzzling everyone who dares to bring up the dangerous topic of their love of shills on their site: can't touch this! Shameful and revolting, especially since it's done so in-your-face for those who know what goes on, yet to a casual visitor it looks like perhaps the comment was offensive and was removed legitimately. After all, there's no button "let's look at what this was before Amazon deleted it" one could click on and see whether the deletion was justifiable. Many times, in process of wising up to what Klausner and her likes actually do on Amazon, people say something like, "I wonder why this or that guy got deleted-by-Amazon. First I thought perhaps his posts were inappropriate, but now I wonder..." Indeed.

Now, I'm sure Amazon doesn't give a crap about comments: I've seen really bad, rude comments (and reported them too), and nothing ever happened to them: so it's not like Amazon watches what goes on on their site all the time — nor do they pay any attention to isolated "report-this" reports. So these wipeouts (especially of the total kind) have got to be engineered by the Klausner Protection Squad™ (and similar gangs of shills manipulating the social environment on Amazon's site). I wonder how they do it... do they call Amazon on the phone and bitch about poor little Harriet being abused, or do they have some special Amazon-supplied button that only shills know about, or do they "report-this" five million times on every comment of the poster they want to get rid of? Do they assemble forces, or do they use their sock-puppet accounts? Do both "purchase" and "no-purchase" accounts work, or it has to be only one kind? ... Do we have any disgruntled Amazon employees who could shed light on internal workings of Amazon's Klausner Defense Machine? How does it work in practice?

Well, anyway. Let's welcome Simon into the manly ranks of disappeared-by-Amazon. Not that we ever had any doubts about Simon's virtue, but today his human decency has been confirmed by the enemy itself — no higher compliment can be hoped for.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Johnny Boy on Klausner

Hurried Klausner "reviews" something called One Night Is Never Enough, which produces a number of comments, one of which, by "Johnny Boy", is especially right on the money. Johnny says (click to enlarge):

The only things I'd add are:
(1) most likely, Klausner did not read even in 1999 when her current account starts, and that I suspect because she'd worked in a similar area earlier — she had probably been producing these accursed blurbs since forever, it's just that before 1999 she didn't post them on Amazon (under this account, at least; I can't remember when Amazon reviews started, but Amazon itself started in 1995, initially without reviews; people do report seeing "a customer" reviews signed "Harriet Klausner" from earlier that 1999; myself I haven't seen them).

I suspect this "career" of hers began when she was, as she claims, an acquisitions librarian — which is not a librarian, really, but more like a buyer for a store (bookstore/library in this case). She was probably put in a position to determine or recommend what gets purchased, and there being no shortage of commercial entities eager to have their stuff purchased, you can bet your you know what, the Klausner postion could be profitably exploited — and that would have to be well before the advent of the internet and Amazon.¹

As far as how much she "read" back then, too bad we can't now go back to the beginning of her record and see: about a year ago Amazon made it impossible (earlier you could scroll through the whole thing; now it'll let you about a year back and then give you an error message that is made to look like something intermittent, "temporarily-unavailable-please-try-later" sort ot thing, which is a lie: in reality you can try later till you're blue in the face, but it'll never let you past the last year's worth of reviews in anyone's record. I do remember (from before that change) that the first review on the current Klausner account was from the second half of November 1999. But with Amazon's newly introduced hiding of traces we can't check a reveiwer's reviewing pattern anymore. Very smart of them, 'cause I was just about to start on a piece of software that would produce a reviewer's statistics from his reviewing history; now I can't get to this history, of course; they nipped the very idea in the bud before they even knew there was a bud. Pretty smart, eh?²

(2) About your

Did she read anywhere near as much as she posted? Of course not. That's impossible. Nobody, and I don't care how good of a reader you are or how much time on your hands you have, can read 90 books in one day or even two days. It's mathematically and scientifically impossible, unless you were literally to go nonstop (no bathroom breaks, no eating, nothing), which I am about 99.99999% sure Harriet cannot do.
Are you saying that you could read 90 books in a day if you never took a leak? This is crazy, my man. I'm sure it's just a rhetorical slip on your part, but let's be clear about one thing: Harriet Klausner is a preposterous insolent fraud — no ifs and buts and taking or not taking a leak. That's what makes her the well-deserved No.1: while with many reviewers it's possible that they're dishonest, with Harriet it is absolutely impossible that she's honest. Nothing a simple mortal could possibly resort to could enable one to achieve what she claims to have achieved: she's been posting, on average, six reviews a day since November 1999! Taking (or not taking) a leak, posting subhuman gibberish, idiot proliferation of non-existing subgenres, endless errors of fact — things like that do matter, but they add very little to the fundamental fact that no human can read six books a day every day of every month for eleven years. And this six-a-day is the overall average: her shorter-term averages are far higer sometimes.
1. Actually, Krapusner writes on her own site:
I was born in the Bronx where I obtained a Masters in Library Science. My thesis topic was the Impact of Science Fiction Reading by High School Seniors on Standardized Reading Scores. I met my spouse Stan when he read my palm in a Bronx outdoor cafe. [let's skip a bit of this nauseating marivaudage and get to the chase] [...] where [Harrisburg, PA] I worked in the local bookstore and provided some limited book reviewing services. [...]
That was, as you can imagine, quite some time ago, well before Amazon's shill enablement and Harriet's taking advantage of it in the late 1999.

2: Now, think of it, for people that smart, how hard would it be to disallow mass-posting of crap a la Klausner? (Allow everyone ten book reviews a month: this will let every real reader review 120 books a year — more than adequate for a simple mortal, methinks.) Or what about shutting down people who use multiple "verified" accounts to review the same item multiple times or to mass-vote for the same review? Or authors reviewing (five-stars) their own books, openly, posting under their own name? Or using stacks of bullshit, no-purchase accounts to vote on comments and "report this" buttons — a complete free-for-all a casual visitor isn't even aware of? Technically, none of this is difficult to put an end to, yet Amazon doesn't do it, so one must assume their lack of action is political, not technical, meaning that Amazon's reviewing system is defective as it is not by omission but by design: to all appearances, Amazon loves shills; enabling their massive attack on the consumer has probably been part of their "understanding" with vendors who sell through Amazon.
Unrelated: btw, yesterday I decided to conduct my semiannual test of the Klausner Voting Shield: I negged a review of hers. I was pleased to see the vote show up upon the next refresh, but yet another refresh showed the vote removed: which is a sign of active vote filtering. Once more, to those who don't know: I never vote on Klausner reviews (other than a test like this; previous took place near a year ago) and so I cannot possibly qualify as her "fan", negative or positive (we talked about this before). So why is Amazon protecting Harriet? No wonder she's clawing back up in rank lately. (More on that in our Does Harriet Klausner have a special dispensation from Amazon?.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thank you, Ms. Klausner for a wonderful, intriguing preview

Someone "Joel, Holden" writes (comments) under a Klausner review of Other Kingdoms:

Now, two things. First, "Joel, Holden", perhaps unwittingly, breaks the code here: this Klausner excretion is (as all of them are) a preview, not a review. Second, when I see someone praising Harriet ("Thank you, Ms. Klausner for a wonderful, intriguing preview. My copy is on the way."), I kinda feel funny. Is it possible to be such an imbecile as to be honestly pleased by a Klausner blurb? And so (perhaps it's paranoia, I don't know) I just have to suspect a "scratch-my-back" action by a pleased author/flunkey/publisher employee. Iow, someone shilling for the shill (many of you will recall similarly unctuous posts by Mark Blackburn and JP Pix in the Harp realm). Iow, it's Quality Comments™ (remember Quality Comments™¹ ?).

So, driven by my paranoia, I begin to trace out who the hell this "Joel, Holden" might be. First I click on his name and go to his profile page, where I discover that he is (surprise, surprise!) an author (whose nom de plume is apparently "Barry Eysman"; among other things on this page there's an Amazon UK page holding something like a catalog of "Barry Eysman"'s oeuvre). Going back to Joel/Barry's US page: he's got some reviews; let's visit there. Well, nothing eye-catching, the prose a bit purple, otherwise all right... not all five-star, there are some negatives too... looks fine to me. Except notice that like every second review of his contain a strange link — a link that doesn't seem to have anything to do with the book reviewed or the review itself. And (bet you know where it's going) if we visit those links, we'll find out that all of them lead to the books by? yes, by Barry Eysner.

So this is one of those guys who don't do things just for the heck of it: they've got a product to puff, and everything they do has to serve that purpose. It's like the reviewers who always include in all their reviews that they are "the author of" this and that, and so on, which has nothing to do with the book/review — which invalidates their reviews, 'cause you immediately think, all right, this guy posts reviews not to review anything but to promote his own stuff; this is not a real review: he's a member of the scribbling crowd who review (always five stars) one another's crap as a matter of course, adding nothing — other than a faint smell of shit — to the universe; to be ignored. And so getting back to this Harriet review: do you think Joel/Barry's is a bona fide remark, or is it Quality Comments™?

Note 1: Remember Quality Comments™? The site that sold their shilling services, where for a payment their employees would visit a designated website and post "realistic-looking" comments — "Our Blog Comments are of high quality! [...] Our promise to you is that the comments will look very real[...] The blogger won't recognize that its [sic] a paid post" — kinda like Astroturf? I don't know if that BuyBlogComments.com vendor is still in business, but we've blogged a lot about them — or rather about the phenomenon itself — like for example here

PS. No, the place is no longer online, unfortunately. But there's plenty of it in caches, like this page, for example (here's a google search on their name; if the pages are absent, use the cache).

Thomas-Sundstrom Book: the saga ends (?)

Following up on the previous post: Harriet has now posted another review there; now it's probably what it should have been, and it's now rated five stars rather than four. Both reviews got a positive vote (probably from the author: why are the authors even allowed on the site?). Here's a snapshot (just in case the saga hasn't eneded here) — compare and contrast!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Come on, Linda, you got four stars, what else do you want?

Our Lady of Fauxreview has reviewed Golden Vampire by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, but, um, it seems there's a problem! Author does not recognise the book she wrote in this valuable Klausner review! Ouch. But then, Linda, please be reasonable: Harriet doesn't read no stinking books (and you knew that, 'cause everyone knows that, 'cause how can anyone read (and review) six books a day, every day for over a decade? Yet this is Harriet's average over the life of her account)! She only posts blurbs, without reading the books: how would she know which blurb goes where? And then, who cares what the text is if the rating is good, after all. It's a positive review, four stars (although, for Harriet, it's a rarity: usually it's five stars... maybe Harriet found the reviewing fee insufficient? We'll never know). Anyway, Dear Reader, check it out (while it lasts; I took a snapshot though, see below, click for normal size):

Taken down?!?! How dare you. How dare you. Nothing gets taken down that Harriet graciously indited. Re-write your book to match the review! OK, so: here we have an author and/or her publisher hoisted on their own petard — I doubt Harriet bought this book: the author, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom (or her publisher) has probably requested a review and supplied a freebie for Harriet to "review" (and maybe a fee, who knows... it's hard to believe someone would throw up multiple reviews, no matter how bad, every day if it were not for a pay). Any takeaway lessons here? Yes: do not hire shills to puff your stuff.

PS. If the review does get blown away, remember that it will persist a long while in the reviews list sorted by most-recent comment. In addition to the snapshot above, I mean.

PPS. 1 a.m. next morning: Kluckusner blurb is gone. Damn! Not only gone, but in a speedily conducted (non-"Amazon-Verified") damage-control operation replaced by a fully five-starred piece of perky, smooth-flowing professional copy, quite Klausnerian in content, but impeccable grammatically and completely coherent. I say, Harriet is far more fun; bring back Harriet's blurb. 'course our MaĆ®tresse will not disappoint and will (and already did!) post more of her delightfully discombobulatory burbling little affairs — but not for this book! And that is a loss.

Oh btw, the new reviewer, "J. M. Dickson" (real name), has only three reviews (including this one) in his record, all of them for books by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom. The other two reviews (dated 2010 and 2009) have been "Amazon-Verified" (there was probably no hurry then — although they're also distinctly less well-written: just a couple of lines, fairly vacuous, definitely not like this latest one).

Actually, a bit of digging uncovered the fact that J.M. Dickson also is a writer of similar kind of books, so this begins to look more and more like a professional favour by one writer to another (iow, essentially the same as a Klausner review would be: not an honest review by an unaffiliated reader, but something concocted by the industry in order to move the wares).
Klausner blurb also survives (for now) as a google-cached page from her "go round" blog (snapshot below, for when the cache goes dead, which it will, with time; the post itself has been deleted).

We Got Mail

We've received a note from someone claiming to be one of the Amazon (top?) reviewers, who wishes to let us (and the world? :-) know that not everyone on Amazon is a phony PoS like our dear Harriet, or — very distant, of course! — W.Boudville, Maestro Harp, John Matlock "Gunny", Midwest Book Reviews, Mark-O, Dr.Maraio, "Respected Leatherman" Roubel, etc., etc. Well, we can believe that! (Not that we'd be terribly surprised to find out otherwise, btw., but yeah, it is possible that not everyone in the "Top" category is a fake.) Anyway, here's the letter (name withheld because the correspondent did not explicitly ask to post it, and in cases like that we always err on the side of privacy):

I occasionally read the stuff that gets posted on your site & only recently did I really feel like I needed to post anything. It was in response to Malleus' post about top amazon reviewers. I couldn't post it on the site but here's generally what I had to say:

I can't speak for anyone but myself but I did want to let you know that myself & more than a few other "top reviewers" do actually read the books & use the items that we review. I just read somewhat quickly & thanks to my night job having some extended periods of downtime I get to indulge my habits of reading & reviewing. It's just something I like to do in my spare time & I've been lucky enough to get up around the top 300-ish. I don't think I'll get any higher than that unless I suddenly win the lottery & get oodles of time to read & review or unless some computer error levitates me to the top.

Just wanted to let you know that not all top reviewers are machines intent on rising to the top in the hopes of getting recognition or free stuff. I've seen more than a few that seem to just crank stuff out but a lot of us are just people who really like to review in our free time. The expensive goodies might be nice but in the end that's not what we really go in for.

I have to admit, getting accused of possibly being a hack or a shill sort of miffs me a little. I'll admit that I'm pretty easy to entertain (the stuff I like that I don't post reviews for is pretty embarrassing) but I don't pimp myself out in the hopes of reward. That's the opposite of what I want to be recognized for.


[name withheld]
Well... yeah, OK, no problem, we believe you.

Bill Cunningham... or Robert J. Rubel? More gems from Amazon

One Robert J. Rubel wrote a book that's been published by Nazca Plains Corp., and is sold on Amazon under the title of Squirms, Screams and Squirts: Going from Great Sex to Extraordinary Sex (looks like one of those books Harriet denominates as "heated"). The book has received a good number of reviews, most of them five-star (naturally; though it's got some one-starrers too). One of the positive reviews has been written by a certain Bill Cunningham (click on the image to see the full-size version):

What makes this review interesting is the comment under it, by C. B. Gurney who says that, in another review of his, Bill Cunningham claimed to be the author of the "Squirms" book (click on the image to see the full-size version):

And indeed, among other things, Bill Cunningham reviewed Cleopatra's Secret, Cool Mint, where he stated just that (the review can be found through Bill Cunningham's reviews collection; it's on the very first page there).

But if that's not enough, we can visit his profile page and discover that, yes indeed, it appears that "Bill Cunningham" is a non-real name assigned to an account set up by, um... yeah, Robert J. Rubel (click on the image to see the full-size version):

So here we have a smartass author setting up sock-puppet accounts (how many? we've just found one: is there more?) so as to post five-star reviews for his own books right under the watchful eye of Amazon — who does what? Nothing. Yet, clearly, they know the real name of the account owner — so why not compare it with the name of the author of the book under review and disallow posting (and maybe freeze the account altogether) if it's the same name? For a technological powerhouse that Amazon is this should not be too difficult, no? Yet this is not done. Why? (That was rhetorically.)

Btw, "Bill Cunningham" reviewed many books by Robert J. Rubel, not just this one (five stars, of course), just peruse his reviews. For example: Protocols: A Variety of Views: Power Exchange Books' Resource Series by Robert Rubel PhD (click to enlarge):

or Protocol Handbook for the Leather Slave: Theory and Practice by Robert J. Rubel

or more (and more, and then some):

So, once again, why does Amazon do nothing to prevent this sort of thing? It is not a difficult thing to do.

"Educational Sociologist, Author, Respected Leatherman
Robert J. (Bob) Rubel, PhD"
(whose respectability does not, apparently, prevent him from posting bullshit five-star reviews for his own books under an assumed name).
Unrelatedly: have you noticed that Harriet is 738 now? She was ~760 a couple of days ago, and 749 yesterday. Looks like "Team Harriet" found a way to push her back up somehow.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dr Gina Maraio: A New Gem from the Amazon Reviews Machine

A new reviewer has just made her entrance into the holy space of Amazon reviewing by posting twenty-five (25) absolutely identical, five-star (natch), reviews for twenty-five different books, all on the same day, March 20, 2011. Goes like this:
Oceanside, CA Doc says:This is a great book to even introduce my regular HMO pts to natural healthy treatments., March 20, 2011
As a female medical doctor I have battled against many colleagues to get this info to my patients and have it help them for over 15 years. Now, even my HMO patients are finally agreeing to try to manage their health with 'alternative and natural' approaches... with the help of reading books like this. The rewards are plenty from practicing medicine this way and have my patients giving me the "high five" on a daily basis. I love practicing medicine this way for all of my patients. This medicine is no longer only for 'the rich and famous' that I've treated for over 15 years! Kudos to all who continue to expand my patients minds and let them now come to me asking for these types of treatments instead of me having to convince them this stuff really works! DRMARAIO.COM
And so it goes, one after another, for three pages, twenty-five times in a row (a representative snapshot follows; click on the image for the full-size picture).

I say this is a very strong beginning! I see very good Amazon Top-Reviewer material here: effort-saving laziness (why write twenty-five crappy blurbs when you can take one crappy blurb and post it twenty-five times?) combined with self-promotional chutzpah combined with an utter lack of ethics. Yeah! Thumbs up — that is the kind of doctor I want my enemies to go to! Friends, there can be no mistake: please join me in welcoming Dr Gina Maraio, Family Practice Physician Oceanside, CA into the ranks of our Friends Top Reviewers here. I'm sure she'll be very comfortable next to such luminaries as Harriet Klausner (a.k.a. Our Lady of Fauxreview, the Bernie Madoff of Amazon, and The Queen of Reviewing Fraud), as well as the venerable W.Boudville, John Matlock "Gunny", and of course, last-not-least, often imitated never equalled, never-forgotten unsurpassed master of scholarly imposture and self-vote totals — drum roll, please — our dear Maestro, Grady Harp himself.

Amazon Deletes Reviews That Mention Pay-For-Play Review Schemes

Interesting nuance (oldie but goodie): on the same Consumerist, Alex Chasick writes:
After buying an anti-snoring mouthpiece from a third-party seller on Amazon, reader Bob received an email from the company offering him a free mouthpiece in exchange for a five-star review. He noted this attempted bribe in his Amazon review, and Amazon deleted it. Twice. [...]
This is totally new to me. Check it out, quite curious.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hyper-negging by the Klausner Protection Squad

Poster "Helen" added a very insightful comment. Notice that the comment is closed due to a large number of negative votes on it. Here's how it looks when you first arrive to this page (click on the image for a full-size picture):

Now, let's open it (click on the image for a full-size picture):

An eminently reasonable comment, well articulated — read it: what is there so offensive that ten people negged it (the lone positive vote is mine)? Moreover, dusting off our old vote-observation skills obtained in Maestro Harp's trenches a while ago, I'll notice that the total was 0 of 5 when I arrived there. And what you see on the picture (1 of 11) appeared upon the next browser refresh, just a few minutes on — does it look like in this short time period five more people just happened to visit there and vote on this comment (and none in the hours afterwards) OR is it more likely that one obsessed idiot with ten sock-puppet accounts voted ten times in a row, hurriedly so as be finished before he is taken back to his padded room? The thread is "tracked by one customer", notice that too. So, once again: why does Amazon still allow no-purchase accounts to be used for comment voting? How is voting on comments different from voting on reviews? One more computer glitch that is amazingly shill friendly?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Kindle Author Challenges Amazon To Fix Rankings System

From MediaBistro: Dianna Dilworth writes:
[...]Author Thomas Hertog authored a book on how he worked the Amazon rankings system to get an inflated ranking. [...] called The Day the Kindle Died [and sold as eBook, it] was allegedly removed from the Kindle store earlier this month [...]

The removal got the book a lot of attention on Twitter [,] and Amazon took the opportunity to e-mail their disapproval to the author. Hertog showed us the e-mail and this is what it said: “”…customer reviews and sales rank are an important source of information for customers…” and “we will not tolerate efforts to manipulate it.”[...]”
Yeah, mostly, it seems, by way of deleting any commentary bringing this sort of shenanigans to the public's attention — see Why is Amazon Deleting Comments? below... Or this: the same day as poster Manny R Brooklyn suffered this Amazonian wipeout, another familiar poster, Ghost(Ghost(M)), also a target of a past "deleted-by-Amazon" wipeout, suffered a precipitous fall in reviewing rank: from about 200,000 to below 8,000,000 — although there has been no change in his vote totals! Apparently, this has been another revenge action by the Klausner Protection Squad(TM), but the interesting thing is that they unwittingly demonstrated that such manipulation of reviewing ranks is possible. Either this can be done from the outside, or they have "their man" on the inside, but in the absense of an appreciable change in amassed public vote, such a strange move would seem to require direct tweaking.

And, developing this disquieting thought even further: is this perhaps the reason for Harriet's surprising ranking resilience over the last year or so? After all, right after Amazon changed the rating algorithm (in Oct 2008?) she fell from No.1 by a good four hundred places in a matter of days, yet lately her reviewing rank has been bobbing about 760: it goes a bit under and then immediately floats back up. Why such a sudden change from what to all appearances was a free fall to a persistent buoying at a stable level? Perhaps her rank gets daily adjusted "by hand" by the "Team Harriet"? After all, if it's possible to bring someone's rank down by over seven million places w/o any observable change in his voting totals, it should be possible to effect the opposite change too, no? Harriet, are you really ranked 759, or has this amazingly stable level been achieved "with the little help" from your silent but hyperactive friends? What's the real rank now, the Top Fifty Millionth Reviewer or something? Just how (if at all) "intolerant" of such manipulations is Amazon in reality? A lot seems possible that you'd think wouldn't be (and we can start simply from Harriet's habit of posting 250-300 reviews every month — is this not manipulation? No one can read that much, and then of course, there's the issue of all-positiveness of her reviewing record). Anyway... something to think about. Dear Reader, if curious, read more on the Hertog Affair (it's a google search).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Disregard any Amazon Review with a "Top 10 Reviewer" Label on It

On something called Consumerist, an obviously intelligent fellow by the name Chris Walters writes in an article called The Fakery Behind Amazon's "Top 10 Reviewers":
Amazon reviews, especially the effusive ones, have always been suspect—you never know when a five-star review came from an employee, publicist, or marketing type. Slate describes the dishonest world of Amazon's "Top 10 Reviewers," where a small group of writers churn out purple-prosed blurbs and jacket-ready compliments at an astounding rate, sometimes for a fee. In turn, these reviewers are inundated with a sort of fame as well as free merchandise—mostly books in the past, but now electronics and other goods. Because good reviews sell more books, Amazon has no incentive to weed out the reviewers who have turned the system into a cottage industry. We suggest you disregard any review with a "Top 10 Reviewer" label on it. [Emphasis mine] [...]
My thoughts precisely — except I don't think "the group" is small, and I would extend the final suggestion to all reviewers with a "Top" denomination, be it "Top 10" or "Top 50" or even "Top 1000" (I just don't believe a normal independent bookreader (rather than a hired review-writer) will be willing to write a gigantic number of reviews that is necessary in order to break into the "Top" reviewer ranks).

Personally, I do read reviews when buying stuff there, but I start from going directly to one- and two-star reviews. If they make good sense, that's the end of this item — I don't even bother with positives, since I trust the authors/publishers to manufacture any number of gushingly extatic five-starrers for every piece of crap on earth. Otoh, if the negatives are not terribly convincing, I will peruse positive reviews too — but I always read them, analytically, not just let the bare fact that there are such reviews motivate me to reach for my wallet.

Iow, there are two approaches to dealing with Amazon reviews these days:

(1) If you're a moron, do NOT pay any attention to them (lest you get owned).

(2) If you do want to use them, don't be a moron — read them carefully; begin with the negatives. Never pay much attention to any particular review's starrage and especially "helpfulness" (voted, purportedly, by the public, but I bet, mostly by the shills, who vote "for" their and friends' reviews so as bump them up, and "against" the low-starrage-dealing enemies, so as to push them down, out of sight, off the first page; for more on that see our Publishing giant Elsevier in hot water over hiring shills, The Belkin Saga (hiring shills on Amazon), and Why John T. Reed does not sell his books on Amazon any more (a.k.a. Amazon “fixes” review problem)).

Why is Amazon Deleting Comments?

On March 8 Amazon poster Manny R. Brooklyn added a comment with a link to an article on this blog (right below: Klausner Protection Squad negs comments but doesn't vote for review itself). This comment was immediately deleted by Amazon (Manny got blown off the site too). Why? Needless to say, Amazon never offers an explanation. But based on past experience, it's never been a problem to add a link to a comment under a review: it's done a lot. So it's not that there's an Amazon guideline not to post links. Then, one must conclude, the reason for this Amazonian deletion had something to do with the article the link lead to. Is Amazon hiding something here? What and why?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stats Update: In the last half a year Harriet Klausner reviewed

Thanks to an inquisitive poster we now have exact numbers for Harriet Klausner's contribution to Amazon reviews system during the last half a year.
[...]on Mar. 10, 2011 4:59 AM PST Guy the Gorilla says: [...] For those keeping track, here's a quick summary of her latest activity:

- 228 "reviews" in September 2010
- 296 "reviews" in October 2010
- 187 "reviews" in November 2010
- 192 "reviews" in December 2010
- 185 "reviews" in January 2011
- 229 "reviews" in February 2011

And so far in March, and it is only the 10th of the month, 90 "reviews," so the possibility of a banner, 300 "review" month remains a distinct possibility. [...]
Good! Now let's get some averages. We can easily see that Harriet has left her old ten-year average of just-about six (6) books a day behind (her fist reviews under the current account had been posted in late November 1999). Also, to refresh our memory: these daily averages are calculated from the number of reviews actually posted — remember how Harriet (reportedly) explained the all-positiveness of her reviews record? Here's how: she reviews only the books she liked; the ones she read but didn't like she does not review. So she reads even more books than she reviews. And so, here are her recent averages (only the good books):
- September 2010 daily average, books/day: 7.6
- October 2010 daily average, books/day: 9.55
- November 2010 daily average, books/day: 6.23
- December 2010 daily average, books/day: 6.2
- January 2011 daily average, books/day: 5.97
- February 2011 daily average, books/day: 8.18

- March 2011 (first 10-days) daily average, books/day: 10
Note: Remember, in her profile, Our Lady of Faux Review says she was born with a gift of speed-reading, and that she reads two books a day. We don't have to believe this either, but even if we did, we can see that she actually reviews three to five times more books than she herself claims to read. The former number includes only the books she liked, the latter all books she tried to read, including the ones she didn't like and, consequently, didn't end up reviewing. Hmmm..... so she reads more books than she then reviews, yet she posts more reviews than the overall number of books she claims to be able to read! The Klausner Paradox.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Klausner Protection Squad negs comments but doesn't vote for review itself

Poster Guy the Gorilla raises an interesting issue:
Guy the Gorilla says:
It's either 22 mentally deranged people, or the same mentally deranged person circling back for the 22nd time.

I wonder if it may be Harriet herself, like I said earlier. If you'll notice, not one of these 22 "defenders" has thought to vote Harriet's original review itself as helpful. That is very odd. Makes me think it's her, and she can't bring herself to vote for her own review [...]
No, no, no. Come one, why would one suspect Harriet of such cowardice? The issue, I'm guessing, is far simpler. Let's go back some five-to-eight years.

Back then anyone could post reviews: you only needed to register with an email address and a password (the email address didn't need to be valid). So you could set up any number of accounts and start posting reviews (to your own books, for example, which is still done a lot — I'm gonna be posting an article about it soon). Then, in the mid-2000s some time Amazon started to require a purchase to be made from an account before it could be used to post reviews and comments. I'm not sure what this was supposed to ensure, since one could still set up any number of such accounts; the only difference was that it would cost you something because every time you'd need to buy something. But, since there's always been a lot of very cheap items there, this requirement would hardly deter an author/publisher flunkey intent on promoting own wares. Amazon could definitely see which such accounts belong to the same person (they shared credit-card personal info), but they have never done anything to prevent the operation (as far as I could see, at least). Anyway, now you need to buy something in order to start posting reviews and — and this answers your question, I believe — vote on reviews.

At the same time, and for the reasons I can't even begin to guess, voting on comments still does not require a purchase, so just like in the good old days of the Amazonian free-for-all, an easy-to-create no-purchase account is enough: when on the "create account" page, all you need is to type in something looking like an email address (blahblah@jibberjabber.net would do) and a password into the entry fields, et voila: you can vote on comments now. Why the difference? Hell knows. Since Amazon proved time and again that they're exceptionally friendly towards the shill — all their software glitches just happen to somehow enable reviewing shenangians and disable anyone trying to talk about it — maybe they wanted to leave one more non-obvious avenue for the shills to manipulate the site: we the veterans is one thing, but I'm sure that a casual visitor would be discouraged if his comment were hit by a large number of negs; this is entirely normal (shills used to do that with enemy reviews themselves: if you ever said something about their crap (in any context), next day you would find your own reviews massively negged).

So, getting back to your over-negged comments, it's quite likely that some member of the Klausner Protection Squad tasked with discouraging of the detractors set up a large number of no-purchase accounts that he then used to neg your and others' comments. The reason he doesn't vote for Harriet's reviews is that he can't: his no-purchase accounts do not allow him to vote on reviews — to overcome that he needs to buy something at least once from every account, and he's probably too cheap for that. Could it be Harriet herself? Why not? Of course it could.

Note: I haven't recently re-tried all these things I'm talking about above; so all this info is at least a year old. But it seems that things still work the way they did back then.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Five Stars! Roger von Oech reviews books by... Roger von Oech

Here's America's Creativity Guru Roger von Oech reviewing Expect the Unexpected (Or You Won't Find It): A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus by... Roger von Oech. Five stars, incidentally. A very good book, he really liked it:
Roger's new book is a fun read. [Notice that just like Colonel Gaddafi, Mr von Oech speaks of himself in the third person — this demonstrates the great humility of the two men.] It clearly shows his passion for the ideas of Heraclitus. I think he's done a great job of translating them into practical techniques on how to be more creative. The stories and tips are a delight. I was actually surprised to discover how well a thinker from 2,500 years ago speaks to the current issues. [...]
That's not all. Here Roger reviews X-Ball (Magnetic Design Set), by, um, you guessed it — Roger von Oech. Also five stars.
[...]This X-Ball is a whole lot of fun! I heartily recommend it. It'll put "white caps" on your "gray matter.
Clearly, this is another winner! Neither is this everything! Roger is really keen on letting the public know about real good stuff: here Mr von Oech reviews Innovative Whack Pack, an interesting product with mixed reviews, made by , er... well, no two ways about it — it's made by Roger von Oech! Mr von Oech happens to like it too:
[...]My favorite way of using the deck is to pick one card at random in the morning, and have it be one of my innovation thoughts of the day. If you enjoyed the Creative Whack Pack, I think you'll get a kick (and some ideas) from the Innovative Whack Pack.[...]
Can you get any tackier? The answer is yes, of course, this is not "rape-rape", and at least he posts under his own name, so it's more like silly than criminal. But even as is, it's pretty tacky. Amazon doesn't mind, naturally.