Communities LIE!!

an investigation by The Sunday Times has discovered that hotels and restaurants are drumming up business by posting glowing reviews of themselves.

In the course of the investigation it found:

* Proprietors describing hotels as 'outstanding', 'excellent' and 'charming' without declaring their interest in the business.
* Marketing executives to top British hotels recommending perks be offered to customers in return for a promise of a good review.
* Hotel star ratings on well-known websites that could be easily 'ramped' with just a few e-mails from bogus customers

The Sunday Times: Glowing online reviews by hotels and restaurants dupe customers


SHOCK!! HORROR!! Now who


Now who would have thought that such underhand tactics still went on it today's world of Web 2.0 transparency :)

My favorite quote: Sir Tim

My favorite quote:

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the world wide web, recently warned that the internet is in danger of being swamped by untrue and unfair statements.


Welcome Back Surreptitious Guerilla Marketing!

This behavior has been around for many years in the online world. I'd refer back to Naomi Klein's "No Logo" that came out years ago - she had a few mentions on the use of that sort of marketing/pr tricks occurring on forums. Now with "web 2.0", its happening on blogs, yelp and other UGC sites.

Yup, it's mainstream.

Brett Tabke recently posted about this over at To paraphrase, he found something like 4 reviews of some flat panel TV's, only to find out that all four reviews were stooges.

This isn't terribly surprising. One always needs to take recommendations and reviews with a grain of salt. What's surprising is that the people doing it are dumb enough to get found out. No, no wait. That's not terribly surprising either.

Shock and Horror

Oh the shock and horror! What's next will someone expose that print and television news mediums have an editorial slant or bias ...

And in other shocking news....

Elton John is gay

Next week...

...the Sunday Times will show that bears wear funny hats and that the pope... ummm..... right {oops}

Anyway. Even if these are things we all know or suspect, it helps (sometimes) if they get "into the open". The best marketeers among us will be able to jump to the occasion and turn the evil news to their advantage.

Sweet :-)

I use reviews quite a bit,

I use reviews quite a bit, even tripadvisor for travel, but I generally skip the positive reviews and focus on the negatives. Then, once I've selected a likely prospect I run an deep search adding the usual qualifiers (+problem, +hate, +rant, +sucks, etc) with the specific +product or +service and +vendor or +merchant. That system works moderately well for hotels, particularly if I use 2 or 3 review sites as 'negative feeds.' Electronics are more difficult and usually require spending extra time just reading -often between the lines- passing articles as they build up after product launch and waiting for the geek tech forums to really dig into the product or brand. I spent a year waiting for the pricepoint to drop on the hi-res 45" Sharp Aquos before grabbing the 42" on a doorbuster ($1890, incl sales tax). In this case, the product itself had a personal recommendation from a trusted friend but the merchants offering online sales were getting terrible reviews.

I dont believe it.


$people = array('I','My mom','My dad','My sister','My brother','My g/f','My b/f');
$action = array('loved','truly loved','enjoyed','liked');
$adj = array('great','awesome','fantastic','perfect','wonderful','better than a Wii');

function getRand($arr) {
return $arr[rand(0,count($arr)-1)];

$product = "Your Product Here";

echo getRand($people).' '.getRand($action)." the '$product'! The '$product' is ".getRand($adj) .'!';


OK, Wit, I confess

>able to jump to the occasion and turn the evil news to their advantage

I sometimes get comped when I travel or sometimes given free products. But I don't write reviews, I link out.

ah such old news

Radio 4 broke this on the Today programme about 2 weeks ago.

I was horrified.

>old news

Hey, Gurtie, cut me some slack. I was traveling (and using recommendations from friends as to hotel, btw).


I'm amazed you didn't hear at least part of it since they discussed it for aaaaaaages - it must have been an hour at least because they were still discussing when I finished laughing :)

It sometimes astounds me how innocent so many people really are. Wait until they discover that some of the reviews that say bad things are fake as well and we're going to have to wave smelling salts under the noses of half of middle-england.

< added > I guess its kind of nice actually, these are the people you want to buy a used car from :)

Communities DONT lie!!

People do.

Those reviews sites are not communities - it is a lie to call them such.

Giving away the good stuff

>Wait until they discover that some of the reviews that say bad things are fake as well

reaches for a thick pair of wire cutters to use on the keyboard cable of Gurtie's computer ;-)


>reviews sites are not communities

True, Amit, but the headline was so much punchier than Individual Reviews (and Blogs) Lie!!

You make a good point, and I think the difference is that true community sites are peer-moderated, even if it only takes the form of contrary posts. Personally, that's why I prefer active forums when available.

And, come to think of it, I rarely take a blogazine article like Gizmodo on face value, I'm always sifting through the comments for the real info.


> True, Amit, but the headline was so much punchier than Individual Reviews (and Blogs) Lie!!

Yep - I know.... But to make a point you need to pick on someone bigger than you... the headline is always the largest... ;-)

> I'm always sifting through the comments for the real info.

In places that matter - comments are paid for.
Put some pepper on the grain of salt. ;-))

communities are complex

>> review sites are not communities

some are I think. Many are pretty much peer moderated, people mentor other members, there are rewards for good work and reputations to uphold. I would consider that a community certainly in a loose sense and its pretty hard to influence if you don't have a proper long term plan and a good talent for characterisation. Some of my best friends are imaginary ;)

Ime Shocked Shocked

I always like a chance to reuse Inspector Renauts line from Casablanca.

Is gone yet.

What’s more interesting is over the long term will real consumer reviews outweigh the shills or will the crowd follow the received wisdom for example Richard Branson gets an easy ride compared to the guy that runs Ryan air.

>In places that matter -

>In places that matter - comments are paid for.
>Put some pepper on the grain of salt.

I'm protected by my boundless cynicism (also my past experiences as forum admin truly serve me well here). Remember that I'm always looking for the negative comments or -my personal favorite- suggested alternative products posted in comments. Is there still a chance for a well-executed 3-way? Certainly, but in active communities they often get overwritten or blunted downstream.

>I would consider that a community certainly in a loose sense

I agree with Gurtie, some sites do have enough sustained critical mass within the reviewers to be a community but my guess would be that transients would be the norm on most.

I'm starting to feel really insecure.....

I'm really upset that some people sink so low as to write fake reviews for their own benefit. For a second I started to wonder if this deception might translate over to other communities as well, but I'm confident the 432 strippers that link to me on Myspace REALLY do want to be my friend.

how bad is it really?

Preaching to the converted here I know but I'm amazed that 'people' in general are actually surprised and/or upset by this anyway.

Clearly fake reviews actually containing lies are not good, be they positive or negative, but I can honestly say, and I've been publishing reviews of clients goods and services for more than 15 years now one way or another, that I have never lied about the benefits or negatives of a product (redirected attention yes but not actually lied)

The problem is that harassed single mothers of 4 rarely find time to review the holiday, pair of trainers or DVD rental service that they've been using unless paid to do so (either as a study group or flat out paid to review). Is there really anything wrong with taking what someone has actually said (sometimes after being asked specific questions I admit) and turning it into a published review? Does my pretending to be someone else actually make real comments less valid?

I tend towards thinking that if my comments are fair and I'm addressing issues which are important then its not a terrible thing to do. I have been the places, I have used the products and I do believe what I'm saying - good and bad. I have as much right to an opinion as anyone else. Don't I?

bodes ill

>I'm amazed that 'people' in general are actually surprised and/or upset by this

Don't be. I've been working with state and local gov groups who have long-term experience with both advertising and the public. Many of them also have 6-8 yr experience with the web. Even with ALL of the above experience they are still naive and vulnerable, so I cringe to think how JohnQ reacts. There has long been a mindset that if you see it in the (old) media then it must be true. This has just been expanded to include the web. Before, though, the cost of distributing misinformation afforded some protection. That's missing in web reviews.

Still Valid?

Does my pretending to be someone else actually make real comments less valid?

Yes it does. You're severely biased, know it, and are deliberately masking the bias. (not criticising, just sayin').

is this new?

Chek out tripadvisor I think that a good 40% of the reviews are made by the hoteliers! Especially when you see three - four bad reviews and then ops excellent best stay of my life, will be back etc! :)

Who has the time?

Really, how many "average people" take the time to leave feedback? Typically the only feedback is from people who are really truly unbelievably ticked off or rarely, from people who were absolutely wowed by a product or service.

The rest of the comments are from shills, competitors, or the community site themselves trying to "build content." Most people have some agenda... there are just not that many people sitting around writing "average" or "ok" reviews unless they are somehow being compensated (win a trip, get a coupon, earn "points")

Legitimate postive reviews needed as well as negative

I agree with rcjordan about "focusing on the negative" reviews, but wouldn't it be a great situation for all consumers if an effective "verification of legitimacy" process could be perfected?

Judy's Book and Amazon put a lot of secretive effort into legitimizing their reviews, and has a "Verified PURCHASER" plan. However, I think any verification process to date can be scammed, if the scammer wants to bad enough. Hotels could always get relatives of employees to stay for free, and then have them write a glowing review.

I like TripAdvisor myself, and have written negative and positive reviews when I felt strongly enough to do so. But, you do have to "read between the lines" and a picture is always worth a thousand words. So, I took photos of my last overall positive (pros & cons) review, and included whatever real negatives there were. See "Best Value..." =

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