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Carbonite Stacks the Deck With 5-Star Reviews 197

Posted by kdawson
from the gaming-that-system dept.
The Narrative Fallacy writes "In the aftermath of disclosures that Belkin employees paid users for good reviews on Amazon, David Pogue reports in the NYTimes that Carbonite has gone one better with 5-star reviews of its online backup services written by its own employees. Pogue recounts how Bruce Goldensteinberg signed up for the backup service, and all went well until his computer crashed and he was unable to restore it from the online backup while Carbonite customer support kept him on hold for over an hour. Frustrated, Goldensteinberg started reading Carbonite reviews on Amazon and a few of them seemed suspicious. 'They were created around the same date — October 31, 2006 — all given 5 stars, and the reviewers all came from around the Boston, MA area, where Carbonite is located,' including a review by Swami Kumaresan that read more like a testimonial. 'It turned out that Swami Kumaresan is the Vice President of Marketing for Carbonite. His review gives no indication that he is employed by the company.' Another review posted by Jonathan F. Freidin extols Carbonite without mentioning Freidin's position as Senior Software Engineer at Carbonite. 'It doesn't matter to me that Carbonite's fraudulent reviews are a couple of years old,' writes Pogue. 'These people are gaming the system, deceiving the public to enrich themselves. They should be deeply ashamed.'"
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Carbonite Stacks the Deck With 5-Star Reviews

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  • Deeply ashamed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:03AM (#26635435) Homepage

    No, prosecuted. That is conflict of interest.

    • Re:Deeply ashamed? (Score:4, Informative)

      by kachakaach (1336273) * on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:32AM (#26635605)

      No, prosecuted. That is conflict of interest.

      "Conflict of Interest" is not a criminal offense. You might have a civil case for fraud, but I doubt seriously if any criminal charges would ever be filed, let alone upheld in a court.

      • Re:Deeply ashamed? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by dotancohen (1015143) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @08:39AM (#26637207) Homepage

        "Conflict of Interest" is not a criminal offense. You might have a civil case for fraud, but I doubt seriously if any criminal charges would ever be filed, let alone upheld in a court.

        Alright, I'll bite. As a consumer, how can I start suing them?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Cowmonaut (989226)
          First, buy their product. Otherwise you have no grounds to sue. (IANAL except occasionally on Friday nights)
        • More importantly (as a Carbonite customer) what similarly priced services are there? I went with Carbonite over a few other services because at home I happen to have a server that is perceived by the industry to be an 'enterprise' product, meaning I would be charged an 'enterprise' price for using the service. I find this preposterous, considering my backups of music, photos, etc. to be under 100GB--no where near 'enterprise' class backup.

          Now, I have never had to do a full backup recovery, but this does m

          • by hclewk (1248568)

            Amazon S3 + Jungle Disk

          • What offsite backup services do you all use?

            A couple of cheap, cheap, did I say cheep 250 GB USB / firewire / SATA / whatever external disks on a rotation?

            Encrypt the data, put them at your brother's wife's girlfriend's house (if she's hot). Take them home. Leave them in your gym locker (well, maybe scratch that).

    • Prosecution (Score:5, Informative)

      by asifyoucare (302582) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:22AM (#26635879)

      In Australia they would probably be prosecuted under section 52 of the Trade Practices Act, for misleading or deceptive conduct.

      I think the U.K. has a similar law.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      No, prosecuted. That is conflict of interest.

      Three words: Freedom of Speech.

      And here are two more words for you: caveat emptor [wikipedia.org].

      It's not a good idea to "prosecute" people for holding opinions, even if they are opinions that they have an interest in. [Of course, in many places in Europe, they put you in jail [bbc.co.uk] for thinking the wrong thoughts, but I digress. Or do I?]

      • Ok... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Gription (1006467) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:59AM (#26638703)
        Lets try that "Freedom of Speach" defense when you yell FIRE in a theater.
        Can you say "Freedom of Prosecution"?

        Untruthful, damaging speech is not protected. You can't say anything you want in a commercial venue. Being purposefully deceptive for monetary gain is not protected speech.

        --- So how about I sell you a car after telling you how perfectly it runs. When you discover that there is no engine in it remember "caveat emptor" so you not going to sue me are you?
        (thank god I'm protected!)
        • Untruthful, damaging speech is not protected. You can't say anything you want in a commercial venue. Being purposefully deceptive for monetary gain is not protected speech.

          Shouting 'fire' has specific physical consequences, hence the reason we restrict that particular form of speech. The law errs on the side of freedom... deceptive speech has very specific rules about it. In this case, the man is giving his opinion about his own product. He might be trying to deceive or he might not, but it's his opinion,

        • by epine (68316)

          Untruthful, damaging speech is not protected.

          If you're stupid enough to have not figured out that "freedom of speak" is constrained by context, and you wade into every malfeasance discussion on the wooden "freedom of speech" horse, you've exercised the most basic freedom of all: to open your mouth and make a fool of yourself.

          In a small town, it's amusing to have a town drunk. In a large city, by the time enough drunks assemble together to make a skid row, it becomes a tedious affair. Unfortunately, slashdot offers security in numbers, so there's a p

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Greyfox (87712)
        Commercial speech has been found to be subject to restrictions. Commercial speech not clearly labeled as such is at best deceptive advertising and at worst flat out fraud.
      • Three words: Freedom of Speech.

        And here are two more words for you: caveat emptor [wikipedia.org].

        Two more for you...false advertising.

        • Two more for you...false advertising.

          What was objectively false about it, and what was advertising about it?

          He was a private citizen giving his opinion.

  • Not news (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jabbrwokk (1015725) <[grant.j.warkentin] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:09AM (#26635457) Homepage Journal

    Why is anyone surprised? This happens all the time. Anonymous reviews on the Internet + unscrupulous company + morally-gray bloggers looking for a bit of easy cash = cheap, positive publicity.

    So... yeah, my blog is in my profile and, uh, I'm willing to sell a bit of my soul if any companies reading this are interested...

    • by zooblethorpe (686757) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:30AM (#26635583)

      ... only they weren't anonymous. I know this is Slashdot and no one RTFAs, but did you even read the posting?

      ...including a review by Swami Kumaresan ...
      Another review posted by Jonathan F. Freidin...

      Cheers,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

        ... only they weren't anonymous. I know this is Slashdot and no one RTFAs, but did you even read the posting?

        Not anonymous, but incompetent. It is like the pointy-haired-manager's version of an astroturf campaign.

        • by MikeURL (890801) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @12:09PM (#26639745) Journal
          As a veteran social web engineer I have to wonder if these accounts were not set up by a competitor to make Carbonite look good and then bad. The very best campaign of this sort would be just this kind of sleeper where you set a virtual bomb and then wait for a long time to set it off.

          At the right time you tip off a friendly blogger. You hit all the reviews with an avalanche of reports. Have all the user accounts closed. Then, right on cue, a contrite email that appears to come from the CEO. By the time anyone knows what the hell happened the real CEO does not want to touch it; the blogger has moved on to the next story and the reputation of a company is tossed in the crapper.

          I'm not suggesting that is what happened in this case but there is, IMO, WAY too quick a rush to judgment in these cases.
      • by xigxag (167441)

        I would imagine he meant "anonymous" in the colloquial sense of "a random individual." Until his relationship to the company was uncovered, Swami Kumaresan was unknown to me and to the average person -- the name might as well be Sqzqz Kzxzxzxzx.

        Kumaresan was specifically relying on being "anonymous" to the world-at-large to get away with his scam.

    • by speedtux (1307149) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:27AM (#26635909)

      Why is anyone surprised?

      Who says that anybody is "surprised"? It doesn't "surprise" me that people murder, steal, and cheat and that companies pollute, evade taxes, and bribe politicians.

      I still want to see it reported and publicized.

      • I still want to see it reported and publicized.

        OK, so I'm reporting this: There is not a book or piece of software distributed from a major publishing house that is not being pumped by employee user reviews on major online sites. This behavior is not the exception, it is the standard operating procedure for online retail, prevalent for the last 2-3 years. It is in fact a duty in the job description for just about any entry level marketing position.

        I had thought that everybody with a modicum of online reta

        • by bit01 (644603)

          This behavior is not the exception, it is the standard operating procedure for online retail, prevalent for the last 2-3 years.

          So you are saying fraud by marketers is the norm? Most fraud is criminal, this should be criminal too.

          ---

          Anonymous company communication is unethical and can and should be highly illegal. Company legal structures require accountability.

          • by Firehed (942385)

            How is saying that you like your employer's product fraud? Used in this context it's certainly an undisclosed conflict of interests, but that's not illegal and certainly not fraud - just being an asshat.

            It's not like they're going around and one-starring their competitors products, which could be perceived as libel depending on the context and contents of the review. Unless they made false positive claims about the company ("not only did they restore my data, but they bought me a new computer and gave me

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gclef (96311)

          This behavior is not the exception, it is the standard operating procedure for online retail,

          ...and yet it remains unacceptable behavior.

          The only way to change something that sucks, even if it is "standard operating procedure," is to make a lot of noise, cause the people doing it to lose money/face, and make "standard operating procedure" look a lot less "standard." This is what the people here are doing. I see nothing wrong with them trying to change this behavior.

    • Re:Not news (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mh1997 (1065630) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:03AM (#26637997)
      Just last weekend I read a study that said over 80% of reviews are 4 or 5 star, not because they love the product, but because people are embarassed to say that they bought a bad product. The person with the negative experience typically either exagerates the positive or does not rate the product.
  • I'm not surprised... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Facegarden (967477) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:11AM (#26635471)

    Have you heard their ads? They sound like a scam just from that. Or at the very least, they use the annoying advertising tactic of making other options sound way worse than they are, like an infomercial. I hate that company just from their ads, I'm not surprised they really are shady.
    -Taylor

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by reset_button (903303)
      Or maybe you're just posting a negative review because you work for the competition? :-)
      • by Facegarden (967477) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:42AM (#26635693)

        Or maybe you're just posting a negative review because you work for the competition? :-)

        Haha, crap! Yes, you figured me out! I work for the "Build your own Damn Ubuntu RAID server, damnit!" company!
        -Taylor

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          RAID is not a backup solution.

          Repeat 4 times and do 50 hail marys.

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        Or maybe you're just posting a negative review because you work for the competition? :-)

        perhaps the way to fix this is for competitors to use the negative press generated from this to discredit them, if Mozy [mozy.com] said not to bother with them because you can never trust them anymore, I'm sure it'd be a good campaign :)

        (notice my link is the referral, they give me even more space that I won't use - remove if you're not happy with it, but I'm a very happy customer of Mozy, and I don't even work for them!)

    • by swillden (191260)

      Have you heard their ads? They sound like a scam just from that.

      Not just their ads. There are all kinds of small claims on their web site that smell like snake oil. Stuff like: "We encrypt your files twice before backing them up securely offsite, using the same encryption techniques that banks use."

      Twice? Really. I guess if once is good, then twice is better?

      If you're in the market for something like this, I suggest taking a look at allmydata.com [allmydata.com]. It costs more ($10 per month for unlimited storage, rather than $5), but unlike Carbonite and Mozy it keeps all of

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:12AM (#26635477)

    Frankly I'm surprised to find any useful feedback at all, given the ease for submitting reviews. The only thing keeping
    things from going completely insane is that large companies don't want to get caught cheating.

    For smaller stuff, I've already noticed that on the digital products (like Kindle books) where the barrier for entry
    is much lower, review spam is a much bigger issue.

  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:13AM (#26635487) Journal

    "I'm sorry sir, but we've had a problem with our online backup service".

  • Greed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GF678 (1453005) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:17AM (#26635507)

    They should be deeply ashamed.

    You're assuming they have morals.

    Sometimes I wonder - how often do good people in a ruthless business environment actually remain good people? Sometimes I wonder whether the ultra-competitive nature of business causes upstanding moral people to turn into greedy fucks who have lost their original principles and instead turned to making money at all costs.

    Kinda scares me, what our capitalistic society sometimes forces people to become to survive in business. Assuming, of course, that I'm not just being naïve and that these people were simply without scruples before they started to cheat their customers with shonky reviews and what else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Detritus (11846)
      Much of it is just greed. Auto mechanics have been ripping people off for many decades. It's just too easy to feed the average customer some bullshit and make some quick and easy money.
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:54AM (#26636033) Journal

      Well, I'm guessing the latter. I mean: does

      A) power corrupt formerly honest and nice people, or

      B) it's just natural selection at work, at the biggest turds float to the top?

      It seems to me more like B, though I can't say I've done a real study or anything.

      The thing is, if you have a dog-eat-dog set up, the ones who refuse to eat other dogs (e.g., because of having morals) never make it big in the first place. Either they don't get promoted, or they get their prices undercut by someone who saves by being a bigger fuck, and either go bankrupt or bought.

      As an extreme example to illustrate a point, think, say, a third world country where it's not illegal to dump toxic stuff in rivers and safety laws are non-existent. So company A are the nice guys, they don't want to screw over their workers and community. They invest in filters, invest in safe equipment and training, doesn't bribe/deceive/lobby/make backroom deals, etc. So their products are more expensive. Their competitor, company B, are owned and led by a couple of greedy fucks, who just skip all that extra cost and do any tricks in the book to get a goverment subsidy or contract. If it's a big bribe or shady deal that gets that job done, so be it. So their products are cheaper. Do you have any doubts as to who's going to push the other off the market?

      (It's not even as much a hypothetical example, because it used to happen in the first world too, in the not so distant past. E.g., back when the Titanic was built, the norm was IIRC to have one dead worker for every million dollars worth of ship built. The Titanic was remarkable in that they only had IIRC 3 dead workers in accidents during building. But anyway, roll that in your head, they actually made statistics and found it acceptable to kill people rather than spend money on safety. It's not a funny thought.)

      It's easy to look afterwards at the big resulting conglomerate "B Industrial Corp" and think, "man, all that power corrupted them." But in fact they got to power by not being nice in the first place.

      • (It's not even as much a hypothetical example, because it used to happen in the first world too, in the not so distant past. E.g., back when the Titanic was built, the norm was IIRC to have one dead worker for every million dollars worth of ship built. The Titanic was remarkable in that they only had IIRC 3 dead workers in accidents during building. But anyway, roll that in your head, they actually made statistics and found it acceptable to kill people rather than spend money on safety. It's not a funny thought.)

        The Titanic also (probably) sank because somebody bought sub quality steel bolts. Their worker safety record doesn't really counteract that part.

        Also, it is a hilarious thought. But then I'm a horrible person.

        • by Zerth (26112)

          The Titanic also (probably) sank because somebody bought sub quality steel bolts. Their worker safety record doesn't really counteract that part.

          .

          Actually, that was the case(or maybe it was the plating). After the Titanic sank, the other two ships of her class were refitted. One of them still sank, the other went on for the rest of her useful lifetime.

      • To update your story a little:
        Government A says to communication companies B, C, and Q, "We want to do widespread wiretaps. We don't have a warrant." Companies B and C say "sure" and company Q says "hell no."
        A month later, government A hands a whole bunch of great contracts to companies B and C and cuts company Q entirely out of the deal.
        Guess what will happen next time company Q needs some money?

        (For those of you who don't keep up with the news, 'Q' stands for 'Qwest Communications'.)

        So, yeah, if you do

    • It seems like our entire economy is based top to bottom on how much you can screw somebody. An electrician's car breaks down, the mechanic screws him for just as much money as he thinks he can get away with, but that's ok because the electrician will screw you for just as much money as he can possibly suck out of you. And then all three of you get sick and go to a freaking doctor...who screws all three of you and your insurance company, if any of the bunch is lucky enough to have insurance. And then out of

      • I don't believe that (Score:4, Interesting)

        by portforward (313061) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @09:53AM (#26637835)

        I'm not saying that there are no unethical businesses, but I believe that most transactions are done in good faith. Maybe it is the field that I have chosen, but most business relationships that I encounter on a day-to-day basis are built on mutual trust and common goals. In fact, if I didn't trust my vendors, I wouldn't do business with them. Period. If I can't rely on the product that they sell me, it is of no use to me. If my company's customers didn't trust the product that we sell, we would go out of business really, really fast. (I work in health care, so people could literally die). If you need a widget to help you perform your core competency, then you make the mistake of buying the cheapest alternative only once. Once you get into big business then having disruptions becomes way too costly to not have vendors and customers that you trust. Even saying that, usually when I run into problems I can more likely attribute the problem to incompetence rather than to malfeasance.

        Obviously you have your Enrons, your Madoffs, and your Carbonites, but I think that the these cases are the exceptions rather than the rule.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:21AM (#26635541)

    Oh man, I worked in a company that did this all the time - positive reviews submitted by employees of the company on various sites, posing as customers of the company. It is a successful and respected online company.

    The culture of a place can go a long way to convincing employees that this is the normal thing to do, and that it's just a part of doing business in this competitive world. Brings to mind Stanley Milgram's obediance experiments.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment [wikipedia.org]

    • Oh man, I worked in a company that did this all the time - positive reviews submitted by employees of the company on various sites, posing as customers of the company. It is a successful and respected online company.

      The culture of a place can go a long way to convincing employees that this is the normal thing to do, and that it's just a part of doing business in this competitive world. Brings to mind Stanley Milgram's obediance experiments.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment [wikipedia.org]

      So which company was it? is AC not enough?

    • by Zerth (26112)

      Sweet FSM that is true. I worked for an audio retailer that, once we finally added the ability to have product reviews, wanted to suppress all the negative reviews for our house brands(where most of our margin came from). I had to go get published studies that showed having all positive reviews for a product actually hurt sales, because it was obvious the reviews were either filtered or faked.

      And this was after having a long history of responding to bad comments on public message boards with solutions/fix

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:26AM (#26635559)

    Just click on the reviewer and see if they have reviewed anything else and if they have, if it's a diverse range of stuff. I remember seeing a set of self-help books get either really poor reviews or really great ones. I clicked on the 5 star reviews and many of the reviewers were either one time reviewers, or they had a history of favorably reviewing a small circle of self-help books from a specific publisher or author. Often within a tight timeframe rather than anything spaced out between reviews.

    I'm sure the reverse is true in circumstances, competing manufacturers giving their competitors' products a poor review. With the same tell-tale signs.

    Amazon is very attractive to scam in this fashion although I'm sure sites like epinions and others are becoming targets as well. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if there are much more sophisticated systems in place than the ones uncovered lately with Belkin and all. What we have been seeing seems all very amateurish - and considering that, after price, having a good star rating at one of these sites may bring in or cost thousands of sales - I would think some manufacturers have to have departments hired to fill the internet with favorable reviews on amazon and other sites, as well as writing blogs or recommendations on blogs with some amount of finesse. Where their employees actually become believeable characters with a bit of history and diversity - perhaps reviewing the other odd item here and there, just enough to be convincing. In fact, they could make put these characters on file and have them become year long projects that become bit reoccuring players in the marketing process.

    • by hbr (556774) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:44AM (#26635709)

      If it is true that fake reviews are easy to spot, then it should be possible to get a computer to spot them too, you might think.

      I find that online reviews are usually pretty worthless when there are, say, less than 5 contributors. Either the reviews are so good they must be employees, etc, or they are angry diatribes from disgruntled customers.

      Try looking at reviews for almost any electrical item (even items you own and know to be good) - what you usually find is that all the reviews will be negative because the users are so angry when their device fails they are motivated to let out their frustration somewhere. On the other hand, when things tick along as normal then they can't be bothered to contribute to an online review system.

      That is, of course, for the company shills...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by afidel (530433)
      I would be surprised if the marketing companies don't have such pseudo-people already. The could be used for both attack campaigns as well as polishing campaigns and if an ad company had enough clients it would be hard to tell that they weren't a legit reviewer with both positive and negative feedback. Most online reviews tend to be glowing or bottom of the barrel because people who have an average experience with a product are not motivated to provide feedback which would cost them time.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Don't forget IMDB. Why bother to make a decent movie when you can just pay some shill to astroturf the first "preview" of a mediocre film [imdb.com]? It's got to be value for money.
      • by joss (1346)

        Yeah, often the industry shills dominate the first few pages of reviews.. good example was Forgetting Sarah Marshall, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800039/usercomments [imdb.com] It's insulting that those dicks are not smart enough to come close to sounding like real people: Kristen Bell plays Sarah Marshall, the iconic ex of the film, but her role sits on the back burner along with the truly hilarious Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) to make way for a leading role in Mila Kunis. From the beginning it is clear that her not

      • I have completely given up on imdb.com reviews. In fact for movies I have given up completely on any review.

        When I buy a movie I look at three things:

        1) Trailer: It needs to look interesting.
        2) Storyline: When you look at the DVD you can get an overall gist of the storyline and whether or not it is interesting. Usually storylines are rehashed, but then you think if you are interested in that.
        3) Actors/Actresses/Directors: Who is involved in the movie. For example Adam Sandler in my book is a hit or miss. 50

    • So suppose I start a company in which manufacturers pay me to give good ratings and write positive reviews of their products and negative reviews of their competitors. Now assume I have around a hundred costumers with very diverse products and I construct a few dozen ids for the important sites like Amazon.

      Is it possible to detect this?

      The way I see it, this would be only detectable if I would use one or only a few IP-adresses. Or if someone would analyse my writings either manual (time consuming and e
    • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:32AM (#26638369)

      Amazon is very attractive to scam in this fashion...

      If Amazon is so attractive to scamming, how about some counter-examples? Can anyone suggest a site whose reviews they really trust?

      I can think of two. First is cpap.com. Sometime after delivery, they send a couple of reminders asking you to rate the products you bought. Since these are durable medical goods whose performance directly and significantly impacts the lives of the users, we tend to want to say what we think, good or bad. I find the reviews on that site very trustworthy, assuming several are posted and you take the time to read them all.

      Next up is Newegg.com. For items with a number of reviews, reading all of them is a darn useful thing. I tend to select the option to read all the reviews and then put them in "worst first" order. Often, an item will get a bad review because of a small percentage of DOAs or if it has some particular flaw that may not apply to me. In those cases, I can ignore the bad reviews and purchase with confidence. Generally, lots of reviews == reviews you can trust, but even the products with just a few reviews can, depending on the quality of the reviews, be successfully differentiated. As an added plus, newegg gives me a fun place to watch fanbois rant and rave.

      As a postscript, I've been burned in the oddest venues, too. I once watched a conversation develop on a small web site devoted to an arcane shooting sport. Someone said they had specially adapted carrying cases to sell and posted a picture. Someone else chimed in and said they had bought one and loved it. A few were sold and over the course of the next few weeks, a half-dozen people (all known to me, all people I would run into at meatspace gatherings eventually) posted nice comments. So - I ponied up $65 for one. I would have been willing to pay double for high quality. What I got was something I wouldn't have paid $20 for if I had been able to see it in person. The quality of construction was merely passable. The details of the design were sloppy. I finally concluded that in this intimate setting, people were just unwilling to admit they had been (slightly) cheated. They were unwilling to call the maker out in front of his friends. They were unwilling to tell previous posters that their standards were laughably low. Instead, a sort of groupthink/let's not make any waves/we're all friends here vibe took hold and people wound up wasting money. I thought that was weird at first. Then I realized that I was consciously deciding to not post any comments since I didn't want to badmouth an "extended family in the sport" member and start some useless drama.

      Funny dynamic, there.

      My point, overall, is that reviews and their usefulness are both better and worse than we expect, often at the same time. Generally, the only way to know for sure if the reviews are any good is to have enough subject matter expertise that you don't need to read the reviews in the first place. Damn shame, that.

  • My God! (Score:2, Funny)

    There really is a person on this planet named "Goldsteinberg"???

    Isn't that kind of, like, overdoing things a bit? Like at least one syllable?

    I am not trying to stereotype or anything, but seems to me that would be kind of like having XYY chromosomes...
  • Carbonie? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Trogre (513942) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:45AM (#26635725) Homepage

    These guys should really have their assets... frozen.

    • I know this is a Carbonite joke, but...

      With all the talks of ethics, I have to wonder about Amazon's. This keeps happening over and over again, and yet Amazon doesn't seem to ever respond accordingly: kick the company off Amazon. Refuse to sell any of their products ever again.

      Any company would hurt if major distribution networks refused to sell their products. (Why do you think there's no Adult Only rated games?)

      But they don't, so I have to wonder what's more valuable to Amazon: The integrity of their

  • by Vertana (1094987) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:01AM (#26635811) Homepage

    They went through the trouble of making fake reviews for their product... and failed because they used their real names... I don't even know what to say to that...

    "This post was found to be satisfactory and it was delivered on time in great condition!"
          -Vert^H^H^H^HJohny Luser!

  • by moteyalpha (1228680) * on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:07AM (#26635829) Homepage Journal
    I have wondered a few times if there is not some of the same effect happening at slashdot. Some comments seem very curious and I typically notice these things when a new product is introduced. I know some people are just fans of certain things like Fords and Chevys , but sometimes it seems like people are purposely attempting to twist opinions. Perhaps everybody else already knows this is true, and I am the fool who just thinks it is possible.
    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Oh? I just chalk it up to delusional fanboy bullshit. There's always someone in love with one corporation or another.
    • It is widely postulated that eg Microsoft and the Scientologists have fairly large numbers of people on /., using comments and mod points to push points of view.
      Of course, this raises the question -- which could also be asked about Belkin et al -- whether a number of individuals from the company are doing this on their own (which is unethical but not actually the company's fault) or whether it's encouraged, or even organized, by the company.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:11AM (#26635841)

    This is a normal operating procedure.My ex-boss asked me to make a 5 star rating for him on one site because his legit (if not state-of-the art) anti-spyware program was listed as an adware/spyware provider.

    http://www.siteadvisor.com/sites/pcsafe.com

    Take a look at the comments. The users "johnatsearching" and "wright" are the from the guy that owns the company. Looking back, he must have made 20 comments to bump up his rankings on the site. He even got his employees into it.

    Only one person there mentioned that they were employed by the company. That's sad.

  • Which means (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kvezach (1199717) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:27AM (#26635907)
    Amazon et al should use a trust metric, preferably one that deals gracefully with attempts to manipulate it. Perhaps something like Advogato's metric could be used, or the manipulation-resistant [nus.edu.sg] versions of EigenTrust. What metric one may use, it would help decreasing spammers' powers, since they would presumably not be able to integrate themselves as thoroughly into the system, and definitely not do so in the kind of en masse, flooding, way that traditional spammers make use of.
  • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:31AM (#26635919)

    So? What Pogue has observed is a SYMPTOM of the bigger problem, not the actual problem itself.

    This is precisely how American capitalism works. It's utterly Darwinian: any tactic that enriches your survival prospects and doesn't get you drawn and quartered is perfectly fine. I hate to say it, but we made this bed for ourselves with our own particular brands of indoctrination and econo-political dogma. We mixed up a nasty batch of Koolaid and wound up drinking it ourselves. There are hidden costs to this sort of capitalism.

    If you really want to put an end to this sort of behavior, we'll have to start by changing our actual collective values and ethics, and then change our messages of indoctrination that we whisper to our children and each other to reflect those new values. We need to get the population sipping a better mix of Koolaid; what we've been drinking for almost a century is pretty toxic. Violent games may not brainwash gamers to become violent, but the sort of subtle indoctrination that every American receives DOES lead to the sort of behavior that Pogue observed.

    It will take a true collective effort and consensus in order to end it. Passing a few more kneejerk laws or whatever ain't gonna cure the underlying problem: Darwinian capitalism.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In fact, it will take regulation to correct the problem.

      We've all got that selfish streak in us. We're willing to do the right thing in the interests of fairness, but only if we know everyone else is doing the right thing too.

      Without regulation and a robust policing of those regulations we cannot have trust in the system. Slowly, little by little, the whole thing begins to break down as each individual sees that not everyone is playing by the rules, then they too set out on their own path using whatever tac

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by macraig (621737)

        Regulations aren't the same thing as consensus. Regulations are often rammed down the throats of an unwilling and uncooperative populace by a self-interested minority seeking to use those regulations to benefit themselves a bit more than everyone else.

        Take intellectual property law and DRM, for instance.

        Regulation and yet more laws in a binder already full to bursting is not the solution. Trying to legislate socialistic values leads to something that history has already told us will fail: Communism.

        • by zerofoo (262795) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @07:14AM (#26636719)

          Fairness and honesty can hardly be called tenets of communism. Laws that enforce fairness and honesty in business practices foster faith in our capitalist system and provide a level playing field for all those that conduct business within the system.

          Without laws protecting consumers, the playing field is very much tilted in favor of those with deep legal pockets. Consumer protection laws also force businesses to compete honestly so that the best product at the best price will succeed in the market.

          I highly doubt you will find a majority of any population that actually wants businesses to operate dishonestly. Regulations enforcing fairness and honesty ARE consensus.

          I find that most people that protest laws protecting consumers usually are the ones trying to game the system to their advantage at the expense of those who could least defend themselves in court.

          It's not communism to keep people honest.

        • Shame on the mods! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by plasmacutter (901737)

          Regulations aren't the same thing as consensus. Regulations are often rammed down the throats of an unwilling and uncooperative populace by a self-interested minority seeking to use those regulations to benefit themselves a bit more than everyone else.

          that would be because the regulation known as "fairness doctrine" was removed from news organizations, meaning they no longer have to provide both sides of a story. This has turned the news into a propaganda mouthpiece for whoever has the most money or power in a given argument.

          Regulation and yet more laws in a binder already full to bursting is not the solution.

          you're absolutely right, optimization is required: get rid of the bloat. You, however, are proposing anarchy--the same anarchy which led to the collapse of our financial system.

          Without "cops", the criminals run free. With too many co

    • Wow. So you've managed to take a story about astroturfing (something which is manipulative, deceitful, and certainly not a good idea by any standards) and spin it into an indication that capitalism is inherently bad.

      Fucking bravo. Seriously. That's some DC-worthy spin right there.

      • by macraig (621737)

        That isn't what I said; I didn't say capitalism was inherently bad. Rather, you've spun my words the way you needed to hear them. Who's the spider now?

    • If you really want to put an end to this sort of behavior, we'll have to start by changing our actual collective values and ethics

      I actually agree with what you're saying, but guess what: part of the "Koolaid" you mention is that many Americans seem to believe that fixes to problems should be easy, cheap and instantaneous.

      I was trying to think of a way to say this in one sentence that would be funny, but couldn't think of anything. So I guess I'll steal from Homer Simpson: "Can't someone else do it?"

      I mean, why should I work hard to slowly improve our society by changing people's hearts and minds? The effects will take forever and ba

    • by swillden (191260)

      What Pogue has observed is a SYMPTOM of the bigger problem, not the actual problem itself.

      Bah.

      I realize it's popular these days to bash capitalism, but this is just silly. You really want federal regulation of what random people post on unsolicited and unreviewed product commentary sites?

      You're silly.

      What Pogue observed is a problem, but it's a small one. Further, Pogue's publication of the observation is the solution to the problem. The old saying that any press is good press isn't entirely true -- when a major tech columnist in a major newspaper who has previously praised your product

  • by cyberjock1980 (1131059) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @06:32AM (#26636509)

    I looked up Carbonite on the Better Business Bureau. They are BBB accredited with a B+ rating.... Maybe the BBB should be rethinking their scales?

    http://reports-boston.bbb.org/Boston/Public/Reports/RR/Report.aspx?i=17194 [bbb.org]

    • From: Chris
      Date: Tue, March 13, 2007 2:55 pm
      To: Editor

      Hi Ken:

      I just read the above-mentioned article on your site (and the article you personally wrote about the BBB as well), and, yes, the BBB isn't what it appears to be.

      I used to work for them, in both Los Angeles CA and Portland OR.

      Here's an overview of how the BBB operates -

      Companies are recruited into the Better Business Bureau, and every company that becomes a new member pays monthly membership dues.

      These dues are based on the overall size of the comp

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @06:41AM (#26636549) Homepage Journal

    I read the negative reviews first. I will read some of the positive reviews but I start at the bottom and if I don't get turned off by them as I work my way up then I will probably buy the item.

    • by Aladrin (926209)

      I use a similar technique. I read a few good reviews to make sure there are some good features. If all the good reviews just say 'good product!' I ignore them completely.

      Then I start reading bad reviews. If none of the bad reviews mention something that is a show-stopper for me, I start to seriously consider the product.

      Honestly, good products are not made by their features, they're made by their lack of problems. I'd rather have a mediocre phone with no drawbacks at all than the newest whiz-bang phone

  • 3rd Party Reviews (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @07:39AM (#26636833) Homepage Journal

    Are worthless anyway. If you don't personally know the person, assume its a paid advertisement.

  • These people are gaming the system

    Hi, welcome to Earth, please read your orientation guide and let us know if you have any questions - In particular, pay attention to chapter 1, "Everything on this planet evolved to eat you or die trying".


    deceiving the public to enrich themselves. They should be deeply ashamed.

    All those dollars work pretty well for wiping away their tears of shame...
  • if you read user reviews for L. Ron Hubbard's books, you'll find dozens of 5 star reviews, all by scientology members.

    it's awfull, can be seen as fraud in some cases, and should be the case to start pestering sites like amazon.com to include in their EULA an item requiring full disclosure of any conflicting interest. it'd make a lot easier to prosecute people like these carbonite guys.

  • by shish (588640) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @09:18AM (#26637513) Homepage

    The company I work at was approached by a guy; conversation went along the lines of "Hi, you look like a good company, but I've never heard of you or seen advertisements" "We find the 'happy customer' approach to marketing works well enough on its own" "That is good. Say, I have possibility to stimulate communities to talk about [company name]. So, I can help you have all your news and services discussed constantly distinctive features spotlighted, etc by independence observers. The number of positive reviews and mentoring of your company will increase in natural way"

    Further mails were then directed to /dev/null, but I wonder how many companies would have taken him up on the offer...

  • Not even needed (Score:4, Informative)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:10AM (#26638087)
    The stupid thing is, it doesn't even need faked reviews - Carbonite is genuinely good. it's got me out of a scrape several times and the ability to go back to older versions of documents is great too. Ermm.. this is starting to sound like I'm being facetious but really, it is good.
  • by guanxi (216397) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:25AM (#26638253)

    Of course random, unknown people are not trustworthy. While it's trendy to criticize the "MSM" and 'old' media, they do have one essential advantage over crowd-sourced information: MSM publications have a reputation to protect:

    1) They are not anonymous. As has often been observed, people are willing to say things anonymously on the Internet that they would never say to anyone's face, or if anyone knew who was speaking.

    2) They have an enormous investment in their reputation: Millions (or more) in business, hundreds of jobs, and a reputation that's been built up over decades or more.

    3) They have a track record: You know (or can know) the history of their integrity.

    Certainly that does not make MSM 100% trustworthy; they are not. But at least when I read David Pogue in the NY Times, for example, I know whom I'm dealing with and I can make a judgment about the chance of and degree to which he might be shilling something.

    • Of course random, unknown people are not trustworthy. While it's trendy to criticize the "MSM" and 'old' media, they do have one essential advantage over crowd-sourced information: MSM publications have a reputation to protect:

      The MSM does such a great job [wkowtv.com] reporting fairly ad honestly, even when corrected [wkowtv.com] right?

      Since when has any election coverage involved any in-depth policy comparison, any coverage beyond "rumors say"?

      Since when has anything of consequence been put above video-game style smart-bomb footage?

      Do you really think hillary clinton or orrin hatch would be around if the news had reported they co-sponsored a bill which would have made every media widget everyone uses illegal?

      What about actual, in-depth coverage of prote

      • by guanxi (216397)

        Nobody said the MSM is perfect or even good, only that it's better than the alternative. Sort of like Democracy, which is terrible, but is still the best option.

        However, the "MSM" covers a very large number of media sources, all over the world, in every town, and in every format (newspaper, magazine, TV, web, etc.). I've found many of those things you wish for, including in-depth policy analysis and well researched coverage that represents both sides. There is plenty of media that doesn't provide those thin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They're endorsed by and advertise with Rush Limbaugh, so of course they're corrupt. I wouldn't trust these people with a ham sandwich, let alone my data.

  • why someone would not TEST a product to verify it's ability/disability to function in their environment is beyond me but that said... You NEVER take the reviews from the purchase site at face value ALWAYS find the "THOSE FUCKERS" forums and see the bad statements. No product works flawlessly, except for the SHAMWOW and the SLAPCHOP.
    YOUR GONNA LOVE MY NUTS

  • Rush Limbaugh hocks this crap on his radio show incessantly (not that I'm a listener, but my office mate is). Would you honestly take any tech advice from somebody who has such an obvious poor track record when it comes to judgment? As somebody wiser than me once said, judge a man by the associations he makes.

Mirrors should reflect a little before throwing back images. -- Jean Cocteau

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