Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can we trust reviews and ratings??

I am reading a book on applying brain science to management. I am only on chapter 3, but so far the book really stinks. I will write a review to warn you about it somewhere else. The topic of my post today is on social networking and reputation management systems (ratings and reviews).

The book got some fantastic reviews from brain scientists who seem to have good credentials. Maybe they liked the book, but so far it’s such a trivialization and oversimplification of brain science I just can’t imagine they did. Could they have done it for the social networking benefits – getting their reviews out there and read? Is this so valuable that it would be worth exaggerating the value of the content you are reviewing – especially since most readers probably don’t know enough about brain science to realize how bad the book really is? Here’s a paradox – if writing reviews is valuable in and of itself, we may not be able to trust them because people will be writing them just to get the reviews listed. And when reading reviews isn’t valuable anymore, writing them will not be either. So the more we value reviews now, the less we will be able to use them in the future.

Here is another reputation management question. The book references some of the world’s leading brain science researchers. But these are not the people whose reviews are shown. If they were, I think I would be second guessing my own opinion instead of the reviewer’s honesty. How do we judge the quality of a reviewer? Are rate the rater systems (e.g. 90% of customers rate this reviewer’s reviews as 4 or 5 stars) helpful? Or do you want to see a bio (maybe not for reviewing music, but for technology?)?

I am starting a research project to look into these questions, so any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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