Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Return of the Review

I've posted a few reviews in my time, more as a social gesture than anything else.  I'll be honest, if I read a dog of a book I probably won't mention it anywhere public.  It may be a touch weak, I may be a tad paranoid.  I'm not keen on being sued and anyway, having reviewable books on Amazon, Apple, B&N etc means I'm an easy target for retaliation.

Plus I'm a little wary of reviews.  I suspect that when peer reviews first popped up on the likes of Amazon they were really useful.  I have a perception that everyone was nice and honest and really trying to present a truthful but upbeat review back in the beginning.  But there's money involved in sales, and it seems that reviews can affect sales, so there is an incentive to massage the reviews to make a product more attractive.  There's also a darker side, too.  Got a grudge against a manufacturer, hacked off because someone's book is selling better than yours, having a bad day?  Write a negative review, why don't you?

And then there's the anonymous nature of reviewing.  Some use their own name - I do, by the way - but many hide behind handles.  Perhaps I'm not the only one a tad paranoid about being sued, but maybe some people deal with it in different ways.

But let's be honest, sometimes a review is the only clue to a product we have outside of the otherwise deliberately biased sales blurb, whether that be the product description or the three hundred words that tries to make you want to read a book.  If only we could trust the reviews.  Well Google thinks it has the answer.

You may have noticed Google pushing something it calls Google+ lately.  Well, part of Google+ is a Social Network, just like Facebook, only smaller, less popular and up to now, for me, a bit opaque.  It tries to sit somewhere between Facebook and Twitter, in fact it tries to be both and neither.  You share your views and news, your posts, your photos with people you know and supposedly care about, or perhaps with like-minded people, or persons who share an attribute such as a common school or workplace.

So far, so FB or Twitter, but Google+ is different because it lets you build 'circles' and you do your sharing with whichever circles you feel appropriate.  Got an in-joke about someone in the office? - use the office circle (carefully).  Want to show your child's latest school photo? Use your family circle.  And perhaps your friend circle.  Want to share a blog entry you've just found or written? Use your everything circle.

I've looked at the Google+ network a few times and just hold off pushing the join button.  But I guess I'll take the plunge one day soon if only because it's a sales channel that looks likely to grow as it becomes clearer as to its purpose.  And one purpose might be around the thorny review problem.

Because although you may not trust a review from some anonymous reviewer with a phoney handle and you may not even trust a review from little old me in plain speak because I'm actually just a name on a blog, you would trust a review from someone you know, or at least you would if you personally trust that person.  And that is where Google+ is aiming to help, because if someone you know - and by know I mean is a Google+ user AND is inside one of your circles AND if that person has reviewed a product or book or CD or whatever that you are  interested in then their review will sit at the top of the user reviews list.

There are two impediments to this approach, three if you agree that there are enough social networks on the planet already without Google+ complicating the situation.  The first is there needs to be an awfully large amount of people on Google+ reviewing stuff for this to work and secondly, you need to have a meaningful amount of them in your Google+ circle(s).

Now I don't know if Google+ will take off in the same way that Facebook appears to have done, judging by the rumours, but I can see some of the attractions such as segmenting who you tell and what you tell them.  Building a trusted review network would seem to be a really good idea too.  The hard way is for all of us to embrace Google+, the easy way is for FB to adapt the ideas and introduce them into their network.  Shouldn't be too hard or, while the Google lawyers are busy fighting off Apple, too risky either.


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