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Old 06-29-2009, 01:30 AM   #1
Gideon
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In Praise of Bad Reviews

I love bad reviews on Amazon.

They are so useful... I usually just glance at the good ones, and then head straight to the '1's'

Why? Well, a couple of reasons.

First off, people who are going to be thoughtful will rarely give a 1, and so if there are any competently written 1's I'll give them some serious attention. I'm not usually reading things that a thoughtful person would give a 1 (and by thoughtful I mean capable of intelligent, civil disagreement - they might not agree, but can see the difference between agreement and quality work) so this is a pretty good rule of thumb.

Of course, thoughtful is rarely the case. Usually the 1's are written by complete idjits of one variety or another but sometimes finding out who a book pisses off is a great way of knowing if you'll like it or the viewpoint being expressed. Since I tend to both academically and personally study religion.... the field is a bit of landmine and this is of enormous use. And, depending on what I find there, I might start looking at the high reviews, then the middle ones.

But the 1's save me a lot of time.
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:00 AM   #2
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I do the same thing. Like Gideon, I find that reviews on Amazon need to be treated with a bit of caution but can be very useful.
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Old 06-29-2009, 01:19 PM   #3
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I do something similar as well for books - I have been motivated to buy books because of something that someone said they didn't like about them, as it has helped me to realise that I will like them.

(For electronic products, I often find that the "bad" reviews are complaining because a very cheap product doesn't do what a top of the range model will do, or that the top of the range products are overpriced, so I only skim them.)
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Old 06-29-2009, 02:09 PM   #4
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slightly

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the reviews for a Bic Pen on Amazon UK.
- "Very good if you need to write on paper"


There are a number of products on Amazon with similar types of reviews.
The review for the Pew Bible had me rolling on the floor. The comments under the reviews are also hilarious.
- "Good Start. Any book that starts off with two naked people and a talking snake has something going for it."
- "This book doesn’t work. I’ve tried the “praying” method to get a new Porsche 996 delivered but to no avail. There’s nothing in the instructions about not wanting German sports cars but I tried praying for less ambitious things. I gave up when it didn’t even get me a Big Mac. In the early part there’s a bit about people crossing the desert and being sustained by manna from heaven, so you’d think that it would be able to manage at least a hamburger."
Please don't click on the link if you are easily offended.
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Old 06-29-2009, 02:43 PM   #5
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ha haa... that's awesome.

Yeah, tech reads are definitely important. It can have a low score, and then find out it has nothing to do with the product itself. Like a lot of Kindle 1 and 2 reviews were.
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Old 06-29-2009, 03:19 PM   #6
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Too many of the "good" reviews are from people who have only had the product 3 days and haven't evaluated it thoroughly. A lot of the bad reviews are from people who are dissatisfied with service, or are reviewing an older model.

Some products, (i.e. anything written by L Ron Hubbard). are evenly split between 5 star and 1 star ratings. I hate it when reviewers have an agenda.

Reading the 1-2 star reviews has turned me away from some products. Early on I made the mistake of buying "The Band's" "Music from the Big Pink" based on the 5 star reviews. What a horrible mistake. Now I always check out the bad reviews.
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Old 07-01-2009, 11:33 AM   #7
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... and of course the 5 stars can often just be shills for the seller. I take an approach similar to Gideon. I look for the low end reviews, and ignore the ones that just say "sux" as well as the ones I can see don't apply to me. This tells me more than reading the glowing comments.
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Old 07-02-2009, 04:05 PM   #8
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And I thought I was the only one who did this (back when I actually used Amazon) I would always go to the 1 star scores and ignore the 5 star results. Besides everything else, the 1star results were always funnier
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Old 07-02-2009, 04:17 PM   #9
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Am I the only one who reads the reviews? I always ignore any review if they are less than 30. Usually 100> is when I start weighing the numbers more.

I treat all scores just the same positive or negative as long as they are well written.

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Old 07-02-2009, 04:21 PM   #10
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I don't read all the reviews if there are a lot of them. It just depends on the text, how on the fence I am, etc.

I start low if it is a controversial book, because I want to see what kind of things are 'controversial' and if it is real or a whisp. For instance (and I don't want to get into this, but it comes readily to mind given my interests) if you had a text that got popular but made some VERY rudimentary critical analytical remarks about the composition of the Bible, but just by being popular some people were hearing this for the first time and were outraged, it wouldn't be enough for me to read it. But if has a more subtle argument the people railing against it often reveal it more quickly than the people recommending it because they are reacting.

And sometimes it's just funny.
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Old 07-02-2009, 07:00 PM   #11
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Ah I see good point, I though you mainly focused on the negative reviews it sound like you also value both when they are given.

I've tend to notice that when a book is controversial, the poor reviews are often made from folks who have not read the book. And your right some of them are hilarious.

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Old 07-03-2009, 05:54 AM   #12
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I always read Amazon's reviews for a book. Both .Com and .Co.Uk sites.
I also check how many reviews a reviewer has written, if it is 5 stars and only 1 review I don't even bother reading it. The same applies to 1 star reviews.

Quote:
Usually the 1's are written by complete idjits of one variety
I am really really sorry but I don't consider myself "idjit" of any variety, otheriwse it would be an insult for people who respect me. But I do give some books 1 star if the books deserve it. For example, Nation by Terry Pratchett or American Gods by Neil Gaiman or The Soddit by Adam Roberts.
I think I could go on but I didn't write reviews on amazon for all of them or some I gave 2 stars (although actually they deserve 1 star maximum, some -1...) (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Donaldson, Bags of Bones by King, Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Redemption of Althalus by David Eddings, Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia)
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Old 07-03-2009, 06:06 AM   #13
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As I said... idjit referring to the sort of things I was reading to begin with (nonfiction). Sorry if I was not entirely clear. If I'm considering a text I already know to have a certain amount of integrity than a 1 is almost certainly going to be spurious. If I'm looking at Rowan William's book on Dostoevsky, and I already know something about Rowan and have heard a few things about the book and given the nature of these things know this is a serious work by a serious thinker and it is extremely unlikely that it would ever deserve a 1 even if you completely disagreed with it (as you would still respect the thinking if not the conclusions), if I see a 1 then it is almost always going to be some ridiculous thing like them hating Rowan for other reasons, etc.

Plenty of things deserve 1s. My fiction tastes would not go along with the 1's you'd give out, but I wasn't referring to that sort of thing (aside from the last three those are some of my favorite fiction books, in fact!) But fiction is a different sort of creature all together, much more related to taste than non-fiction.

Last edited by Gideon; 07-03-2009 at 06:08 AM.
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Old 07-03-2009, 07:33 AM   #14
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I only read reviews after the first 100 (or so) pages if I have doubts about the book. And yes, I start with the negative reviews.

Reading tons of reviews before starting the book spoils the fun. If I like it after 100 pages, there is no need to read a review. If I do not like it, I check the negative reviews - if they complain about the same issues I have, then it is best to abandon the book.

Like the Thorn series by Tad Williams or that (inf)famous trilogy by Robin Hobb. These books were mightily boring and reading the reviews convinced me that they do not get any better.
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Old 07-05-2009, 02:14 AM   #15
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Just recently, I decided to start reading again for entertainment, and was trying to find books that I'd find engaging and interesting. I was forced to study a lot of contrived literature and cinema in the past, and have really come to loathe writing that takes itself too seriously.

Despite my common sense, I went through some reviews on Amazon and dug up Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth", which apparently has gotten a lot of good press. I found it locally (in Taiwan) and thought I'd be able to enjoy it.

After the first hundred pages, I decided I didn't want to bother with it anymore. Shortly thereafter, I dug up some of the discussion of it in other places and of course the negative reviews and discovered that hidden in all the blind admiration (some legitimate admiration too I'm sure, but mostly that for Oprah's book club I suspect), there were a lot of dissatisfied readers. Guess I can count myself among them.

I now tend to actually read the 5-star reviews and avoid anything that gets promoted on certain qualities, and then read the 1- and 2-star reviews to see the iconoclast perspective. I'll avoid books that get 5 stars for anything related to "the complete spectrum of human emotion and experience" or "the ability to speak directly to the heart and soul".
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