Jan 20, 2009

The value of "reviews" just went down another notch

Belkin is today's unfortunate poster child of dishonest marketing, the euphemistic "putting lipstick on a pig".

When I began my career in IT, a while ago, I relied on user reviews to provide me with some guidance. Which products were better than others, more reliable, faster, etc. The world of user-based reviews has slid a long way. Apparently a sales rep at Belkin had been hiring people on the internet to flag negative reviews of his products as "unhelpful" and post positive ones. There are plenty of other journalists and bloggers lambasting the guy, and the company president for denying and then brushing over the transgression. Amazingly, the employee still has his job. PC World covers the pandemic further here.

Folks: This is why a trusted independent 3rd party is so important when it comes to getting good advice about products. The financial motivations for individuals with a sales quota and a boss to please, or companies with investors to show returns for can be tempted to cross the line. "users" can be anyone, write anything, and have almost absolute anonymity, and no accountability. Reviews can be written in such a way that they are generic enough to apply to any product, allowing them to spam such services that host reviews. This "review SPAM" (can we coin RSPAM now?) can appear on any magazine site, or portal, regardless of how trusted the mother brand may be.

To reach back to a 1990's cartoon that has new meaning here, on the internet, you just don't know which reviews are dogs.