In the climate of click bait, unreliable journalists and “fake news,” it’s something of an unspoken rule that any you should take any opinion with a pinch of salt.
Professional review writing industries, as well as aggregates, have arguably been irrevocably tainted by financial interests. They are, after all, companies and as such have been formed with requirements (if not objectives) of creating opportunities for revenue generation: to pay the staff, cover overhead investments and ensure the ongoing development of the project.
Issues that affect professional reviews are, however, are shared in many ways by user reviews as well; including unethical practices from retailers, review writers, product creators, and others. It does appear that our hallowed Blockchain technology could provide a solution to some, if not all of these if given a chance, but first, it would do well first to consider what needs to be improved upon.
Problem #1: the conflicts of interest
Having an objective customer reviewer is all good and well but unless the website their review is posted on is managed by similarly minded managers & institutional practices, then there is no guarantee that the message will stay the same by the time it is published.
This is because, much like the professional magazines, the largest part of their revenue most often comes from advertisers and sponsors. To these investors, the audience is a valuable target – having established themselves as consumers by virtue of reading the content, to begin with, and as such, they are mostly comprised of those producers and retailers of the very products being covered by the publication.
There is, therefore, a clear conflict of interest between the review-hosting sites’ respective loyalties to their advertisers, and to their readers. The results of this can be manipulation of the review scores post-publication, censorship/omission of negative reviews, and the fabrication of positive reviews by the shop or manufacturer.
Problem #2: The unreliable reviewers
Shills (Exhibit A)
Shills embody an end result of the aforementioned “conflicts of interest.” These particular individuals often manifest when one party who benefits the sale of a product approaches a reviewer (with either no reputation or with experience/trust-ability from the background) and persuades them to write positively about the product in question in return for a financial inventive or free products themselves.
This can even appear on well-known marketplaces such as Amazon (although compared to the accusations levied against them regarding employee welfare standards, I’d imagine it’s the least of their worries) and contribute to a negative perception of their reviews as being an “untrustworthy measure of quality,” according to Jeff Bercovici at Forbes.
He continues to describe the perpetrators as writers with a “vested interest – a friend, family member, [or] a fan” writing positive reviews” in addition to “notorious “sock puppets” created by novelists skilled in the practice of inventing characters and putting dialogue in their mouths.”
‘Review Bomb’ squads (Exhibit B)
Review bombing is a unique phenomenon which is most frequently associated with video-gaming and nerd culture. “The act of an organized group getting together and tanking the overall user review score.”
It is defined by the collective nature of the “attacks,” often represented by the proximity to which each is posted and to the aftermath of a certain event. They can also be identifiable in their conspiratorial nature, through semi-public announcements made on message-boards such as 4chan.
To clarify: not all instances of contradictory public opinion are examples of review bombs. A recent example presents a dichotomy between audience and reviewer opinions regarding the latest, post-Disney acquisition Star Wars film ‘The Last Jedi.’ It shows that the audience is somewhat active and reasoned in their criticisms.
Although if you were to listen to the politicized pundits, you would believe that everyone here (paying critics, who happen to disagree with their opinions) was a member of an organized “right-wing group.”
The conclusion: a Blockchain solution
A recently launched left-field ICO which appears (or at least claims) to have created a solution based on the Ethereum platform and its Blockchain to these highlighted concerns as well as much more you might not have even thought of. In fact, it is this company and their vision which inspired this piece.
Solution #1: The concern over review scores being manipulated or censored post-publication would be mitigated with Lina’s platform as all information would be stored on the public Blockchain, in addition to being backed up onto a private copy of said information (in a system called a ‘Hybrid Blockchain’). This means that nobody can tamper with it once it’s been submitted without the changes also being a public record.
Solution #2: Lina intents to tackle unreliable reviews by enlisting customers based on skill, experience, and ability. This is before monitoring their progress and customer approval in order to best determine future training/progress paths. With the project being an economy into itself, this allows for a form of compensation which encourages reviewers to contribute, which in turn helps to develop the ecosystem.
Lina.platform is a token based rating system, an economy whose value (and therefore the developer’s primary concern) is in the publication and promotion of high-quality objective reviews; as well as focusing on the development of popular and consistent writers for both prolific in content as well as audience bond.