Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Rise Of The "Raviews"

Today, let me introduce a made-up word: "raview". This portmanteau of "rave" and "review" is the only way to describe the US$5 "reviews" that might be offered by a web site mentioned in the New York Times.

They are everywhere. They are, it seems, cheap. And they are virtually indistinguishable from "truthful" reviews.

A related article offers some tips on spotting potential fake reviews, listing such indicators as: constant focus on reviewer and companions, lots of "I", "me" and "my", and direct mentions of lodgings and cities. Also, look out for adverb and verb overload. If a review sounds overly positive, it smells fishy.

A sample of some very effusive reviews on TripAdvisor.com.
Under those guidelines, they'd be fishier than Fulton Street,
even if they're genuine and truthful.

This concerns me somewhat, because similar issues plague book reviews too. As well as food reviews, movie reviews, anything reviews. This also shed more light on why a former boss insisted on limiting the use of "I", "me" and "my" in my more "serious" pieces. "Raviews" do seem to be talking more about the "raviewer" than the product.

Arguably, "raviews" of such things as books, food and movies are possible, because, well, there's no accounting for taste. Over time, a reviewer's experiences will change the person, leading to a possible re-evaluation of his earlier opinions.

By the way, does this look "raview-ish"? ...Perhaps, but that's the general vibe I had when I went through the pages.

"Raviews" of travel destinations are harder, I think, and not just because of the writer. Places change. Service standards fluctuate. Last month's travellers to a place may encounter a different atmosphere than today's.

Still, US$5 per "raview" is a short sell for the kind of mental anguish, however minimal, that I'm sure the "raviewer" goes through. Times must be really hard nowadays.

Now that these possible signs of a fake review are out in the open, will it change the way reviews are written? Possibly. For one, writers may probably have to adopt more neutral voices, even if they were genuinely blown away by their experiences. And who wants to read dry, boring travel stuff?

But things will change. They are talking about ways to separate the chaff from the wheat; "raviews", after all, are essentially spam and a waste of server space, in lieu of their effect on a product's marketability and a ratings site as a fair arbiter of taste.

At least, as fair as could be in the face of the constant deluge of information and opinion brought about by the Internet.


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