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WSJ Article — Online Reviews Suffer From Grade Inflation

October 11th, 2009 | Data and Information Analysis,KikScore & KikReport,Uncategorized | No Comments »

A recent Wall Street Journal Article examined a troubling trend with online shopping reviews — that these reviews benefit from higher grade inflation than a star power forward at Duke.  As Geoffrey Fowler and Joesph De Avila write, the average review given is 4.3/5 stars.  There are a handful of explanations offered for this trend, including  psychological – people are more likely to remember positive experiences.  But the most interesting reason offered is that critical reviews are removed from the calculation and reviewers are repeatedly critical are barred from some sites.  While this practice definitely skews the reliability of these reviews, I’m sure it’s similar to the corrective action taken when a rogue Spanish professor tries to fail that same Duke power forward for skipping language lab.  It’s simply not going to happen — or if it does happen, that Spanish professor will not be teaching at Duke very long.

Back to the point.  While shopper/user reviews can be very helpful, if the grade inflation persists, they will just become an empty marketing tool.  Continuing the academia analogy, using these inflated reviews to make shopping decisions (and who to share your personal information with) will be like getting a medical referral from the hacky-sack playing hippie who is in the 7th year of his Pre-Med undergrad.  I’ll go easy on our product pitch, but the ability for these reviews to be marked up (or less than objective) was a big motivation to create KikScore.  More on that later.  Until then, let’s all start providing realistic shopper reviews.

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