To be reviewed

Screenshot from 'South Park'

Are crowd-source reviews still effective?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 4, 2015

The recent South Park episode “You’re Not Yelping” shone a light on the power of public opinion. Review sites such as Yelp, Zomato, and Rotten Tomatoes have given regular everyday folks like you and me the power to vote up or down virtually anything. This type of social governance seems to be democracy at its finest, since everyone who has a voice is encouraged to use it. But are we really getting honest reviews or are we—as pseudo-experts—trying to sway people away from their own authentic experience with our biased perceptions?

Ultimately, all reviews are biased. It doesn’t matter if you are getting them from Roger Ebert or your mother; regardless, the review is a product of the person’s life, thoughts, and opinions. This is great, because freedom of speech is wonderful. But not everyone is posting reviews. In fact, only an incredibly small percentage of people actually create content on review sites. Journalist Susan Kuchinskas informed us of an interesting statistic, known as the “1/9/90 Rule.” The rule states that only one per cent of people write reviews. Nine per cent of people will drop in on those reviews and rate them. The 90 per cent are solely readers, swayed by those reviews by the one per cent.

I’m opinionated, but I’m not a reviewer. I have never written a review on Yelp, or any other site that encourages me to. Why should I? I don’t believe people should do or not do anything based on my opinion and experience. Don’t listen to what I say, because what I’ll say is go watch Jack and Jill starring Adam Sandler and come to your own opinion on whether it’s good or not. Don’t simply look at the ratings on IMDB.com and automatically write it off. Make your own discovery, not just an easy conclusion via crowd-sourced reviews.

They say professional reviewers are dying out, and I believe that makes sense—not because reviews don’t have some substance though. Quality ones are introspective commentary on pieces of art or experiences. It’s—in its own way—literary. However, consumers don’t want introspection. Consumers want yay or nay: should I go here, or should I keep searching?

The Internet influences so many of our spending decisions. I say we should turn that off for a bit and come to our own conclusions. Let’s not listen to that one per cent for a little while and see what we can discover on our own. It’s a risk, sure, but I know we have clear judgement, capable of distinguishing between good and bad. I encourage you, the next time you are scrolling on your smartphone looking for a place to eat, ignore the star ratings and reviews, and just give a restaurant a chance. How can you know what is good when you are constantly avoiding bad?

This returns us to the ultimate question: are crowd-sourced reviews still effective? I don’t know, but they’re probably as effective as this article.

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