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We all have opinions on things. And the Internet seems to have drawn previously reserved individuals out of their shells until they’re more than willing to tell you their opinion on anything and everything. Whether you asked for it or not.

Reviews are everywhere. From websites rating the latest movies, music, and television shows, to online shopping sites such as Amazon ranking consumer products by an arbitrary scoring system. But just because reviews are ubiquitous doesn’t mean they’re actually worthwhile Funny Amazon Reviews: 6 Items That Feature Hilarious User Feedback Funny Amazon Reviews: 6 Items That Feature Hilarious User Feedback Niche products on the Internet are often the subject of ridicule, especially on big retail websites like Amazon where user feedback is encouraged. Often these "reviews" make for a hilarious read, as communities around the... Read More .

The Value Of Opinion…

We want to know, Do You Value Online Reviews? This questions cuts both ways. Do you take notice of online reviews and make decisions based on what they say? And do you yourself habitually leave reviews on the Web, whether for apps, books, or businesses?

We really just want to know what you think about online reviews. Which is rather ironic, seeing as we’re once again dealing in opinion 3 Signs Your Political Viewpoints Are Completely Accurate [Opinion] 3 Signs Your Political Viewpoints Are Completely Accurate [Opinion] It's the holidays, and that means meeting with friends and family – and politics might come up. Are you wondering if your political viewpoints are correct? Read More . Unfortunately a lot of people forget that reviews are really just opinions dressed up as something deeper, but they’re always tempered by someone’s own tastes and biases.

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Have you made a purchasing decision based solely on reviews written on Amazon? Have you let online reviews, on sites such as Metacritic How To Get The Most Out Of Metacritic How To Get The Most Out Of Metacritic Metacritic is one of a handful of big review aggregation sites. Its motto of, "Keeping score of entertainment" sums up what it does perfectly. Rather than focus on just one aspect of entertainment such as... Read More , change what film you saw at the cinema, or what video game you spent $60 acquiring?

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Do you actively seek out online reviews before deciding on a restaurant to eat at, or coffee shop to visit? Have you used Yelp Search For the Best & Worst Local Businesses With Yelp Search For the Best & Worst Local Businesses With Yelp Read More or other similar service to help you choose a business to employ?

Have you ever written an online review? If so, what persuaded you to take the time to post it online for others to read? Do you support anonymity when it comes to online reviews, or do you think all reviews should be assigned to real people?

Have Your Say

All comments will be read and most will be replied to, before a follow-up post is published containing the We Ask You Results. One reader will even win Comment Of The Week, which will be included in the follow-up post!

We Ask You is a column dedicated to learning the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

Image Credit: Jason Howie

  1. Jim
    March 3, 2015 at 11:36 am

    I've done my research on this. I don't rely on anonymous strangers over the internet to influence my purchase decisions, particularly not on retail sites like Amazon. I look at the product and think for myself.

    All "verified purchase" means is that the person reviewing the product bought one. For the fake reviewers "verified purchase" reviews are just another way to look more "genuine", and if you think that would be too costly for fake reviewers then you are incredibly naive. The return on investment on this is far better than any advertising.

    Some of the negative reviews on Amazon (whether verified or unverified purchase) are fake reviewers offloading negative reviews onto hapless products in order to make their review profile look more genuine overall. If you knew half of it about this, then you would know that this is a fairly common technique for fake reviewers. There are still reviewer profiles on Amazon with almost nothing but 5 stars. The ones with a few deliberately placed negative reviews are killer.

    Anything goes, this is the internet and online customer reviews are anonymous. I can't see why any of this should be a surprise.

  2. Guest
    January 24, 2014 at 4:21 am

    I don't trust online reviews of products. The "anonymous" review system is what's called defective by design. There is no reason to expect that someone's friends and/or family didn't post 5-star reviews under multiple account names. Or, for that matter, someone's enemies or competitors posting 1-star reviews. It's kind of like the flagging system in comment sections on blogs. I used to post regularly over at HuffPost where comments would get flagged as abusive if a user merely disagreed with the other user's opinion. Multiple sock accounts of this same user would flag the comment, causing it to get deleted. This being HuffPost, most "abusive" comments were critical of Obama or of the disastrous mismanagement of the site. Other comments were critical of one of the Teflon celebrity bloggers, i.e. some user criticizing Alec Baldwin for beating up cameramen or saying horrible things to his daughter would get flagged as "abusive" (probably by Baldwin's PR team... or Baldwin himself).

    I never trust product reviews from anyone other than Consumer Reports magazine. I don't even trust Wired, Car & Driver, Good Housekeeping or any of the other "trade" publications. The Consumers Union is a nonprofit advocacy organization prohibited from accepting paid sponsorships. It runs no advertising in its publications. Wired, Car & Driver or GH aren't "advocacy groups." They're mainstream magazines and there is advertising within the pages.

    As for movie reviews, I'm one of those stodgy types who listens to the few old-fashioned print critics still alive these days; I've never so much as been to iMDB except to look up "what movie was this guy in," while Rotten Tomatoes relies too much on social media users, who I find to be a nuisance with overwhelmingly bad taste. (The mere fact they use social media is a turn-off.) I don't rely solely upon Leonard Maltin, mind you; if, say, I like one of the cast members or the plot summary sounds appealing, I may go and see the movie. But just because I like one of the actors doesn't mean I always find the movie totally awesome. I like John Cusack but "Hot Tub Time Machine" was kind of stupid (and I didn't get the point of the Chevy Chase scenes); I normally can't stand Ben Affleck but "Argo" was pretty good (actually, he owes a LOT to Bryan Cranston). Maybe it's because I myself, as a person, am pretty distrustful of people in general, but I prefer to rely on either my own gut, trial and error, or verified sources rather than the tyranny of the majority. Needless to say, I wouldn't buy a Pinto just because 100 million other people say it's a "dynamite ride"!

  3. Amelia D
    January 21, 2014 at 5:44 am

    @Dave P.

    That is true. There is no bad or good reviews on artistic things such as books, however they can still be helpful. For example, a "bad" review might explain that the book was dry and did not stay true to the characters while a "good" view might explain that while the book was a bit dry it was well worth the read and the characters were shown in comedic light.

    I now have a good idea on whether or not the book might appeal to me. :)

  4. Aibek E
    January 17, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I read them, especially on Amazon, 2-3 reviews in 4-5 stars and 0-2 stars ranges. Also one of the first things I do when shopping on Amazon is filter out everything that has a review rating of less than 4 stars.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      Wow, the filtering is quite an extreme thing to do. What if a product had a few poor reviews bringing down the average? You may be missing out on gold, Aibek, gold! :)

    • Aibek E
      January 21, 2014 at 10:52 am

      @Dave P.

      Indeed, filtering everything by 4 starts and above removes a lot of stuff. That said, having fewer items to choose from makes the selection process easier)

  5. Caroline W
    January 17, 2014 at 5:54 am

    eBook reviews on Amazon definitely influence my decision to purchase and I'm glad that people take the time out to review. Same goes for DVD's.

    Software reviews are another important one for me as it gives me insight into a product, what people think about it, what to 'avoid'. And having someone with a favorable or un-favorable experience aids in my decisions.

    Not all reviews do I take as gospel and I take time considering each one; but without them, personally, I'd be at a disadvantage. So Yes, I certainly value reviews!

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Have you ever ignored poor reviews and bought a book or DVD regardless? If so, how did it work out?

  6. Tom W
    January 16, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    If I have a specific brand / model of product that I want to buy, I don't usually rely on reviews. I may glance at them, but they don't usually sway me. By the time I've made the choice to buy a specific item, I probably know everything I need to know about it.

    On the other hand, if I know the type of thing I want, but I don't have a specific one in mind, then I rely heavily on reviews.
    I'm less likely to buy a product if it has few reviews, since that means less data points and less variation to go on, and I like to see a few negative reviews because they are usually the most helpful.

    I don't think I've ever relied on a review for anything other than products available in online shops, mainly because everything else relies on much more personal preference, and I don't know of any reviewers that are similar enough to me that their opinions on something would reflect mine. I have bought the occasional game simply because Danial Hardcastle, who runs the NerdCubed YouTube channels, has said it's a fantastic game, but that's very much the exception and not the rule.

    With regards to leaving reviews, I used to leave feedback on Ebay, but then I got lazy. I don't think I've actively left reviews or feedback anywhere else.

  7. Dave Muckey
    January 16, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Until we can be assured that the reviews we read are not just paid shills for the products, I haven't got a lot of confidence in them.

  8. Jeffrey Mcelroy
    January 16, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    When i get a item i always look at more then just that items review on that website. I look at the time on other sites like amazon, ebay, review sites and more. This leads to a more wider range of ideas that can go wrong. What i can experience and what i want/need it for. For example. lets say i wanna get a new CPU for my desktop. I find the one i seem to want. Look at it. If it matches what i want then awesome. Next i go to the reviews to see what they say about it. What they doo with it. What mother board they used and so on. Then i go to other websites like newegg, amazon, tiger etc and see what others say and them. From there ill buy the item seeing if it stars are good and hope i don't get a DOA

    When i get the item i do leave a review after some time to make sure i know the product and test it out to give my idea and thought behind it so it will also go on to help others.

    I do look at reviews and they do help me go with what item i want.

  9. Charlene F
    January 16, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    I mostly rely on reviews, but I'm well aware that some companies offer people rewards in exchange for positive reviews. Also if a product has under 15 reviews and all are five-stars (amazon for instance), i just can't trust it.

  10. Bob Pianka
    January 16, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    I do not use the reviews on the retailers' sites. I look for independent reviews on trusted third party sites. Example would be MakeUseOf, Engadget, and Tom's Hardware for a tech purchase.

    I also do not leave reviews at the retailer's sites, but do participate in the forums at the trusted third party sites to help others track down what will work for them.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Do you prefer having review scores or do you instead focus on what is actually being written?

    • Bob Pianka
      January 21, 2014 at 12:43 am

      Dave P

      I focus on what is actually being written and by whom it is written.
      Too many of the big retailer's review scores and the review content seem to be "Chinese Water Army" type things.
      I go with reviewers and websites which I trust from long experience.

  11. RW Driskill
    January 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    On line reviews are a mixed bag, some can be trusted, some can't. I like to talk to people I know about the product. I visit web sites that I feel are trust worthy, such as Make Use Of. Actual product reviews by the customer, for the most part, are worthless, for reasons already mentioned. Usually, the only reason I leave a review is when I get exceptional customer service.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      Good customer service is a great reason to leave a review of a company, but that doesn't change your opinion of the product, surely.

  12. David L
    January 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    I accept reviews from reputable sources (i.e. Woodworking magazine sites for tools or book reviews from genre specific sites) and "peer" reviews (i.e. Amazon) only when numbers are high or someone does a quality review.

  13. Leah
    January 16, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    I know that companies and such do have people give them the best ratings and write positive reviews to boost the product whether they deserve it or not. I do value online reviews, though. Take everything on the internet with a grain of salt. If there are not many bad reviews then it's probably not a bad product or service. The opposite is most likely true. A bunch of bad reviews and it's probably bad. I don't believe it's the same with good reviews because of what I mentioned above. Read reviews and judge for yourself.

  14. Bumboclot
    January 16, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Not too much. The worst reviews are on Amazon - as I learned during my christmas shopping last year. If you really read the product reviews carefully, you can see that some of them are for completely different products, some are not actually talking about the product at all, or the most common problem is they talk about a different model of the same product. What use is the review for a VHS copy of Robocop when they post it under the remastered BluRay of Robocop? And the wide variety of reviews renders them useless as well. You will see "This is the worst tennis racquet ever made!" to "This racquet is the reason I beat Roger Federer in 2006."
    I think the only good reviews are the ones from trusted sources. That whole Yelp-esque trend is a joke! A known film reviewer or a published food critic can be trusted more than internet trolls bashing a movie or some idiot customer complaining online because he didn't get a free meal for no reason. But I don't even agree with those "legitimate" reviews every time. I think the only truly useful thing you can get out of this giant cesspool of online reviews, is to unmask a scam, or some kind of financial rip off that relies on "newbs".

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      I'm always seeing reviews for slightly different products. I think sometimes it's Amazon's doing, moving reviews for an older release across to a new format, even though it doesn't always make sense.

  15. Jurmy C
    January 16, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I usually read the reviews but that won't change my mind if i really want something, I read them just to know what people thing about the product and how many are against it and for what reason.

  16. dragonmouth
    January 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    When the review is based on tastes (movie, book, restaurant) I routinely disregard them because my tastes rarely match those of the reviewer. In addition, professional reviewers (especially in the area of food) use esoteric criteria in their evaluations; criteria that only another reviewer would care about or even understand. However, I do read the reviews for their entertainment value.

    When it comes to online purchase of technology, I generally go with the "preponderance of evidence" in user reviews. If out of 50 users 40 say a product sucks, I move on. If 40 out of 50 say it's great, I'll consider the product. I find that many times users do not read the specs for an item before purchasing it. The specs clearly state that the item DOES NOThave features X, Y and Z. The user purchases it and in the review complains bitterly that those features are missing and downgrades the product because of the missing features. Like...duh!

    When it comes to appliances or cars, I am guide by independent reviewers, such as Consumer Reports, that do not have a stake in the item.

    I will write a review only if I feel very strongly about a product/service or if specifically asked my opinion.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      You've hit on something I firmly agree with. While reviews for hardware make sense, reviews of restaurants, movies, books, etc. should always be taken with a pinch of salt because they're going to be affected by people's own tastes and biases.

  17. bben
    January 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    So many reviews are now bogus. If I see a lot of rave reviews, I usually discount them and look at the poor reviews, then those in the middle. If there are none - I know the reviews are bogus and move on. If all there are to go on are a few good reviews, I look for actual features in the review, not just "This product is great, I am glad I bought it." type reviews. Those are useless and often bogus. Reviews have become just another form of paid advertising for many companies.

  18. Monty
    January 16, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Absolutely! But I understand that any review is just someone's opinion - and I think we all know what opinions are often compared to. I don't spend any time reading reviews that either state "This product is fantastic!" and not much else, nor do I pay much attention to the "This product is junk!" reviews. Usually I'm looking for a pattern of which features are emphasized in reviews, and if there are any particular recurring patterns that pop-up for problematic or low-quality tendencies.

    Of course this still isn't a guarantee against a lemon or something that may sway the consumer from a potentially great product.

  19. pgwolv
    January 16, 2014 at 7:35 am

    To me, the online review system is the best way to scrutinize a product. I sniff out all the negative remarks and cons in each review and weigh up for myself which cons seem really minor. The more nitpicky a reviewer has to be to find fault, the more confident I feel about a product. And, of course, I look for reviews from 3-5 different websites for every product. Every product will have a low, but one would like to become acquainted with the specific niggles before buying.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      Do you favor particular websites or do you do a Google search and just hit the tops results?

  20. boxed
    January 16, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Though I rarely contribute reviews I do check on them from time to time if I'm not familiar with the product or service. I'll usually check the first few top comments and look for patterns in the negative comments. If a lot of people are having the same issue (and assuming they are serious comments, no cancer curing wolf shirts), then I review those comments critically. A lot of the time the negative comments tell me more about the type of individual commenting than it does the product/service. Then again, if I see a lot of comments about say... a power supply failing after a few weeks of use, then I may check other sources for similar problems and entertain other options.

    Basically, I take online reviews with a hefty grain of salt. The loudest people are often among the stupidest.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      That's a very sensible approach. I find it's usually quite easy to spot the idiots in amongst the genuinely useful reviews.

  21. Tug R
    January 16, 2014 at 6:43 am

    I always read reviews, but definitely with the recognition that not all are completely objective. Some are fake, and others are just people who didn't do enough research to know what they were getting and feel disappointed. It's not fool proof by any means, but I think they provide at least a good indication as to what can be expected.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      That's a sensible approach. Use them but bear in mind that some will be absolute nonsense for whatever reason.

  22. Iker A
    January 16, 2014 at 6:10 am

    i greatly value online reviews
    when ever there is something of value i check it out before doing anything
    this gives me insights about it..sometimes even things others rarely knows

  23. Kay F
    January 16, 2014 at 6:10 am

    I usually read the best and worst reviews. At the end mostly I decide on things that annoyed the reviewer. If I´m easily offended too by the same problems, I tend to ignore the product.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Ignoring the middling reviews is an interesting idea.

  24. likefunbutnot
    January 16, 2014 at 6:03 am

    I don't, because many of the people writing reviews online don't have enough experience with similar or competing products of a similar product generation for their insight to have any value. People will complain at the drop of a hat, so a product being reviewed on a site that accepts PUBLIC reviews will ding a product because the shipper mangled the box or it's a slightly different color from online photos, while positive reviews are on not-infrequently the result of some company's misguided marketing efforts. Most professional reviewers have their own biases which, at the personal or editorial level, may or may not be openly disclosed. Put simply, there are so many caveats to reading reviews online that it's not worth the hassle.

    For technology products, I trust my own opinion and experience most highly, and those of a few other individuals whom I know to have professional credentials and occupational experience to make valid and useful observations, and anything besides that is just a waste of my time. For anything else, I normally go out of my way to find someone who has some background in either design or repair of similar products.

    • Leah
      January 16, 2014 at 5:34 pm

      This is why you read the review and judge for yourself. If they do give a low rating and state it's because the shipping was horrible then you may not want to give the review credit and you move on to the next one.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Reviews that give low ratings because of shipping or other issues are a real problem, no doubt about that. Especially on Amazon.

  25. amy thompson
    January 16, 2014 at 4:53 am

    I used to seek out online reviews, but not any longer. There is no way to know if the reviews are from paid shills or not. So since I can't trust them I no longer read them.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      You think they have no merit at all then? How do you decide what to purchase?

  26. Catherine
    January 16, 2014 at 3:53 am

    I usually read the worst reviews first. This has saved me a ton of money over the years. So much marketing and hype go into the stuff we are supposed to need. I say enough, keep things simple, be brand loyal and do without.

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      That's an interesting idea. Read the negativity before the positivity!

  27. Amelia DeField
    January 16, 2014 at 2:42 am

    I recently purchased $40 in books on Amazon. In order to narrow down my list of books ($120 being my entire wishlist), I relied on the reviews.

    I read reviews before purchasing books, eating out, buying clothes, and most importantly before buying technology. It helps me to save time by learning from other people's experiences.

    I like to read a handful of the 5 star reviews, 3 star reviews and 0-1 star reviews. It really helps to allow you to form a well rounded option.

    I have written many online reviews. I like to share my option and experiences with people. I like to think of the Internet as my expanded circle of friends. I would tell my friends about my latest gizmo or dining experience. Why shouldn't I post that online?

    I think that reviews should always have a name attached to them. It allows for there to be less fraudulent reviews by competitors and it allows for the business owner to actually be able to resolve the situation.

    I have learned to always check online reviews before making any type of purchase. Any time that I made a impulse buy without checking reviews beforehand, I regretted it! (i.e. the printer from hell)

    • Dave P
      January 20, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      It surely makes more sense for hardware than it does for books (or any type of artistic content) because opinions will always differ on art. There's no such thing as good and bad, just like or dislike. Or am I wrong?

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