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The Longest Now

Reviews from all kinds of fakers
Tuesday August 17th 2004, 11:15 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Eagle-eyed readers have been sending in fake reviews from all over… about books, coffee makers, flash videos and more. The Amazon book reviews I knew about; the Amazon stores and other reviews don’t surprise me too much. At least it’s a bit harder to spam Amazon with fifty reviews, than it is to do the same on Yahoo… if you find some particularly jucy fake reviews, particularly in print, let me know.

Yahoo! group usurpation
Monday August 16th 2004, 7:41 pm
Filed under: popular demand

So what *is* the massive public demand that has lead to this glorious pollution of randomly-named groups serving as email lists for disordered, sporadic spam? It has been preying on my mind…

A lot of them seem completely harmless; typical list-spam re: getting rich, what to do with one’s money once rich; staying healthy; finding good cheap porn. And yet the list of members is all autogenerated and meaningless; the group descriptions likewise — what kind of network is this, and what does Yahoo think about it all?

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More on the fake reviewer industry
Monday August 16th 2004, 4:29 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Sorry, this has me fascinated against my will, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Visiting Yahoo! just to read bad movie reviews
is becoming an addiction. This is a massive, elaborate subculture which I would never have noticed, had I not run across a clearly-fake review from a reviewer with an extensive and articulate review history. The plants review on all the major review sites, visit many popular movie blogs, and, one presumes, work to land “on the street” TV interviews and other “random” spots.

I feel as disillusioned as I did last week when I browed “Yahoo groups” by category last week for the first time… and discovered that over half of the hundreds of thousands of groups are semipublic groups with names like “ctevyewkprku” and descriptions like “The island of the sun – welcomely.” … which are presumably involved in some kind of spam or porn toolchain.

Meanwhile, Yahoo Movies, which normally summarizes 10-20 major reviews, converts their different ranking schemes to an A-F scale, and lists five of these on the film overview page, gave the film a weekend-long pass by waiting three days before summarizing critics’ reviews.

Here’s my new favorite review:

Simply different

by runjcutta Aug 13, 2004

No Doubt that AVP can’t match the original classics like Predator and Alien. The one thing i didn’t like about the movie is that the Predator wasn’t the way it used to be. The new director didn’t exactly try to rewrite the movies, he just altered it. The rest of the movie was very fascinating. I didn’t exactly know to scream or to cry.

Whoever created the account writes like a careless high-schooler — and no doubt there are bored teens who get their jollies by creating fifty yahoo! accounts and bashing or promoting a least/favorite film — but is obviously clever and appreciates a little higher mathematics now and then (cf. Runge-Kutta).
So innocuous, and yet… suggestive of such layered deceit.
I’ll guess this was cut-and-pasted from a list of ‘suitable reviews’ that was autogenerated or split up among many different people.

A few more tips for the would-be plant:

  • make your reviews exactly 200 chars long; that’s about how much will fit on the blurb-view that readers see first when skimming the list of reviews
  • If you’re panning a competitor: throw in a comment about how “those other people” who gave the movie good reviews (whatever you’re not doing) must be studio plants
  • Mention that you “just got home from the midnight showing” or that “the audience was cheering and clapping at the end”/”Ive never gone where the audience booed at the csreen before” — it adds that special touch of reality.
  • (pos review) did you remember to mention how great it will surely be on DVD? or how many times you’re planning to see it in theatres?
  • (neg review) did you remember to mention how you hope nobody else goes to see the film, or ever rents the DVD? how you’ve never felt more strongly about convincing others not to see this film?

Oh, and just in case you think I’m bashing the film too much, the heroine of AvP, Sanaa Lathan, is a real actress… making the best
of a nightmarish predicament.

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The seamy underbelly of reviewing
Saturday August 14th 2004, 11:47 pm
Filed under: null

I’ve always wondered whether and how large companies coordinated touting for their products in online fora. I remember fake Amazon book reviews going back to 1998; even today, most books get so few reviews that it pays to throw in a few fake reviews from friends of the author.

For years, it seemed as though only individuals bothered to do this — again, see the small number of reviews for most products. But they’re wising up; just today I ran across someone who is clearly now a professional “Yahoo movies” reviewer, trained in the ways of Writing Like an Enthusiastic Average Joe, Proper Mispellign, and Mimcking a Hard-core Fan. His Yahoo user profile lists just three reviews, two of them terrible, but I’d guess that this person has a hundred accounts just like it… and I wonder what a review like his Alien v. Predator review is worth.

It reads like a film-industry pro who’s had just enough training not to give it away — mentions “the Novel”, the director, and the movie names by abbreviations that few fans use, but that someone who uses the term hundreds of times a week might. And, hmm,

I strongly believe that there will be an extended version on DVD
but that’s just a thought of mine, so don’t take it as a fact.

by the same articulate guy who then closes with

My Final thought!

And the film he’s writing about? Right, Alien v. Predator. About which real reviewers tend to say things like “you can just burn a ten dollar bill and get more enjoyment out of that then sitting through this horrible movie.” (damianisnice)

He’s not the only toadie out there. And there must be lots of reasons to be a toad other than being paid for it. But Damian makes the good point that anyone who gives AvP high marks is likely associated with the film somehow, and there are a *lot* of A reviews for this one; check out the list and you’ll find some reviewers with… unusual histories. Some traits shared by the best of them:

  1. no personal information; only a few sporadic reviews; could be one of a long list of dummy accounts… OR lots of detailed personal information, w/conflicting information coming out in individual reviews to make the reviewer fit more squarely into the target audience (See chickmagnet, below);

    For instance, chickmagnet, whose profile says hes “19” and heading into the Air Force, but who claims to be 15 when reviewing SpongeBob Squarepants.

  2. lots of A+/F movie reviews the day/weekend a movie is released (don’t forget that an F review for the other movies in your space is almost as good as an A review for your own)
  3. PR speak in the middle of a rambling, misspelled teenage post.

    this battle between the Queen and the Predator and scientist is much more fast-paced, suspensful and action-packed, that is actually the way the whole movie was compared to other Alien and Predator films, more fast-paced, slightly more suspenseful, and much more action.

  4. Combine detailed knowledge about backstage details (never EVER misspell the director’s name) with atrocious orthography.

    The way Paul W. Anderson created the story was just fenominle. (bushead)

  5. Don’t forget to hype the DVD. “I can’t wait for the DVD!”, “I hear there’s going to be a director’s cut DVD, that would be so cool”, etc.
  6. Don’t forget the hype, period. “This was, without a doubt, one of the best movies I have ever seen.” “i don’t care what others say it the best movie i’ve ever seen!”
  7. Compare favorably with a recent major success (“I, Robot” seems to be the fave here)

Perhaps the most interesting upside of this look at the AvP reviews, is what it suggests about other recently-touted films — Fahrenheit 9/11, Punisher, and Spiderman 2 tended to get similar boosts…

KoL taken over by environmentalists!
Tuesday August 10th 2004, 7:20 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

By which I mean, of course, that the ongoing siggraph blog rocks.
Every conference should have running commentary like this.

KoL taken over by environmentalists! …

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Like my Grandpa always said…
Tuesday August 10th 2004, 7:19 pm
Filed under: international

Like my Grandpa always said, there were no naked human pyramids in Starcraft.

A little advice from Mr. Wong on designing the Ultimate War Sim. I think the need for true-to-life games phenomenally outstrips the current supply… save perhaps for the trivial case, that most infinite game of all.

In other news, I have to stop myself from wikifying blog postings recently, even in a nice editor interface like Manila-on-IE.

Like my Grandpa always said… …

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Wednesday August 04th 2004, 4:29 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

How many useful blogs are already CC-by-attrib or PD?
Is there a way to search blogs by content license type?

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Parenthetical Summarizations
Wednesday August 04th 2004, 2:35 pm
Filed under: metrics

Five minutes a day to summarize journals, periodicals and feeds that you read. You don’t have to summarize everything, just start with one page or one day of a feed and note how far you get, so the next person can pick up where you left off.

For starters, list what you read on this page.
If there are things you’d *love* to read, but just don’t have time to,
add them too. After all, that’s what this is all about.

Of course, some of you are already doing this on your blogs… in which case, please CC-by-attrib or GFDL a relevant feed of your blog, and it will be automatically added to the collection.

Parenthetical Summarizations …

Bridget Moynahan
Wednesday August 04th 2004, 2:09 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

I could watch her for hours. Oh, the rest of I, Robot was perfectly pleasant; nothing to get one’s undies in a bundle, one way or another. But good, smooth acting! By both leading actors in an action film! Refreshing.

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