Thursday, February 4, 2010

How to Game the Amazon Booking Rating System

I'm in the middle of reading a book called Truth Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. The book describes how businesses and professionals can incorporate the new social media into their daily lives.

It's a good book, I think, and raises a number of thoughtful business ideas. For someone like me who's groping his way through this whole new world, I would recommend the book.

That said, I don't think it's a fantastic book. But if you look at the customer ratings, this book ranks up with some of the finest literature of our time.

Of the 63 customer ratings posted on Amazon this morning, 50 ratings are "5 star", Amazon's highest rating. Another 7 ratings are "4 star". Virtually none of ratings are negative.

Put another way: 90% of the reviewers believe this book is either very good or excellent.

My strong suspicion (but that I can't prove) is that the authors are well aware that many people rely on the Amazon ratings to make their book purchases. Thus, they "encouraged" friends and followers to post strongly positive reviews, and boost sales.

There's nothing illegal about doing this, of course, but it does illustrate the fact that some of the things that make the internet great can also make it sometimes less reliable as a source of information.

I was reminded of a funny story that occurred a few years ago. In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush had achieved an astonishing approval rating of 91%*. The President was at a dinner in his honor, and his chief of staff James Baker was speaking.

If I remember the quote correctly, Mr. Baker said something like this: "I saw the other day that the President's approval rating now stands at 91%. Let me say this: I've known the President for almost 30 years, and even I don't like him that much."

*this of course was only 18 months before he lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton