An image of a green fedora hat, which serves as the logo for this site.Gordy's Discourse

User reviews are broken

An app recently passed Apple's app store review process even though you couldn't get into the app until you'd given it at least a 3-star review. The UPNP Xtreme app would throw users into the review box when it started, and it didn't provide any means of escaping the review prompt.

The app has now been removed, but what surprises me is that prompting for reviews is a valid part of Apple's app store policies in the first place.

The one way to be certain I won't write a review is to prompt me for one. Lots of apps do it, and I sometimes get email prompts to write a review on Amazon or TrustPilot after I've purchased something.

Sorry, no. If you put any pressure at all on me to write a review you're not going to get one, or at least not a good one. Part of the validity of a review — good or bad — is that someone is willing to take the time to write a review of their own volition. I can't see the worth of a review that's written merely to get rid of a nagging prompt.

The whole user review process on the internet seems to be broken. At one time they were a valuable source of information in a pre-purchase situation, but now whole industries exist just to scam the user review process. A product developer doesn't have to look hard to find people who will write a good review for a suitable reward. This devalues the whole process, even for product developers who play by the rules, because you don't know what you can trust.

Some platforms inadvertently provide the tools for review scammers to succeed. Amazon used to have buttons to vote a review up or down. This is great for review scammers because, on top of flooding a product with their own fake reviews, they could also directly manipulate the genuine reviews by voting them down if they were critical. Amazon has removed the voting buttons now and just have one you can press that says Helpful, although that's just a 'lite' version of the voting buttons.

I think Apple's inclusion of a formal means by which app developers can prompt for reviews is another one of these tools.

It is difficult of course. In an ideal world we would have a review system with voting buttons, and we would only have genuine reviews. Alas we do not live in that world. These days I tend to trust product reviews on websites more than user reviews on platforms, although only after I've built some trust in the website over time.