The High Cost and Low Value of Anonymous Reviews

March 6, 2013

In the last decade the advancements in self-publishing blogs, forums and discussion platforms have given a voice to any industrialized citizen wishing to communicate their opinions on products and services they use.  In general, this open dialogue has been a positive one for the companies who receive feedback on the good, bad and ugly of their respective product offerings.  Despite the value created by this communication there are some bottom feeders that are using this new technology as an opportunity to advance agendas at the expense of their personal integrity (which clearly matters very little to many of these culprits).

I decided to write a few of my thoughts on this matter today because one such anonymous troll commented on a recent positive review that I posted on Amazon.  The review was for a book that my wife and I enjoyed by someone in our hometown of Boulder that we respect a great deal.  We loved the book and its practical advice on the subject of relationships and entrepreneurship and decided to share several copies of the book with our friends.  The book has overwhelmingly received praise by serious entrepreneurs to the tune of over 96% being glowing reviews on that site.

I received a notification that I had a response to my review, and while a hand full of people previously posted stating that they found my review helpful, the anonymous troll immediately resorted to personal attacks in an attempt to belittle my family, my hometown, my intellect and my proud ancestry.

I have pretty thick skin, but I had some free time due to the snow yesterday and decided to spend 5 minutes to find out who this anonymous idiot was and try to extrapolate a motive for his inaccurate review and the personal attacks.  I come to learn that the hateful ramblings were written by the hand of a transplant to Colorado who is in his late 60s.  He has spent the last couple of years building and trying to launch an unimpressive and unmarketable app for the iPad.  I’m not sure what the direct connection was to the author of the book I reviewed, but I can only conclude that the author chose to pass on an investment in this man’s company.

Internet attacks are common in business these days.  Back in early 2008 when a recent startup of mine was celebrating a goal milestone with sales cresting $2m in the previous 30 days, we became the target of a vicious and desperate attack from a competitor through anonymous postings online.  A short and expensive court battle provided us reprieve through a court order barring the principals of that company from posting anything about our service, anonymously or otherwise.  We were naïve to think that would be the end of it, or that we could limit anonymous actions on the Internet, but that experience left a bad taste in my mouth for cowards that hide behind usernames to do bad things.

Far from being an isolated incident, it seems that anonymous negative and bias reviews are a huge business on today’s web with parasitic companies such as ripoffreport.com and complaintsboard.com charging tens (or even hundreds of thousands of dollars) in some cases to remove negative posts made by anonymous users on their Google-friendly SEO enabled pages.  Companies like Facebook take the opposite approach by pouring huge resources into deleting fake or anonymous trolling accounts.  Facebook does this because their user base is valuable to them chiefly because each user is being and acting on their own behalf, as themselves.

The people who write anonymous posts must die a little inside every time they act out of sync with their integrity.  If you are going to say something, be strong enough in your conviction that you are willing to stand behind what you say with your own name on the line.  If a poster is passionate about what they are writing but they are not willing to put their name on it, what does that say about that person’s depth or self worth?

I implore those reading this to go out and make a statement…shout it loud to all that will listen, but shout it from your own lips.

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