Category: fake reviews

Dr. Oz and FTC; Hugh Howey and Zonalert; Obama Executive Order and ENDA; Something For St. Jude by Ryan Field

Dr. Oz and FTC

Oprah talk show spinoff child, Dr. Mehmet Oz, recently came under fire with Congress for hocking diet concepts to consumers. One even went after him for allegedly praising products on his TV show designed to help people lose weight. I guess the difference between praise and endorsement is a gray area.

Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, acknowledged that his language about green coffee and other supplements has been “flowery” and promised to publish a list of specific products he thinks can help America shed pounds and get healthy – beyond eating less and moving more. On his show, he never endorsed specific companies or brands but more generally praised some supplements as fat busters.

McCaskill took Oz to task for a 2012 show in which he proclaimed that green coffee extract was a “magic weight loss cure for every body type.”

“I get that you do a lot of good on your show,” McCaskill told Oz, “but I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true.”

Dr. Oz claims he’s never endorsed anything specific and if his name is attached to a product it’s been done against his wishes. There’s more here.

The FTC seems to be cracking down on a huge industry….magic weight loss. Of course we all know the only way to really lose weight and keep it off is absolutely free. Eat less.

Diets don’t work.

Side note: When it was announced a few years ago that Dr. Oz’s TV show would be airing in the Philadelphia area and they were moving Judge Judy out of that time slot for Dr. Oz, I stopped watching that channel for a long time. If they thought good old Oz would keep me there they had another thing coming. A few years later, Dr. Oz’s show has been buried somewhere else no one cares about and Judge Judy is right back in the best time slot where she belongs.

We like Judge Judy. We know where we stand with her.

Hugh Howey and Zonalert

I post on these topics as an exercise in objectivity. I like to think I can be objective as a blogger. Indie author, Hugh C. Howey, came under fire again with the anonymous watch dog web site, Zonalert, and this time it’s because Zonalert alleges thousands of reviews for Howey’s book were allegedly taken DOWN on Amazon. I’ve posted about Howey and Zonalert previously, here.

From the most recent post over at Zonalert:

As our reporting of Howey’s fraud grew traction, we noticed many of these early fake accounts began to quietly disappear. 387 disappeared over a two-month period in fact, largely we suspect due to Hugh Howey himself deleting the fake accounts to cover his tracks. To date, nearly a thousand such accounts have quietly disappeared in all. The more recent purges seem to be due to sites like Amazon identifying the fraud we’ve pointed out and taking action. Google Hugh Howey Fraud Zon Alert to see others who have joined our efforts to expose this fraudster.

In full disclosure, I was curious about Hugh Howey’s work so I read his book and reviewed it here. I gave it five stars and what I thought was one of my more positive reviews. I don’t know Howey, I’ve never met him in the past, and the odds of us ever meeting in the future either online or in person are slim to nothing. I would have no issue swearing to that on a stack of bibles on my death bed, and would go after anyone who suggested otherwise so fast they wouldn’t know what hit them. So I hope my review is still up there.

You can read more here. And you can read more about Hugh Howey here at his author page on The Nelson Agency web site. Excerpt from his bio page at the Nelson Agency:

That novel was WOOL. Kristin read it that night on her Kindle, and in a fit of shaking excitement, she emailed Hugh around one in the morning.

The Howey novel I reviewed was Wool, too (link above). I liked it but didn’t get a shaking fit, or any other kind of fit.

Off topic: the last time I had a fit of “shaking excitement” I was in my twenties and in the backseat of an old Mercury Cougar with an ex-marine who was engaged to be married. God help Nelson if SHE ever meets that marine.

Obama Executive Order and ENDA

In a more uplifting article with something positive about the government, it talks about how President Obama will be signing an executive order designed to protect LGBTI rights.

President Barack Obama is planning to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This came about as a result of Congress stalling on ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. According to this piece, the executive order isn’t as thorough as ENDA but will provide needed protection that LGBTI people need now more than ever.

You can read the rest here.

I have to admit that this President seems to be doing more for LGBTI people than anyone in the history of this country.

Something for St. Jude by Ryan Field

This story was originally pubbed in an anthology by Alyson Publications. I released it as a .99 e-book and re-worked a few things in the process. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the conservative man or woman being seduced by the more aggressive sexual younger lover.

Jude Franklin lives a quiet conservative life in a small town in Wyoming. He’s head librarian, lives at home with his aging mother, and is terrified he’ll wind up like his spinster aunt…”Poor Patty Ann.” Though it’s too late for Jude to be considered a virgin, he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone. The trouble is the one guy in town he’s attracted to is a handsome young library patron who also happens to work on a ranch on the edge of town. Only Jude knows he can’t have him, so he makes a drastic move and books a summer vacation on one of those gay cruise ships he’s read about millions of times. Little did he know love was waiting for him in the most unusual place, and he had to travel halfway around the world to figure it out.

One Amazon review:

Simple romance with great sex and a happily ever after. Jude leads a lonely life but finds happiness with a young cowboy.

The reviews for this book were mixed, which is the way book reviews should be for ALL books. There’s also one review that’s interesting because it came about as the result of a technical glitch in e-publishing beyond our control at the time. When Something For St. Jude was released it was lumped in with several other stories that weren’t supposed to be there. The reviewer actually helped me to see this with the review and I’ll always be grateful for that. I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Gay Grindr Murder/Rape; Yelp Review Controversy; Penis to Rooster Leash

Gay Grindr Murder/Rape

I posted about a young man from Canada who was raped and robbed in the Philadelphia area a few weeks ago after he hooked up with someone through Grindr  and now there are two more incidents in the Philadelphia area to report that are even more frightening. This time an adorable, talented young guy was murdered, and a public prosecutor was arrested for allegedly raping a sixteen year old boy…all allegedly through Grindr.

Here’s the incident that involved the murder:

It was awful. I don’t think there are any words that could actually describe what I felt or even my family,” Dino’s sister Una Dizdarevic said.

Dizdarevic, who lived on North 13th Street in Spring Garden, disappeared Wednesday.

On Friday, his body was discovered with blunt force trauma to the head on Parker Street near 9th Street in Chester.

His sister, Una, came in from their home state of Kentucky.

“He would just light the entire room up itself. He was so intelligent and so many people cared about him,” Una said.

Police sources say it appears Dizdarevic met up with someone on the social app, Grindr.

You can read more here. Chester, PA, where the body was found, is about a twenty minute drive south on I95 from center city Philadelphia where the victim lived. It’s also one of the most dangerous places in the Philadelphia area.

And this next piece about the male public prosecutor allegedly raping a sixteen year old boy he met through Grindr happened in the Wilmington, DE area, not far from Philadelphia.

New Castle County police say 34-year-old Daniel Simmons faces four counts of fourth-degree rape. Simmons is a deputy attorney general assigned to the county’s Misdemeanor Trial Unit.

Police say Simmons met the boy through a social media app called Grindr and not during the performance of his public duties.

The attorney general’s office says in a statement that Simmons has been placed on administrative leave. The office approved warrants for Simmons’ arrest on Friday. Attorney General Beau Biden did not make any comments.

You can read more here. For those who don’t know, good old Beau Biden is the son of our esteemed smiling Vice-President, Joe Biden. I don’t know if that statement about this creep meeting the kid through Grindr instead of while on duty is supposed to make this better somehow, and frankly I don’t even know why they would make that comment. It makes no sense. But then good old Beau wouldn’t want to be associated with something like this.

In any event, you guys who are out there working the net with Grindr and other hook up sites like it should really pay attention to things like this. We’re living in a very dangerous world now and the Internet is the old wild west where anything that can happen will happen. Don’t assume anything. And never trust anyone you meet online. You just can’t be too careful. All that hope and change and happy dance stuff you’ve been hearing about online is not going to help you out when you meet up with a sociopath who doesn’t care whether you live or die.

Yelp Review Controversy

I’m not linking now because I’m too lazy, but I have posted about Yelp reviews several times, with respect to fraud and fakery and all kinds of gaming. But this is the first time I’ve seen something like this in public. Business owners are now claiming that if they don’t pay Yelp to advertise on a monthly basis their reviews dip from five star to one star, and it hurts their businesses tremendously.

“We do get a lot of traffic from out-of-towners,” Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua says a big part of his business was driven by positive online reviews – that is, until last year.

“I went from being 4.5 stars to 1 star,” Bevilacqua said.

Multiple glowing reviews on his profile were suddenly hidden, filtered in a hard-to-find section Yelp says are “not recommended” The reason, Bevilacqua believes, is he turned down advertising pitched to him by a telephone salesman from Yelp.

“It was a lot of money; it was like over $300 a month just to do advertising,” Bevilacqua said.

Brian Dunn from Dunn and Danese Insurance in Drexel Hill has also been battling with Yelp after he stumbled across a negative review, the only one on his site from a disgruntled customer.

None of this surprises me. I once had a bad experience at this shop, in Doylestown, PA, and I left several reviews in several different places letting people know just how bad the experience was. One of the places where I left my review was Yelp and they didn’t even put it up. At the time, this led me to believe that the business was paying Yelp to advertise and to balance reviews in their favor and I stopped leaving reviews on Yelp altogether after that.

So I guess it works both ways, and just like on Amazon or any other place where reviews are being left you can’t trust a thing anymore. I know I’ll never bother wasting my time with Yelp after my own personal experiences there as a consumer. But I would like to know where the FTC is?

Don’t. Trust. Any. Online. Reviews. Anywhere. People who are in business for themselves and who aren’t getting a weekly paycheck depend on a certain amount of business in order to survive. They aren’t getting government handouts. They are working seven days a week in most cases to survive. It’s the same thing with authors and career writers. And I know that I wouldn’t want to be responsible for hurting someone’s income because of a corrupt review system. It’s bad luck to hurt people that way. It’s bad karma. You could wind up going broke yourselves, or you might even drop dead the next day. Karma works.

Penis to Rooster Leash

A performer was recently found guilty of exhibitionism in Paris because he did something that involved hooking a leash to his penis, and then hooking the leash to a rooster. Doesn’t that sound artistic?

South African born performance artist Steven Cohen has been found guilty by a Paris court over a September 2013 public performance in which he danced in platform shoes in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower with a rooster tied to his penis by a leash.

The 51-year-old Artist danced for around 10 minutes before being arrested by police but maintains the performance was not intended in any way to be sexual.

You can read more here. There’s a photo of him in a headdress, but nothing with the penis tied to a cock. The comment thread seems to think he’s either an idiot or unhinged. You know how I’m always talking about those gays on the fringes getting the loudest voices, and how they often make the rest of us look bad, well this guy is the perfect example.

Second Chance Series; Readers Writing Reviews; Wrestler Tweets Anti-Gay on Michael Sam

Second Chance Series

I’m about to finish the third book in the Glendora Hill series, and then I’m getting back to the Second Chance series with another novella. But I’ve had a few people ask about the order in which the Second Chance books were written, and how they should be read so I figured I would post something here for future reference.

The first book in the series is just “Second Chance.” You can find it here on Amazon, and if you do a search with Ryan Field Second Chance you’ll find it in other places, too. Sometimes it’s hard to list all links because I try to distribute these books in as many places as my publishers distribute my other books.

The second book in the series is Second Chance: The Littlest Christmas Tree. Here’s the Amazon link.

The third book is Second Chance: His Only Choice. Here’s the Amazon link.

At this point, all books are priced @ .99 and will remain that way for at least the next few months.

And, all of the books are stand alones and don’t have to be read in any set order.

Readers Writing Reviews

There aren’t any links to this part of the post because I’m trying to appeal to readers in a very cautious way. You’ve seen many of us (established authors) post about authors who aggressively hock readers and other authors for reviews, you’ve seen many of us rant about aggressive, sneaky authors who pay for reviews and ratings that may or may not be accurate, and you’ve seen many of us get into discussions about whether or not these aggressive street teams so many pushy authors use now to get attention is fair to readers who don’t know any better. This happy, phony brand of marketing/promotion has become an epidemic and I won’t even get into the ethical aspects of this because these authors have only one ethic: sell that book no matter what they have to do. Period. It’s only about the money, the Amazon sales rank, the Amazon bestseller list, and shoving what is usually something that’s poor quality down the consumer’s throat. Whether or not most of what they do is legal remains to be seen. And I mean that literally because I know for a fact that authors who don’t do these aggressive, questionable things are getting tired of dealing with it and they are investigating behind the scenes. The FTC has gone after companies for writing aggressive fake reviews and fined them heavily.

But this pushy author issue is not the point of this part of the post. Many authors like me don’t pay for reviews, we don’t lie to our readers, and we try to keep it real. We don’t have street teams and we don’t put on an act for you. For us, it’s all about the reader, and respect for the reader. And the only thing we ask is that if you buy our books you leave a short review or even a rating. It’s not about five star reviews, or five star ratings. Just an honest review or rating about what you thought of the book is fine and we will all appreciate it more than you’ll ever know…especially those of us who write erotic romance.

One of the drawbacks to writing erotic romance, historically and now, is that the books are as discreet as the readership. In other words, authors like me often get private messages and e-mails about our books and we love this. We really do. We love that personal contact with readers. We also respect and appreciate the fact that our readers are discreet and they don’t like to leave public reviews for erotic romance because it could be awkward for them. Writing erotic romance is an act of discretion for many authors, too, which is why you see so many pen names. So we all know and respect the discretion factor with erotic romance and we all know how important it is to maintain this privacy in a world where privacy is becoming less important as each day passes.

In the same respect, all authors are now dealing with different circumstances as publishing continues to change almost daily as well. Established authors are now facing these newer aggressive authors who will stop at nothing to get their books to the top of every bestseller list there is and it’s getting harder and harder to compete in honest ways. And one of the ways we can compete is through readers who take the time to leave us reviews and ratings for books they’ve read. We know it’s a pain in the ass sometimes, we know a lot of people don’t even like leaving reviews with fake names, and we know most of all the fact that you purchase our books should be enough for us. But if you can take the time out of your lives to just leave one short review for each book you read we would also be more grateful than you’ll ever know. In doing this you as the reader can take control of these liars and fakes so other readers can read what you’ve written and know that it’s honest and wasn’t paid for in large quantity by people who write reviews for five dollars a shot.

It might not stop the most notorious authors out there, but it sure would help. I actually believe that if every single honest reader left just one review for each book he or she read it might even cancel out all the fake reviews no one can trust. Because if this continues authors who are established and don’t aggressively go after reviews are going to have to either stop writing altogether or rethink their own approach to marketing and getting reviews. And I would hate to see that happen. Just think about what the book world would be like if we all faked it and we all paid for our five star reviews. Who could you trust?

I hope I didn’t offend any readers with this post. We really are thankful for the fact that you’re buying our books and keeping in touch with us in private. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a review, that’s okay, too. Don’t feel pressured to do it. This was just a quiet request and an appeal to help give readers more control, too.

Wrestler Tweets Anti-Gay on Michael Sam

I posted about Michael Sam, high profile football player, coming out recently, here. In the wake of his disclosure, there’s been a lot of discussion and one wrestler at Kent State, Sam Wheeler, decided to bash Michael Sam and all “Queers” with anti-gay comments on Twitter.

 Following the historic coming out of Division I college football player Michael Sam, the social media backlash was both predictable and horrifying. However, one college athlete is now experiencing the repercussions of what can happen when you choose to be homophobic on Twitter.

They say Wheeler’s been suspended and his Twitter account deleted.

You can read more here, where there are screen shots of his vicious tweets.

I’ve read a few comments about free speech regarding these hate tweets and comments and what people fail to realize is that free speech was not designed to harm people. With free speech you take on a responsibility and if you fail to live up to that responsibility you may have to face certain consequences. As far as I know, Wheeler is still free to spew all the gay hate he wants. No one is going to lock him up and put him away. It’s just that the school he attends is not going to put up with it because his free speech is so offensive to so many other people.
 

Rimming Sparks Infection; Hugh C. Howey and Influencers; Ellen’s New Comedy

Rimming Sparks Infection

The title of this part of the post is meant to be serious. According to this article there’s been an outbreak of Shigella in the UK and they seem to be linking it back to rimming…oral/anal sex. Among the symptoms, this infection makes people feel as if they are dying. I have only one comment below.

Normally, Shigella is only contracted when travelling to foreign countries. But in gay and bisexual men, it is being spread through oral contact with feces or via unwashed hands.

In 2009, there were only 43 cases among men in the UK that did not have a link to travel. Just four years later, reports have surged to 224 cases with more cases expected.

You can read more here.

I guess they have studies, or something concrete that links back to this data because anal/oral sex is NOT exclusive to the gay community as far as I know. So I’m guessing hetero couples can’t get it? Or are somehow immune to getting it?

Interesting.

Hugh C. Howey and Influencers

I posted about a blog a while back called ZonAlert that was specifically designed to discuss authors, fake reviews, and other questionable things that allegedly happen these days with book promotion. I’m not going to comment on this one way or the other. I’m only posting the information for those who might be interested, and I’m linking back to the source.

The most recent post about Hugh C. Howey even mentions influencers.

The Hugh Howey influencer scam works like this. Hugh Howey provides incentives for friends, family, and associates to promote Hugh Howey. Cash mostly but also mentions in his blog, write ins for discussion groups, promises to recommend to his publisher and agent, and on and on. The job of the influencers is not to talk about Hugh Howey but to get other people talking about and mentioning Hugh Howey.

For those who don’t know what influencers are, you can read more here.

You can read about Hugh C. Howey here.

Ellen’s New Comedy

Ellen DeGeneres is producing a new sitcom and it will be interesting to see if it takes off. Most of TV has abandoned the sitcom, and I’ve always thought that was a shame because it’s not the sitcom that’s the problem it’s the people producing the sitcoms.

The comedy is about a lesbian and her straight male best friend who decide to have a baby together. But things get a bit complicated when during this process, one of them meets the love of their life.

I’m not too sure about that description. But then again, any trope works as long as it’s done well.

I think that if anyone can bring back the sitcom it’s going to be Ellen. It’s always been a TV staple, and an excellent genre if done well. Think Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, or even The Raymond Show. I find myself watching old reruns of these shows now over new shows on TV and I often wonder what’s wrong with that.

You can read more here.

Court Rules to Unmask Anon Reviewers; Brian Boitano on Coming Out

Court Rules to Unmask Anon Reviewers

When I saw this on social media in several places I figured I’d share because the topic often hits close to home with authors, publishers, and readers. Evidently, seven people gave nasty reviews with fake names on Yelp about a carpet company. The carpet company is challenging the validity of these reviews because they claim the comments made in the reviews were contrived. In order to pursue this legally the carpet company needed real names and Yelp refused to provide them. And now they are all on their way to court, which means this could set a new standard.

That position notwithstanding, the court continued, the right to speak anonymously is not an absolute one: “Defamatory speech is not entitled to constitutional protection.”

You can read more here. I’m bookmarking this one to see how it turns out.

I’ve been predicting things like this would eventually happen because so much of what happens online is so questionable it often takes advantage of freedom of speech as we’ve always known it and puts innocent people at risk. I’ve posted before how companies I’ve had work for me have asked me to leave good reviews for them because their competition left nasty fake reviews with fake names in hopes of hurting their business. And judges are catching on, so I think this is just the beginning of more to come.

I also think authors and publishers will become more litigious. 

Brian Boitano on Coming Out

This is stunning, because it’s so emotional to many gay men who have considered coming out. It seems Brian Boitano’s coming out statement last month was not planned and he only decided to do it moments before it was announced he would be part of the Olympic delegation, at the White House.

 Boitano said his decision to say “being gay is just one part of who I am” in a statement on Dec. 19 “literally came to fruition” moments before the White House announced the makeup of the delegation. 

“I don’t feel that I can represent the country without revealing this incredible side of myself,” Boitano said. “This is an important moment, and to represent my country in Russia, it’s a platform that is so important for me.”

You can read more here.

An Algorithm that Spots Fake Reviews and Exposes Sockpuppets

When I read about an algorithm that can now expose fake online reviews of any kind and expose sockpuppets, I found myself re-reading the article more than once. Evidently, someone’s invented new technology that will not only sort out fake reviews from real reviews, it can also expose sockpuppets and those sockpuppet names will turn hot pink all over the Internet so everyone knows they are socks. The fakes will be linked to their real identities forever. And, even more interesting, the blogs and web sites and social media of these sockpuppets and fake identities will also turn hot pink so everyone knows who they are.

Of course if you don’t use sockpuppets and fake identities online you have nothing to worry about. In fact, this new technology might turn out to be very entertaining. I can’t even imagine how the Internet will look if all sockpuppets and fake identities turned hot pink. Since I’ve never used a sockpuppet in my life, I’m not worried about it. I have posted anonymous comments at times for various reasons. I encourage anonymous comments here on this blog. And I do believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe that it’s human nature to take advantage of a good thing, so to speak, and you can only claim freedom of speech for so long with fake identities. As the old saying goes, “Give her in inch and she’ll take a yard.”

Now, if you believe what I just wrote above I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale at a very reasonable price. No one’s going to turn hot pink any time soon. But it’s not a complete joke. I actually did read an article a couple of months ago about fake reviews, sockpuppets, and a new algorithm, but I haven’t had time to post anything about it. It’s an article written by, Josh Dzieza, a nice looking young guy who writes for a reputable publication from what I can tell. You can never be too sure anymore, so I always check that out first.

In the article Josh gets into the Jeffery Duns kerfuffle that happened not too long ago, when he (Duns) exposed JR Elroy for talking about his (Elroy’s) books on social media with fake identities.

  “This is RJ Ellory writing about his own book. And he has done this for them all, and yes, I’m proving it in the next few minutes,” Duns tweeted, before exposing Ellory’s pseudonyms.

Even though book reviews seem to get a lot of attention with regard to this topic, Josh isn’t just talking about book reviews. The article gets into all kinds of online corruption…it is what it is…and he mentions other web sites as well as Amazon. Although Amazon is probably the worst of the worst when it comes to reviews that NO ONE can believe…or should believe…it’s not just Amazon. (As a side note, I’ve almost decided that I’m not leaving any reviews on Amazon any longer. I’m not completely sure yet, but I’ve been holding off writing two reviews because I just can’t stand doing it anymore. It feels like a waste of time at this point. If I’m leaving honest reviews for books that I’ve read, it bothers me to know that those reviews that I took time to write are going to be up against fakes. I’ll post more about this in the future. I’m honestly still not sure how I feel yet and I might change my mind.)

But human eyes can go only so far. Fake reviews are ubiquitous on any site that lets users create anonymous accounts, such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp; the tech research company Gartner projects that by 2014, between 10 percent and 15 percent of social-media reviews will be fake.

That’s interesting in itself, mainly to see that things like fake identities and sockpuppets are actually being studied and examined by people who seem to be taking it seriously. I’ve read more than a few blog posts since this past summer where some like Joe Konrath don’t seem to think it is serious. I’ve seen it joked about. And I have to wonder why some of these bloggers and writers don’t seem to think it’s serious. It’s obviously not just a few paranoid people talking, especially if companies like Gartner are studying the issue of fakes. We’re talking about major online fraud.

But this was what I found most interesting in Josh’s article:

 Since Duns unmasked Ellory, he has been bombarded with requests to investigate other suspicious accounts; he began looking into one of them, a famous author, and gave up. “There were thousands of reviews. You’d need an algorithm to sort through them.”

Such an algorithm is in the works. Last year Cornell researchers developed a program to detect suspicious hotel reviews on TripAdvisor. The researchers commissioned hundreds of fake hotel reviews using Amazon’s crowdsourcing site, Mechanical Turk, and isolated linguistic differences between genuine reviews and fake ones. They found that among other giveaways, fake reviews use the first-person frequently and pile on effusive adjectives and superlatives.

I would suggest reading Josh’s article in full. The most important thing I took from it wasn’t about whether or not sockpuppets and fake identities are good or bad, or whether or not freedom of speech comes into play. I’m not tying to sound “holier than thou” in this post and I’m not passing judgment on anyone. I’m just curious about one thing: if there is a problem/issue with online reviews, and if there is as much corruption as some claim there is, it sounds to me like there are going to be ways to reveal the fakes in the future and that’s not a chance I’d be willing to take with my name. So if you have done anything like this, you might want to think about the risk you’re taking and clean up your act a little. You just might wind up turning hot pink someday thanks to the same technology that gave the ability to use fake identities and sockpuppets in the first place.

More Detail About Sockpuppets and How Broad a Topic It Is

There have been many things written and discussed about sockpuppets and reviews in the past few months. Most of the time I’m left slightly confused because I’m honestly not sure where some of these things are going. I’ve seen bloggers quote the bible, I’ve seen people comment out of sheer frustration, I’ve seen a handful of bloggers literally go batshit crazy berserk, and I’ve seen most go completely blank on the topic altogether.

But most of all I’ve seen confusion. I just finished reading an article that is totally unrelated to this topic, but in the article the author presented an argument and tried to back it up by saying that “psychologists agree…” And I was left wondering who these so-called psychologists actually are and how many would disagree. Psychology is one of those professions where not everyone agrees, and I think if you’re trying to back up an argument you should have the decency to inform your readers with reliable sources instead of broad statements that amount to nothing more than pure bullshit. I was left confused by this article, the same way I’ve been left confused by so many of the articles and blog posts written about sockpuppets and reviews.

And I don’t think I’m the only one who is confused. So I decided to look for links that discuss the sockpuppet issue in different ways that are not exclusive to publishing and book reviews. It’s important to state that Internet fraud is not just a publishing issue. It’s something everyone either has faced or will be facing sometime in the future.

This link is interesting. It’s from The Consumerist and it gets into fake reviews in general and how scientific methods are now being used to sniff out fakes. I highly recommend reading it in full to grasp the magnitude of the issue.

Researchers from the State University of New York, Stony Brook are using statistical methods to detect if a company has been posting bogus reviews online, says Technology Review. The method can’t root out individual fraudulent reviews, but it can see where fake reviews are distorting the statistical distribution of say, a hotel’s scores. Basically, the method can tell you when something’s fishy.

This article talks about the judge in Oracle and Google’s Java lawsuit and Google’s alleged sockpuppets.

The statement came nearly a month after judge Alsup surprised observers by ordering Google and Oracle to name paid commentators. The judge never spelled out exactly why he’d issued the unusual order, but it looks like he was trying to flush out the financial connections of any of the commentators who had a material effect on the trial.

In another article related to this same topic the judge ordered this:

In an unusual order, issued Wednesday, Judge William Alsup said that he was concerned that the parties in the case “may have retained or paid print or Internet authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have and/or may publish comments on this issues in the case.”

This article in Forbes is titled, “Do Consumer Reviews Have A Future? Why Amazon’s Sock Puppet Scandal Is Bigger Than It Appears,” and it gets into a lot of the things I’ve been reading about in publishing for the past few months. I HIGHLY recommend reading this one.

As with any debate between writers, contrary views have sprung up. On his blog, bestselling author JA Konrath used a seductive variant of moral relativism to pen his own version of “The Writer’s Code of Ethics.” Konrath makes the case that ethics is a slippery slope and that punishing Ellory, Leather & Locke was patently unfair because every author is complicit in his own way.

The same article goes on to discuss Konrath’s argument in more detail:

Konrath suggests that since there is volition in the act of cutting down a piece of work, whether you do it honestly or maliciously, it is morally and legally the same act. In other words, “it’s allowed.” For Konrath, a system that includes one-star reviews inherently invites reviewers to commit an act of violence against the described product. He suggests that Ellory had a right to publish malicious reviews even if it was a “shitty thing to do”.

This is another flawed argument (the kind you see a lot in college-level debating) because Konrath is conflating two very different types of reviews: an honest negative review and a dishonest negative review. As we’ve seen previously, a fabricated one-star review is not actually allowed; it’s against Amazon’s terms of service. It may also be illegal.

In this piece, “Sock Puppet Spectacular: Are Online Reviews Completely Worthless, or Only Mostly Worthless?” the title suggests the way many consumers are starting to feel. This one links to another article at Techcrunch.

Some years ago, Amazon accidentally revealed a clutch of other authors praising their own work and ripping into others’. Since then, hundreds of other authors have simply bought fake five-star reviews by the dozen.

I found this article interesting because it’s not about publishing or book reviews. It’s a good example of what’s happening in other industries.

During Conrad Black’s recent trial, prosecutors insisted that the former press baron had engaged in unseemly act known as sock puppetry: an Internet user who logs on to a message board or any other Web community under an assumed name for deceptive purposes. It was alleged that Lord Black himself signed onto a Yahoo Finance message board under the handle “nspector” and did battle, trashing speculators shorting shares of Hollinger International.

The one common thread I seem to find in all these posts and articles is that sooner or later the sockpuppet is revealed…or at the very least the intention was revealed.

Famous Authors Condemn Fake Reviews

There is an interesting article where some very famous bestselling authors are condemning fake book reviews, including Lee Child and Susan Hill.

In this article it states:

The practice, known as “sock puppeting”, has been given added salience by the recent disclosure that best-selling crime author, R J Ellory, whose novels have sold more than a million copies, has been using fake identities to write positive reviews of his own books, his “magnificent genius” and critical attacks on his rivals.

It also says this:

The practice of sock puppetry is not merely dishonest, it is in England and Wales illegal under the 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which makes it a crime to pretend to be a consumer and leave positive reviews of one’s own products.

I recommend reading the article in full, here.

There are links within this article that will lead you to other articles that are just as interesting.