Anonymous reviewers at Amazon exposed

Apparently, authors have been using reviews at Amazon.com to anonymously praise their own books and pan rival books. Who knew? It seems a glitch at Amazon’s Canadian site revealed the names of all the anonymous reviewers. And yes, I checked and it’s fixed now. I also checked Google’s cache and archive.org. If you have looked at Lott’s book at Amazon’s Canadian site in the past week, then check your browser’s disk cache—it might contain something interesting. I was actually looking at the reviews at Amazon’s main site last week, because Greg Kopp had posted in comments to this post, insisting that his fairy story about his review of Lott’s book was true, but I hadn’t looked at the Canadian site. Darn. (Hat tip for this story: Will Baude.)

Still on the subject of Amazon self-reviews, Lott’s famous self review gets a mention in a new paper on the effects of Amazon reviews. Tyler Cowen discusses it here.

Update: On his blog, Lott comments:

In other developments, the NY Times has a rather sympathetic discussion of authors who anonomously post reviews of their own books on Amazon.com. Apparently a glitch at Amazon.com resulted in the names of anonymous reviews being posted this last week on Amazon’s web site. Some people were apparently able to confirm (or not confirm) their suspicions on who writes all those positive or negative negative book reviews. Some very well known authors, such as John Rechy, were identified as writing reviews of their own books. Recently others such as Mark Moskowitz, an independent filmmaker, have been found to have solicited up to 3,000 friends to write a favorable review of a movie that he has coming out on DVD.

Phew! It’s OK, everyone else does it. Mind you, Lott’s not admitting to doing this himself, and he denies writing the Mary Rosh review of his book.

Comments

  1. #1 jda
    February 16, 2004

    It’s not about Lott, but this is as good a place as any to post the best “Amazon review” story I’ve noticed lately. The book is “A Genealogy of the Frist Family,” by Senate Majority Leader William (woops, Bill) Frist. That’s the subtitle: the title is “Good People Beget Good People.”

    There are 69 reviews; the overall rating is 1 1/2 stars. However “A Reviewer from Nashville TN” weighs in with a five-star accolade. Say again, Nashville? This wouldn’t just happen to be a Frist, would it? Evidently Amazon reviewers smell a rat: we are told that “4 out of 166 people found [this] review helpful.”

    Another reviewer says we may want to look for a followup called: Good People Sometimes Make Youthful Errors with the Colored Help and Either Arrange for an Abortion, or Ship the Help Off to Another State Where They Beget Half-Good People Who Shall Never Know They Carry Frist Genes, So Help Us God.