Chop, slice, and dice Amazon reviews
August 6, 2012 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever wanted to sort a particular Amazon's reviewer's reviews by their number of stars? Amazon has never added this feature to its user profile pages, but here's a workaround. Or perhaps you need a tool that lets you see ratings, dates of reviews, helpful and unhelpful votes, and number of comments, all in a helpful sortable list. Maybe you need to download and install the Amazon Reviewer Analysis Tool.
posted by shivohum (9 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
"Helpful" votes for my Amazon reviews were my gateway drug to MetaFilter favorites.

Be warned by my example.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:44 AM on August 6, 2012

Amazon benefits from having positive reviews on top and making negative reviews harder to see. They want you to buy the book, not learn that it isn't worth reading. The best alternative system would emphasize the negative reviews a lot more to counter this bias.
posted by pracowity at 8:56 AM on August 6, 2012

I wish there were a way to rate reviewers by their conflict of interest or the number of dollars in cash or in-kind compensation they've received to make positive comments. It's gotten to the point that I don't trust any reviews I see online, anymore. The good ones could be shills and the bad ones could be competitors or folks with an axe to grind.

This is why we can't have nice things. :(
posted by darkstar at 9:03 AM on August 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

You know what I want from Amazon? I want a way to sort search results without having to select a department, and a price sort that actually sorts things by price. The fact that these two incredibly simple features don't work leads me to conclude that Amazon is actually intentionally making it harder to find the best deals in an effort to get customers to overpay.

Bugger the review system, it's better than nothing and that's all I ask of it. Reviews are a fallback for when I can't otherwise decide between two options based on price and off-site research, and I mostly use them to see if A) the product works as described and B) there isn't some fatal flaw that will cause the product to fall apart after the second use.

I find that the reviews work fine for this purpose, or as well as can be expected; if something is so cheaply made that it breaks a week after you get it, then there will probably be a bunch of reviews reflecting that. If something is pretty good and does its job well, then there will probably be reviews that say that too. Small number of reviews are useless even if they're not being gamed because the sample size is too small and individual reviewers are very unreliable, and large numbers of reviews are difficult to game because it's hard to drown out the real reviewers with paid-for copypasta.

I think the review system mostly works, most of the time. I really just wish that Amazon would get their act together and stop playing silly buggers with their sorting algorithms, because that kind of thing drives me up the wall and if I didn't have a free Prime account (Any college students out there who haven't signed up for Amazon Student? You should, it's great.) I'd be off like a shot for somewhere else that didn't make me jump through hoops to find a decent deal.
posted by Scientist at 9:23 AM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

This tool is neat. I sure wish it were a web site, though, instead of client software. No technical reason it couldn't be, just have to build it. I think Amazon has an API for reviews. Here's a screenshot of ARAT. I tried out the Mac compatible xARAT on Newt Gingrich's Amazon reviews but it's missing all the fancy display, it's not very complete.

I think Amazon's reviews are, on the whole, pretty useful. Definitely better than something like Yelp. The main way I use them is looking at the 1 and 2 star reviews for consumer products I may buy, to see what possible flaws people report. Most of them are useless rants but sometimes you can learn something useful like "the power supply for this adapter blew up my hard drive". When several different people say that, it's useful signal.
posted by Nelson at 9:25 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love Amazon's reviews. Granted, I do get skeptical when I see "Top 200 Reviewer" or a similar tag indicating that somebody spends a lot of time reviewing different products, but the prose is there for me to judge on its own merits. If the reviewer is giving concrete information about the product then it's a useful review, shill or not.

Negative reviews are often more helpful. I find they break down into three categories:
  1. Pointing out flaws that matter to me.
  2. Pointing out flaws that don't matter to me.
  3. Unfair or just plain dumb criticism.
The third is easy to weed out, and the first two are helpful to know. For instance, if several reviewers agree that the primary flaw in a new camera is that it can't geotag like its competing model, then (1) if geotagging matters to me, I know to avoid the camera, and (2) if geotagging doesn't matter to me, then I can be reasonably confident the other features that do matter to me will deliver as advertised.
posted by cribcage at 9:46 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. It makes sense that something like ARAT and this blog exist. People buying and selling stuff on Amazon might want to know greater detail about the reviews, and like mentioned above, there are people trying to game the system, so analyzing reviews could help you recognize when that's going on.

But what's the word for the creeping realization that a field of knowledge is several orders of magnitude more byzantine than you would have thought?
posted by RobotHero at 10:37 AM on August 6, 2012

I'm the type of person who reads all the one-star Amazon reviews first.
posted by old_growler at 1:05 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seriously though, what the fuck kind of price-sort is this? A fucked up and broken one, that's what kind.
posted by Scientist at 3:06 PM on August 6, 2012

« Older What came before Pangea? What comes next?   |, baby Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments