Peer review

I may have previously mentioned that it’s not unknown for me to go delving around in my spam comments folder, just to laugh at some of the bizarre messages left on the site by bots. They’re getting quite clever now, relying heavily on flattery and social engineering in an attempt to bypass the blogger’s natural distrust of overly vague and generalised comments of dubious provenance.

Who can help but feel just a little cheered by a gushing, appreciative review of their latest piece of writing? And it’s very easy to be fooled into letting one’s guard down and legitimising a completely fake comment by publishing what seems to be an otherwise inoffensive message.

Although, even bots get it badly wrong sometimes, like this comment which was purportedly made by none other than Fox News, no less:

I needed too thak youu for this vewry gold read!! I decinitely lopved every bitt off it. I have you book-marked to lolk at new stuff yyou Yoou hawve made some decsnt points there. I loooked oon thee interdnet ffor aadditional informatoon abhout thhe issue and fouund mmost individuals wil goo alon with ypur viewes onn this website. bookmarked!!,
I love youur webb site!


That particular comment, (if we can dignify it with that description), was in response to what I affectionately think of as my clickbait post – for some reason, that post has attracted more spam than all my other posts combined, at a rate of three or more attempts daily. I don’t know why… Just lucky, I guess!

Anyone who regularly visits blogs will be familiar with spam comments, and may have wondered what the point is. The answer is simple: Referrals – bot comments are a means of bulk harvesting referrals that, in turn, artificially inflate traffic and ranking of the sites they serve, which may well not be the sites from which they purportedly originate. They masquerade as fake people to generate fake endorsements.

And online endorsements are big business – it seems that the digital generation is also the peer review generation: We absolutely refuse to buy anything online, read a book, select a holiday, go out for a meal or stay in an hotel, without first checking out what other people have to say about it, either following the product description or on one of the many review and comparison sites that the internet manages to spew out. All of which, to the trusting observer, may seem to be a very good thing – surely it’s an excellent idea, before parting with your hard-earned cash to get the lowdown on what everyone is saying about your intended spend?

Well, yes and no, is my opinion. Yes, it’s good to check out feedback from those who have experience with the company/goods/service before committing oneself to taking the plunge, especially with pricier items, but it’s worth bearing in mind that reviews can often be incredibly subjective and are just as likely to reflect the reviewer’s own personal bias and mood, as they are to present an objective and considered opinion. I’ve see reviews of hotels at which I’ve stayed that have slated the accommodation, service and just about every other aspect of the stay – yet my own experience has been quite the opposite. Similarly, I’ve seen product reviews on sites such as Amazon that are clearly written by idiots (“The battery went flat after only 18 hours continuous use – I expected a lot more for £4.76”) – whilst others make you wonder if the reviewer is talking about something entirely different.

More importantly though, you have no idea whether any review you read is an honest, no strings attached, real person’s thoughts. You have to question the integrity of any review of an item that has been supplied free of charge by a vendor, expressly for the purpose of being reviewed, no matter what disclaimers may be appended to it. And it doesn’t end there – I know people who are paid to review products of all sorts, having never seen or used them, which are then posted on websites as authoritative – and even if they are well-researched, and entirely factual, you have to question the veracity of such a review.

Which brings me to SL… I’ve seen a lot of discussion recently about Sansar – Linden Lab’s brand new baby world – and the vast majority of it is based on nothing more than supposition and guesswork. The truth of the matter is that only a select few, at this moment in time, really know what Sansar is like and how it compares to SL and, for sound commercial reasons, they’re not spilling the beans. We’re only really going to find out what it’s all about once the open beta starts and we get the chance to check out Sansar for ourselves. If that seems unreasonable, then consider SL: For those who’ve never logged in to SL, it will always remain something of an enigma. We can try to explain it, take screenshots and write about it, but really the only way to truly appreciate SL and understand how it will work for us, is to log in and experience it for ourselves. The alternative is to read a few reviews, check out some of the forums and Google away, none of which will be particularly helpful, unless you really are looking for a second rate, laggy virtual world, full of gamblers, griefers and sex addicts and with graphics that were past their best in 2003!

And, if that’s what you are looking for, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed!

As with so many things, I think it’s frequently better to trust your own judgement and come to your own conclusions, rather than trust others… Especjlly if thesd evenn halve a chancee they mae bee a bot!

s. x

Sexy Sadie what have you done
You made a fool of everyone
You made a fool of everyone
Sexy Sadie ooh what have you done.
The Unthanks – Sexy Sadie

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