November 2, 2015 Last Updated 8:27 am

In the age of comment spam and conspiracy nuts, value of reader comments, reviews questioned

Morning Brief: Adobe updates its Content Viewer app, used by designers for previewing new digital editions built using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite

The Digital Reader points to an interesting article this weekend on the Seattle Times website about vicious reviews on the website. Story concerns nasty reviews appearing for the book Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness by Scarlett Lewis.

Conspiracy nuts are slamming the book because they believe the Sandy Hook school shooting was a government conspiracy and have organized to write 1-star reviews on accusing the author of being a government stooge, rather than a grieving mother. (The conspiracy theory has its own Wikipedia page.)

Amazon-reviewAmazon has refused to delete the reviews though they recently filed suit against a large number of reviewers who they accused to writing reviews for fees.

Amazon does label reviews from those who have actually purchased the product as “Verified Purchase” – in fact, most of the early reviews for the book came from those who actually bought the book. But the overwhelming majority of those that followed are not labeled as coming from purchasers, most of those negative.

The “purchase” label is one way website owner can lightly moderate comments on their websites without having to actually read and approve each comment. Another is to require commenters to register with the website, or to have a paid subscription. Comment mechanisms that force the commented to use a Facebook or other social media account appear to have little impact.

TNM is leaning more and more to shutting off comments. Comment spam is the main reason: once a spammer targets your site you can be sure to get boatloads full of spam comments. Since most simply cut and paste their comments, they don’t bother to read the notice that comments are moderated. The result is half a dozen or more comments stuck in queue waiting to be deleted (and the IP address of the spammers banned).

Worse are those who simply must start off any comment with a flame. Any criticism of Apple, for instance, usually solicited a flame comment defending the company and accusing TNM of knee jerk negativism.

More and more websites are choosing to turn off their comment threads, some saying the conversation has moved to social media. But it is likely the decision is being taken from a weariness that has set in after years of having to delete spam and flame comments. This issue is not going away and will likely lead to fewer sites having open comment threads. But comments drive traffic, if not to be read, then at least to make money off those spending the time to post the comments.

AdobeReviewer-icon-smAdobe this weekend released a minor bug fix update for its Adobe Content Viewer, the app used to preview new digital editions built using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite system.

In case you missed it, TNM ran a post on October 21 listing most of the major preview apps, and when they were last updated. That post will be updated itself occasionally as preview app updates are released.

Also updated was the iOS app for WatchESPN which now features picture-in-picture capability.

There have been far fewer iOS app updates released lately, at least for media apps. This is probably due to two factors: first, many of the updates related to the release of iOS 9 appear to have already come out. While some developers have reported problems working out bugs introduced by the release of iOS 9, this appears to be less than in previous years. The second factor may be that the Apple App Store team is busy with tvOS apps. I don’t know if a separate team works on these apps, or if they are the same ones looking at iOS apps, but it does appear that the pace of updates slowed around the time of the release of the new Apple TV.

  • Walt Thiessen 12 months ago

    The tricky part is that one person’s spam is another person’s advocacy, and decisions about what to delete are usually politically driven. That pretty much defeats the purpose of having freedom of speech, since that freedom primarily exists (from Revolutionary times) as a defense of the right to speak out against abusive power.

    Personally, I make it a practice not to read articles any more published on websites (large or small) that refuse to accept reader comments. Such a policy tells me that the publisher is unwilling to directly face public criticism of his/her commentaries, including when those commentaries get paraded as “news reports”.