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the good life in a digital age

harnessing the singular intelligence of users

In What is Web 2.0 Tim O’Reilly describes Amazon reviews as harnessing collective intelligence of the users:

“Amazon sells the same products as competitors such as Barnesandnoble.com, and they receive the same product descriptions, cover images, and editorial content from their vendors. But Amazon has made a science of user engagement. They have an order of magnitude more user reviews, invitations to participate in varied ways on virtually every page–and even more importantly, they use user activity to produce better search results.”

We’ve found in our user research that our audience doesn’t expect to find reading or writing user reviews to beparticularly valuable. Important as the user research is, this doesn’t mean we won’t build the functionality (remember the faster horses).

Now I do pay attention to the reviews. Generally I’m not that interested in a Mrs J Laithwaite’s individual opinion of The Not So Big House but the fact that 9 out of the 10 reviewers gave the book 5* holds more weight.

But, just as in the real world, there are individuals whose opinions are more than enough, especially in a particular domain. Stephen A. Haines is the #9 reviewer on Amazon.co.uk and writes shed loads of reviews of popular science books. I can’t, however, subscribe to his reviews or do anything like sort his reviews to find all his 5* rated books.

Swapshop also restricts user-to-user relationships which seems misguided. Having swapped one book with eadaoin surely that increases the chance that I will find another book in their collection than in the general mass of books? It is pretty hard to even find the user pages, let alone subscribe to them. Your only hope is to hack the URL or stumble across one of their books.

LibraryThing, on the otherhand, is brilliant at this sort of stuff. Not only can you subscribe to anyone’s library and their reviews but LibraryThing actively suggests overlapping and similar libraries and provides ‘watch this library’ functionality.

Written by Karen

January 14th, 2008 at 12:39 am

Posted in amazon,books