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Developer
greenmr
Posts: 882
Registered: ‎03-20-2013
My Device: Red LE Developer Z10

Malicious reviews...

[ Edited ]

I was wondering what others here are experiencing regarding malicious reviews posted against their apps. It has not been a major issue for me, I've only needed to have two reviews removed, and I believe users should be able to leave truthful, good-faith reviews even when they bring down the average star rating of an app, but sometimes it is clear that a reviewer is just trying to create trouble.

 

Let me give an example... my multiFEED app is a free download, with two upgrade levels available via in-app purchases. The multiFEED BB World page makes it very clear that without an upgrade, the Trial version of the app only allows the user to define two of their own news feeds, while providing six other popular but locked default feeds, such as CrackBerry, MakeUseOf, and LifeHacker as a demostration of the app's capabilities. At the $0.99 upgrade level those six locked feeds are unlocked and two more are added, allowing for ten user defineable feeds. For $2.99 you can unlock the Premium version that allows for fifty top-level feeds and nine additional aggregate feeds for each top-level one, amounting to a total of 500 feeds if fully loaded. I short, the BBW description makes it clear that the Trial version is limited to just two user-definable feeds, and if that is offensive to you, don't download it.

 

Two days ago I noticed a new one-star review with the headline "Full of default spam." and the body "Like the title says." Firstly, I am baffled what the reviewer sees as spam since none of the six locked feeds have anything to do with me, are not "spam" by any definition of the word, and the closest any of them come to offering something for sale is one feed that aggregates three online deal feeds (SlickDeals, FatWallet, and DealNews.) Secondly the reviewer seems to be offended that they weren't able to unlock the premium levels of the app for free, and decided to punish me for it with a nasty review. I requested a denial from BB World, and that review is now gone, but that got me thinking about what other developers here are seeing in their reviews.

 

Quite a few years ago I spent a few years teaching CPR and First Aid in on-site classes of 20-30 students, and was consistently one of the two most highly rated teachers in the company. At the end of each class we would pass around a questionaire asking for a 1-5 rating of the course and instructor in about ten categories. We had a very innovative and entertaining program and in a class of 30 I would typically get about  25 giving fives across the board, three or four awarding a mix of fours and fives, and then invariably one troll who rated ones on every category and then left a snarky comment, so I know that these people exist in every population and that their reviews tell you more about them and their personality than about the thing they are reviewing.

 

I strongly believe that honest opinions are perfectly valid as reviews, even if negative, and should drive future upgrades of an app if enough users might feel the same, but when someone just tries to cause trouble or posts blatant lies about an app then it is perfectly ethical to have them taken down. Now though I'm wondering how prevalent this kind of malicious behaviour is? How often do you need to ask BBW to deny mean-spririted attacks not based in honest impressions of your product? I am far from a conspiracy theorist, but when you see something as obviously baseless as this kind of review do you wonder if it was posted by a trolling competitor?



Developer of Built for BlackBerry certified multiFEED RSS/Atom feed reader and aggregator.
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Elite II
BillJ
Posts: 8,978
Registered: ‎01-05-2009
My Device: BlackBerry Z30

Re: Malicious reviews...

You make a valid point.

 

I guess with many things in life, you have to stay on your toes and be aware of what's happening around you. The fact that BlackBerry allows for the removal of such reviews is a testament to how effective BlackBerry World is at attracting and maintaining developers. I'm glad this is not a major issue for you (meaning that many reviews have been asked to be taken down) and I, too, wonder just how prevalent this situation is. (By the way, I'm not a developer, just a concerned citizen).

 

 

Thanks for your comments.  :smileyhappy:


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Developer
greenmr
Posts: 882
Registered: ‎03-20-2013
My Device: Red LE Developer Z10

Re: Malicious reviews...

[ Edited ]

Thanks for your "non-developer" response, since it adds an alternative viewpoint. I may be unusual, but the times I've had to request a review denial I've felt a little uncomfortable since I believe honest reviews, both positive and negative, have a useful role in helping users decide where to spend their money and time. BlackBerry is quite accomodating to denial requests, and I fear that it promotes review inflation, the practice of a developer manipulating the average star rating by removing reviews below a certain star threshold, but obviously malicious reviews should not be allowed to unfairly taint an application's or developer's reputation.

 

Just to clarify this discussion, when I refer to a "malicious review" I am not referring to situations where a user genuinely prefers the approach of one app over another or doesn't like the way an app is designed. For instance, saying "The pages of this app are cluttered and confusing" is perfectly valid since it is an honest opinion, even though other users may not feel the same, but claiming that "This app is garbage because they expect me to pay for it" is not since it doesn't reflect on a real shortcoming of the app, but rather a user's expectation of "free stuff".

 

One-star reviews and sensational headlines can severely damage a new developers traction when starting in the marketplace. If the bad reports are valid then they need to pull up their socks and try again, but if the review is just sour grapes, then justice is not served.


BillJ wrote:

You make a valid point.

 

I guess with many things in life, you have to stay on your toes and be aware of what's happening around you. The fact that BlackBerry allows for the removal of such reviews is a testament to how effective BlackBerry World is at attracting and maintaining developers. I'm glad this is not a major issue for you (meaning that many reviews have been asked to be taken down) and I, too, wonder just how prevalent this situation is. (By the way, I'm not a developer, just a concerned citizen).

 

 

Thanks for your comments.  :smileyhappy:






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Developer
BBSJdev
Posts: 6,116
Registered: ‎07-05-2012
My Device: Playbook, Dev Alpha C, Z10 LE, Z30

Re: Malicious reviews...

I mean no offence by this but I'm not sure we need to rehash this discussion, suffice to say that developers do deliberately try and bring down a competing app from time to time. There is no easy way to track or prove it so just being vigilant is the key.

 

Do a search on 'bad review' for some of the real horror stories over the years.

 


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Developer
greenmr
Posts: 882
Registered: ‎03-20-2013
My Device: Red LE Developer Z10

Re: Malicious reviews...

Ok, I guess I'm naive enough to expect an app to stand on its own merits and not resort to underhanded tactics to boost its profile, and foolish enough to expect most others to feel the same. I didn't know if my experience was unusual, which is why I asked about what other developers have encountered. BBSJdev, you have been around here longer than I have and so will have seen some conversations I haven't. As I said I'm hesitant to request that reviews be denied even when they are not flattering, so I get uneasy even in cases like this where there is no basis to the bad review. In today's world I realize this is a weakness, scruples can be a sure path to failure against less principled competitors. I'm just curious how prevalent this devious behaviour is.

 

Sorry, I didn't realize this had been discussed before, other than a few recent questions about what to do about getting a bad review denied.



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Developer
UberschallSamsara
Posts: 1,029
Registered: ‎12-29-2010
My Device: PlayBook, Z10 LE, Dev Alpha C

Re: Malicious reviews...

There are plenty of issues and divergent attitudes in play on the topic of negative vs. junk negative reviews - a few points I made in below CB thread, for example:

 

http://forums.crackberry.com/blackberry-10-apps-f274/rim-lets-developers-pull-reviews-they-do-not-li...

 

* Junk negative reviews harm consumers as well as devs, since they make it more difficult for consumers to find what they are looking for.

* Some consumers hostile to BB World's review denial process seem to regard the idea of an honest hard-working dev losing market traction from junk negative reviews (and perhaps just throwing in the towel) as being "acceptable collateral damage". 

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Developer
greenmr
Posts: 882
Registered: ‎03-20-2013
My Device: Red LE Developer Z10

Re: Malicious reviews...

There is a psychological aspect to good/bad review ratios too which makes it hard to sustain a positive record, even without intentionally malicious bad ones. It is a proven psychological phenomenon that a happy customer is only very occasionally likely to post a review, whereas a disgruntled one, legitimately or not, is almost certain to let the world+dog know about it. If you have a 50-50 ratio of good to bad reviews, you probably actually have 90% happy users and 10% or less upset and loud ones. When the deck is already stacked against you we really don't need misanthropes or devious competitors posting devastating reviews. Yes, if you have been around long enough to have a sizable pool of good reviews to offset the bad ones you can chalk it up to the cost of doing business, but when you are just starting out and a few horrible fake reviews dominate your BB World app page, your wonderful new product may be dead on arrival.

 

Add to the deliberate troublemakers any unethical but successful, entrenched developers in the iOS and Android marketplaces using a flurry of fake negative reviews to bury any potential competitors before they have a chance to rise above the mud, and the need for a review denial program becomes obvious. My only observation is that BlackBerry seems to just accept any review denial without question, which I don't agree with. I suppose they are stretched too thin these days to do any more than rubber stamp denial requests, but I think making it too easy exposes BB developers to charges of rampant review manipulation, whether it happens or not.

 

Of course, I realize we can complain as much as we like, but in the end we have to make our way in the market as it is, not as we'd like it to be.

 

To complicate matters I have one 5-star review I'm almost embarassed to let stand since it is so over the top positive I'm afraid others will suspect it to be a self or paid review. I have no idea who the poster is but you'd almost think I had cured his terminal cancer. If I had a higher review count I'd probably get rid of it since a suspicious review is almost as negative as a bad one.

 

By the way, interesting thread link you posted. I found it staggering that the OP argued that it was perfectly acceptable to blame a developer in a review for a flaw in BB10 or BlackBerry world. Even if there were no other arguments for it, this attitude alone is justification for the BlackBerry review denial process.


UberschallSamsara wrote:

There are plenty of issues and divergent attitudes in play on the topic of negative vs. junk negative reviews - a few points I made in below CB thread, for example:

 

http://forums.crackberry.com/blackberry-10-apps-f274/rim-lets-developers-pull-reviews-they-do-not-li...

 

* Junk negative reviews harm consumers as well as devs, since they make it more difficult for consumers to find what they are looking for.

* Some consumers hostile to BB World's review denial process seem to regard the idea of an honest hard-working dev losing market traction from junk negative reviews (and perhaps just throwing in the towel) as being "acceptable collateral damage". 






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Developer
BBSJdev
Posts: 6,116
Registered: ‎07-05-2012
My Device: Playbook, Dev Alpha C, Z10 LE, Z30

Re: Malicious reviews...

For a story on bad reviews you can look to yours truly, because of a BB10 bug I had to deny one 1 star review and work hard to stop another...

http://supportforums.blackberry.com/t5/BlackBerry-World-Development/BB10-bug-ruining-life-and-your-a...

Back in my more stressed days. :-)

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Developer of stokLocker, Sympatico and Super Sentences.
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Developer
BBSJdev
Posts: 6,116
Registered: ‎07-05-2012
My Device: Playbook, Dev Alpha C, Z10 LE, Z30

Re: Malicious reviews...

[ Edited ]

On bad practice developers, just don't stoop to their level and hope karma gets them in the end.

Take a look at this one for how it can get really bad and how BlackBerry do actually step in on occasion...

http://supportforums.blackberry.com/t5/BlackBerry-World-Development/Unfair-and-Unhealthy-Competition...

 

[Edit] ... and pray it never happens to you!


If you've been helped click on Like Button, if you've been saved buy the app. :smileyhappy:

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Developer
greenmr
Posts: 882
Registered: ‎03-20-2013
My Device: Red LE Developer Z10

Re: Malicious reviews...

Yep, I expected we were going to see a ton of this a few months ago when everyone had to scramble to fix the invocation framework bugs BB introduced with BB10.2. Like many others I completely redesigned all the invocations in my app to eliminate the methods that no longer work, but in the meantime it looked to users like all of our affected apps were broken. This is a great example of a situation where having a review denial process is crucial. For weeks, until we all figured out what the workarounds were, our apps were broken through no fault of our own and with no way to warn our users of the problem and advise them a fix was coming.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of devs spent nearly as much time denying reviews as they did working around BlackBerry's mistake. BTW, BlackBerry promised to fix the invocation issues, but since I rewrote my app to avoid using the broken invocation methods, I don't know if they ever did release a fix.

 

I guess though this situation isn't really an example of what I originally posted about, since in this case users had a legitimate complaint which they mistakenly attributed to our apps rather than the real culprit. What I really wanted to learn more about was the prevalence of intentionally abusive reviews. I'm guilty here of drifting from my own original topic.


BBSJdev wrote:
For a story on bad reviews you can look to yours truly, because of a BB10 bug I had to deny one 1 star review and work hard to stop another...

http://supportforums.blackberry.com/t5/BlackBerry-World-Development/BB10-bug-ruining-life-and-your-a...

Back in my more stressed days. :-)





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