The following is an excerpt from Chapter 6: Prioritizing Trustworthiness in the book Holy War for True Democracy.
Online services allow people to rate and post comments on vendors, products and services. These sites help consumers to know whom and what to trust. If we are traveling and looking for a hotel or restaurant, rating sites will help. If we are looking for a good book, there are book review sites. Today, countless services rate various categories of products.
Users often use stars (e.g., one to four or five) to rate the product. Sometimes the ratings site then averages the ratings to come up with a composite rating, such 2.3 (not good) or 4.9 (excellent) for a one to five scale.
The rating services are a great tool for consumers to find vendors or products with a high expectation of delivering the desired results. However, most rating services have obvious shortcomings:
- Unscrupulous reviewers – e.g., the vendor might have employees and friends write favorable reviews
- Unqualified reviewers – an ignoramus might give a bad review to a great high-end restaurant because he didn’t appreciate the formal atmosphere and high prices
- Reviewers with a different point of view – a restaurant reviewer of a noisy restaurant might not care about the volume, but perhaps the noise would be unbearable to you because of a hearing aid
- Often, a product will have too few or no reviews for the reader to feel confident in the composite rating