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rWarder System, PAYIN for reviews?


Fornicola Butuzova
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I have 4 big beefs these, I'm gonna have a thread about each one, I have done 1,  this is my second one.  It was touched on quite a bit in my other thread but I wanted to have specific discussion about this one on its own.

 

The RWARDER System : PAYING Customers for ratings and reviews / Customers SELLING ratings and reviews?

 

WHAT IT IS:

For those who don't know what it is, it is a system that pays customers to rate and review a merchants items on SLM.  It is a kiosk deployed  in world at a merchants store.  It is very slick and makes the process of rating a product very easy.  Once you follow the instructions and leave your review, it automatically pays you LInden Dollars.

 

WHY DO PEOPLE USE IT:

Because it is apparent that where you are ranked in the listings is based in a significant way by how many ratings and reviews you have.   The more ratings and reviews you have the more prominent exposure you receive in the listings.  While ratings are only a component of this ranking scheme, by significantly padding this one parameter, a merchant can move his products to the front of the listings very quickly, and continued padding will help your product stay there indefinitely.  With enough padding of this parameter you can move all the way up to page one, and make your products the first thing seen by shoppers on SLM in any given category or search string.

 

WHY IS IT BAD:

1. IT IS GAMING,

Any parameter that influences how much exposure your item receives on SLM should not be allowed to be purchased, manipulated or influenced by coercion.  It is then, in effect advertising, not a free and objective expression of opinion as consumers assume reviews are. 

Influence and exposure can be paid for, but to do so you must pay for advertising and listing enhancements.  These mechanisms are both expensive and must be paid up front.  Rwarder pays the customers Linden dollar reward only after a sale has been made, so merchants do not need to commit advertising dollars to it as it is "pay as you go".

More over a consumer understands that an advertisement is an intentionally biased message.  It is not coercion because they understand that it has been paid for by somebody who wants to sell them something.  It is for this reason that advertisements attempting to look like free and honest editorial commentary are labeled by reputable publications with a disclaimer that clearly identifies the message as an  "ADVERTISEMENT".    

 

2.  IT IS INACCURATE AND MISLEADING TO THE CONSUMER

A review is assumed to be objective.  It is assumed that the person writing a review is expressing his or her personal level of satisfaction, or communicating what they see as relevant information.  They are not mandatory so there is the   presumption that the consumer was meaningfully effected, either positively or negatively, by the product and was motivated to go out of their way to share their experience by a significant opinion of the product, not by coercive bribes or gifts

This is essentially customers "Selling" ratings to merchants.  The typical consumer is not aware that the hundreds of reviews were "Sold" to the merchant for a price.  They do not know that the information expressed is not unbiased and honest, but a coerced endorsement exchanged for a price.

 

3. IT CREATES AN UNFAIR MONETIZED MARKETPLACE

The rWarder system turns the review system from an objective and open consumer information resource to a system of monetized influence.  It takes away the public reward and advantage for a successful product, the reward for providing excellent customer service and replaces it with a coercive system that empowers those who are willing to pay to manipulate it.

Those who use it will argue that they don't actually mandate a positive review.  That they do not themselves rate or review the product, they just provide an incentive for others to rate and review products.  If the fact that they do not themselves rate the products is valid, that because they are not personally and directly influencing their placement means they are not responsible, then would it also be valid to pay people do give bad ratings to others.  If you are not personally and directly leaving the bad ratings

By this logic should this too be allowed?

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THE  NEW "D-WARDER SYSTEM", I will pay you not a meager handful of L$, but when you buy a home from Pre Fabulous, that is valued at 3995 or more, we will pay you to poorly rate a less expensive product.  Just buy a house form Pre Fabulous, then poorly rate a house from any rWarder system merchant, and I will pay you 499L$ in valuable cash and prizes.  That's right, I will buy you a 199L$ house for free, and pay you an extra 299L$ just for rating 1 stars!  Just buy our house, accept your free gift house, then come to our store where you can register with the NEW "D-WARDER" system to get your extra 299L$ Its easy, It's  fun and it 's FREE HOUSES and LINDENS$!

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It sounds crazy but the logic, as customers are currently allowed to sell their ratings, is exactly the same.  The customer is simply "Selling" their influence, but in this case, to me because I am offering a better price for it.  I am not directly or personally denigrating any competitor, I am not even making a negative statement about them.  I am just , as they would argue in support of the  "rWarder System" , providing an incentive for others to do so.

If the customers influence over listing placement is "FOR SALE", who is to say who can buy it.  If they can spend money buying influence to manipulate the market in their favor, is it not fair that I should be able to as well?  Basing listing placement on ratings and reviews has turned what should be an open clearinghouse of consumer information in to a bulk commodity for sale. 

 

4.  IT IS A VIOLATION OF THE TERMS OF SERVICE

This process of paying for reviews creates marketplace listing that are by no means "Clear, Honest and Accurate" as mandated by the terms of service.  It is an exploit of a policy, weighting ratings in the placement and ranking of listings, that was designed, ironically, specifically prevent this.

475 customers buying a product, loving that product so much that they go out of their way to rate it and share those thoughts with the SLM community is an entirely different reality from 475 customers "Selling" their influence for money.  It is anything but "Clear Honest and Accurate".

In an American election a candidates for office can try to influence voters in all kinds of ways.  They can advertise for their campaigns. They can hold rallies to register voters.  They can call them, poll them mail them, and they can even provide them with a free ride to the local polling place. They are liberally empowered to all they can to encourage as many people as they can  to vote, and that is a very good thing.

What they can not do is pay people to actually vote.

While a candidate would not even have specific control over which way anyone would actually vote, paying for votes would turn the participation in a free democracy into a commodity for sale.

 

5. IT MONOPOLIZES THE LISTINGS

In computer games there is a practice known ans "Camping".  A player races to a powerful resource that yields an overpowering advantage and rather than participating in the game, chooses to hide next to this resource, utilizing the overpowering advantage to defend that resource, thus never losing it.

That is what rWarder provides for the merchants who use it.  They buy a powerful resource, the weighted influence of ratings and reviews.   That resource allows them to literally fill the first several pages of the listing, with all but a few exceptions.  Once they are there, that exposure creates new sales, and each sale then creates the opportunity for them to BUY another rating. 

Another opportunity for a customer to "Sell" for money, something that costs them nothing at all, yet wields a powerful influence on the success of of all merchants, their rating and reviews.

 

6. IT KILLS THE LITTLE GUY

You see this most prominently in the home and building markets for the same reason that people rob banks, "because it is where the money is". 

To successfully earn a 299L$ sale, a hair product or an evening gown that is not created with the latest techniques and practices will have a very hard time selling for 299L.  But a house designed and built, with a minimal skill set,  with store bought textures, without custom sculpted prims, without baked lighting, with visible seams and flashing textures can, for some reason find a buyer for that price.  It seems odd that a poorly built house can cost as much as an expertly designed hair or outfit, but that is how markets work.

When your price is lower however, in accord with the skill of a less advanced builder, that lower point of entry brings in vast amounts of competition.  This flooded market becomes not a competition of quality, value and service, but a market where exposure is the key winning attribute.  

If you are a new home builder, and you create a nice home, price it right, take great care of you customers, work at getting better each and every build, and your sales and customer base grow, shouldn't that be allowed to be rewarded?  Shouldn't that move forward in the listings?    Do you not deserve to get more exposure?  Have you not earned it?

By buying the influence of ratings, these rWarder merchants have all but blocked you form taking a greater advantage of SLM.  If you do not play their game, if you do not buy influence, you can not beat them.  You can still do all the things that really make a business grow, the hard work of innovating, improving, maintaining customer relationships, but is it fair to the new merchant that others simply do not need to do this.  That they can just buy their way around it?

The clearest indication of how this stifles new entrepreneurs is that the only new items that penetrate the very top listings now are new items from rWarder merchants.  That about says it all.

So to prove to myself that I am not nuts, I decided to do several single keyword searches to see if A. the rWarder system is exploiting other segments, and B.  If listing monopolies exist naturally, in other segments without the rWarder System.

I searched on these keywords, skin, boots, boat, sofa, eyes, dress, jewelery, car, dance, gothic, furry and hair.

Here is waht i found:

In half there listings there was no clear market leader, complete mixed bag. 

in 25% there were market leader, those with 3-4 items at the top of the listing, these were mainly in niche segments

There is one naturally occurring listing monopoly, in the hair segment.  A&A sells very high quality hair for 1L$ and has nearly all the top spots.  It is good stuff, and she all but gives it away, cant call that unfair.  .

 

When you search on the keyword "HOUSE", there a just 3 merchants that cover all but TWO of the top spots, and 70% of those top spots are held just TWO merchants, of course, using the rWarder system.

The 3rd merchant is a price gamer, who gathers ratings at a basement price then switches to a high price an keeps his ratings, that is another thread fo another day.

But is it sadly clear. Rwarder creates listing monopolies by allowing customers to conveniently SELL ratings!

rWarder is gaming, it is unfair, it is a violation of ToS and it should be stopped.  Moreover those who have gained the benefit form it should have to start over.  That is what Xstreet would have done. and they never would have allowed it in the first place.

So please chime in if you like:

I would be happy if ratings didn't count towards listings.  Then rWarder can not help people gain unfair advantage.  But I'm curious to hear what all of you think.

Should they ban the use of rWarder or other mechanisms that allow buyers to SELL ratings!

 

/me lights the fuse and ducks behind the dumpster!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oh yeah, silly me, I guess I'm wrong, I'm sure that

A. lots of people who sell their review leave fair, honest and thoughtful comments, like

"Nice"

or

"...". 

and B.

It is like countries where dictators are allowed to or corruptly pay for votes, it doesn't mean that they are going to win, it is just a happy coincidence, paying somebody for something that is free, your opinion never influences their sentiment about you.

And it is probably just another happy coincidence that those who use rWarder COMPLETELY OWN that listing segment to an almost comical extent.

The fact that these monopolies do not exist anywhere else on SLM where rWarder doesn't operate is also just another crazy coincidence

How silly of me

 

also from that product description:

"Why rWARDER helps make your product more visible on the marketplace?

Because doing reviews and rating increase the rank in the product search."

 

I don't blame this guy, he is just working the system, sellin a product, but this policy has to go, or rWarder has to go.

You cant have something that increases your rank in the listings for sale!

 

If i couldn't sell on the merits of my products and the value and service I provide I would be his first and most loyal customer.

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I think you can still pay for Picks if you want, but since they don't count for search, there is no point.

I don't see any way for LL to monitor this system's use. The only way I see to neutralize it is for everyone to use it, so everyone has a billion stars and cancels one another out. 

And btw I would rather not see it named for two reasons: 1) I am sure I am not the only one who had never heard of it, so it is getting good advertising and 2) although the mods are apparently fine with some products/creators being named and shamed, they may delete other threads.

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*sighs* Everything is being gamed in SL. There are also agencies that rent out campers, systems that pay for profile picks, and so on. I guess it was only a matter of time before somebody had this idea. The rating system has always been gamed in one way or another and should be completely done away with.

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In my opinion they have to ban it . I simply call it cheating because all these ratings are not real. And a marketplace full of fake reviews cant be serious.  I personally hope that the LL is not going to allow this behavior any longer!

I see new published products on the marketplace using the rewarder system and only a few weeks later this items have 40 or even more ratings. Well, since the marketplace allows only written reviews and only very few people write reviews, a new item usually needs years to get the same amount of ratings! Years!!! So its all in all pretty unfair.  I m happy that i closed my business long before... Waiting for better times.. Probably waiting forever..

You can be sure that rewarder would never survive on a xstreet based rating system including 1-click star rating!  But this reminds me of the words of Brodesky Linden:"Sorry this is how it's going to be, we want written reviews with ratings."

Epic FAIL.

 

 

 

 

 

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I would rather have the ratings than not, but I would not be crushed it they did away with them (but doubt they would).  However, the ONLY way to keep something from being gamed is to make it not count. So my preference would be keep reviews, but not count them in the search rank algorithm.

Banning this product  -- well, that will work only if LL is willing to play policeman, which they have not shown any inclination to do regarding much else yet. They are not doing a very good job with monitoring keyword abuse, and that is supposed to be verboten.

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Fornicola Butuzova wrote:

Oh yeah, silly me, I guess I'm wrong, I'm sure that

A. lots of people who sell their review leave fair, honest and thoughtful comments, like

"Nice"

 

I wasn't trying to justify the product, just adding their rationalization ... maybe their "loophole" caveat :smileywink:

 

 

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And what's stopping me exactly from leaving 1 star reviews (whether as a regular customer or competing merchant)? I'm not sure if this product is "fair" or whatever (I don't intend to use it), but we need something as an incentive for our customers to leave more (preferably, but not imposed, good) reviews. Quality products, freebies or sales are clearly not enough, and I can easily imagine Marketplace policies that would cosider last two moraly or legaly wrong.

Bottom line: if you want to see "gaming" of the system, you don't have to look at this new stuff, you can easily find it in many of accepted, "normal" competing practices.

If you feel it's wrong, flag it, and I'm sure if enough people think and do the same, Marketplace team will do their job.

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Right. There is no way to prevent gaming entirely. BUT its LL's responsibility to reduce gaming as good as possible. And compared with xstreet its a wide open door.


Xstreet: It wasn't possible to rate a product more than one time from the same machine (with alts).

Marketplace: Now you can.

 

Xstreet: All ratings during a promotion sale were removed once you increased the price.

Marketplace: Now you can gather ratings on a low price and you may keep all these ratings when you increase your price.

 

Xstreet: 1-click star rating was allowed. For that reason a system like rewarder had never been invented.

Marketplace: Now because only written reviews are allowed we have the first device to manipulate the relevance... They said they want ONLY written reviews! But now they get ONLY written fake reviews!

 

And here is my business plan:

Im gonna create hundred alts and offer my "Rating Service" to you (Of course you pay the sales + LL's commision + my fee). 100 sales + 100 unique reviews guaranteed. How much would you pay for a top rank . . .

 

 

 

 

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Ishtara wrote:The rating system has always been gamed in one way or another and should be completely done away with.

 

Got to agree with that statement. I would like to see all star ratings removed from all listings and search based on star rating completed eradicated. On the other hand I have nothing against retaining a 'customer comments' section with the opportunity  for the merchant to add their own responses to spoiler comments. The  star rating system is not an evealution of how good a product is, it's merely an indication of how far a merchant is prepared to go in order to ensure they have a high star count.

 

^L^

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Right, you cannot stop people from paying for reviews, whether through a rWarder system or something that takes place behind the scenes.  You can lower or eliminate to value of ratings in the search engine, though.  This is why they took picks out of the equation in world.

I know that they are already looking into the idea of making it easier for purchasers to give ratings.  I have not received many ratings since the new MP went into effect, yet have received IM's from purchasers talking about how much they love the product they bought from me.  If they took the time and initiative to IM me, I think they would take the time and initiative to write a review on the MP if they could find that easily.

Right now, reviews are hard to find, there is no reminder to give reviews like there was in Xstreet, and I just do not think many people think about it.  I hope they are considering doing away with the requirement that you have to give a written review as well as making the option easier to find. 

I do believe Brooke is open to listening to us and reads these forums.  This is probably an issue that we should pursue through discourse with her.

 

 

 

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Pamela Galli wrote:

I think you can still pay for Picks if you want, but since they don't count for search, there is no point.

I don't see any way for LL to monitor this system's use. The only way I see to neutralize it is for everyone to use it, so everyone has a billion stars and cancels one another out. 

When people started paying for picks I was sick of watching my search rank get relegated on a daily basis, everyone above me in search was paying for picks. In the end I gave up and started paying for picks myself. I could comfortably out-pay the people above me in the rankings and very quickly rose to the top of search again. If LL refuse to police gaming then in my opinion I was left with no other option than to beat the gamers at their own game(ing). I was pleased when picks were removed as a search factor as it rendered paying for picks pointless.

The same applies with paying for ratings. I have already started tracking and AR'ing those people paying for ratings and will continue to do so. I'll give it a few weeks to see if LL takes action and if they don't then they leave me no other recourse than to start gaming ratings myself.

I am happy to play by the rules when the rules are enforced. I am also willing to fight dirty in order to compete and overshadow the gamers. If LL do not take action against those people I have AR'ed then I see no other choice but to out-game them again. LL's history of inaction against  gamers leaves us with 2 options. Either lower ourselves to the gamers level to restore an even playing field or to take the moral high ground and reject all forms of gaming to our own determinant. I've spent years living on the moral high ground in SL. It's not an advantageous place to be. It's allot less profitable and there is a distinct smell of crap in the air.

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Robert Galland wrote:

[...]

I know that they are already looking into the idea of making it easier for purchasers to give ratings.  I have not received many ratings since the new MP went into effect, yet have received IM's from purchasers talking about how much they love the product they bought from me.  If they took the time and initiative to IM me, I think they would take the time and initiative to write a review on the MP if they could find that easily.

[...]

 

That reminds me, I didn't give a single rating on the new Marketplace, and I use to buy a lot there. The old XStreet site did a pretty good job at reminding me of unrated items. Once a month, I'd take the time during a forum visit (the forum being on the same site helped too) to rate all my recent purchases. I don't even know how to rate on SLM.

 

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Pamela Galli wrote:

I would rather have the ratings than not, but I would not be crushed it they did away with them (but doubt they would).  However, the ONLY way to keep something from being gamed is to make it not count. So my preference would be keep reviews, but not count them in the search rank algorithm.

Banning this product  -- well, that will work only if LL is willing to play policeman, which they have not shown any inclination to do regarding much else yet. They are not doing a very good job with monitoring keyword abuse, and that is supposed to be verboten.

The same goes for monitoring campers or "models", or cash-for-profile-picks systems.

I agree that reviews are a useful resource for the customer. Reviews can also a be abused, but if there is no rating, or a rating that does not affect the search ranking, there is little incentive to try and game the system.

The search ranking should only be affected by sales numbers, which would be rather costly to game. Needless to say that price changes should set the number of sales to zero. And I'm still waiting for a minimum price of perhaps L$50 and the promised hosting fee for freebies.

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Rank by sales is also gamed, though it has to be done on an almost daily basis, since sales data seems to be taken over a very short time period  -- and all it costs the merchant is the commission fee. 

YOu can see when these are gamed because instead of working their way up, they suddenly appear out of nowhere. And the same merchant(s).

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Here is an analogy, though a bad one: It's like having basketball rules like this:  Anyone in the audience can also run up and make a basket for his team, in addition to team members. Well that is a very bad rule and ruins the game. But if you want to win the game anyway, you can't do so if you discourage your fans from making baskets for you. 

I can't blame anyone at this point for using this product -- as the rules now stand, it is the only way to battle against those who are already using it. I won't do it for a variety of reasons including it would be a hassle. 




Porky Gorky wrote:

 

Pamela Galli wrote:

I think you can still pay for Picks if you want, but since they don't count for search, there is no point.

I don't see any way for LL to monitor this system's use. The only way I see to neutralize it is for everyone to use it, so everyone has a billion stars and cancels one another out. 

When people started paying for picks I was sick of watching my search rank get relegated on a daily basis, everyone above me in search was paying for picks. In the end I gave up and started paying for picks myself. I could comfortably out-pay the people above me in the rankings and very quickly rose to the top of search again. If LL refuse to police gaming then in my opinion I was left with no other option than to beat the gamers at their own game(ing). I was pleased when picks were removed as a search factor as it rendered paying for picks pointless.

The same applies with paying for ratings. I have already started tracking and AR'ing those people paying for ratings and will continue to do so. I'll give it a few weeks to see if LL takes action and if they don't then they leave me no other recourse than to start gaming ratings myself.

I am happy to play by the rules when the rules are enforced. I am also willing to fight dirty in order to compete and overshadow the gamers. If LL do not take action against those people I have AR'ed then I see no other choice but to out-game them again. LL's history of inaction against  gamers leaves us with 2 options. Either lower ourselves to the gamers level to restore an even playing field or to take the moral high ground and reject all forms of gaming to our own determinant. I've spent years living on the moral high ground in SL. It's not an advantageous place to be. It's allot less profitable and there is a distinct smell of crap in the air.

 

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I feel sorry for people who have to rely on ranking to get sales. Thank god I don't need to rely on it. I don't have the high rankings I had in Xstreet, where several of my boats were on the first 2 pages under 'boat' and 'boats'. Now it's hard to even find one of my boats when doing a search. However it has had no impact on my sales. In fact marketplace sales have increased. 

My items advertise themselves because they are fairly well displayed all over SL. It's word of mouth and also searching for the creator - free and effective advertising.

Customers are not stupid. If you sell crap then customers won't go back. You can game it as much as you like, but it won't have sustainable success. If a low quality item is rated 5 stars with lavish reviews it will trick some customers who will be so upset they will go back and give it the review it deserves - even one of these bad reviews will make others wiser. I've seen it happen. Even when an item is given a lower review than deserved another customer will feel prompted to correct it - seen this too.

I don't look at ranking anymore. Today I did for the first time in months, and it could be very depressing if I wasn't succeeding well enough without it.

 

Edit to say: Oh, and I have to use the larger font because I hate the small print. It hurts my eyes. I wish they would default to 12pt instead of 10 pt.

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