What's Up With BBM's Android Reviews?

So, after much delay, and many technical difficulties, BlackBerry have finally launched their BBM app on Android.

Whenever I launch an app on Android, I'm immediately inundated with emails from companies promising me thousands of 5* reviews for only a few hundred dollars. I've never taken up their offer - it's unethical, probably illegal, and usually very obvious when a company has purchased their reviews.

As noted by journalist Matt Baxter-Reynolds, something fishy is going on with BBM's reviews:
BBM Fake Reviews

Hundreds of nearly identical reviews. Is it a meme? A bizarre coincidence? Something more nefarious?

If we dig through the reviews on Google Play, we find occasional gems like this:
BBM Review Spam

It reminds me of the scandal in China earlier this year where celebrities were told to copy and paste derogatory messages about Apple on social networks.

So, what's going on? It strikes me that there are three possibilities.

  1. BlackBerry have paid or encouraged people to leave positive reviews.
  2. One of BlackBerry's many partners have done the same, but without the approval of BlackBerry.
  3. One of the fake BBM apps has tried to get good reviews for itself, but has mistakenly gotten good reviews for the official app.

I seriously doubt BlackBerry would pay for reviews - my theory is that it's the third option. A spammer has messed up the link in their mailout and have given an artificial boost to the official app.

According to BlackBerry spokesperson Victoria Berry (I so hope that's her real name!)

“We have recently been made aware of a number of potentially fake five-star reviews of BBM for Android on Google Play,”

“We do not approve of or condone such activities and are committed to working with Google to resolve this.”

One of Google's many ideas to combat review fraud was to tie reviews to Google+ profiles. It should be possible to pick out anyone who left one of these fake reviews and remove their rankings from the Play store for all apps.

I can't help but wonder if there is a better way than stars and reviews for measuring an app's worth? Could Google report on how many people have kept the app installed, or how often it's used, or how long it is used for, whether people share the app? All of these, of course, could be gamed - but it would be much harder for a spammer to convince someone to actually regularly use an app.

I hope you found this post to be user-friendly and smooth.


17 Responses to “What's Up With BBM's Android Reviews?”

  1. artesea Image of artesea

    There is a forth option, but still unlikely. BBM required you to wait in line to get full access, so a rumour saying "if you leave a 5 star review with the words "Thank you so much much blackberry team. I was waiting for this app. its really great user friendly and smooth" will unlock the app" could easily result in thousands of people at least trying it.

    With regards to a meme, it appears this has started one looking at other products in the Play Store.

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      I suppose that's possible - although the wording on Ruhel's review doesn't look like it came from a rumour site.

      Yes, getting quite bored by the number of "hilarious" repeats of the meme!

      Reply
      • Victoria Berry Image of Victoria Berry

        Why thank you - and hello to David. :) I want to state again, here, that BlackBerry had nothing to do with these reviews. Genuine reviews of the app are typically great and well-rated. Same with the App Store. It's pretty obvious that response to BBM has been genuinely fantastic and we're thrilled. We would like everyone to post honest feedback through proper channels. Also - thank you for teaching me about aptronyms!

        Reply
        • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

          Hi Victoria,
          Thanks for stopping by. I thought it unlikely that BB would do this - but it sure does look weird. Wonder who has done this, and why? Anyway, best of luck with the launch.
          T

          Reply
      • artesea Image of artesea

        I don't know, leave thousands of 1 star reviews with dodgy text, looks like a competitor bringing down your score.
        Tempted to buy 1000 fake followers for @Blackberry then run it through one of those fake follower analyser websites and then blog the "they also have thousands of fake followers" story.

        Reply
  2. Steve-G Image of Steve-G

    Hmmm, let me see..... only 11 comments here. There should be many more given that Ars Technica wrote an article about you and your findings.

    Is it too hard to believe people like to troll BlackBerry? Those funny reviews have gone viral... people are posting them everywhere. I downloaded and installed BBM on my HTC One S and left a 5 star review and I used the same sentence in my review (I'll give you my email and Pin and full name if you want to check)
    I've been following BB for for a year now. The press, blogs and comments have always been overwhelmingly negative ("too little too late". yada yada yada... etc). Any good news about BB is immediately countered with a negative article. And your article follows that M.O. : The headlines are reporting BBM is having a successful launch on iOS and Android.... and lo and behold, the next day another negative report tarnishing BlackBerry by accusing them of writing fake reviews is published and picked up by every news organization. You need evidence before you make accusations.

    P.S. how do we know you are not responsible for those "fake reviews"?

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      Hi Steve,
      Believe it or not, ars doesn't send much traffic here - besides, I run a strict comment moderation policy.

      I don't doubt that some of the later reviews are people merely copying and pasting for fun. The original reviews all follow the same pattern of throwaway G+ accounts which show clear signs of having been used by a "pay for review" service.

      You can read all my thoughts on BlackBerry if you want to assess whether I've been fair to them over the years.

      I'm pleased BlackBerry are having a last hurrah / dead-cat-bounce with BBM. I don't think it will save the company. If they're smart they'll concentrate on the developing markets where they're popular. If the board doesn't think that's fashionable enough, they'll become a patent company - which would be sad.

      I have not accused BlackBerry of directly paying for these fake reviews - I consider it extremely unlikely that they would.

      All the best,

      Terence

      Reply
      • Steve-G Image of Steve-G

        "I have not accused BlackBerry of directly paying for these fake reviews - I consider it extremely unlikely that they would."

        No you have not. Unfortunately the commentariat who spread the news decided to tell a different story and chose headlines implying BB was faking reviews. Of course the trolls followed suit in the comments sections... which has become a form of sport regarding anything BB. These fine people are going to lose their favorite pastime when BlackBerry will be dead & done (they'll have to find another target).

        I know BB is largely responsible for their precarious predicament; they have no one to blame but themselves. I am nevertheless taken aback by the vehemence and tenacity of their detractors... it's as if they cannot have peace unless BB is gone for good, and not soon enough. In Nature, turning on the weak is instinct... it looks like people are the same.

        BBM is their last chance. Making it available on Android and iOS will encourage corporate IT managers to make BBM their default communications tool. The Delivered and Read status is important when it comes to business, especially in situations of crisis management when you absolutely need to know if the other person actually read the message. This in turn could stop BES customers from abandoning BlackBerry altogether and maybe encourage new customers to use BB's new Cloud based MDM solutions... and maybe buy a few devices. In this scenario there could be several hundred million BB users. BBM channels could capitalize on this to rival Twitter.

        " If they're smart they'll concentrate on the developing markets where they're popular."

        In Indonesia, BBM Money allows BlackBerry users to create a mobile money account attached to their BBM identity, and use that to transfer money to other BBM contacts, as well as purchase airtime credit for their device, or move money to bank accounts. The mobile payments allows Indonesian BBM customers to quickly conduct business transactions right in the service where many of them already communicate on business matters, and allow merchants and others to quickly accept payments with the devices they already own without requiring the involvement of any third-party device or software.
        BBM for Android and iOS ensures these services and infrastructure will survive in the event BB10 sales continue to decline at the hands of cheaper Android devices. If BlackBerry expands this service to other countries it will turn BBM into a decent profit center.

        To pull this off BlackBerry needs the right buyer. A buyer with a vision and a competent and experienced team of executives.

        Reply
  3. Steve-G Image of Steve-G

    Edit: "In this scenario there could be several hundred million ==> BBM<== users". Not BB as stated above.

    Reply

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